Life Jackets & Preservers
A life vest can save your life. When you are boating or doing other activities around water, everyone in your group should have a foam or inflatable vest. You should also keep a throwable life preserver on hand.
What Is a Life Jacket?
A life jacket is type of personal flotation device that assists with flotation in the water, especially in emergency situations. These wearable PFDs are typically styled like jackets or vests. They can be foam, inflatable, or a combination of the two constructions, but ones that are entirely inflatable are approved only for adult use. Some types of vests can turn you onto your back so that your face is kept out of the water while you wait for rescue.
What Do the Ratings on Life Preservers Mean?
The United States Coast Guard approves PFDs for use. The United States Coast Guard classifies PFDs into five types.
- Type I - Offshore life jackets are the most buoyant life vests. Type I jackets should be worn whenever you will be far from the shore or boating in rough conditions. They can turn wearers face up. These vests are only for use by adults.
- Type II - Near-shore buoyant vests are best for situations in which you could be rescued quickly. Some versions of Type II vests turn wearers face up. This is the only type of vest that the USCG approves for infant use, and this type also comes in child and adult sizes.
- Type III - Buoyancy aids are often the most comfortable of the three main types of wearable vests, and they are designed for wearing in a setting in which rescue could take place quickly. However, items in this category will not turn a person face up.
- Type IV - These are throwable PFDs, such as rings and cushions that float. The person being rescued must hold on to this type of flotation device.
- Type V - This category encompasses devices that don't fall into other categories. They are special-use PFDs that are approved for use in specific circumstances.
When Should You Wear a Life Jacket?
Regulations on life vests vary among states, but rules usually state that there must be a life jacket for each passenger on board a boat, and children must wear theirs at all times. Because life vests save lives, it's good to always wear them around open water. Therefore, no matter what the regulations in your state specify, use a life vest when:
- Boating (including kayaking and canoeing)
- Participating in white water sports (including rafting and canyoning)
- Jet skiing
- Paddle boarding (including stand up paddle boarding)
Are All Puddle Jumpers Coast Guard approved?
Puddle Jumpers are rated USCG Type V personal flotation devices. A child can wear a Puddle Jumper as a substitute for a Type III PFD. These wearable devices are for children who weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. They buckle in the back for safety.