Life Jacket Ratings


Life Jacket Ratings - Choose the Right Life Jacket

kids wearing ife jackets

Recreational boating accident statistics show that the cause of death in over 70% of all boating accidents each year is drowning. Furthermore, approximately 85% of the drownings involve victims who were not wearing life jackets at the time of drowning.

Click Here To Read Coast Guard Life Jacket Regulations


Coast Guard Life Jacket Ratings - for Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's)


What Type of Life Jacket is Right for You?

There's no such thing as the perfect life jacket, although the ideal PFD is one that you will wear. It should be comfortable, provide a secure fit, and offer maximum freedom of movement. All life jackets have advantages and disadvantages. You should consider the type of swimming or boating you do and your water recreation areas: the temperature of the water, the probability of quick rescue, and whether or not you are going to wear the life jacket for extended priods of time, every time you board your boat or are near the water.

Children often wear their life jacket more frequently or for longer periods of time than adults. Small children in particular should have it on at all times when lakeside or when reaching the water's edge is possible. That means it must fit securely without hampering mobility and without rubbing or causing irritation as well as pass safety requirements.

no life jackets

Adults and strong swimmers, on the other hand, usually wear it only during actual on-the-water activity. However, skiing, swimming, or generally just having fun while wearing it requires a life jacket that is comfortable and non irritating, easy to put on, easy to store.


No one plans to have an accident. And the most common mistake is to think that strong swimmers don't need to wear a life jacket. However, the statistics above don't lie. Even strong swimmmers who are injured or unconscious can drown.

no life jackets


The Coast Guard has tested and provided guidelines for the life-saving potential of different types of flotation devices and issues the following life jacket ratings:


Type I PFD - Offshore Life Jacket

Most substantial life-saving potential. Minimum of 22 Lb buoyancy * for adults and 11 Lbs for children. Turns most unconscious wearers face up. Type of life jacket recommended for off shore recreation, rough water, and any weather situation. However, these vests are less comfortable, more bulky, and offer less freedom of movement than others.


Type II PFD - Near Shore Life Jacket

Minimum of 15.5 Lb buoyancy * for adults and 11 Lbs for children. These life jackets turn some unconscious wearers face up. If you boat in calm, protected waters or your children are swimming in a supervised pool, a more comfortable, less buoyant Type II PDF's may suffice. Boaters in supervised activities like dinghy racing or those who water ski or day sail where there is a high probability of immediate rescue can also consider Type II Life Jackets. These are the most popular compromise by far for most family and recreational use. They offer less restrictive movement, and in the case of our vinyl-coated closed-cell foam life jackets, they are the most comfortable all the way around.


closed-cell-foam life jacket

Type III PFD - Flotation Aid: Life Jacket

Minimum of 15.5 Lb buoyancy * for adults and 11 Lbs for children. Most conscious wearers can turn themselves face up wearing a Type III Life Jacket. However, Type IIIs do not provide adequate flotation for many overboard situations (best in supervised swimming areas), and it is dangerous for you to rely on them for life saving performance beyond their design capabilities.


UnRated PFD - Flotation Aid: Non- Life Jacket

These are generally used for fun, not safety. We offer swim-assist suits, arm bands, inner tubes, swim vest pool floats, and swim trainers. None of them are designed as "life jackets". They are all offered as assistance in closely supervised activities in swimming pools or calm water and are used for fun or to increase confidence in beginning swimmers. They should never be relied upon for life-saving capabilities, even though they do provide some buoyancy.
unrated life jacket


* What does "Pounds of Buoyancy" Mean?

A life jacket is rated by how much "dead" weight it will hold up on the surface of the water. In other words a Type I life jacket must float 22 Lbs of material (think rocks or metal). How, you wonder, does 22 Lbs of Buoyancy hold up a 200 lb man? See the answer to this and many other interesting life jacket questions at: Kids Korner.


Choose the Right Life Jacket


Coast Guard Safety Designations for Personal Flotation Devices (Life Jackets)