What Type of Life Jacket is Right for You?

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Coast Guard Life Jacket Regulations for Recreational Boaters


Coast Guard regulations require that each recreational boat be equipped with an appropriate life jacket (PDF) for each person on board. However, many states have established laws or regulations further requiring that children, water skiers, persons being towed behind a recreational vessel, and riders on personal watercraft wear appropriate life jackets. In June 2002, the Coast Guard promulgated its first regulations requiring boaters to wear life jackets (PDF's), specifically children under thirteen years of age. Recreational boating accident statistics show that the proximate 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 (PDF's) at the time of drowning. To read more about Coast Guard LIfe Jacket regulations see: http://uscgboating.org/articles/pdf/Information%20Sheets.pdf


Coast Guard Safety Designations for Life Jackets (Personal Safety Devices- PDF's)


What Type of Life Saving Device is Right for You?

There's no such thing as the perfect life jacket, although the ideal PDF 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 boating you do and your boating area, the temperature of the water, the probability of quick rescue, and whether or not you are going to wear the life jacket for extended periods of time.


Type I PDF - 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 PDF - 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 PDF - 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, and it is dangerous for you to rely on them for life saving performance beyond their design capabilities.


UnRated PDF - 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 learners only. They should never be relied upon for life-saving capabilities, even though they do provide some buoyancy.


* 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: Boatsafe.com Kids Korner.


Soft Life Jackets * More Life Jackets * Choose the Right Life Jacket


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