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Personal Floatation Devices

There are many different types and styles of PFDs. The following list provides a summary of advantages of the many types, and how many you will need, depending on the type of boat and the number of people on board.

Personal Flotation Device Type I (Off-Shore Life Jacket) (22 lbs buoyancy)Type I (Off-Shore Life Jacket) (22 lbs buoyancy)

  • Where: Best for open, rough or remote water, where rescue may be slow in coming.
  • Advantages: Floats you best. Turns most unconscious wearers face-up in water. Highly visible color.
  • Disadvantages: Bulky
  • Sizes: Two sizes to fit most children and adults.

Type II (Near-Shore Buoyant Vest) (15.5 lbs buoyancy)

  • Personal Flotation Device Type II (Near-Shore Buoyant Vest) (15.5 lbs buoyancy)Where: Good for calm, inland water, or where there is a good chance of fast rescue.
  • Advantages: Will turn many unconscious wearers face-up in water. Less bulky, more comfortable than Type I.
  • Disadvantages: Not for long hours in rough water. Will not turn some unconscious wearers face up in water.
  • Sizes: Infant, Child-small, Child-medium, Adult

Personal Flotation Device Type III (Flotation Aid) (15.5 lbs buoyancy)

Type III (Flotation Aid) (15.5 lbs buoyancy)

  • Where: Good for calm, inland water or where there is a good chance of fast rescue.
  • Advantages: Generally the most comfortable for continuous wear. Freedom of movement for water skiing, small boat sailing, fishing, etc. Available in many styles, including vests and flotation coats.
  • Disadvantages: Not for rough water. Wearer may have to tilt head back to avoid face down position in water.
  • Sizes: Many individual sizes from Child-small to Adult.

Type IV (Throwable Device)Personal Flotation Device Type IV (Throwable Device)

  • Where: For calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always nearby
  • Advantages: Can be thrown to someone. Good back-up to wearable PFD. Some can be used as seat cushions.
  • Disadvantages: Not for unconscious persons. Not for non-swimmers or children. Not for many hours in rough water.
  • Kinds: Cushions, rings, and horseshoe buoys

Personal Flotation Device Type V (Special Use Device)Type V (Special Use Device)

  • Where: Only for special uses or conditions
  • Advantages: Made for specific activity. Varieties include boardsailing vests, deck suits, work vests, hybrid PFDs and others.
  • Disadvantages:  See label for limited use

Type V (Hybrid Device)

Required to be worn to be counted as a regulation PFD.

  •  Advantages: Least bulky of all types. High flotation when inflated. Good for continuous wear.
  • Disadvantages: May not adequately float some wearers unless partially inflated. Requires active use and care of inflation chamber.
  • Performance level: Equal to either Type I, II, or III performance as noted on label.

    Personal Flotation Device Type V (Hybrid Device)