The Right Life Jacket for You

PFD Types Personal Floatation Devises (PFDs) are life jackets that come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and materials. Some are made to be more rugged and last longer while others are made to protect you from cold water.

No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure to get the one that is right for you. Select a PFD based on your planned activities, and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Remember, spending a little time now; can save your life later.

United States Coast Guard (USCG) approval means that the PFD has passed rigorous testing. So, always look for the USCG approval number on any life jacket you buy. Be sure to read the manufacturer's label and the "Think Safe" pamphlet that is attached to the device. Valuable information is contained within these resources.

Boating Law Defines ‘Readily Accessible’ for All Types of Life Jackets - Law Also Requires Boats 26’ and Longer to Attached Line to Type IV PFDs

Testing Your PFDs

Inherently Buoyant PFDs
  • Put your life jacket on. It should fit properly with all zippers, straps, ties and snaps correctly secured.
  • Ease yourself into the water or walk into water up to your neck.
  • Lift your legs and tilt your head back, in a relaxed floating position. Your mouth should be out of the water and you should float comfortably without any physical effort.

If the life jacket rides up, try securing it tighter to your body. If it still rides up, you may need a different style. You should be comfortable and able to swim without significant restriction. You should have someone else to act as a lifeguard or assistant if you are uncomfortable with being in the water or are trying this activity for the first time.

Inflatable PFDs

  • If you do not wish to test the CO2 inflation system, remove the CO2 cylinder (and if the PFD has an automatic feature, remove the water-sensing element).
  • Put your life jacket on and fully inflate it.
  • Then test it like an inherently buoyant PFD.

Because of the design, ride-up is generally not an issue with inflatable PFDs. The amount of buoyancy provided with inflatable PFDs will probably require the user to swim using some form of side or backstroke, as it will be difficult to swim on your stomach when the PFD is properly secured.

In the Law - PFD Regulations

NRS 488.193 Personal flotation devices; fire extinguishers; flame arrestors; ventilation of bilges; modification of requirements.

Except for a contrivance, propelled by a sail, whose occupant must stand erect, every vessel must carry at least one personal flotation device of a type approved by the United States Coast Guard and prescribed by the regulations of the commission for each person on board and any person in a vessel being towed, so placed as to be readily accessible for use in an emergency. Every vessel carrying passengers for hire must carry so placed as to be readily accessible for use in an emergency at least one personal flotation device of the sort prescribed by the regulations of the commission for each person on board.