type 2 life jacket
type 1 life jacket
type 3 life jacket
type 5 life jacket
Near Shore
Buoyant Vest

This "classic" PFD comes in several sizes for adults and children and is for calm inland water where there is chance of fast rescue. It is less bulky and less expensive than a Type I, and many will turn an unconscious person face-up in the water.

Flotation Aid

These life jackets are generally considered the most comfortable, with styles for different boating activities and sports. They are for use in calm water where there is good chance of fast rescue since they will generally not turn an unconscious person face-up. Flotation aids come in many sizes and styles.

Special Use Device

Special use PFDs include work vests, deck suits, and hybrids for restricted use. Hybrid vests contain some internal buoyancy and are inflatable to provide additional flotation.

Offshore Life Jacket

This PFD is designed for extended survival in rough, open water. It usually will turn an unconscious person face up and has over 22 pounds of buoyancy. This is the best PFD to keep you afloat in remote regions where rescue may be slow in coming.

inflatable life jacket
USCG Office
of Boating Safety

For more life jacket information, go to the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety page. It contains all Federal Requirements and life jacket buoyancies.

Simply wearing a life jacket isn’t enough – anyone putting on a jacket should make sure that it fits properly and the straps, buckles or zipper are secure.
TYPE 3 and 5
Inflatable Life Jacket

These are highly visibile when inflated and turns most wearers and unconscious users face-up faster than traditional PFD's.


Working in pairs, have one person (A) stand behind the other person (B) and test the life jacket for proper fit. While person B puts his arms straight overhead (similar to a football referee signaling a touchdown) person A should grasp the tops of person B's arm openings and gently pull up. As shown in the illustrations of Abby on the page, excess room above the arm openings and the life jacket "riding up" over the chin and face are signs of a "bad fit." A snug fit in these areas represents a "good fit."

Saved by the Jacket

Click HERE for a real-life account of what an improperly fitted life jacket can mean.

A proper fit means once it's zippered and/or buckled, it should keep your head and upper shoulders above the water. If it fits too loose, the flotation will push the jacket up around your face. If your life jacket is too small, it won't keep your body afloat. When not using your life jacket (when you're not boating), store it in a readily accessible place away from sunlight and chemicals. Nylon and other synthetic materials used to make your life jacket will be harmed over time by ultra-violet radiation from the sun. Fabric that becomes discolored may indicate ultra-violet damage. In other words, don’t leave your PFD hanging outside all summer exposed to the sun and expect it to be unharmed. Also, prolonged exposure to chemicals or exhaust fumes can attack the flotation’s foam.

Take care of your life jacket--it's your lifeline.