The U.S. Coast Guard has two rating systems for PFDs. In this article we will cover the traditional Performance Type rating system, this article (link) covers the more recent Performance Level system. You should only buy USCG approved PFDs which will be labeled with a Type, an intended use and a Coast Guard Approval Number.
In Part 2 of our introduction series we will cover types of life jackets, their pros and cons and when you should use them.
We will cover how to read life jacket labels in Part 3: “How to Read Life Jacket Labels.”
There are two main categories of PFDs:
These are the life jackets ones most people think of when they imagine a life jacket. for the most part, they art Type III PFDs and are used mainly by kayakers, paddle boarders and canoers.
These PFDs are bulky and filled with a floatation material like foam.
Standard PFD Pros:
Standard PFD Cons:
Normally Type III or V, inflatable PFDs are a newer type of PFD that come in vest and waist pack design. Inflatable life jackets also come in automatic CO2 cartridge inflation and manual inflation types.
Inflatable PFD Pros:
Inflatable PFD Cons:
These PFDs are true life jackets. They only come in adult sizes, and are not available to the general public.
The Type I is designed for rescue situations in open rough or remote water.
The bulk of a Type I makes restricts freedom of motion and helps keep you warm.
Will turn most unconscious people from a face down position to a vertical and slightly backward position, greatly increasing the chance of survival.