Life Jacket Types

Life Jackets also known as Personal Flotation Devices or PFD are classified by Types. This guide will explain the differences between each PFD Type.

Type I PFD

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.

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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.

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Flotation Aid: 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.

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Throwable Device: Good for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always nearby. Throwable devices can be thrown to someone and are a good back-up to wearable PFD. They ARE NOT designed for unconscious person, non-swimmers or children or for use for many hours in rough water.

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Type V PFD

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.

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Type III / V PFD

Inflatable Life Jackets: These are highly visible when inflated and turns most wearers and unconscious users face-up faster than traditional PFD's.

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USCG Classification information provided by