Purchasing Life Jackets

Purchasing a life jacket

The very best life jacket is the one a person decides to wear! The decision to wear that life jacket begins with making the right choices at the point of purchase.  

Life jackets are required to be onboard or worn on nearly all recreational vessels in the U.S.  

It is also important to realize that a single life jacket may not be comfortable, or Coast Guard approved for all the activities a boater may participate in. Life jackets are like shoes in that a person would have different shoes for work, dress, running, golf, and bowling for the best performance and comfort. Likewise, for a boater to achieve the best performance, comfort, and experience, different life jackets should be considered for powerboating, waterskiing, paddling, fishing, sailing, or other watersports. 

Choosing the best life jacket consider: 

  1. Consider the demands and legal requirements of your activity 
  2. Think about the time it could take for rescued 
  3. What environmental conditions you might on the water 
  4. An honest assessment of your physical abilities.  

What size do I need?
Lifejackets are separated into four broad categories based on weight:

  • Adult - with a weight greater than 88 lbs./40kg
  • Youth - with a weight over 55 lbs./25 kg and less than or equal to 88 lbs /40kg
  • Child - with a weight over 33 lbs. /15 kg and less than or equal to 55 lbs. /25 kg
  • Infant - users with a weight less than or equal to 33 lbs. /15 kg

Based on your activity and the amount of time it may take to get rescued if an incident should occur. Determine if you need a life jacket that will turn an unconscious person face up in the water or if your rescue may take some time and you would benefit from additional flotation.

Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) are available in two variations -- wearable, and throwable.

  • Throwable is a PFD intended to be thrown to a person in the water. A PFD marked as Type IV or Type V with Type IV performance is considered a throwable PFD. Unless specifically marked otherwise, a wearable life jacket is not a throwable PFD. 
  • Wearable is a life jacket intended to be worn or otherwise attached to the body. A life jacket marked as Type I, Type II, Type III, or Type V with Type (I, II, or III) performance and Level 70 and 100 are all considered a wearable PFD.”