The most important piece of equipment on any boat is a life jacket. Safety is the number one concern of anyone who is riding in or operating a boat, and this goes for adults as well as children.  If you’re headed out onto the open water, you need to know the facts about the life jacket.

Life jackets have a long history of use dating back to ancient days, where animal skins were used in early boats.  In some parts of the world, these primitive flotation devices are still employed to keep people safe on the water.

Life jackets are designed to keep people afloat in water whether they are conscious or unconscious and they are custom tailored to different body types weights and sizes.  There are a variety of different life jackets available today made out of wide range of materials.


What are the Different Types of Life Jackets Available?

Life Jacket Types

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There are four different types of life jackets available in different categories.  these categories are differentiated in types; type I, II, III, IV, or V.


Important Things to Know About Life Jackets

Important Things about life jackets

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Some things to keep in mind about life jackets include:

  • It is required by law that for every person on board there be at least one life jacket
  • All life jackets must fit the people aboard and be a proper size
  • All children are required to wear life jackets under the age of 13 in most locations
  • Life jackets must meet the regulatory requirements of the United States Coast Guard
  • All life jackets must be ready to use and be readily accessible in case of an emergency for all people on board
  • Inflatable life jackets must have an unused gas canister readily available for use at all times
  • Life jackets must be available for throwable use at different areas of the boat that are easily accessible
  • Those participating in water sports such as water skiing are required by law to wear a life jacket while participating


Other Types of Personal Flotation Devices

Personal flotation devices are those items that would aid someone in keeping afloat in the water in emergency or regular use situations.  A life jacket is a type of personal flotation device, but there are several more that are used by those who enter the water.

Other flotation devices

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Let’s take a look at several of them here:

  • Buoyancy Aid. These are similar to life jackets that are made out of foam and are usually thinner than a typical life jacket. Designed with several straps and head and a headrest, a buoyancy aid will assist people from drowning and can sometimes be used in place of a life jacket.
  • Survival Suit. Used by many survivalists and those who are into extreme sports, these devices are not considered formal personal flotation devices although they can sometimes be used as them.  Depending on the make and manufacturer there are a variety of uses for such devices including staying afloat in the water and emergencies.
  • Buoyancy Compensator. These devices are used by scuba divers to lower raise or stay level in the water and to rise to the top in the event that a scuba diver has to get to the surface quickly such as in an emergency. These are not life jackets but can be used to allow a scuba diver to remain floating in the water and safe from drowning.


What to Look for in Kid’s Life Jackets

It is important to realize that children need life jackets specifically sized for their weight and that it is not okay to get a life jacket that is slightly larger thinking that it’s okay that they will grow into it.  You need a life jacket that is specifically designed for children and for the correct weight and size of a child.

Kids Life Jackets

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Kid’s life jackets typically come in three different sizes:

  • Youth personal flotation device: for children 50 to 90 lbs
  • Child Personal flotation devices: for children 30 to 50 lbs
  • Infant personal flotation devices: for children 8 to 30 lbs

Always take the time to make sure the personal flotation device fits the child and is made of the proper materials and construction that meets U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Never take chances with a child’s safety and never try to use life jackets that are falling apart or in bad shape.


Special Considerations for Toddler Life Jackets

Toddler Life Jackets

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Life jackets for toddlers and children must have certain features in order to be effective and safe for the child’s use.  When you are shopping for toddler’s life jackets look at them and see that they include:

  • Grab handle. this is used to pull children out of the water quickly in emergency situations.
  • Padded head support. This is to keep the child’s head above water at all times.
  • Crotch strap. This is to prevent the PFD from riding up and reducing its effectiveness.

Always make sure that your life jackets are in good working order before you head out on the water. Never go out on the water without life jackets even if for a little while. They are required by law for a reason which is primarily to prevent drowning in the event of boating accidents,  so never fail to wear them.

Feature image via jedrenjesailing