Frequently Asked Questions
Children's PFDs are sized according to weight range and chest size. Weigh your child and measure their chest under the arms. Whenever possible, be sure to try the PFD on the child in the store. A PFD needs to fit comfortably snug. To check for a good fit, pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child's chin and ears will not slip through.
To check for buoyancy of your PFD in the water, relax your body and let your head tilt back. Be aware, your PFD may not act the same in swift or rough water as in calm water. Children may also panic when they fall into water suddenly. This causes them to move their arms and legs violently, making it hard to float safely in a PFD. A PFD will keep a child afloat, but may not keep a struggling child face-up.
While some children in the 30-50 pound weight range who can swim may like the extra freedom of movement that a Flotation Aid (Type III PFD) provides, most children in this weight range, especially those who cannot swim, should wear a Near Shore Buoyant Vest (Type II PFD).
The "THINK SAFE" booklet, which is attached to every US Coast Guard approved device, has valuable information on types of flotation devices and how to fit a PFD. It is important to read the label on the PFD and test it in a controlled environment.
PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. No matter which PFD you choose, be sure to get one that is right for you and the water conditions and activity you expect to encounter. Choosing the right PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is an important decision. Listed below are the various types of U.S. Coast Guard approvals and their uses.
Most adults only need an extra 7 - 12 pounds of buoyancy to keep their heads above water. A PFD can give you that "extra lift" and it is made to keep you floating until help comes. But a life jacket is a personal flotation device and it's important to get the right one for you. Your weight isn't the only factor in finding out how much "extra lift" you need in water. Body fat, lung size, clothing and whether the water is rough or calm, all play a part in staying on-top. In general, the more physically fit you are, the more "lift" you need.
Proper size and fit are important to the performance of a flotation device. Read the Label on your life jacket to be sure it's made for people your weight and size. Test it in shallow water or a pool. Then in an emergency, do not panic... Relax, put your head back and let your life jacket help you come out on top!
TYPE I - Off-Shore Life Jacket: minimum buoyancy requirement 22.0 lbs., best for open, rough, or remote water, where rescue may be slow coming.
Advantages: Floats you the best. Turns most unconscious wearers face-up in water. Highly visible colors.
Sizes: two sizes to fit most children and adults
TYPE II - Near-Shore Buoyant Vest: minimum buoyancy requirement 15.5 lbs., good for calm, inland water, or where there is good chance of fast rescue.
Advantages: Turns some unconscious wearers face-up in water. Less bulky, more comfortable than Off-Shore Life Jacket.
Disadvantages: Not for long hours in rough water. Will not turn some unconscious wearers face-up in water.
Sizes: infant through adult
TYPE III - Flotation Aid: minimum buoyancy requirement 15.5 lbs., Good for calm, inland water, or where there is good chance of fast rescue.
Advantages: Generally, the most comfortable type for continuous wear. Designed for general boating or the activity that is marked on the device. Available in many styles, including vests and flotation coats.
Disadvantages: Wearer may have to tilt head back to avoid going face-down. In rough water, a wearer's face may often be covered by waves. Not for extended survival in rough water.
Sizes: many individual sizes from small-child through adult.
TYPE IV - Throwable Device: minimum buoyancy requirement - Ring buoys 16.5 lbs., Boat cushions 18.0 lbs. Good for calm, inland water with heavy boat traffic, where help is always nearby.
Advantages: Can be thrown to someone, good back-up to wearable PFD's. Some can be used as seat cushion.
Disadvantages: Not for unconscious persons. Not for non-swimmers or children. Not for many hours in rough water.
Kinds: cushions, rings, and horseshoe buoys
TYPE V - Special Use Devices: - Minimum buoyancy requirement 15.5 to 22.0 lbs. Only for special uses or conditions. See label for limits of use. Varieties include board-sailing vests, deck suits, work vests, hybrid PFD's and others.
Advantages: Made for specific activities, such as white-water rafting.
The United States Coast Guard requires USCG-approved life jackets on all recreational boats. The number and type of life jacket needed depends on the number of passengers you will have aboard, the size and type of boat, and what water activity you will be doing.
IT IS REQUIRED to have one of the following life jackets for each person on board your boat:
Off-Shore Life Jacket (Type I)
Near-Shore Life Jacket (Type II)
Flotation Aid (Type III)
Special Use Device (Type V)
Federal regulations require all children 13 years old and younger to wear a life jacket unless they are inside an enclosed cabin. State laws vary in terms of age - check your state's boating safety office for your state's requirements.
Boats 16 feet or longer (not including canoes and kayaks) must also have a least one throwable device on boats (Type IV flotation cushions, ring buoys, etc).
Fabric fading can indicate loss of strength. Store in a dry, cool, dark well-ventilated place and let it drip dry thoroughly before putting it away. Never dry your life jacket on a radiator, heater, or any other direct heat source. A weathered PFD could tear easily, resulting in loss of flotation material. If faded, check strength or discontinue use.
Check your life jacket often for rips, tears, and holes, and to make sure seams, fabric straps, and hardware are okay. Give your PFD belts and tie tapes a quick, hard pull to make sure they are secure. There should be no signs of waterlogging, mildew odor, or shrinkage of the flotation foam.
Sunlight, chlorine, and weathering may cause colors to fade and/or bleed onto other surfaces.
This will depend on who is going to be using it and what they are going to use it for. A towable tube can be one of the most enjoyable water toys and something all ages can use. Basically, there are two types of tubes:
Single rider tubes and multi-rider tubes. A single rider tube accommodates 1 rider (just as the name implies), and most of the time tend to be tubes for a more wild, energetic ride on the water. They are better constructed for jumping the wakes, higher speeds, and doing more tricks. The other advantage to single rider tubes is that they are easier to store, and are most often less expensive.
Multi-rider tubes will accommodate anywhere from 2-4 people, depending on their design. Because these tubes are larger to accommodate more people, they are more often slower and heavier than the single rider models. The multi-rider tubes are great for beginners, kids, and families that are looking for a slower ride. Multi-rider tubes are more often more expensive, larger, and take more room to store. The multi-rider tubes will require a heavy-duty towline and heavy-duty towing harnesses.
Always read and follow the warning indicators on the towable tubes and always wear a life jacket while on or near water.