Choosing a Lifejacket

Boaters seldom put much thought into lifejackets. Instead, they’d rather focus on the “fun” parts of boating – cruising to a new destination, offshore fishing with friends, or socializing onboard on a clear summer evening.

When it comes to lifejackets, boaters will often just grab anything that meets basic requirements, and then stow it away.

But a good PFD (personal floatation device) might be a boater’s most important piece of boating equipment. Coast Guard statistics show that more than 80 percent of boaters who drown are not wearing lifejackets. Half of those accidents happen when the water is calm. And most of those drowning victims can swim. So many boating fatalities are entirely preventable if people do one easy thing: wear a lifejacket.

If you’ve avoided wearing a PFD because you thought it was too hot and uncomfortable, or it would mess up your tan lines, new PFD designs and technology have made lifejackets so comfortable and even stylish that there’s no excuse not to wear one. Today’s PFDs are lightweight, allow a full range of motion, and many are even inflatable.

For your PFD to work properly, it has to be the right match for you. Here are a few tips for picking out and wearing a lifejacket:

  • Make sure your lifejacket is Coast Guard-approved.
  • Check the manufacturer’s label to make sure the jacket is a proper fit for you.
  • Check that the jacket is appropriate for your activity.
  • Make sure your jacket is properly fastened and that it doesn’t ride up over your chin or face.
  • Make sure children are wearing properly-fitted, child-sized lifejackets.