Note: This information on PFDs refers to the USCG Type III recreational style used by the vast majority of paddlers.
Recreational PFDs(USCG Type III)
- Are not designed to float you in a face-up position if you become incapacitated or unconscious.
- Are not designed for rough water or situations where rescue may be slow in coming.
Misleading Messages about PFD Use and Cold Water Safety
- The best way to stay safe on the water, any water, is to simply wear your life jacket.
- The difference between becoming a statistic and a survivor – is wearing a life jacket.
- With a life jacket, you can survive for over an hour before hypothermia sets in. That’s right. 50 precious minutes or more of extra time to have help arrive.
- You could survive an hour, or more, in ice water, if you have a lifejacket on and can protect your airway.
PFDs Can Do This:
PFDs Can't Do This:
- Greatly reduce the chance that you will immediately drown due to cold shock and swimming failure.
- Enable you to rest and float in calm water without swimming movements.
- Keep you floating on the surface if you become exhausted or incapacitated by cold.
- Provide some insulation if they are worn snugly enough to prevent water from circulating between the PFD and your body.
- Greatly aid in body recovery by preventing a cold water drowning victim from sinking.
A Very Sobering BoatUS Report
- Keep you safe in cold water.
- Reduce the life-threatening danger of an unprotected cold water immersion.
- Prevent cold shock, physical incapacitation, or hypothermia.
- Prevent you from inhaling water and drowning, particularly in rough water.
BoatUS Foundation Findings #30 tested Inflatable PFDs and compared them to USCG Type IIIs.
The type III inherently buoyant vest-style life jacket proved the real eye-opener for our test crew who had to work hard treading water to keep their faces clear of the waves when using this device. When another test was conducted simulating an unconscious victim, those wearing the Type III inherently buoyant devices repeatedly sank well beneath the surface as the waves rolled over them.
They also noted that the “nose-to-water” distance for inherently buoyant Type IIIs was 3 inches as opposed to five inches for inflatables. The Inflatable type III is required to have 9 pounds of additional floatation. (15.5 lbs vs 20.5 lbs)
View the BoatUs PFD report here