Frequently Asked Questions

Life Jackets

  • What does Flotation mean?
    Most adults wearing a bathing suit weigh between 10 and 12 lbs in water.   Low profile life jackets range from 15 to 19 lbs flotation and high flotation vests range from 22 to 28 lbs floatation.  The amount of flotation will determine how high your chest is held out of the water.  Check out our ABC's of PFDs.

  • When do you need a High Floatation vest?
    Anyone who is not a strong swimmer is recommended to always use a high flotation vest. A strong swimmer may want to use a high flotation vest in a class 4 river, especially early in the season when the water is cold.

  • Can anyone use a rescue vest?
    Anyone can buy and use a rescue vest, but NRS recommends that you attend a certified whitewater rescue course so that you are properly trained to use the equipment.  When wearing a rescue vest there is an assumed responsibility. It is possible that you will be put in a dangerous position during a rescue if you don't know how to use it correctly.  Please refer to any of the rescue books we sell for information River Rescue 4th Edition, Swiftwater Rescue, and the Swiftwater Rescue Field Guide.

  • What life jacket do you recommend for kids?
    Please check our Kids PFD Reference Guide for details on life jackets we carry for your youngsters.

  • What are the differences between a “touring” PFD and a “whitewater” PFD?
    There are dozens of choices when it comes to picking your life jacket. Many models will work fine for either type of boating, but some features work better for each type. Let’s start by defining some terms.

    Most adults require only 7-12 pounds of additional flotation to keep their heads above water. The US Coast Guard requires a minimum of 15.5 pounds of flotation in adult PFDs. Touring boaters may be in a kayak or canoe and will generally be on relatively calm water or mild rapids. Whitewater boaters can be in a canoe, kayak or raft/cataraft and are boating on moving water with Class II-V rapids.

    Touring boaters are often in waters shared by power boaters. Features like reflective tape and an extra attachment point for a signal strobe light are important items. High seat backs in some boats make a mesh back or reduced foam thickness in the lower back of the PFD more comfortable.

    For whitewater boaters, the amount of flotation in the jacket is important. Aerated whitewater is less buoyant than calm water; increased flotation floats you higher and pops you up to the surface faster. Flotation panels or shielding all around the torso provide impact protection. A front lash tab for securing a rescue knife is a good safety feature.

    What’s the safest PFD? It’s the PFD you’re wearing! Never go boating without yours. Wearing it at all times while boating is the best policy. Boat Safe!

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