Life jackets or personal flotation devices; as they are otherwise known, are important life-saving devices. However, there is no one universal correct answer as to what life jacket is the correct choice for you. Wearing a life jacket while on the water is not only a legal obligation, but a responsible decision in personal safety, as it provides the wearer more buoyancy to stay afloat in the water should an incident occur. There are many factors that will affect the jacket best suited to you, and all should be carefully considered before purchasing one. Life jacket needs will vary greatly from person to person, so the choice should be made on an individual level, to ensure that you have the appropriate safety equipment.
Choosing the Right Life Jacket
Life Jackets traditionally were simple foam, bright orange; horse collared garments with little to no customisation. Since then, they have evolved over time, with many new varieties being developed in various shapes, sizes and colours to make them more comfortable, safer and less restrictive. Models of life jackets are available to suit all water sports and marine activities including fishing, cruising and water skiing.
In short, when selecting a life jacket you should be careful to consider all variables, such as fit, intended use, type of jacket and the buoyancy the jacket offers to the wearer.
Ensuring a Proper Fit
A properly fitting life jacket is essential when spending time on or around the open water, and trying it on before purchasing is crucial. So, before trying the life jacket on, check the manufacturer’s ratings to make sure it is suitable for your size and weight. Be sure to try it on first and verify that it properly zips and buckles. Test the fit by raising your arms over your head and moving your body as much as possible. Then have someone grab the shoulder area and firmly pull the jacket up, making sure it does not rise far enough to cover your chin and face, as that could be a safety concern. If the jacket is ill-fitting, it is important to get another immediately.
A jacket that fits too loosely will cause the flotation device to crowd the wearer making it difficult to breathe. Similarly, a jacket that is too small will be uncomfortable and not allow the wearer the float as needed.
Always be sure the life jacket you have chosen is Coast Guard approved, and that the jacket is appropriate for the specific activities you will be participating in.
Different Types of Life Jackets
Over time, life jackets have been produced using a wide array of materials, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. The main types of life jacket available on the market are:
Gaia – Gaia style life jackets are low density,environmentally-friendly and are constructed of a new material that uses organic nitrile to improve flotation.
Kapok – Kapok jackets are made from the fluffy fibre that surrounds the seeds of the Kapok tree. These jackets are very light, buoyant and are recyclable too. However, the only downfall is that they are also highly flammable.
PVC – Life jackets constructed from PVC are inexpensive but are non-recyclable. An advantage is that they are resistant to most substances like oil, chemicals, fire and extreme temperatures.
When in the market for a PFD there are many extra features than manufacturer’s offer to make wearing one more convenient. These features include tabs for attaching accessories and tools, pockets for storage, neon colours and reflective tape for easy visibility. In addition to this, they may provide ventilation for comfort and fast drying. In particular, fishing jackets come well equipped to hold relevant tools and gear.