How to choose the right PFD

by CK
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In Canada, the small vessel regulation mandates that a pleasure craft shall have on board a PFD or a life jacket of an appropriate size for each person on board. Although Life vests and PFD’s serve a similar purpose, the requirements on when they can be used is different. In this article I will concentrate on PFD’s as they are more applicable to pleasure crafts.

Personal Flotation Devices
In Canada, personal floatation devices are only approved for pleasure craft use. PFD’s come in different colours and types and are generally more comfortable to wear then lifejackets. This makes them a popular choice for pleasure craft because they are made to be worn comfortably for extended periods times. when purchasing a PFD look for the label that states that it is approved by either Transport Canada, the Canadian coast guard, fisheries and oceans Canada or any combination of the above.

Personal flotation devices are also more suitable for pleasure craft and general marine use because you can match the type of PFD you purchase specifically to the activity you will be using it for. Here are some things to look for when trying to decide how to choose the right PFD.

PFD’s for high speed operation (PWC)
When you are operating a high speed PWC and there is a likely hood that you will be entering the water several times, your best bet to get a well fitted Neoprene PFD with multiple buckles and a zipper. This will ensure that the vest is tight and can waistband a fall at higher speeds. the Seadoo Freedom PFD is a good example of this type of vest.

Long distance sailing/offshore boating
In situations where you intend on being onboard a boat for an extend period of time and especially if you’re doing some offshore boating, an inflatable PFD is your best option. This is primarily because these types of PFD’s are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. They can be purchased with automatic inflation Which comes in handy  if you happen to fall over board. Look for a model that has high buoyancy.  Mustang Survival have several sailing vests available.

Kayaking, stand up paddle boarding
When kayaking or on a SUP you want a PFD that gives your arms a good range of movement and that is low profile. Salus marine has several good options for this type of PFD.  These types of PFD’s are also suitable for daysailing/boating, where comfort and  mobility is important.

Inflatable Belt PFD
Inflatable belt PFD are a good option for low impact type activities for instance, stand up paddle boarding. The belt is low profile and inflates when you pull the activation cord. Mustangs survival has a nice example of this inflatable belt PFD.

To conclude

There are many other types of PFD, like baby PFD’s, PFD’s specific to hunting, cold water operation PFD’s and even some for your pets. Whichever you decide to purchase, make sure it is certified by Transport Canada, the Canadian coast guard, or fisheries and oceans Canada, this way you will be complying with the law (You cannot regularly use a US approved vest in Canada as the standards are different). If you have a passenger that is a resident of another country and happens to have a PFD/life vest of good fit and good condition and that is approved by their respective country, you are not then required to carry a PFD/Life vest for that person.

Make sure you buy a PFD that fits you well and that you would be comfortable with based on the activity you will be doing. You also need to make sure that you have enough PFD’s or life jackets onboard of the appropriate size for each passengers you carry.

Some manufacturer that offer Canadian approved PFD’s and life vests are Mustang survival, Salus marine, Stearn floatation, Seadoo and Kokatat.

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