Over the past several years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the popularity of paddle boarding, making it one of the fastest-growing hobbies in America. However, in 2018 173 people lost their lives while paddling. That’s why it’s important whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned pro, you are taking the necessary precautions to avoid ending up in some serious situations.
One of the first steps to be safe when paddle boarding, is to always wear a life vest of some sort.
Unlike kayaking, there are a number of varieties of PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices) that are more specific to SUPs. There are Belt PFD’s, Suspender Harness PFD’s and Life Vest PFDs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that we will get into below.
What is a PFD?
A PFD is a wearable floatable vest, jacket, or hip belt (sometimes referred to as life jackets, life preservers or life vests) that you wear while paddle boarding and will keep you safe in case of an emergency. These PFDs are designed to hold your head above water so you can breathe.
Some of the newer PFDs designed for paddle boarding are inflatable and will instantly inflate in an emergency by pulling on a jerk leash that triggers the device. These devices offer the safety of the traditional life vest style PFD without the added bulk, which is perfect for paddling.
Although PFDs are effective, and potentially life-saving, aid, a life jacket should not be considered a substitute for good swimming ability.
“It won’t work if you don’t wear it!” The decision to NOT wear a PFD may be the worst, and last, the decision you ever make.
What type of PFD should You Buy?
There are a seemingly endless number of options of PFDs on the market these days. From belts to jackets, you’ll need to find the one that’s right for your activity.
A few things you should consider before you buy:
Is the PDF comfortable?
Make sure you try it on. It should fit snugly but not too tightly or it might restrict your movement in the water or when paddling. Can you swim or float comfortably in it?
Is it adjustable?
Make sure your PFD is able to adjust the different amounts of clothing that might change with weather and temperature conditions
Where will you be paddling?
If you will be on big lakes, in the ocean, or on white water, choose a life jacket with a higher amount of buoyancy. If you plan to paddle only on calm, flat waters, such as a lake or slow-moving bodies of water, choose one that will be comfortable to wear and paddling in all day.
Remember, regardless of what your paddling activity will be, a life jacket does not have to be expensive to be effective. It does have to be worn through.
Best SUP Belt PFD (Type V)
When shopping for a PFD you’ll want to find the one the best suits your needs and feels comfortable while on your paddle board.
This segment is dedicated to Belt type PFDs because they truly are the best PFD for paddle boarding. Indeed, belt PFDs are light, they do not cause any inconvenience and they would hardly ever restrict your body movement.
Further, once you pull the jerk, assuming that you’ve prepared your device properly, the PFD will eject from the pouch and instantly inflate to enable you to put it around your neck.
So, to save your life from the tedious filtering of all the products online, we did the necessary research and resulted in a shortlist that comprises the best belt PDFs out there and they go as follows:
#1- Onyx M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt
Starting with one of the best-selling PFDs you will understand just what to expect from a Belt-type flotation device. From a quality standpoint, Onyx is a leading manufacturer in the PFD industry.
Indeed, the Onyx M-16 is a type V life vest belt pack that can potentially save your life when it comes down to it. The belt is designed to be comfortable on the waist of an adult paddler. That said, this is not a PFD for children. There are plenty of other types of kids PFDs that we’ll look at in a minute.
Safety is undeniably the primary quality of a PFD, but that doesn’t mean it has to look or be bulky. The Onyx M-16 has done an impressive job having completely concealed the 4-ounce Co2 canister within the belt and out of sight. While it might look like a fanny packs from when you were a kid, but there is minimal storage. That said the front zipper pocket can still handle keys, accessories, and even a reasonably sized phone.
Further, the belt might not require regular maintenance but the CO2 canister definitely does and must be checked every month or two. So, don’t hesitate to trigger your device after a couple of months to make sure everything works as it should. As a backup, the Onyx M-16 has an oral inflation tube in the event the CO2 cartridge fails to inflate.
- Compact and comfortable
- Low profile
- Adjustable straps
- Not intuitive enough for people who can’t swim
- Bouncing pouch
#2- MTI Adventurewear Fluid 2.0 Belt Pack PFD
With such a catchy name, it is definitely hard to miss the MTI Adventurewear at hand. However, there’s a lot more to this belt than just that. Indeed, the MTI Fluid 2.0 is a common safety accessory amongst paddlers specifically because it is simple and efficient.
Accordingly, the belt at hand is designed to be as comfortable as possible and that includes a mesh back panel, a soft touch material and a large belt. Indeed, this combo will enable you to move freely and comfortably without any restrictions while the wide belt will prevent the pouch from bouncing up and down as you go.
Moreover, in order to prevent you from accidentally activating the device easily, the MTI belt will require a firm tug to trigger and it’s on you to remember that in case of an emergency. The device will take a few seconds to inflate fully and then you would have to put it manually around your neck. Hence, if you can’t swim then this is definitely not a good option.
If you happen to be as insecure like me, MTI got us hooked with a small visibility window on the Co2 canister that enables you to make sure it’s in place and plugged in correctly at all times. Nevertheless, once you set the device up, it would function smoothly as it supports the premium Halkey Robert inflation mechanism with an indicator.
If you’re still not completely confident in it, this PFD makes it possible to store in a second CO2 canister within the front zipper pocket. That being said, you can also use the pocket for pretty much anything else of the same size.
- Comes with a whistle
- Has a D-ring attachment for accessories
- Comfortable to wear
- None that we can think of
#3- Eyson Life Ring Belt Pack
Eyson is not necessarily the biggest nor the most familiar brand in the industry. However, it seems to be getting nothing but positive reviews. Indeed, for a paddle board PFD in this price range, this waist bag seems to be killing its competition.
An affordable PFD is definitely an asset but quality is definitely a priority here. Hence, the first thing you notice about this belt is the texture of the fabric which is also its biggest selling point. Actually, this might just be the most comfortable belt type PFD on this list and it’s due to the Nylon + TPU texture.
Also, the texture of the belt will not only feel soft but it will also reduce friction, allowing you to move freely without any restrictions. The fabric is hence impressively light and durable but most importantly, it dries up quickly.
In terms of practicality, the Eyson comes with a rather minimalistic jerk that looks like a zipper head and a very adjustable strap, making it perfect for teenagers and adults under 240 pounds.
Nonetheless, the Eyson truly excels in the functionality department being CE certified and inflating in under 5 seconds. Also, this device is hooked with SOLAS-approved solar reflectors for much better visibility in the water.
- Impressive visibility
- Quick inflation
- Comes in a variety of colors
#4- Stearns 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack
It is rather tough to make a decision when you’re presented with a strong list of equally impressive paddle board PFD devices. However, it might be easier to make up your mind on this belt pack.
A Belt PFD is in itself an impressive tool but it becomes even more compelling once it is recommended by a trusted source. Accordingly, the Stearns at hand might have just gained an unrecoverable advantage because it earned the support of the US coast guard.
In order to achieve the approval of such an organization, a PFD must contain a list of elements that leave no room for criticism. Hence, first things first, the Stearns belt is a type 3 Performance device, making it great for beginners as well as professionals. Further, this PFD offers a little window on the Co2 canister to make sure it’s connected properly.
Hence, this belt is an instant wonder as it almost instantly turns into a flotation device after jerking the leash. In case it wasn’t clear already, this PFD has written directions on the jerk to make it even easier.
A great compliment to its efficiency is the low profile of the Stearns belt. Indeed, this might just be the best PFD for SUP users as it ensures complete freedom of movement. The belt also features a compact design to reduce any distractions but that leaves no room for pockets.
- US Coast Guard-approved
- Compact belt design
- Type III performance
- It has no pockets
Suspender Harness PFD (Type V)
If you’re not into the fanny pack fashion then maybe you’d appreciate suspender harness PFDs. Actually, these PFD devices are more like a paddle board life jacket than anything else. However, they are significantly lighter and much more breathable.
I think we can all agree that suspender Harness PFD devices are more practical than belts. However, which one do you choose and how can you tell whether it’s actually reliable or not?
These are questions that require a lot of research and that’s exactly what we did in order to filter out the best sup life jacket on the market today.
#1- Onyx A/M 24 Deluxe Automatic Vest
It doesn’t come as a surprise to see an Onyx PFD topping this list as well, considering the fact that it has the cleanest record in the game. Indeed, Onyx PFD devices are often an example of resilience and practicality, which is why the A/M-24 is probably the best PFD for paddle boarding.
The Absolute Outdoor Onyx is a resilient device, which is an essential quality of something that is supposed to save your life when it comes down to it. Indeed, this suspender is made out of a heavy-duty 420-denier nylon rip-stop, giving it the necessary strength to handle the sudden inflation upon activation.
In terms of functionality, this device is pretty much an example as it offers automatic and manual inflation, depending on your need and resources. Also, if you’re going on a trip then you might want to store a secondary Co2 canister inside the utility pockets on each side. The pockets are also waterproof, making it possible to store personal accessories such as a phone, a GoPro, and pretty much anything else that fits.
Comfort is important and that is why this vest comes with a stretchable flex-back insert, making it the perfect fit for most adults out there. for Additional comfort, this PFD features a padded air mesh on lower panels, back, and straps, thereby reducing friction and reducing inconvenience.
- Very resilient
- Plenty of storage room
- Advanced functionality
- It’s a little bit on the expensive side.
#2- Eyson Slim PFD
If the Onyx does not impress you enough then perhaps, you would find your prey in the Eyson Slim sup life jacket. Actually, this device is a simpler version of the previous one as it exhibits similar functionality in a minimalistic mold.
The Eyson life jacket might not be the best PFD for sup but it is still one of the strongest. Indeed, this device is made of light-weight resilient fabric all around but it also features a soft neoprene neckline for your convenience.
Further, the Eyson might be tough but it’s not stiff as it exhibits an impressive 150N buoyancy, making it a universal fit for adults under 330 pounds.
Since we fringed on user properties, let us take a moment to appreciate the fact that this device comes with an adjustable belt fit for a nice firm grip and a minimal frame that will not restrict your movement nor make you feel overwhelmed.
As far as functionality goes, it must be admitted that the Eyson cannot compete with Onyx stand up paddle board life jackets. However, it is still pretty reliable. Thus, this unit features a small window on the Co2 canister to keep in check and no storage pockets. Also, this life jacket is CE certified and Solas approved 3M reflectors, which is an overkill for visibility but a much appreciated one.
- It comes in a variety of colors
- It’s CE Certificated & SOLAS Approved 3M Reflectors
- It’s Washable & Easy to Air Dry
- Not the strongest fabric
SUP Vest PFD (Type II & III)
A harness is an excellent paddle board PFD. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice some freedom of movement on the account of safety then you’d be a perfect fit for the SUP Vest PFD.
Unsurprisingly, these Personal Flotation Devices have grown more popular amongst paddle boarders because of their comfort aspect but most importantly because they can actually float you 100% of the time without the risk of malfunctioning. So, let’s discover some of your best options and what makes them worthy of this list.
#1- Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Life Vest
If you’re looking for the best SUP life jacket then you better start at Onyx as it is the undisputed champion of the game. Indeed, this brand managed to cover every option out there, providing paddlers with an endless variety of choices.
The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic life jacket is an accurate representation of the brand’s reputation, starting at the quality. In fact, the life jacket at hand is so resilient that the company is claiming that it would last a lifetime and if maintained properly, it probably would. In that respect, the jacket is coated in 200-denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford for maximum durability.
Further, beyond quality, comfort is evidently prioritized on this Onyx and that can be seen anywhere on this life jacket. First things first, the vest is designed to fit your torso like a glove due to its elasticity.
Accordingly, in order to achieve that perfect fit, the jacket is also featured with shoulder and rib belt adjustments as well as bubble foam filling for maximum comfort.
Although it can be a tight fit once fully adjusted, you will not be restrained in this jacket as it is fused with breathable mesh tissue all around. Also, in order to reduce friction on your shoulders, the jacket features a neoprene comfort pad under each. Moreover, because you’ll always have something precious on you, Onyx hooked you up with a robust little for keys and such.
In terms of functionality, it is important to note that life vests are designed to help you float and that entails the fact that you are required to swim with one. So, it is advised to actually take a swim with this vest and get used to it before you really need it.
- Robust build
- Maximum comfort
- Feels cool wearing it
- Not suitable for beginners
#2- ONYX MoveVent Curve Sports Life Vest
Brace yourselves because we got ourselves another Onyx. However, this one is a rather simplified version of the previous one on this list. Indeed, any Onyx PFD is a reliable one if used knowledgeably. Thus, we are not expecting anything less from this Curve life vest.
Quality is untouched on each and every Onyx on the market. Thus, you can expect the same resilience from this sup life jacket. Indeed, the US coast guard approves the jacket at hand, as it is made of 200-denier nylon ripstop that will last a lifetime if not punctured intentionally.
Further, quality doesn’t stop at coating but extends to reach the smallest details on the jacket, including the shoulder straps, zippers, and stitching.
Beyond quality, comfort relies greatly on the fit of the jacket, which is why this Onyx supports all sizes from 44 to 56. The vest will fit like a glove around your torso as is advised and you can adjust that through the shoulder and rib straps. Speaking of which, the shoulder straps on these jackets are nicely padded with soft nylon to reduce friction.
Breathability is also a big deal for this jacket, as it features mesh vents all around in order to keep you fresh and focused on the game. However, it still is a torso life vest and that will definitely become hotter under the sun. On the other hand, this exact vest has perfect visibility because of its color and that explains the reduction in reflectors.
- Reliable and resilient
#3- Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Vest PFD
If you happen to be a man who likes life jackets then this Stohlquist is made just for you. All jokes aside, we did not randomly select this vest because it earned its right to be here and these are some of the reasons why.
First things first, quality is a big deal anywhere you go but especially when your life depends on it. Hence, if you’re an avid paddler and you need a reliable companion then this jacket makes the perfect match. Truly, the Stohlquist is coated in a 400 to 200-denier ripstop shell and 210-denier oxford liner, making it as robust as a premium iSUP. There is no question that this jacket will endure the son, the salty water, and the rough treatment. However, it is advisable you regularly wash it with tap water and soap after every use to help prolong its life.
Comfort has always been important for life jackets, especially to those of us who wear these things for prolonged periods on a daily basis. Hence, in order to help us feel at ease, the brand features this jacket with a heavily padded neoprene interior and waistband and soft shoulder straps for a maximum effect.
This might not be the most breathable paddle board life jacket on the market but it is one of the most reliable ones. Indeed, functionality is top-notch on this Stohlquist and that is significantly dependent on the lightweight PE foam filling that will make floating an easier task.
- Extremely functional
- Robust and comfortable
- It tends to get hot
#4- NRS Ninja PFD
Ninja is a sup life jacket for those of you who are truly invested in their passion and know exactly what they are doing. Thus, the target audience for this product is rather limited and that mainly includes avid paddlers, kayakers, and those of us who only live once on the water.
This introduction might sound a little bias but it absolutely isn’t. For starters, the jacket was designed with such a low profile that allows it to remain out of your way at all times whether you’re free kayaking, fishing, or even paddle boarding.
Beyond being approved by the US Coast Guard, the NRS Ninja has established quite a firm reputation due to its functionality. Hence, the Ninja is designed with 3 foam pads, one in the back and two on the front for maximum flotation capacity and easier handling once in the water.
In terms of comfort, the jacket at hand is fused with a soft/stretchy interior lining which enables you to move around freely and allows air to get through. Quality becomes prominent once you put your hands on the butter smooth yet robust rib adjustment straps that will grant you that perfect fit you need to be comfortable.
If you are like many of us out there who cannot go anywhere without your sunblock, sunglasses or a protein bar then you’d love the front pocket on this jacket. Also, for added practicality, the vest will enable you to adjust the nicely padded shoulder straps for an even firmer grip, reducing the possibility of the jacket slipping over and getting in your face once you’re in the water.
- Highly Adjustable
- Premium quality and design
- Maximum comfort
- Looks cool
Vest PFD for Women
One of the biggest struggles for women in this game is trying to find equipment that is actually made for them which is why we had to create a specific segment for the best sup life jacket for women.
Undeniably, there are more men than women out there on kayaks and stand up paddle boards but the women doing it are just as dedicated which is why they deserve their special design vest PFDs and it goes like this:
#1- Stohlquist Women’s Cruiser Life Jacket PFD
Stohlquist has familiarized us with bigger sup life jackets and that’s not necessarily an issue. Indeed, beyond reasonable frowning, the brand actually makes some of the toughest most reliable vests regardless of their size. Hence, it is important to keep in mind that a bigger Stohlquist means better floating aid.
That being said, the Women’s Cruiser is a prominent jacket amongst women paddlers for many reasons. However, if we were to pinpoint the most common one, it would be resilience. In fact, this suit is made of a 500-denier Cordura shell, which is then reinforced via a 200-denier oxford liner. Hence, you can say that this jacket is made to endure the sun, salt, and perhaps even some rocky bottoms.
In terms of comfort, Stohlquist doesn’t take chances and goes straight for soft nylon padding wherever friction occurs. Hence, you’ll find that the shoulder straps’ padding helps significantly especially in the case of sunburn.
Also, the jacket features padding on the inner back and front as well as some mesh placements to make the experience less steamy. Nonetheless, while being more functional, it is important to note that this vest will get you hot quicker than a harness, which is reasonable.
Adjustability is important because you want this PFD to fit like a glove when wearing it, otherwise, it will become a nightmare to handle once in the water. Accordingly, this Stohlquist Women’s Cruiser is set to be a universal size. However, you might find it difficult to fit if you’re off the S, M, L, and XL chart.
- Robust and flexible
- Nicely padded
- 2 pockets for personal storage
- Might get hot after a while
#2- Astral Layla Women’s Life Jacket PFD
Astral Layla Women’s jacket is one of the few vests out there that you can truly see that it is made for females. Indeed, this brand might not be offering the lowest prices but they go far beyond when it comes to user personalization and comfort.
Hence, does this land amongst the best stand up paddle board life jackets? Well, if your definition of the best includes maximum resilience then absolutely. In fact, this life jacket is filled with kapok foam which is organic to the touch and significantly more flexible than the cheap standard foam found in many PFDs out there. Nonetheless, the jacket uses standard foam on the back to maintain the structure and help you float easily.
Furthermore, the jacket is cut right on top of the waist area to avoid limiting mobility, giving you more freedom to actually practice your favorite water spot. Also, in terms of comfort, the jacket is designed to create as little inconvenience as possible and that can be seen on the shoulder strap area, the inner back, and front which are made softer and significantly smoother.
As far as adjustability goes, to customize this Astral jacket to your size is literally as simple as pulling a strap. Hence, you can easily tighten or loosen up the vest from the shoulder straps and the 2 rib straps on each side.
As far as practicality goes, we believe that this suit is hard to fault. Nevertheless, it might be important for some to note that suit goes over the head to wear/take off as the zipper is placed to the side and not at the center. Moreover, the jacket features a plasticized pocket right at the center of the chest for accessory storage.
- Organic and flexible
- Creates no restriction to motion
- Very breathable
- Might pull your hair whenever you try to remove it.
#3- NRS Women’s Siren PFD
Specially designed for women, you’ll notice that the NRS women’s Siren reacts naturally to your movement and body geography. Actually, this might just be the best sup life jacket for women, and here are a few reasons why.
First things first, the suit at hand is one of the toughest in its category, featuring a robust easy-dry ripstop nylon which is then reinforced via an industrial liner to keep it all together. Also, in terms of filling, this paddle board life vest features extra soft foam that wraps around your torso without restricting your motion. This paddle board PFD hence features 6 foam panels that will prove extremely efficient, keeping you above water at all costs.
In terms of comfort, the jacket at hand might not be low profile but it compromised that for better padding. Indeed, starting at the shoulder straps, the inner back and front of the vest are coated in soft fabric that will keep you comfortable despite the size of the jacket. The brand also uses a special cool flow technology to enable refreshing air to get through to your spine all the time.
Practicality is an essential feature for every product but especially when you are stranded far from land. Hence, the NRS sup life jacket features a dual entry front pocket for your small gear and sports cameras. Also, adjustability is a breeze on this NRS as features easy access straps on the shoulders and ribs for that perfect fit.
- Top-notch quality
- Highly reputable brand
- Reliable and comfortable
- A little on the expensive side.
PFD Vests for Children
Whether it is paddle boarding, kayaking, or any water sport, the first thing we should consider is safety. Hence, you can imagine that the effort would double when it comes to kids since they are far more vulnerable.
Accordingly, we took it on ourselves to do the needed research to narrow down your options to the best paddle board life vests for kids on the market and it goes as follows:
#1- Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket
Without any introductions, the Onyx Youth paddle sports life jacket is perhaps the simplest vest you can get for your child. In fact, this actual product has grown to be one of the best-sellers in its category for a variety of reasons. But how good is it really?
Obviously, this Onyx isn’t the best on the market, a conclusion that can be quickly reached by looking at the price tag. However, does that affect quality? Unsurprisingly, the build of the Onyx youth vest is not fancy but the jacket itself is highly resilient. Indeed, with a high rate of nylon denier and an industrial-grade stitching finish, you can expect this sup life jacket to last indefinitely.
The company claims it to be low profile and lightweight but in truth, it is only one of those two things. Hence, the pronounced foam panels on the front and back will help your child float easily. However, it might also cause the body to heat if your activity includes standing under direct sun for too long.
In terms of practicality, the jacket comes with a fortified central zipper that will hardly ever get stuck and a front pocket that can be used for limited accessories. Also, the jacket features adjustable straps on the shoulders and ribs to attain a necessary glove fit that would otherwise save your child’s life when it comes down to it.
As far as comfort goes, you shouldn’t expect luxury from this Onyx because it is as simple as you would imagine. Hence, straight to the point, the vest keeps the inner texture similar to the external layer with a little extra padding on the shoulder area to reduce friction. The jacket also features ventilation on both sides but that’s about it for breathability.
- Gets the job done without failure
- Might get hot under the hot sun in dry conditions
#2- Stohlquist Child Drifter Youth PFD
If you do not like Onyx then say hello to Stohlquist as it is your only other decent option before you start diving deep into cheap jackets. Indeed, both Onyx and Stohlquist produce on the same level which makes competition high and production value better for us. However, does this Child Drifter has what it takes to appeal to you?
Since quality is always a priority for safety equipment, it is always a good thing to know that this jacket was actually approved by the US coast guard as a type 3 life jacket. This youth-sized life jacket is impressively resilient and that is something you’ll notice straight away once you feel it. Indeed, with a hard denier nylon coat, a firm foam padding, and industrial stitching, this Stohlquist is meant to last forever.
Also, practicality is a big deal for us and I don’t see why our children should be excluded. Hence, the stand up paddle board life jacket at hand proves to be the best in this area as it features a lower foam padding, allowing freer limb movement with minimal restrictions. Further, the jacket also features reflective stripes on the chest for better visibility.
Speaking of movement, comfort is also a big focus for the brand and that can be seen at the shoulder level with the neoprene soft padding. Also, adjusting this vest to fit your child should be easy due to the easy access straps on each shoulder and ribs. This Stohlquist is keen on safety which is why it chose to maintain a simple central zipper with an extra front clip for safety.
- Gets the job done without failure
- Might get hot under the hot sun in dry conditions
#3- Stohlquist Youth Escape PFD
If you really like the Stohlquist Child Drifter but you do not want to pay all that much then say hello to its less accomplished but more affordable sibling: Youth Escape. Actually, let us not rush to judge it just because of a lower price tag and give it a chance instead.
First of all, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this isn’t as robust as its more expensive sibling but it is still highly resilient. Indeed, the jacket at hand is featuring a 200-denier oxford shell and liner and that usually means a lifetime of use with appropriate maintenance.
Further, the jacket is labeled compact and low profile but it isn’t very shy with its foam filling. Hence, the foam will certainly make it a great deal easier to float but at the same time, it will function as efficient insulation. Accordingly, due to its low breathability aspect, it is advisable to refresh every now and again if you are out on a hot sunny day.
Adjustability is a breeze on this jacket which will make it possible to get it to a perfect fit. Indeed, using the shoulder and rib strap adjustments, you can make sure your child’s jacket is a cozy fit because it could be dangerous otherwise. The jacket also features a front pocket for little accessories and a security buckle under the central zipper for a nicer fit.
How to Choose a Sup Life Vest / PFD – Buying Guide
SUP PFD Laws
As was anticipated, the American Coast Guard association deemed the stand up paddle board a vessel in 2008, making it subject to the standard rules and regulations applying to all water vessels. Hence, if you’re a paddle board owner, you are now expected to respect and attend to the following instructions:
First things first, if you’re an avid paddler who puts no time limit on his passion then you will be expected to have a flashlight on you after it gets dark. Also, it is equally important to present an SOS sound device when requested and that can range from a regular whistle to a sophisticated electric alarm system. However, the one item that the US coast guard emphasizes significantly is the presence of a PFD device at all times once on the vessel.
Legal PFD Types
#1- Type 1 :
Type is basically the industrial type which is obligatory on any and every commercial vessel. This type of personal flotation device is often produced with one buckle or two for children sizes, a large foam padding to aid floating, and a bright yellow or orange reflective shade for clear visibility.
Furthermore, this type of flotation device is often made of highly resilient substances and designed to keep the user’s torso above water at all cost since help is often going to take some time to get to you in case of an emergency. It is important to note that this type of PFD device is not designed to facilitate movement but rather floating with a buoyancy of up to 10 kilograms / 22 pounds for adults and 11lbs for children.
#2- Type 2 :
Type 2 PFD devices are definitely less pronounced than their predecessors because they are designed for near-shore use only. Indeed, these suits are clever as they are capable of turning an unconscious user face up which could save their life. Nonetheless, these vests are not as helpful as the first type but still capable of exerting a buoyancy of up to 15.5 pounds on adult vests and 7 pounds on children’s.
#3- Type 3 :
This is where it begins to become obvious that these vests are designed for leisure and not an emergency purpose as type 3 PFD devices can help a whole lot with flotation while giving you more freedom to move around and practice your favorite water sport. These PFD devices are also designed for inland water where you can be attained by rescuers quickly and most importantly where the user remains conscious.
Accordingly, Type 3 devices are also known as the paddler’s PFD since they exhibit many qualities that appeal to water sports lovers.
#4- Type 4 :
This type of PFD device is not designed to be worn, which is why they are often, labeled throw-able flotation devices. These devices can be easily thrown to a conscious individual in need as they can provide temporary support until rescue comes. These devices are legal but often considered as extra support only.
#5- Type 5 :
This type of PFD device is labeled a special use device with occasional extra features and even hybrid inflatables. These PFD devices are thus restricted to commercial whitewater rafts, work, and other specific domains, which are targeted directly. If you are not the target category of a special use PFD then you should probably stick with one of the safer choices above.
The Perfect fit
Getting the perfect fit device is critical for water sports because it can literally make the difference between life and death. Yes, size is that important and that includes adjustments as well. So, before we dive in a little deeper on the topic, it is important to note that most vests out there are designed for a universal user which often covers the entirety of the sizes chart. However, there is still room to mess things up if you do not adjust the vest to your size.
Accordingly, most vests on the market and all the vest on our lists come with plenty of adjustment options which are facilitated through the shoulder and rip straps. Thus, you want to make sure that your vest fits like a glove before you jump into the water because the last thing you want is a loose vest that will come over your face and cause you a lot of distress.
Further, if you’re a significantly skinnier adult (under 90 pounds) or a larger child (over 90 pounds) then you’re better off with taking a step down or up the chart between adult and youth sizes in order to get the perfect fit for you.
In brief, all PFDs designed for children stand by a universal sizing that fits users ranging between 50 and 90 pounds whereas the universal fit for adults can go from 90 pounds up to 250.
Make Sure You Float
It is important to learn about the different types of PFD devices for a number of reasons and one of them is to know which one is the right one for you. Accordingly, there are a few types of PFD devices out there and each of them is designed for a specific type of people. However, one thing is common amongst all of them and that’s buoyancy. So, what is buoyancy and how can you tell which is capable of handling your weight in water and when it becomes a risk.
To put it simply, the average buoyancy of a PFD is 15 lbs. whereas a human being weighs around 130 pounds. However, almost 80% of our bodies are water, 15% on average is fat which is lighter than water, leaving us with around 5% of the weight that must be held up by a flotation device. So, let’s do the math.
- 130 pounds x 80% water = 104 pounds of water
- 130 pounds x 15% fat = 19.5 pounds of fat
- 130 pounds – 104 pounds of water – 19.5 pounds of fat = 7.5 pounds.
In conclusion, calculating your overall weight into this equation might be necessary because not all producers will tell you what to expect but most of them are more than enough for anyone who falls into the standard sizing chart of S, M, L & XL.
Features to Look for
The article is almost over and you’re 90% ready to buy your own PFD. However, before you click that purchase button, take a minute to think it through a little longer.
Quality and functionality are often highlighted as the core criteria of any purchase but features can make a whole lot of a difference as well.
Indeed, any PFD out there will help you float when it comes down to it but that’s not all it’s good for. For example, a practical feature to look for on any PFD is an accessories pocket. Preferably waterproof, a pocket will come in handy in keeping your phone, car keys or anything of that size on you instead of leaving it somewhere on the beach.
Also, the more adjustability options a device can offer the better. You’ll quickly find out that most PFDs out there feature shoulder straps but you want to make sure that the vest also has rib strips for a tighter fit. Moreover, on rare occasions, you’ll run into jackets that offer even more ² options and that’s always a good thing.
Further, visibility is key in most rescues and that makes it critical to choose a PFD that features approved reflective stripes. Reflective stripes can vary in size but even the smallest can help the rescuers find you quicker in case of an emergency.
Maintain your SUP PFD
Salty water and sun exposure will ravage anything that goes on water and PFDs are no exception. In fact, these devices are often made of substances that won’t endure these elements without your assistance. Hence, it is important to hose down your vest, belt, or harness with tap water and soap after each use.
Also, PFDs with inflatable pockets require more steps to keep in check. Hence, it is critical to keep your Co2 canister under constant check and monthly updates. Further, you need to do regular controls over the entire process of inflation, making sure that everything is connected and ready for action. Also, make sure your zippers don’t bite onto the deflated bladders and test for punctures regularly via manual inflation.
All of this is common sense for most people and if you act it out regularly then you should never have to change your PFD.