What is the difference between a floatation jacket and a life vest?

When it comes to boating safety, the terms “floatation jacket” and “life vest” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two distinct types of personal floatation devices (PFDs).

So, what’s the difference between a floatation jacket and a life vest? Here’s a breakdown of the two:

Floatation Jacket

A floatation jacket is a PFD that looks and feels like a regular jacket but has foam padding sewn into it to provide buoyancy. These jackets typically have a lower buoyancy rating than life vests, usually between 15 and 22 pounds of buoyancy.

Floatation jackets are designed to be more comfortable and less restrictive than traditional life vests, allowing for better mobility and reducing the risk of fatigue or discomfort during extended wear. Some floatation jackets also come with added features like pockets, hoods, and reflective tape for added safety.

Life Vest

A life vest, on the other hand, is a PFD designed to provide maximum buoyancy and keep the wearer afloat in case of an emergency. These vests typically have a higher buoyancy rating than floatation jackets, ranging from 22 to 34 pounds of buoyancy.

Life vests come in various styles, including the traditional orange vest with adjustable straps and buckles, inflatable vests that self-deploy upon immersion in water, and waist-belt style vests. They are typically less comfortable than floatation jackets and may restrict movement and cause chafing during extended wear.

Which One Should You Choose?

Your choice of PFD ultimately depends on your activity and boating conditions. If you’re planning on engaging in high-speed water sports like water skiing or wakeboarding, a life vest with high buoyancy and a secure strap system is your best bet. If you’re going on a leisurely cruise or fishing trip, a floatation jacket may be more comfortable for extended wear.

Remember, regardless of which PFD you choose, always wear it correctly and ensure it is in good condition and properly fitted before heading out on the water. Being prepared with the appropriate safety gear is crucial for a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

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