QUICK GUIDE: HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT LIFE JACKET
A personal floatation device (PFD) is a must-have for boaters. It can spell the difference between life or death in an emergency situation. An important thing to note about life jackets is that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ item. For it to be truly effective, it has to be the right fit for the intended wearer. If you need some help in choosing the right life jacket, here are some of the key features you must look out for.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF LIFE JACKETS
The type of life jacket to choose will depend on where you’re going, the body of water in that location and the activities you’re going to do. Are you going for a leisurely boat ride on a lake? Kayaking down rapids? Are you an angler headed out to open waters? In each of these instances, the water conditions will vary significantly. According to Australian standards, there are three types of life jackets. It is a good idea to check with your state authorities on what type of life jacket you will depending on what you are doing.
• Type 1 is designed for use in unprotected waters. It has a high level of buoyancy (100 and above) and comes with support for the head and neck. It can be used in all waters.
• Type 2, on the other hand, has a level 50 buoyancy and there’s no head and neck support. It cannot be used in unprotected waters. It’s less bulky than Type 1 life jackets. Type 2 life jackets are typically used when sailing, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing or aboard personal watercraft.
• Type 3 has a level 50S buoyancy and has no head and neck support. It’s also comfortable to wear and is usually offered in different colours and styles. It cannot be used in unprotected waters. This life jacket can be used for water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking and canoeing.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
In choosing the right life jacket, consider your height and weight as these measurements will affect the life jacket’s buoyancy. It has to be a snug fit. If it’s too big, it’ll ride up over your head. If it’s too small, it won’t keep you afloat – you can always contact your online retailer for extra information.
Before buying, check the fit of the life jacket – good online retailers will have enough information displayed to make size fitting a non-issue. Then, before going out boating, make sure you have the chance to test out the life jacket and see how it performs when submerged in water. Try jumping from the edge of a swimming pool. Raise your arms up and ensure that the life jacket doesn’t ride up over your chin and face. It has to keep you afloat in a ‘face up’ position.
STYLE AND ADDED FEATURES
You no longer have to settle for the bulky and heavy orange life jackets of the past. The newer types are lightweight, comfortable and very stylish. They can be zipped, have buckles or both. Some of these design features are also very functional. For example, choosing one with bright colours and reflective tape will increase your visibility at night. Other added features include auto-inflation mode.
MAINTAINING THE LIFE JACKET’S CONDITION
Life jackets must be maintained periodically to ensure it’s in excellent condition. Check if there are cuts or tears that can affect the efficacy of your life jacket. For children, make sure to make the necessary upgrades if they’ve grown significantly.
You can protect yourself better when out on the water with a little knowledge. That makes you more than a responsible boater by also always wearing your life jacket and making sure your passengers are also wearing theirs too.
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