Personal Flotation Device Classifications

The Coast Guard has different classifications for personal flotation devices (PFDs).

Type I PFDs / Off-Shore Life Jackets

Best for all waters, open ocean, rough seas, or remote water, where rescue may be slow coming. Abandon-ship lifejacket for commercial vessels and all vessels carrying passengers for hire.

  • Inherently Buoyant Type I PFDs - SOLAS Service
  • Inherently Buoyant Type I PFDs - U.S. Service
  • Inflatable Type I PFDs - SOLAS and Domestic
  • Hybrid Type I PFDs - US Services

Type II PFDs / Near-Shore Buoyant Vests

For general boating activities. Good for calm, inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue.

  • Inherently Buoyant Type II PFDs
  • Inflatable Type II PFDs
  • Hybrid Type II PFDs

Type III / Level 70 PFDs / Flotation Aids

For general boating or the specialized activity that is marked on the device such as water skiing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and others. Good for calm, inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue. Designed so that wearing it will complement your boating activities.

Check the label to make sure your PFD is not restricted for water skiing or towed uses.

  • Inherently Buoyant Type III PFDs
  • Inflatable Type III PFDs
  • Hybrid Type III PFDs

Type IV PFDs / Throwable Devices

  • Ring Buoys
  • Buoyant Cushions

Type V PFDs / Special Use Devices

Only for special uses or conditions. See label for limits of use.  Some Type V devices are required to be worn to meet carriage requirements.

  • Hybrid Inflatable PFDs
  • Canoe/Kayak Vest
  • Boardsailing Vests
  • Deck Suits