Which PFD should you wear when heading out on the water?

What type of life jacket (PFD) should you choose according to your nautical sport of choice?

Also available in: French

Planning on spending the summer on the water? Even if you are an excellent swimmer, safety always comes first, no matter your activity. In order to protect yourself, as well as the members of your family – including your four-legged friends – read our tips to pick the PFD that’s right for you.


First, what’s the difference between a life jacket and a personal floatation device?

A life jacket offers excellent floatation, is generally orange or red-coloured, and automatically pivots a person for his or her face to face upwards and out of the water. These are often offered on boats and commercial watercrafts.

The personal floatation device also offers good floatation, is adapted to your activity, and is designed to offer freedom of movement. Personal floatation devices are generally offered in a larger spectrum of colours like blue, yellow, and even green and purple. When purchasing one, make sure that your device is approved by one of the following associations: Transport Canada, The Canadian Coast Guard, or Oceans Canada.


Fishing PFD

Fishing personal floatation device (PFD): what should you consider?

If you love to go fishing all summer long, make sure that your fishing PFD is lightweight, has pockets (practical for slipping in some extra spoons, line, sinkers, etc.) and have a small piece of fake sheepskin to attach your flies or lures.

Standard models have floatation panels designed to offer freedom of movement to your arms. Others are self inflating by use of a string that you simply pull. The Salus and Mustang Survival brands both offer different options, up to you to choose your favourite one.



Kayak PFD
Personal floatation devices for kayaks and stand up paddle boards: what criteria should you consider?

If your dream is to roam upon the water aboard a kayak, a stand up paddle board, or even a canoe, look for a PFD with tapered back floatation panels centered on the chest so that you have good underarm ventilation and full shoulder clearance for paddling. Test out your jacket by sitting in a kayak to see if your back feels comfortable against the seat.

Your jacket should stay in place all while allowing good freedom of movement. Select a model that has multiple straps to be able to adjust it to your body, or to wear it higher up on your waist, especially if you are doing a nautical activity where you will be sitting down. Several brands such as SAIL and Stohlquist offer very functional jackets.

Bringing along your furry friend? Protect your favourite companion with a dog pfd including a dorsal handle in case your dog falls or decides to jump into the water without warning.



PFD for children
Personal floatation device for swimming: what criteria should you consider?

For playing in the water, both young and old must take the proper precautions and wear a life jacket. Particularly if you will be swimming in a river or a lake that will be agitated from the current of motorboats and other watercrafts drifting by.

For adults, opt for a PFD that is well fitted to your body. For your little ones, look for kids’ or baby PFDs equipped with a harness between the legs, allowing for the jacket to stay in place and prevent from climbing up too high on the body. A floating collar also helps support the neck and the back of the head.



What are the advantages and disadvantages of inflatable personal floatation devices?

Inflatable personal floatation devices are very lightweight and ergonomic, making wearing them even more comfortable. Models with a zipper or with a buckle are available.

The inconvenient side rests not only in their more expensive price, but also in the fact that you have to activate the inflation manually on several models. There’s also a style that inflates automatically under the pressure of the water.

These PFDs are not recommended for high-intensity activities in active waters, such as rafting.




How to pick the right sized personal floatation device (PFD)

If you are an adult, you should not select a floatation device based on your weight, but rather based on the size of your chest. Measure and follow the manufacturer guidelines. It’s imperative that the jacket hugs your body, but is comfortable.

For children, the recommended weight is indicated on the jackets in order to allow for the right amount of float. It’s essential to follow the limits and know the weight of your child or baby to pick out the right life vest.

In all cases, a life jacket should never rise up higher than your chin when you are wearing it and are submerged.


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Also available in: French