General Purpose Life Jackets, Vests & PFDs

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General Purpose Life Jackets How-To's

Wearing a Life Vest

Wearing Your Life Jacket

Although some boaters might find life jackets inconvenient, they are one of the most necessary items to have on any vessel. Life jackets have proven extremely useful in ... read more life-threatening/emergency situations, and give overall support and reassurance to boaters, whether they are in the boat or the water.

There are several different types of life jackets ranging in materials, sizes, colors, and many other features. Some are better suited for fishing and hunting from your boat, while others are better for personal water crafts or ski boats. Make sure that there are plenty of life jackets for the maximum number of passengers that will regularly be boarding. Here are some important things you should remember about the life jackets you invest in:

  • Most life jackets are designed to keep you above water in a position that will allow you breathe properly.
  • Along with life jackets, there should be at least one throwable flotation device designed to throw out (buoys, life savers, etc.).
  • Children must ALWAYS be wearing life jackets while on board. Wearing a life vest is a requirement by all 50 states.
  • For safety reasons, do not attempt to use adult-sized life jackets on children.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard urges boaters to test their life vests at least once a year to test buoyancy and durability. Any defects in the life jacket should result in the disposal of the life jacket.
  • Some life jackets can help people survive in harsh water environments.
Life jackets are the most effective in the following scenarios:
  • Shipwrecks
  • Sinking in rough sea conditions
  • When thrown from a vessel
  • When tossed into freezing water
  • For those who are not strong swimmers

Life jackets will save a life. Investing in life jackets can only help to prevent harm or accident. We recommend posting a question on the Forum page to receive additional opinions on which types of life jackets to purchase depending on individual specifications.

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Maintaining Your Life Vest

Life Jackets, Vests, & Inflatable PFDs can last for years when the right type of care in cleaning and storage is taken. ... read more

Girl with Life Jacket On

To make the most of your purchase, follow these steps:

Cleaning & Drying

  1. When washing, use a sponge and mild detergent (if necessary).
  2. Do NOT use solvent based cleaners.
  3. Let drip-dry in ventilated area. Do not attempt to speed up the drying process by using any type of heat source
  4. Drying in non-direct sunlight will help prevent fading.


  1. Make sure the life jacket is completely dry before putting in storage; any moisture has a good chance of leading to mold or mildew.
  2. Keep in a DRY place. If storing in your boat, make sure your boat is moisture free
  3. Again, keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent fading.

Safety Check for Inflatable PFDs

  1. If your life jacket is the Automatic Inflatable style, you'll want to remove the CO2 Cartridge.
  2. Check the cartridge for damage and make sure it hasn't previously activated without your awareness -CO2 cartridges can only be used once . If there is any damage or if the cartridge has been activated, replace at once.
  3. Clean all areas using a mild detergent, including the manual inflation valve & CO2 cartridge detonation mechanism. Make sure to check for damage along the way.
With the proper cleaning and storage, your PFDs will stay fresh and look new for many years and best of all, when you pass a vest to a friend to wear, it won't smell like an old gym sock, especially in inside your boat.

Thanks to Wayne at Kent Watersports and the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association for help with this article.

Photo by mikebaird

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wearing a life jacket

USCG - Never is a Long Time - Lifevests (Video)

Learn the importance of wearing a life jacket, "Never is a long time." Presented by Boating Magazine. ... read more

Video Transcript

[Dad] Okay girls let’s go. Shailee, Shailee you forgot to put on your life vest.

[Shailee] Come on dad you know I hate that thing. I’m never wearing it again.

[Dad] Oh Jayla, did you put the drain plug in?

[Jayla] Uhh, oops.

[Narrator] Never is a long time. Coast Guard regulations require that many boats have level rotations should they be fully flooded. In fact Shailee did not know. Another fact Shailee did not understand was the increased risk boaters faced when failing to wear a life jacket.

Roughly half of all boating accident fatalities are victims of drowning and 84% of those did not wear a life jacket.

[Shailee] Cool we can tuck our tunes in right here.

[Narrator] With today’s comfortable designs there is no good reason to avoid that precaution.
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About General Purpose Life Jackets
Our General Purpose Life Jacket category is dedicated to the standard types of life jackets most recreateional boaters use. Most of the life vests in this category are type III, a mix of comfort and safety. This is a good place to find a cheap life jacket for sale.


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