Best Place To Put PFDs While On Your Boat | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • The best place to put PFDs is somewhere accessible on the top deck of the boat.
  • Do not store PFDs or life jackets in locked or closed compartments.
  • There are situations where it is safe not to use a PFD.
  • Life jackets expire, usually after ten years, without other damage.
  • Always have enough PFDs and life jackets for everyone on the boat ride.

Stay safe with these sensible tips on where to store PFDs on your boat. We'll cover the best practices so that everyone on board is prepared for an emergency.

PFDs should be put in a visible and easy-to-reach location on the deck of your boat, and let everyone know where they are and how to use them. Ensure you have enough PFDs for everyone on board, adequately sized and fitted for each person’s weight and body.

Boat safety is the top priority. As boat owners, we are responsible for ensuring all the passengers on our craft are safe.

Table of contents


What Are Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)?

PFDs, or personal flotation devices, are designed to keep you afloat in the water should you fall overboard. The most widely known example is the life jacket.

Laws regarding their use vary by region; however, it’s good practice wherever you go.

Let's keep up with those boating laws so cruising around on the water can remain as fun & stress-free as possible.

Where to Store PFDs on a Boat

PFDs and life jackets should be stored somewhere on the top deck of the boat, where they are readily accessible to everyone on board.

We recommend storing floatation devices in an easily visible location, such as a designated storage compartment, bin, or a location on the deck.

You should also make sure that everyone on board knows where the place to put PFDs is located and how to properly use a personal floatation device before leaving the dock.

A quick safety briefing at the beginning of each trip can be a great way to review important safety information, including the location and use of PFDs.

Finally, always ensure you have enough PFDs for everyone on board and that they can fit each person, per US Coast Guard guidelines for recreational boaters.

When life jackets fit, the person wearing them is much safer.

Final tip: Do not store PFDs in lockable boxes or compartments; we think it's too easy to forget to unlock, and you want life jackets and other flotation devices available by anyone on the boat at a moment's notice in an emergency.

And definitely don’t leave any miscellaneous equipment covering the personal flotation devices!

How Many PFDs Should Be Kept on a Boat?

You should have at least one personal flotation device, life jackets, or an inflatable PFD for each person on board the water vessel.

Consider the number of people your boat comfortably seats as the minimum, so you're never caught one or two life jackets short.

Obviously, when it comes to PFDs, the number you need will depend on the size and type of your vessel.

That said, we always have a few extra PFDs on board, just in case of unexpected guests or a sudden need to replace a damaged or outdated PFD.

With the tiniest bit of forethought, you can enjoy your time on the water without any worries about safety.

When Can You Not Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)?

PFDs are important, but there are some situations where you might want to avoid wearing floatation devices.

Some such scenarios include:

  • If you are swimming in a designated area monitored by lifeguards.
  • If you are participating in a water-based activity that is taking place in a shallow area, such as a wading pool or an area close to shore, a PFD may not be necessary.
  • The boat is not in motion, the waters are calm, swimming is permitted, and you are confident in your ability to swim.

There may also be some situations where wearing a PFD could actually be dangerous, the opposite of what they're supposed to do!

For example, if you are water-skiing or participating in other skill-heavy water sports where a PFD could become tangled in equipment, it may be safer not to wear a PFD.

In cases like these, it's essential to follow proper form and safety procedures or regulations that are common sense for the activity you are participating in.

Be honest with yourself about your swimming ability before you opt to go without a life jacket. Sometimes it’s not the most fun to wear floatation devices, but it’s always better than not.

Overall, while PFDs are an important piece of a boat trip, it's always important to use your best judgment and consider the specific situation to determine when wearing a PFD is necessary and when choosing a place to put PFDs.

Do Life Jackets Expire?

Yep, life jackets expire. Just like any other piece of boating safety equipment, life jackets have a limited lifespan, and it's important to replace them when they expire or get damaged.

This is a common question that gets a lot of people confused.

Most life jackets have a label indicating the manufacturer's recommended service life, typically around ten years.

After this time, the materials in the life jacket degrade or become less buoyant, which can compromise its effectiveness.

Don't treat the manufacturer's recommendation as the end-all, though; you should also inspect your life jacket regularly for signs of wear and tear, things like fraying, fading, or discoloration.

If you notice any of these signs, it's time to replace your life jacket, even if it hasn't expired.

Should You Wear a Life Jacket at the Beach?

In general, no, you do not need a life jacket to spend time on the beach, fresh water, or otherwise.

It's not necessary if you are simply relaxing, tanning, swimming, or playing in the shallows.

If you plan on participating in any activities that involve being further out in the water, such as snorkeling or paddleboarding, wearing a life jacket is a wise idea, depending on your fitness and experience with swimming.

Even if you choose not to wear a life jacket, it's still in your best interest to be aware of water safety and recreational boating rules and to follow any posted warnings around the beach or instructions from official beach lifeguards.

Always swim in designated swimming areas and never swim alone.

Do I Have to Wear a PFD?

The laws and PFD requirements while on a boat vary by country, state, territory, and even sometimes by the body of water or type of boat you're on.

Here are some general guidelines:

  1. The US Coast Guard requires that all recreational boats have at least one wearable PFD for each person on board. They must be US Coast Guard-approved and in good condition.
  2. Some states have their own laws that may require additional flotation devices.
  3. Children are often required to wear PFDs at all times on boats; some states have specific age requirements for when children must wear their PFDs.
  4. PFD laws differ depending on the activity. Some states require that anyone on a personal watercraft (like a Jet Ski) must always wear a PFD.
  5. In Canada, PFD laws are similar to those in the United States. All boats must have at least one PFD for each person on board, and children must wear PFDs at all times.
  6. Other countries may have their own PFD laws and regulations, so it's important to research the specific laws for the country where you'll be boating.

PFD laws are in place to help keep boaters safe on the water. Follow them!

If you’re the boat owner in question, remember that you might be liable if one of your guests neglects the life jackets or inflatable PFDs.