Safe boating requires always wearing a life jacket. Before you purchase your Personal Flotation Device Рhere are 10 questions to ask and consider to help you make the right choice.

1. Is there a safety harness?

A safety harness will help others haul you back on board if you fall over, but more importantly it will help keep you on board.

2. What kind of buckles?

Metal buckles are stronger, but water-chilled fingers can operate plastic buckles more easily in most cases.

3. Do I need a spray hood?

This is an excellent feature that may keep you from drowning from spray inhalation. Consider it.

4. Automatic or manual firing?

Automatic is often the safest bet, but some simply prefer manual.

5. Does it include a whistle and a light?

Great if it does: either device might save your life, especially at night. If not included, add these items to your purchase.

6. How comfortable is it to wear?

The fit will be different on men and women. Your crew won’t all have the same preference, so have everyone try before you buy. You want a fit that’s comfortable enough so everyone wears the jacket the entire time on board.

7. Does it have kill-cord loops?

A nice extra, the loops are handy for attaching things like gloves.

8. Is there a safety window?

A clear window allows the firing mechanism indicators to be easily checked.

9. How about a hanging loop?

Hanging loops are not a necessity, but nice if you don’t want to store the jackets in the bottom of a storage locker.

10. What’s most important in choosing my life jacket?

Selecting the right type for the conditions you boat in. A Type 1 Offshore Life Jacket in a highly-visible color is best for open or rough water where rescue may be slow in coming. It floats well and turns most unconscious wearers face-up in the water.

Choose life jackets for yourself and your passengers based on the planned activities and the water conditions you expect to encounter. Have one U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable PFD for every person onboard in an appropriate size, and never cast off until everyone is safely buckled in. There are significant differences in styles, costs, and life jacket features, so ask questions and be well informed before you buy.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons