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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been fishing, boating, and waterskiing for years. I own several life jackets.

My question is: Is there any major difference in whitewater PFDs? Am I risking life and limb if I'm wearing a standard ski vest vs. a vest made specifically for whitewater rafting?
 

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I am no expert, but as long as the vest is rated lll or higher you should be fine. Class V PFD's are more set up for rescue, so if you are running big whitewater you may want to go with one of those. Another thing to think about is comfort. A PFD you use on a motor boat, might not have the same comfort level as one in whitewater. When you are rowing/paddling, you may want more room for arm movement.
 

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Life Jackets are not rated by "class" they are rated by "type". Ski jackets are not accepted for river use. If it is a permitted river, you run the risk of not being allowed to launch. In other situations, you run the risk of a fine, but most likely a warning from the Ranger.

FYI - Type III is accepted on all rivers. Type V is specialty use and also accepted on all rivers.
 

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Life Jackets are not rated by "class" they are rated by "type". Ski jackets are not accepted for river use. If it is a permitted river, you run the risk of not being allowed to launch. In other situations, you run the risk of a fine, but most likely a warning from the Ranger.

FYI - Type III is accepted on all rivers. Type V is specialty use and also accepted on all rivers.
Type is correct. Sorry for screwing that up.
 

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....Ski jackets are not accepted for river use.
That is not really true. Some stretches/areas, maybe even states may require that the intended use be rafting/canoeing/kayaking (however it reads) but many make no intended use stipulations.

I'm not arguing that one shouldn't get an appropriate jacket for you use, just saying it's not required everywhere (or even most places for that matter, the GC is the only one I know of, but I'm sure there is more...)

FWIW here in Montana your are required to have a type III or V for every adult, kids under 13 (I think, maybe it's 12) are required to wear them...but here is the kicker for many. Type V only count if they're worn!

As already noted: even if legal, you'll probably find that sitting in a Kayak or rowing a boat with a ski vest may not be all that comfy.
 

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Paddling in to the Future
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Also as Type III are allowed, Along with Type V - it should be known that the specialty rating of a Type V means that the PFD *HAS* to be worn while on the river, a type III just has to be on-board. So if you're floating the lower salmon and want to take your vest off on the snake. You're kind of out of luck wearing a Type V (unless you don't mind risking the ticket if you are to be stopped and checked)

This is all per the USCG. Results may vary with NPS, NFS, BLM, etc.
 

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I'm confused about the type V having to be worn on the river. I guess I've never come across anything that treated a V different from a III as it may pertain to a regulation. Last fall we had my old type V (Astral Green Jkt) as one of our spares on the Grand. The ranger was very thorough and checked it out and said it was good to go as one of the listed spares.

Back on topic, I would sure steer clear of a ski jacket on the river. It will never get down as tight as a whitewater pfd so it would be much more liable to slip off if you're ever being pulled back into a raft. Also, I don't think it would be as agreeable to swim whitewater with as well.
 

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Go to NRS and get a whitewater PFD. Here is a quick sample of the regulations for a few rivers.

Westwater: Must have properly-sized (whitewater type I, III, or V) life jackets in serviceable condition for each member of the group. A life jacket is non-serviceable if it is of an improper size, missing legible US Coast Guard approval information, is an improper type for the activity, an after-market alteration has been made, or if the life jacket is ripped, torn, or missing straps or buckles. Ski vests are not appropriate. Carrying a spare life jacket is not required.

Deso-Gray: Must have a properly-sized Type I, III, or V Personal Floatation Device (PFD) (approved on the label for paddling, whitewater, kayaking) for each member of the party.

Grand Canyon is notoriously strict and will look for any small rips, tears, fraying etc when inspecting a PFD.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm well versed in the "types". A "Type II" isn't necessary better or worse than a "Type III", they're just different. Type III is a typical vest, Type V is a rescue vest, but Type IV isn't a vest at all, it's a throwable, so there isn't a natural progression that higher types are better. That's why they're types, not classes.
 

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Paddling in to the Future
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I'm confused about the type V having to be worn on the river. I guess I've never come across anything that treated a V different from a III as it may pertain to a regulation. Last fall we had my old type V (Astral Green Jkt) as one of our spares on the Grand. The ranger was very thorough and checked it out and said it was good to go as one of the listed spares.

Back on topic, I would sure steer clear of a ski jacket on the river. It will never get down as tight as a whitewater pfd so it would be much more liable to slip off if you're ever being pulled back into a raft. Also, I don't think it would be as agreeable to swim whitewater with as well.
don't have to be confused just read the label on the vest, or that came with the vest. The reason it was good as a spare on the grand was because it was a "SPARE" if it is the only vest for one of the passengers on the trip, it must be worn at all times while the vessel is underway. As per U.S. coast guard. And as I stated earlier, your mileage may vary with law enforcement in different areas.
 

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Paddling in to the Future
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Type V is a rescue vest, but Type IV isn't a vest at all
not necessarily true, Type V PFD's are just designated as special use or conditions. and are defined as: (Per USCG)

Hybrid Inflatable PFDs
Canoe/Kayak Vest
Boardsailing Vests
Deck Suits
Work Vests for Commercial Vessels
Commercial Whitewater Vests
Man-Overboard Rescue Devices
Law Enforcement Flotation Devices

All of which have to be worn while the vessel is underway.
 

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don't have to be confused just read the label on the vest, or that came with the vest. The reason it was good as a spare on the grand was because it was a "SPARE" if it is the only vest for one of the passengers on the trip, it must be worn at all times while the vessel is underway. As per U.S. coast guard. And as I stated earlier, your mileage may vary with law enforcement in different areas.
So if you have a type lll vest you don't have to wear it? Doesn't make any sense to me, but then again there are a lot of laws that are that way.
 

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don't have to be confused just read the label on the vest, or that came with the vest. The reason it was good as a spare on the grand was because it was a "SPARE" if it is the only vest for one of the passengers on the trip, it must be worn at all times while the vessel is underway. As per U.S. coast guard. And as I stated earlier, your mileage may vary with law enforcement in different areas.
Isn't that the same as saying that one must be wearing an approved PFD at all times when the vessel is underway? :confused: If a III is the only PFD for a passenger, it must be worn at all times on the water. How do the differ in a regulatory way?
 

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Don't most...or all ww pfd's have a self-righting design (more flotation in the front than the back to help roll the user onto their back, so not to drown)? Do ski vests do this?
This... A whitewater PDF will(in theory) float you face up and also hugs your body more than ski/boating PFD. Type III is all you need. If you want more flotation or a live-bait rescue ability, then you will need a type V. In WW PFDs; flotation amount, flotation location, and rescue ability are the only things that separate type III/V.

Type III = 15.5lbs
Type V = 22lbs

The average human needs 7-12lbs of flotation to keep their head above water.
 

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This... A whitewater PDF will(in theory) float you face up and also hugs your body more than ski/boating PFD. Type III is all you need. If you want more flotation or a live-bait rescue ability, then you will need a type V. In WW PFDs; flotation amount, flotation location, and rescue ability are the only things that separate type III/V.

Type III = 15.5lbs
Type V = 22lbs

The average human needs 7-12lbs of flotation to keep their head above water.
The NRS Big Water Guide is a type III and has 22lbs of flotation.
 

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Depends on the water

To the OP's question - I would personally wear a ski vest type PFD only where I felt very confident swimming without issues (class I-II type water). When I took swiftwater rescue I showed up with essentially a ski vest or maybe slightly nicer, but with ~8-10 pounds of flotation. They let me swim in the rapids in that life vest and it seemed ok, but they recommended 16lbs flotation or more. Then someone eventually loaned me a good one. The difference in your ability to keep your head above water in whitewater to both see and breathe was stark, and now I won't do anything class III or above without at least 16lbs flotation.

After that I replaced all my life vests with better ones and picked up an NRS Bigwater Guide PFD (22lb flotation) and I love it for bigger water - I would hate to wear anything less.

It's up to you, but in whitewater at or above class III I think you are in fact risking life and limb in anything less than a snug and comfortable PFD with 16+ lbs of flotation.
 
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