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  1. #1
    Moderator shawn alladio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Earth, USA, California

    How To Select a Lifejacket

    How to Choose the Right Lifejacket?

    By Shawn Alladio

    For an article published in the AWA's RIDE Magazine about selecting a lifejacket for children please visit:

    Shawn Alladio - Mustang Survival Kit (photo by Pu'u)

    First of all you have to identify your use, type of vessel and type of waterway. Secondly you have to have a properly sized and fitted lifejacket. And lastly, it must be in good condition, cared for properly and replaced when worn!

    All occupational users must wear a USCG approved lifejacket while operating a RWC (Rescue Water Craft). Why do I say this? Because many lifeguards do not wear them and they are breaking a federally mandated law for personal safety. If a lifeguard is knocked unconscious while operating they like anyone else, can go under the surface, resulting in a rescue or risk of death by drowning.

    Shawn Alladio - K38 Swifwater Training, American River, California

    Even when on the rescue board the crew person needs to be wearing a lifejacket as well. One or two more need to be stored on board the RWC for use as needed in recovery of patients if a long transit is required. This is a K38 Standard we teach to reflect rules and regulations and to promote and enforce boating safety as set by rules, laws, regulations and recommendations per the USCG, NASBLA and the NSBC.

    Shawn Alladio 2009-2010 Mavericks Surf Contest Water Safety Director, Pillar Point California

    Wearing an inflatable lifejacket is illegal and against K38 Standards as well for PWC-RWC operations, So knowing the laws and how they apply to you both recreationally and occupationally is your first step.

    Shawn Alladio, Kin Blue Beach, Okinawa, Japan

    Check the manufacturer ratings on the interior panel. They should be sewn or silkscreened there and easily displayed to read. If you do not have the USCG approval listed there, the vest you are looking at is probably not compliant. There are many 'vests' out there, but without the rating, they have not been tested for buoyancy factors for their 'type' of issue. Essentially, yes you have a vest, no you do not have an authorized or approved vest.

    On recreational vessels in California, Children under 13 years of age are required to wear a lifejacket. Laws vary from State to State, likewise check if you are traveling.

    K38 Swiftwater Training, El Dorado County Sheriff Department, American River, Calif

    How does a Lifejacket float your total body weight?

    As an example let's use a Type III as a reference. Type III lifejackets have a 15.5 buoyancy rating, set as a standard by the United States Coast Guard and UL (Underwriter Laboratories).

    A life jacket is rated by how much "dead" weight it will hold up on the surface of the water.

    In other words a Type I life jacket must float 22 Lbs. of material (think rocks or metal). Water in your body has no weight essentially in the water, so if your body is 80% water, 40 lbs. of weight needs support. If you weigh 200 lbs. x 80/160lbs.-200lbs.-160lbs.=40 lbs.

    Lifejacket buoyancy rating is 22 lbs. average body has 15% fat and fat is lighter than water, so back to the formula:

    200lbs.x15%=30lbs./40lbs.-30lbs.=10 lbs.

    So you end up with about 10 lbs of weight to essentially flotation need.

    K38 Open Water Rescue Boat Couse, Morro Bay, California
    __________________________________________________ ____

    Here is an example of a Type III lifejacket from Mustang Survivals website. This lifejacket has a buoyancy rating of 19.5 lbs. Four lbs. more than the minimum:

    The MV5600 SO SAR Vest is strength-tested to 100mph meaning it has been designed, tested and approved to hold up to rigorous activities. The high neoprene-lined collar provides impact protection by minimizing neck mobility and the large 3-belt adjustment system creates a secure fit. Large cutaway armholes for maximum range of motion, black fabric for low visibility, large front cargo pockets and multi-purpose fast tab radio clip, makes this durable and comfortable PFD a functional part of your personal protective equipment.

    Recommend for: Law Enforcement, Sea, Sea Blue Water, Sea Brown Water

    Approval: USCG - UL1123 - Marine Buoyant Devices 160.064 - Type III

    Model Number: MV5600 SO

    -Strength-tested to 100MPH for safety
    -Two large front cargo pockets with easy to use pull tabs for extra
    -Large cutaway armholes for maximum range of motion
    -High collar provides head support
    -Neoprene-lined, fitted collar provides comfort and head support
    -3-Belt system for a custom fit
    -Low visibility black color scheme

    Sizing Chart
    Size Chest Waist Inseam Chest Waist Inseam Weight Weight
    S 34" - 38" 28" - 30" 27.5" 86cm - 96cm 71cm - 76cm 70cm 99lbs - 154lbs 45kg - 70kg
    M 38" - 42" 32" - 34" 31" 96cm - 107cm 81cm - 86cm 79cm 132lbs - 198lbs 60kg - 90kg
    L 42" - 46" 36" - 38" 32" 107cm - 117cm 91cm - 97cm 81cm 176lbs - 242lbs 80kg - 110kg
    XL 46" - 50" 40" - 42" 33" 117cm - 127cm 102cm - 107cm 84cm 198lbs - 276lbs 90kg - 125kg
    XXL 50" - 54" 44" - 46" 34" 127cm - 137cm 112cm - 117cm 86cm 242lbs - 309lbs 110kg - 140kg
    XXXL 54" - 58" 48" - 50" 35" 137cm - 147cm 122cm - 127cm 89cm 275lbs - 352lbs 125kg - 160kg

    Kanalu K38-Tom Pohaku Stone at IBWSS trying on a lifejacket for fit and sizing

    This is why I wear a Type V which is designed for swiftwater use. I am coming home at the end of my day.

    The design of my particular brand and model is for aerated water, so it has additional buoyancy to compensate for my loss of flotation when in the different types of conditions.

    When I'm working as an occupational operator the buoyancy rating is for 22 lbs. so I can float myself and a possible victim in calm waters. Also in dynamic water conditions this type of lifejacket is more suited to my survival.

    Sizing is more important than buoyancy, because many people purchase an improperly sized lifejacket and that is a worthless selection and can lead to a false sense of safety and security. Especially for children.

    There should be no movement or shifting of the lifejacket when another person pulls or tugs on your shoulder straps.

    It should fit snugly around your chest and all zippers and fastener buckles easily clip and release.

    You need to try them on before purchasing.

    Contours of the body and various shapes are important to customize the fit.

    A lifejacket is nothing an article that you can loan and exchange, it's for a custom fit for each individual. Not all our bodies are built the same. One lifejacket is not 'universal'.

    Shawn Alladio (r) teaching a California Department of Boating and Waterways Law Enforcement RWC Course, American River, California

    Adult Fitting
    1. Loosen all the straps and closures

    2. Put it on, if you have a center or side zipper, zip and close it.

    3. Pull in all the front or side webbing straps equally so you are setting the straps to your body frame with equal draw so each strap is centered.

    4. Adjust the closures if it feels too loose, check your movement. Bend over, side to side and move your arms. See if the fit is secure and comfortable

    Types of Lifejackets
    Boats 16 feet in length or longer must also carry a throwable Type IV as well. All persons on board a PWC must wear their lifejacket, and many states require your lifejacket to be impact rated.

    A 100 mile per hour (MPH) impact rated lifejacket does not mean you will be protected in a 100 mile per hour crash, but your lifejacket will still float after a 100 mile per hour crash.

    TYPE I
    Offshore Life Jackets
    Minimum 22lbs. of buoyancy for adults, 11 lbs. for children

    Near Shore Buoyant Best
    Minimum 15.5 lbs. buoyancy for adults, 11 lbs. for children

    Flotation Aid (most common recreational type)
    Minimum buoyancy 15.5 lbs for adults, 11 lbs. for children

    Throwable Device
    (generally not to be relied upon for lifesaving capability)

    TYPE V
    Special Use Device

    TYPE III and V (inflatable)

    __________________________________________________ _____


    Shawn Alladio 2009-2010 Mavericks Surf Contest Water Safety Director, Pillar Point California (pic by Deniece Smith)

    I wear a Type V lifejacket when working near or in a surf zone. Why is that? Because of aerated water. I wear a swifwater type due to the aerated water conditions. This doesn't need to be discussed any further, but if you like, let's do it! K38 Standards exist for a reason-lifesaving!



    K38 GEAR - Murrays Online Store

    © Shawn Alladio-K38 2012

    For more information on this story:

  2. #2
    lets race.... mikeFZR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Shawn, I try to read all your posts and they are always the best! Thanks for eveything you do for our sport.

  3. #3
    Moderator shawn alladio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Earth, USA, California
    Thank you for taking your time to view. I appreciate that a lot.

  4. #4
    Devildog9999's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Niagara Falls, NY
    Excellent post Shawn! For the rest of you - I did bug the hell out of her before I bought my Mustang, and I could not be happier. She always responds with real world advice, and it is very much appreciated.

  5. #5
    big john's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Cocoa Beach, Florida, United States
    +1 great post Shawn !!!!!!!!!

  6. #6
    SPEED JUNKIE! buickbrian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Napa Ca.
    Thanks for another informative post as always.
    My son and I also like our mv5600.

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