it won't work if you don't wear it

90% of boat-related drownings are caused by not wearing a lifejacket or PFD. The simple act of wearing a lifejacket can save your life.


Choosing the right lifejacket

There are several key differences between a lifejacket and a PFD. Check out CANADIAN SAFE BOATING COUNCIL'S TIPS FOR how to choose the right lifejacket.


Standard lifejackets

  • These lifejackets will turn you on your back to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious, but not as fast as SOLAS lifejackets.
  • Standard Type lifejackets are available in two sizes; one for individuals over 40kg or 88lbs and one for individuals less than 40kg or 88lbs.
  • Standard Type lifejackets are available in the keyhole model


  • Small Vessel lifejackets provide the slowest performance in the water. They will turn you on your back to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious, but may do so more slowly than the standard lifejacket.
  • Small Vessel lifejackets are available in three sizes; one for individuals over 41kg or 90lbs, one for individuals between 18kg or 40lbs and 41kg or 90lbs, and the other for individuals less than 18kg or 40lbs.
  • Small Vessel lifejackets are available in two models, the keyhole model and the vest model .


Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), unlike traditional lifejackets, are more comfortable because they are designed for constant wear. However, they do not generally offer the same level of protection as lifejackets for staying afloat and turning an unconscious person onto their back so you can breathe. PFDs are available in a wide range of approved types, sizes and colours, so it is important to choose one based on your needs and your boating activity. 



Inflatable lifejackets have been designed for wearability. However if you decide that an inflatable best suits your boating needs, it is important that you understand its limitations, how to use it and how to care for it.

All inflatable PFDs have an oral inflation tube in case the CO2 inflation system fails. However, for weak swimmers, this might be hard to use when they are trying to keep their head above water. It is important to know that inflatable PFDs are not approved under the following conditions:

  • Anyone under 16 years old.
  • Anyone who weighs less than 36.6 kg or 80lbs.
  • Use on a personal watercraft.
  • White water paddling activities.

Content from Canadian Safe Boating Council. For more information on lifejackets, PFDs, and inflatables visit

5 common mistakes when choosing a lifejacket

1. thinking all lifejackets and pfds are the same.

There are many lifejackets and PFDs available for use for different water-related activities. Ensuring that you have the right lifejacket for the activity you are participating in is key to being safe out on the water.  Click here to find out how to choose the right lifejacket for you. 

2. Choosing the wrong size.

Buying a lifejacket in hopes that your child will "grow into it" is something we often hear among parent groups. Choose a PFD that is comfortable and allows free movement, including walking and sitting. Try it on and do up all zippers and belts. Pull up on the collar to ensure it does not ride up and interfere with movement or breathing.

3. Not wearing your lifejacket or PFD correctly.

Loosening the straps or removing the lifejacket entirely reduces its effectiveness. Purchase a comfortable lifejacket or PFD and ensure to WEAR IT

4. Not maintaining or storing your lifejacket properly.

Treat your flotation device as an investment and take good care of it. Devices that are ripped or in poor condition are not considered approved.

Lifesaving equipment should never be kneeled on, sat on, or used as a fender for your boat. Follow these tips:

  • Check its buoyancy regularly by wading out to waist-deep water and bending your knees to see how well you float.
  • Ensure that straps, buckles, and zippers are clean and in good working order.
  • Tug on straps to ensure they are well attached with no sign of wear.
  • Dry your device in open air and avoid direct heat sources.
  • Store it in a dry, well-ventilated, easily accessible place.
  • Do not dry clean. Use mild soap and running water to clean.

5. Substituting a lifejacket for adult supervision

Lifejackets do not replace attentive supervision, but will keep a toddler or young child at the surface - which may give parents the seconds they need to save a life. Click here to learn more about water safety tips for young children.