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It's the Law


When preparing to go out on a vessel, the operator must check that the legally required equipment is on board.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)


All recreational vessels must have at least one Type I, II, or III personal flotation device (life jacket) that is U.S. Coast Guard–approved and of the proper size for each person on board or being towed. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.

In addition to the above requirement, vessels 16 feet in length or longer (except canoes and kayaks of any length) must have one U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type IV PFD on board and readily accessible.

Children 14 years of age or younger, on board vessels 19 feet or less, must wear an approved life jacket when the vessel is underway.

Seaplanes, sailboards, and certain racing vessels are exempt from the above PFD requirements. Fly-fishing float tubes do not require PFDs on lakes with less than 200 surface acres. Fly-fishing pontoons do require PFDs on all Idaho waters.

Each person riding on a personal watercraft must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device.

Each person being towed behind a vessel must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device.

Besides being USCG–approved, all PFDs must be:

  • In good and serviceable condition.
  • Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the PFD on quickly in an emergency.
  • Of the proper size for the intended wearer.
Type I

Type I: Offshore Life Jackets

These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

Type II

Type II: Near-Shore Vests

These vests are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. A Type II may not turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water.

Type III

Type III: Flotation Aids

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.

Type IV

Type IV: Throwable Devices

These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Since a Type IV is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

Type V

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices

These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance with their label.