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Where is the Best Place to Put PFDs While You Are Out on Your Boat?

Fact checked by William Hart

where is the best place to put pfds while you are out on your boat

 According to the CDC, there are approximately 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States every year, including drownings while boating, which comes down to 11 deaths per day. The number might sound scary, but not when we have the knowledge and equipment to deal with such mishaps.

Personal floatation devices (PFDs) are the first-line barriers against drowning accidents. So, where is the best place to put PFDs while you are out on your boat? You should store them in a visible and accessible area, such as the top deck. Placing them near the passengers will help shorten the preparation time in case of an emergency.

Besides the storage rules, you need to pay attention to inspecting them regularly and maintaining them properly. In this article, we will discuss it all.

Table of Contents

Where Onboard is the Best Place to Put PFDs?


Where should PFDs be stored on a boat? Remember the rule of thumb when placing PFDs on board: visibility and accessibility. In other words, the devices should be easy to spot and quick to grab. The area needs to be clear of any equipment or heavy objects. We suggest the top deck as the best place to put PFDs on a boat.

Note that:

  • You can stow them in an open box.
  • The storage area should be dry and well-ventilated.
  • Never put heavy items on top of the PFDs. Doing so not only slows down the passengers in an emergency but might crush the foam and affect the devices’ performance.
  • Never store PFDs near gasoline or chemicals.

What is a Personal Floatation Device (PFD)?


The term PFD refers to life belts, life vests, buoyancy aids, or survival suits. It implies all floating devices that prevent wearers from drowning in water.

  • Sizes: PFDs come in many sizes for children, teenagers, and adults. Wearers should make sure that personal devices fit snugly without hindering body movements.
  • Types: There are two types of PFDs: inflatable and foam. The formers are used on airplanes, which can only keep a person afloat when inflated. Storing these PFDs takes less space. They are also more comfortable and compact to wear. Bear in mind that some inflate automatically, while some require manual inflation.

The USCG only allows inflatable devices to be worn by people over 16 years old that weigh at least 80 pounds (36 kilograms). In addition, you can’t wear them on personal watercraft and during intense watersport activities as they deteriorate easily.

Who needs to wear PFDs? They are crucial for passengers on all kinds of vessels traveling in deep water and water sports athletes. Weak swimmers also need PFDs even when they are close to shore. They assist in floating, making swimming less demanding.

Is There a Difference Between PFDs and Life Jackets?


Yes, there is. Don’t mistake PFDs for life jackets; they imply two different floatation devices.

  • Design: Life vests are sleeveless jackets; sometimes they have supported collars. They are bulkier and less comfortable than PFDs.
  • Afloat feature: Life jackets are designed with added foam in the chest area. Thus, they can turn an unconscious person face up. Meanwhile, the foam in PFDs is distributed evenly. They are for keeping a person afloat in calm waters.
  • Added feature: Most life vests have whistles attached, while PFDs do not. In a night rescue situation or where visibility is low, life jackets are more efficient.
  • Usage: Life jackets are often for children, and PFDs suit those confident in the water. During sports activities, PFDs are preferable as they allow freedom of body movement and are more comfortable to wear continuously.

Despite the differences, the two floatation devices are designed to lift the victims’ heads above the waterline without them having to swim or tread water. They both come in bright colors, such as pink, red, orange, and green, making it easier to spot the wearers in rescue situations.

The Rules for Using and Storing PFDs


PFDs can save lives, but only when you know how to use and store them appropriately. Save the following rules to make sure your PFDs always perform their best.

1. Maintain your life jackets and PFDs

Apart from arranging the best place for PFD storage on boats, owners must be responsible for maintaining and inspecting their floatation devices regularly. Here are some tips:

  • Never use your PFDs as bumpers, fenders, or cushions. Doing so might compress the foam and decrease its efficiency.
  • Inspect your life jackets regularly and replace them when needed. You should do this at least once every season.
  • Inflatable PFDs require more attention as one small hole can turn them into useless pieces of plastic. Refer to the owner’s manual for the maintenance procedure of these devices.
  • Jackets that won’t be used for an extended period should be removed from the boat and stowed in a cool and dry area.

Additionally, remember to rinse PFDs with clean water and leave them to dry naturally after each use. Saltwater, mud, and bacteria can weaken the fabric and destroy the foam. If a jacket is heavily soiled, you can wash it with mild soap or consider replacing it. Storing a moldy jacket and others can ruin all the PFDs on board.

2. Know how to inspect foam PFDs

You need to inspect and test the buoyancy of PFDs even when they are new. To know whether a jacket is safe to wear, check the outer fabric. Does it tear, split, or start to break down? You don’t want the foam to escape from the vest while floating on the water.

Ideally, put PFDs in the water for the test. Follow these steps:

  • Put on the device, adjust the straps, tighten the belts, and slowly wade into chest-deep water
  • Float on your back
  • See whether the jacket keeps your chin and mouth above the water. If so, does it allow proper breathing?

Children should use the same procedure to test their PFDs under adult supervision. Make sure the PFDs provide proper fit and buoyancy.

3. PFDs for children

Many certified life jackets do not properly protect children. For example, loose life vests will fail to hold children’s heads out of the water.

When choosing PFDs for children, make sure that they all have:

  • Padded head support to assist in lifting the head above the water
  • Grab the handle so you can pull the kid out of the water
  • Crotch strap to prevent the vest from riding up
  • Reflective bands and a whistle

Most importantly, the PFD must fit the child. You can check the fitting by putting the device on the kid, securing it, and pulling the shoulders of the PFD to pick the child up. If the child’s chin and ears do not slip through, it’s a well-fitted vest.

You should familiarize your kids with PFDs so they won’t panic during a boating emergency. Also, teach them how to use whistles to call for attention when in need.

4. Prepare enough PFDs for all passengers on board

Boat owners must store enough PFDs for everyone on their boats, including the captain and children, regardless of how good at swimming the passengers are.

Each guest should have a specific PFD assigned to them. While a loose PFD can’t hold the head out of the water, a small or tight PFD is insufficient to support the weight of the wearer.


Where should USCG-approved PFD be kept on board? The best place is the top deck. But if you don’t have space there, think anywhere that is visible and accessible. In addition, avoid placing them in wet areas, near gasoline or chemicals, and under heavy objects.

That sums up the answer to “Where is the best place to put PFDs while you are out on your boat”. Enjoy your adventure, and we’ll see you out on the water!

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