A personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a buoyancy aid or life jacket, is designed to keep you afloat in the water. Even if you’re paddling in calm waters, you should still be wearing the appropriate PFD for you – safety is key after all! However, depending on what activity you’re doing and what type of water you’ll be in, the type of PFD you’ll need will change too.
The main difference between a buoyancy aid and life jacket is that a life jacket is designed to keep your head above the surface of the water, whether you were unconscious or conscious. Whereas, a buoyancy aid is designed to keep you afloat and are great for recreational paddling as, they’re designed to fit comfortably and closely to your body so shouldn’t interfere with your activity. Also, a buoyancy aid should be used as a swimming aid for people who can already swim but, anyone who cannot swim, or a child, should be wearing a life jacket.
It’s important that you pick the correct CE category to suit your type of activity and experience. PFD’s are tested and rated to specific European Standards and split into CE categories. In the table below, you can see the universal criteria that define each product and the environment they are suitable for. They are split into four CE categories: 275N, 150N, 100N and 50N.
Please note: any PFD that has a buoyancy level between one of these groups will automatically be classified as the lower group. For example, a 80N buoyancy aid will still be classed as a 50N or a 120N life jacket will be classed as 100N. So, please make sure you are choosing the correct amount of buoyancy depending on your activity.