PFD: Type II vs. Type III & kids?

What is the difference between Type II and Type III PFD’s, and how does it relate to PFDs for a toddler? Some toddler/child PFDs are Type II, while others are Type III, and ads for certain kids’ models mention that they are for swimmers or non-swimmers. My son is age 3 and weighs about 35 lbs, and he does NOT swim yet. I want the style of PFD that will keep his head up in case he “leaves” the canoe without Daddy’s or my permission. Suggestions? Clarifications? Thanks!

The Basics…

– Last Updated: Jan-08-08 11:59 PM EST –

The PFD will have the weight range printed on the label..

And consideration…

– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 8:07 AM EST –

Look over the types from grayhawk's link. Note that the type of PFD you want for the youngest, that'll hold their head up (actually it works by turning them up to float on their back), is not the same type as what most states or the Coast Guard spec's for paddling. No matter - get the kind you are talking about.

As to sources for one, you might do well to contact a rafting outfit. That is the kind of PFD they often put on their participants, and I've seen rafts on the Sacandaga with some pretty small looking kids in them.

Soap box: ON
Good for you getting a proper fitting PFD for your kids, they grow out of them fast.

Start and early rule, the PFD goes on and stays on the entire trip. Through breaks on shore, etc. Accidents happen quick, and there is too much too lose.

My kids know that the PFD goes on first, before the boats are in the water, and stay on until the boats are out of the water. Expect some arguements, be firm, it MUST stay on. Even if they see other kids without them.

Trust me, they will get used to it, and it will give you peace of mind, and everybody will enjoy the trip.

One last thing, set a good example.

Soap Box: OFF, thanks for listening.

Mine never even asked to take them off
On the water or bank. Even when we got out on little banks or islands to explore for 20-30 minutes at a time, they never even thought to ask. They just weren’t bothered by it.

I would go type II for smaller kids
esp. nonswimmers. It was the type I wore growing up. It may not be as comfortable for the kits in the boat, but really does give them more secure flotation in the water. For my 27’ fishing boat, I don’t mess with type IIIs - all the PFDs, even for the adults, are Type IIs (and I bring type Is aboard depending on how far we go offshore.

Don’t worry, Soap Box/leob1
I’m the type of mom who warns complete strangers that their kid isn’t strapped into his car seat properly, so I will definitely be strict about PFD’s, both with my kids and myself. They’re non-negotiable, like seat belts or bike helmets.

different type II vests
Not all type II vests are created equal. Avoid the traditional ‘horse collar’ vests that just fasten with straps. They don’t stay on very well and aren’t very comfortable. Extrasport makes a nice youth/infant vest that is type II but which goes on like a type III vest, making it a lot more comfortable and a lot less likely to come off:

The grab loop at the top is great, too - makes it easy to haul kids back in over the gunnels when they get tired of swimming/floating next to the boat.

Leg strap
That leg strap it has is key for keeping one from riding up in a little kid. Kids’ type IIIs usually have one, but this is the first type II I’ve seen with one. Cool.

Leg Straps are a must + set an example
Kids’ bodies are straight up and down and even the best PFD may not stay on w/o crotch or leg straps. Also, if you want your kids to wear their PFDs at all times, set the example. Good policy for grownups, too!