PFD - Type III or Type V

I’m going to upgrade my PFD soon, to something that doesn’t float up around my head when I’m in the water. I’m seeing “Type III” and “Type V” designations - what does that mean, and what do I want? Thanks,


From memory, correct me if I’m wrong.
I think the major difference is type V will keep your face out of the water if you’re out of it, type III will keep you up, but you’ve got to maintain your own posture. I’ll see if I can find the USCG blurb.


Well, I’m wrong.

Type I will keep the face of an unconscious person out of the water. Type V is activity specific and may also be considered type III, which is more general.

Type V
Type V is a rescue PFD, and to be safe you need instruction on it’s proper use.

Gettin it straight!

– Last Updated: Feb-26-05 11:07 PM EST –

Type five is specialized. Rescue PFD's,, work suits for cold water vessels, some INflateable pfd's Like sospenders (even the belt pack ones) and perhaps the new kayaking specific one and others are examples of what comes under this category.

Here is the link: Scroll down. You are right that the rescues pfd's are type 5 but the category is much wider than that.

As to what type, for general sea kayaking I like a type three. Stohlquist, Lotus, MTI extyrasport are all certainly fine, astral is the ferrari of PFD's After very gentle but partially illuminating training at Nystrom's hands I no longer thread a tow belt through my pfd. While it looks stylish it is difficult to repack solo whole on the water. With the belt around my waist I can just whip that puppy to the front. For Racing i'd go with an inflatable

I seem to be suffering from vague-isitis lately.

Practically speaking, the type V a paddler is most likely to run into while shopping is a rescue vest. Inflatables, while type V’s, seem to be more self explanatory. Other type V’s, like cold water immersion suits, or MOB throws, aren’t really relevant to the paddler. Most of the time when someone asks me why, for example, the Astral 300R is a type V and not a type III, they are basically looking for “it’s a rescue vest.” Hence my brief and incomplete statement. My bad.

Interesting comment …
I was told in a water safety traing class that in order to legally use a Type V rescue vest for paddling that training was required - not just recommended. I have not been able to confrim this via the USCG website. I could see how training would be required if you were going to use it for rescue purposes, but my read of the USCG site is that if you are wearing this type of vest for general paddling it is considered a Type III. Anyone know of a definitive resource?


In the case of rescue PFDs…
…they are typically Type III models with added rescue features, such as reinforced shoulder staps and integrated tow rigs. You’re correct that there is some ambiguity regarding rescue PFD use and training. They’re overkill for non-rescue work, but it’s highly unlikely that the Coast Guard or any other authority is going to hassle you for wearing ANY CG approved PFD. If a rescue PFD suits your needs/desires, buy it, wear it and don’t worry about it.

for what you should get
check out Lotus and xrasoprt. Both seemed to fit well for me. I chose the extra sport , as the cost was less. I like pockets and tabs to secure items on me. The xtrasport has a Kayak back on it which is thinner on the lowr back. This also seems to have the effect to keep ya face up more than full vest types.

fit and features
Shop primarily for fit and comfort, then for features that you want (big pockets, small pockets, no pockets, lash tabs, etc.).

There are more Type III models available so you will have a greater selection to choose from, and they will be less expensive.

Vest vs Jacket PFDs
My Astral Tempo 300 (jacket) is a type III. The 300 vest is a type V and must be worn at all times to be legal as are all the VEST type PFDs

If a pfd needs to be worn to be approved, it will say “Approved Only When Worn.”

I’ve seen a couple of retailers that wanted you to sign a waiver before purchasing a rescue vest, but I don’t think there are any federal laws involved.

Sorry but I’m still confused

I’m leaning toward this one (see link) because some other women have mentioned they really like it, but it is a “Type V” according to NRS’s website. I checked my current one and it’s a Type III. I mostly paddle lakes and slow-moving rivers, but have been on up to Class II (once) and plan on trying to learn to do some more whitewater this year, but honestly, I can’t see myself doing more than Class II. It’s a thin line between fun and survival, and I prefer to stay with fun.

Never mind
I didn’t check out the box on the left. When I scrolled down and read about the Class V pullover type, it says it is appropriate for kayaking as long as it is worn at all times while on the water (mine will be). So that should work. Thanks to all for your responses and the helpful links.


type 5 additional
i also think in order to be a type 5 it will have webbing reinforcements to a certain spec in the shoulders and the rescue belt will have a steel slider that can withstand a bjillion pounds force or something. as someone said earlier, the classifications are generally useless and designed more so that firedepts and search and rescue personnel get the right ones- class V whereas almost all paddlers, pro or otherwise are wearing class 3. it really doesn’t matter.

What makes the VEST type PFDs a type V
is that they must be worn as you can not put one on once in the water without going under. Really hard to hold onto the boat and paddle when your hands are over your head and your head is under water…

Try swimming with your PFD
The most important thing is to buy one that fits, if it slides up a lot when in the water, its hard to swim and to do self rescues. If you put it on and someone can easily pull up on and it moves more than a little bit, buy a different style.

Call NRS
Call NRS and ask a tech. They will help you the most. Fit is very important. Class II isn’t very dangerous. You won’t be spending that much time in the water if you dump. Class II means possibility of capsize but almost zero possibility of death. Spend enough money to buy a vest that feels comfortable and doesn’t slide up on you while in the water.