PFD's : how long do they last?

I am curious about the ‘life’ of a PFD.

I have been told that a PFD needs to be replaced every 2-3 years due to fabric deteriation and subsequent decreased flotation effect.

Is this true?

How often do you get a new PFD and why?

And…what PFD do you use and why?

The biggest complaint I have with my PFD is the limited pocket space…and as of late…a broken zipper.


Last until
the smell gets to you. Of course, by then you will have no “close” friends!

Seriously, I believe that the fabric and webbing will deteriorate before the foam will loose it’s bouyancy. Good reason to treat it with 303 Protectant.

Froma legal point of view, there is a good chance that the printing on the Coast Guard acceptance label will wear away before the PFD is no longer serviceable.

I have a Kokatat Outfit Tour and am happy with the pockets.


Long time
My wife and I have Lotus PFDs that we purchased 4 or 5 years ago and the only deterioration has been fading.

We did purchase Kokatat Outfit/Misfit Tour PFDs this time last year, because we liked the fit, pockets, and the fact that they meet USCG specs even unzipped - a boon for warm weather.

Sounds like you might like a new PFD anyway. You then have your old one as a loaner.

UV light does degrade the
bouyancy over time. Here are some links to help you sort out when to replace your PFD (and how to care for it, so you can replace it less often:)

3% per year. I use and old L’ocean
and I use it because it does not get in my way, fits OK, and has great pockets.

Put it on and jump in. If it stays on
,floats you, and doesn’t take on water, it’s s/b good to go.

Salt water or chlorine may be harder
on a PFD than fresh water. We rinse ours well if they get wet and dry them completely before storing. We have separate PFDs for pool class.

We have some older (10 yrs?) Extrasports that are sound and serviceable. We store the PFDs in a heated shop, in a bin.

I keep hearing about people putting 303 on latex dry top seals and PFDs. Does this really work? I’m an old technology person, so haven’t had the experience with 303 on accessories. We use it on the boats.

If a PFD has a broken zipper, ripped, torn, cannot read the label etc., it is no longer a PFD but just garbage.

Law of physics
"…fabric deteriation and subsequent decreased flotation effect."

“SUBSEQUENT decreased floatation”??? What does fabric deteriation has to do with floatation effect at all? It’s the foam, not the fabric, that provides floatation.

PFD’s provide floatation by the simple fact the foam inside are lighter than the volume of water they displaced. The weight difference between foam and the same volume of water IS the floatation. So unless the foam somehow got heavier, or got smaller (hence displace less water), the floatation they provide doesn’t change. The “frabics”, is only there to hold the foam to our bodies.

That may make a convincing arguement for not using the PFD as a camp seat. Or may even be interesting to weigh the PFD every year to see if it got heavier with time as well.

Still, I don’t see what’s that got to do with “fabric deteriation” though. Nor do I see either (foam getting smaller or heavier) happening within 2-3 years unless one is really abusing it (except perhaps heavy rental abuse). Sounds to me suspiciously like a manufacturer’s advertising claim to convince people to buy into “upgrades” of “newer and better” gear every couple years for their own gain of increase sales.

Rinse After Saltwater Use
If you don’t rinse your PFD after boating in saltwater it gets this crusty white stuff on it.

But you can always do Tequila shots, and lick it off…

But just as a safety precaution, you should wait until you get out of the boat first.

I wear a stohlquist wedge pfd that I have had for 3 years It is a low vest that fits very well.If you care for your pfd it should last several years.I always take mine right home after using it and hang it up in my dark garage and let it dry then store it in the garage

Tequila shots w/PFD lick-off!?
This from your ole South Florida days Cuda, sorta a three-surrounding-sirens-in-thong-bikini rite of a paddler’s spring? Or, was that the sin-and-grin greeting of the San Andreas fault Sisters of Mercy that met you upon arrival to the Golden State? Either way, sounds like a positively decadant delight in de-salting for we Duckheads to desire from our damsel novitiates (“Dream on” I can detect dictated in my direction.)


That Is Another Story, And
That is a totally different story, and I got in trouble the last time I told it…

re: fabric deterioration
By fabric deterioration, I was referring to the generic use of the word fabric…including foam inserts. I had been told that over a few years period, that the foam tends to dry our/deteriorate…thus creating a less than optimal flotation source.

This sounded rather odd to me…that is why I checked it out right here…

Re: the broken zipper…plan to send my Kokatat back to the company to have it assessed. I assume they will repair it…but will need to get another one in the mean time…


Thanks to all!