What Is The Main Advantage Of A Type IV PFD

When you’re enjoying yourself in the water, it’s essential to stay safe. Personal floatation devices, often known as PFDs, are required on all boats and kayaks for such a reason.

You’ll find five main types of PFDs on the market, each of which fulfills a certain purpose. One is a Type IV personal floatation device (PFD), designed to be thrown to someone in the water to keep them afloat.

However, you may wonder, what is the primary benefit of a Type IV PFD when you already wear a life jacket?

life vest

In our guide, you can learn more about these types of IV PFD flotation devices designed to be worn by people of all sizes, heights, and weights, including children, women, and more.

By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can help someone who has fell overboard using a Type 4 PFD as well as them using wearable PFDs. (Learn How Much Does A Kayak Weigh)

What is Type IV PFD?

When you are asked which PFD is designed to be thrown to someone in the water, you are presented with the type IV PFD, which is very different for a kayak or canoe.

Unlike other PFDs, it isn’t intended to be worn when you use a Type IV PFD. Instead, they are a throwable device designed to be thrown to a person in the water who has a chance of drowning and used to stay afloat and await help.

The person in the water has to grab and hold the Type IV PFD.

A throwable flotation device such as a Type IV PFD can also be a circular flotation ring on commercial boats and swimming pools.

For any vessel longer than 16 feet, there should be at least one Type IV PFD on board, as well as wearing a life jacket by each person.

For a long kayak, you need to consider the weight of these with all your gear as this type of PFD can weigh 16.5 pounds, while others are heavier.

Although Type IV PFDs should always be carried on boats, there are limitations in use.

To begin with, it is not typically suggested for use when boating in waters with lots of water disturbance, such as flowing rivers, currents, waves, and strong winds. This is because a Type IV PFD can be thrown around and float away from the person who is in the water. (Learn How To Tie Down A Kayak In A Truck Bed)

Use of Type IV PFDs Guidelines

A Type IV PFD is not mandatory for a kayak or canoe, yet the US Coast Guard rules could demand the use of other Type III PFD life jackets or PFDs suitable to that activity.

Many paddlers take buoyant cushions and can be used as a seat cushion or to kneel for comfort. However, such use isn’t recommended as any extra height can change the center of gravity and make the kayak unstable, or you could damage the buoyant cushion and make it unusable.

Type IV PFDs have to be taken out of any packaging and readily accessible for an emergency.

Among PFDs, a Type IV PFD is among the Coast Guard’s requisites on vessels longer than 16 feet in length. There are no exact requirements on the type of throwable PFD, and it can comprise a buoyant cushion, a horseshoe, or ring buoy).

The throwable PFD has to be in an area that every person on board can see.

What Is The Greatest Disadvantage of a Type IV PFD?

The most significant disadvantage of PFDs Type IV is that they are the least effective for paddling, especially if no other types of PFDs are available.

However, if you must rely on it, make sure it is not tied to the kayak for a person who fell overboard.

In an emergency, tying it merely makes it harder for the boat operator to throw the coast guard-approved PFD to the person in the water.

Using a type IV PFD isn’t recommended for unconscious people, and non-swimmers or children may not use such devices.

throwable pfd

What is a Throwable PFD?

There are three kinds of type IV PFD approved by the coast guard. Other kinds of Type IV PFDs may be available from various manufacturers, a PFD a type IV, but not endorsed or approved by the coast guard. (Learn What Are Strainers On A River)

Ring Buoys

For a Type IV PFD, the main type is ring buoys. The ring buoys flotation device is found on most boats, docks, and even in swimming pools. Modern Type IV PFDs are frequently equipped with lighting that may be turned on at night. This is a useful function, particularly during night rescues.

Horseshoe Buoys

This throwable floatation device IV PFD type is shaped like a horseshoe, as the name suggests. Most of these comprise a cell plastic core with a vinyl-coated surface. These PFDs come in several colors, but the most popular are white, yellow, and blue, easy to recognize.

Buoyant Cushions

Buoyant cushions, unlike ring buoys, are square-shaped with no holes and look like a seat cushion with a vinyl-coated cover.

With the buoyant cushions PFD, the main advantage is they include two straps into which the person onboard may slip their arms to prevent the device from floating away.

What is One Benefit of a Personal Flotation Device?

When everyone on the boat is wearing a life jacket or vest, some people may still question the need for a Type IV PFD. However, a Type IV PFD differs significantly from conventional personal flotation devices in terms of functionality. The following are some of the most significant advantages of a Type IV PFD.


No Size Restrictions and has a Universal Size.

The nicest part about a Type IV PFD is that it may be used by everyone aboard the boat, regardless of age, height, or weight.

Unlike other life jackets, vests and PFDs, they have no size restrictions. Because this PFD is designed to be a floating device to grab and hang onto rather than a wearable device, there are no height and weight restrictions like life vests.

However, it should be noted that just because you have a Type IV PFD with you on the boat does not mean you should forego wearing properly fitting life jackets. The USCG requires that everyone on the boat wear the mandatory standard PFD.

A Type IV PFD is designed to be used in emergency scenarios, such as when someone falls into the water or when an incident occurs in the water.

Location Indicator

A Type IV PFD can also be used as a location marker, which is an impressive capability. The Type IV PFD can be immediately thrown to the victim’s exact location or a location where the victim was last seen.

The operator can then use this location indicator to navigate through the incident area and begin a rescue.

However, there is a risk of this indicator being swept away by the current in open water. This is especially typical when there are enormous waves or currents, as well as wind.

Type IV PFDs can still be beneficial in these situations. It can, for example, help the boat operator in determining the direction of the current.

If the victim wore a wearable PFD or lifejacket, the person on board might have been swept away in the same direction as the current. Instead of randomly searching the surrounding area of the original location where the victim fell, this will help limit down the search area.

Tow and Tug

One key advantage of a Type IV PFD, even when not in use, ring buoy Type IV PFDs, can be tied to a rope.

As a result, when you throw the buoys ring into the water, the rope goes with the throwable device to the person in the water. The people on the boat can use this rope to tow the victim using the PFD type IV.

The rescuer does not have to jump off the boat, swim to the victim, and then swim back to the boat with the victim, making it considerably easier.

In open water, this back-and-forth swimming strategy becomes nearly impossible. The rescuer is unnecessarily putting himself in a perilous situation. (Find the Best Kayak Lights For Night Fishing)

However, keep in mind that not all flotation device Type IV PFDs come with a rope. If your IV PFD, a type listed here, does not contain a rope, you will need to purchase one separately.

Remember, children’s life jackets should not be replaced with Type IV PFDs. Luckily, as an addition, choosing and caring for a Type IV PFD is easy and affordable, and highly durable. It is worth having an IV PFD, a type listed above, as a backup for those unexpected times you may need one.

What Is The Main Advantage Of A Type IV PFD (2)