What is the Main Advantage Of A Type IV PFD?

Whether you’re a hobbyist fisher or fishing is what you do for a living, safety comes first.

In that regard, you might have heard a lot about conventional PFDs, but I’m here to share something more advanced and handy with you – a floating device that anyone can use, regardless of size and shape.

The hype is all about Type IV PFD.

If you have come across this term for the first time, let me enlighten you about the numerous advantages it has over typical life jackets.

In this article, you’ll find every detail about Type IV PFD, from what it is to what makes it so much usable and what are the different kinds of it that you can get your hands on.

So, let’s get rolling!

Type IV PFDs – things you need to know

Although life jackets have their own importance, yet in emergency situations, they might not make a readily useable option. This is why I recommend having a Type IV PFD always on board.

Type IV PFDs are throwables and not wearables, made up of highly buoyant materials. Therefore, they can give one much-needed instant support to stay afloat. This is why many boating enthusiasts always prefer keeping one or two with them in addition to other PFDs, to provide an added layer of protection to anyone who dives into the water.

All you gotta do is, throw the personal floatation device towards the one overboard, and he/she will have to swim towards the boat using it as a support. Some of the Type IV PFDs also comes with a harness so that you can help the struggling person propel himself more swiftly.

Among other shapes of Type IV PFDs, the ring ones are quite popular in the fisher community. However, to know more about the features of each of them, hop on to the section!

Type IV PFDs – Options that you may like to consider

Due to the increasing popularity of these devices, many companies have been seen jumping onto the bandwagon and introducing new kinds of type IV PFDs. But, I only prefer those that are approved by the US Coast guard. And those are mainly three; ring buoys, square cushion buoyant, and lastly, horseshoe-shaped buoys.

Ring Buoys

The most popularly known type – ring buoys. These are supposed to be the must-haves for any boating venture. They usually come in bright colors, making it easy for the person in the water to find them. The latest versions also have lights attached to them so that even if it is dark, getting hold doesn’t become tricky.

Square Cushion Buoyant

As obvious from the name, these are simply square-shaped without any hole in them, unlike ring-shaped ones. You can just think of them as your couch’s seat, with straps attached to pass the arms through for added support.

They are made strong enough to hold a person on the surface of the water until rescued. Or else, one can just slide it under his chest and use arms and legs to make his way towards the boat.

Horseshoe-shaped Buoys

This one is yet another Type IV PFD on my list that is named after its shape. These PFDs come with a vinyl cover wrapped around a plastic body. They are mostly found in bright colors like yellow and white so that one can spot them from a distance easily.

Type IV PFD – Main Advantages

Among other numerous advantages of Type IV PFD, what I like the most is that adults or kids anyone can use it.

Some other noteworthy advantages of Type IV PFD are as follows

It can be used by anyone

No matter what age you are, how much you weigh, whether you are tall or short, you’re a guy or a lady, you can benefit from a Type IV PFD.

However, here it is pertinent to mention that, despite having this benefit of Type IV PFD, you should never forget to bring your life jacket with you. If your kids are going to be with you, keep their jackets as well.

Type IV can just act as a backup in case you encounter any emergency. It can not replace the usefulness of life jackets ever.

It can help to remember the location

Suppose someone from your team has fallen into the water; you can quickly throw the PFD at his location to remember where he was. Otherwise, keeping track can be very difficult. By pinpointing the area this way, rescuing would become easy.

However, you can not depend on it for long, as strong waves can easily toss the PFD over to a different location, and you would lose track.

It can be harnessed

As mentioned earlier, the PDFs with a harness can prove to be of great help to rescue someone overboard. Mostly, the rope attached to the PFD acts as the harness. So that once the person in the water gets hold of it, you can pull him easily all the way towards the boat without having to dive in yourself.

Not only that it makes the whole rescue process easy, but it also saves the rescuer from the dangerously strenuous exercise of having to pull the victim through the water.

It is easy to carry around

While other forms of PFDs are mostly heavy to wear and carry around, Type IV PFD is not. Its light-weightiness is one of the prominent factors why boaters really like it. With these, moving around in water becomes safe and easy as well.

Type IV PFD – Limitations

Now that you have read and understood well about how a Type IV PFD can be of help while you’re on the waters, it’s time to see if it has any limitations too?

First of all, if you’re not an expert swimmer, you might not be able to benefit from this device. Although it can provide you support until someone rescues you, yet without knowing how to propel yourself to the shore or boat, you can’t do anything but wait.

Even if you know swimming, rough waves won’t let you get a hold of it. That is because, being light in weight, it easily gets tossed off and 0ut of reach. Therefore, it is only helpful in calm waters. Lastly, it would also be of no help to the ones unconscious.

Type IV PFD Usage – Important Points to Remember

1. Although bigger boats must have a Type IV PFD on board, this compulsion doesn’t apply to inflatable kayaks. In fact, it would be dangerous to keep additional apparatus with you being on a kayak as its weight might cause it to lose balance. However, life-saving vests/jackets are a must!

2. Among various options available in the market, make sure you only opt for US coast guard approved ones. This is highly crucial because USCG approval ensures its quality and buoyancy.

3. Look for the TYPE IV PFDs that come with lights and harness attached are bright in color. All of this would make it a better option in time of need. The bright color is easily recognizable. The lights will help if you’re conducting a rescue operation at night. The harness will enable you to pull the person out without jumping in the water yourself.

4. Always place your Type IV PFD somewhere easily reachable and not out of sight. So that, whenever needed, you don’t have to waste time trying to remember and find where it was stored.

5. Do not think of Type IV PFDs as a replacement for life jackets; I can not stress enough on that! Both the devices serve different purposes and have their own importance.

Type IV PFD – How to make it last long?

Following are some easy-to-follow tips on how to make your Type IV PFD last long.

1. Store it in a dry and cool place once it is no longer in use. Don’t leave it to be exposed directly to sharp sun rays because they can significantly damage its material and hence affect its durability. For extra protection, you may also buy a ring housing.

2. After every use, wash it with fresh water. This will eliminate the chance of mildew and foul odor buildup.

3. Keep checking for any wear and tear from time to time, preferably every time you pull it out of water. The reason being that any holes in the outer covering of your Type IV PFD might lead to shrinkage of its polyurethane insides, leading to its deformation.

4. Last but not least, dry up your Type IV PFD before storing it.

Frequently Asked Questions – Type IV PFD

Q. How much weight can a Type IV PFD endure?

The US coast guard approved Type IV PFD can endure up to 16.5 pounds of weight.

Q. Which vessels are not allowed to go in the water without a type IV PFD?

Vessels measuring 16 feet or more are strictly ordered to have a USCG-approved type IV PFD readily available onboard for immediate rescue purposes. This condition doesn’t apply to non-motorized kayaks, rafts, or canoes.

Q. Should I keep a Type IV PFD on my personal watercraft?

Yes, if it is any longer than 16 feet, in addition to PFD Type I, II, III, you should also keep Type  IV (as per California’s Boating laws). 

Q. Which PFD has the highest buoyancy level?

Type I has a buoyancy level of 22 pounds with an ability to keep the face of the wearer upright even in an unconscious condition. This makes it highly buoyant among all other types.

Although it is a bit heavy to carry, yet it is quite beneficial.

Q. What makes Type IV PFD different from others?

The main difference between Type IV PFD and others is that it is throwable, and others are wearable.

Q. What two main categories are PFDs divided into?

The two main categories PFDs are divided into are :

  • Wearables – Type I, II, III, V.
  • Throwables – Type IV.

Q. How long does a Type IV PFD last?

Your Type IV PFD would never expire until and unless you take good care of it and follow the simple tips I discussed above. It only becomes unusable if rough usage alters its natural condition or if it has been repaired multiple times.

Q. How much does a good Type IV PFD cost?

Different sources offer different prices based on functionality and size. However, typically a Type IV PFD’s price ranges from $16 – $28.


Be it a life jacket or a throwable PFD, the main purpose of delivering this information to you is to keep you safe from foreseen dangers of waters. Therefore, don’t think that if you have life vests with you, you don’t need a Type IV PFD and that if you have a Type IV PFD, you don’t need a live vest. Both of them hold their own significance.

To sum up, one should have a Type IV PFD always on deck to avoid any mishaps. They have multiple benefits to offer and come with a reliable buoyancy range. I myself always keep one with me whenever I’m out fishing on my PWC.

Lastly, don’t forget to give my “Type IV PFD Usage – Important Points to Remember” section a read before you leave, as it contains quite valuable information for you.

Happy Boating!

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