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What features do I need in a PFD?

2015 October 15

Dear Boat Doctor,

I am going offshore this winter and the skipper said I need a specific inflatable life jacket, one with crotch straps and a spray hood. The problem is that I’m finding it hard to find one that incorporates both of these. Any suggestions?

Bill Abraham

Providence, Rhode Island

Dear Bill,

If your skipper’s life jacket requirements are any indication, you’re going offshore with a responsible guy. Leg or crotch straps keep inflatables from riding up in the water. A spray hood is a good idea too, and if you are in the water for a while the hood will make you much more comfortable. When Rambler 100 capsized in the 2011 Fastnet race, the crew reported that spray hoods were invaluable.

Spinlock Deckvest life jackets incorporate both leg straps and spray hoods. They also include other unique features like an LED light that raises above your head and even an optional AIS rescue beacon. However, other inflatable life jackets can be retrofitted with these additional safety features. Crotch or leg straps are sold separately and can be added to almost any inflatable, and separate spray hoods that store in a pouch attached to your life jacket are also available. Better to be safe than sorry.