What is the Main Advantage of a Type IV PFD?

Without proper safety precautions, a boating adventure can be too risky. And for any recreational watercraft, a PFD (Personal Floating Device) is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment. All PFDs are not life jackets. For example, Type IV PFDs. But what is the main advantage of a type IV PFD? Read on to learn.

What Is a Type IV PFD?

The United States Coast Guard has classified PFDs into four different types. A Type IV PFD is a safety device that is always carried on boats. Type IV PFDs are not wearable; they are throwable. Anyone onboard can use them, which means there is no restriction based on age, size, weight, and height.

In an emergency situation, a Type IV PFD can be very useful. However, it cannot replace a regular life jacket. In case of an emergency such as a boat failure, this device can keep a person afloat. A Type IV PFD is also known as a circular floating ring and a throwable flotation device.

Kinds of Type IV PFDs

Three different kinds of Type IV PFDs are available. Here they are:

  1. Ring buoys

These are the most common Type IV PFDs, and most people refer to ring buoys when talking about Type IV PFDs. You can see them in swimming pools, boats and at docks. They come with activated lights, which make rescue operations easier at night.

     2. Buoyant cushions

Buoyant cushions are usually square-shaped and without holes. A buoyant cushion comes with two straps that prevent it from floating away. You can either position the device under your chest or attach the straps to your arms.

     3. Horseshoe buoys

Made with a plastic core, this device resembles a horseshoe. A vinyl coating cover conceals the plastic core. Horseshoe buoys are available in bright colors such as yellow and white. 

What Is the Main Advantage of a Type IV PFD?

Type IV has some advantages over other types of personal flotation devices. Here are the advantages:

Portable and lightweight

Other types of PFDs are somewhat uncomfortable to wear, in part because they are bulky. Due to the extra weight, you have to exert more effort to keep yourself afloat.

On the other hand, a Type IV PFD does not bog your down because it is lightweight. It gives you better mobility and you can easily grab it.

Easy to use

A Type IV PFD is not wearable; it is throwable. In an emergency situation, a throwable device is easier to use. You do not need to wear and fit it before you use it. It can be easily thrown in the water, and the person overboard can use it right away. These devices are widely used in part because of their ease of use.


Rescuing is easier with a Type IV PFD because you can easily add a rope to the attachment. Once the device is thrown in the water, the person overboard can grab it, and rescuers can pull the person towards safety.

This feature is convenient for not only the victim but also the rescuers. Rescuers can easily pull the person towards safety without jumping in the water. It makes the rescue operation quick, simple, and effective.


What is the main advantage of a Type IV PFD? For some, it is the versatility of the device. As a safety device, it is versatile because it can float in a lake, river, harbor, or swimming pool—just about anywhere there is water. You can use it alone or in combination with other PFDs.

Location marker

Pinpointing the location of the person who has fallen overboard can be challenging. A Type IV PFD can be convenient because it serves as a location marker. It gives the rescuers an idea of where the person fell overboard. And that makes the rescue operation easier. The device may not allow you to pinpoint the location, but you will still be able to narrow the area.

No size restrictions

What is the main advantage of a Type IV PFD? No size restriction is definitely one of the most notable advantages. Life jackets or other types of PFDs have a limitation, and that is they have to be of the right size. You have to wear them to make sure they fit. With a Type IV PFD, size does not matter. Regardless of the size, weight, and height, anyone can use it.

Shows the direction of current

As a location marker, a PFD may not be very effective because it can easily float away. But it serves a different purpose pretty well. It helps the rescuers determine the direction of the water current. In any rescue operation, tracking the direction is important because it narrows the search area.

General Guidelines for Using Type IV PFDs

  • For canoes and kayaks, keeping Type IV PFDs is not necessary. However, depending on where you are kayaking, you may be required to wear kayak life jackets. We should note here that using a buoyant cushion or knee cushion padding may not be very helpful when you are kayaking, because the cushion will change the balance of the kayak.
  • It is important to keep Type IV PFDs readily accessible. So, make sure they are out of their packaging and ready to use. For easy rescuing, consider keeping a rope already attached to the device.
  • Carrying a Type IV PFD is a requirement for boats that are 16 feet or longer. And this PFD can be a ring buoy, horseshoe buoy, or buoyant cushion.

What Is the Main Advantage of a Type IV PFD? – Conclusion

What is the main advantage of a Type IV PFD? In the discussion above, we have seen that there are several advantages. It can be used by both children and adults, regardless of their heights, sizes, and weights. Even if you have other safety devices, it is important to keep some ring buoys or buoyant cushions on your boat.

Last Updated on August 30, 2021