Life Jacket Safety for Whitewater Rafting in Maine
Most Important Item on a Whitewater Rafting Trip in Maine
The most important item for any whitewater raft trip is a life jacket or personal floatation device (PFD). There are many styles, colors and brands of PFD’s for use in all kinds of recreation and work applications. The Coast Guard classifies life jackets according to the environment in which they are used – these vary from salt water to fresh water, open water to river and lakes, pools and more. This blog will highlight the basic difference between the two most common styles on a commercial whitewater rafting trip in Maine.
The State of Maine requires that all commercial raft passengers wear a Type 5 Coast Guard Approved life jacket. This is a high floatation life jacket designed to float people on their backs during a whitewater swim. Type 5’s have a head pillow attached to the neck of the jacket. Type 5 life jackets are also built with more floatation in the front of the jacket than the back and this design rolls users onto their back when they are in the water. The head pillow also has floatation in it and it helps keep a swimmer’s head out of the water. This type of life jacket has either 3 or 4 buckles attached to adjustable straps that adjust on the sides and sometimes over the shoulders. Type 5 life jackets generally come in two sizes – a Youth size fitting 50 to 90 pound users and an Adult Size which fits individuals over 90 pounds and with a maximum chest size of 56 inches. Type V PFD’s are made by many different manufacturers and commercial whitewater rafting outfitters can choose based on quality, durability, price, color, style and other factors.
Whitewater Rafting Guides traditionally wear a Coast Guard approved Type 3 life jacket. Type 3 PFD’s differ from Type 5’s in several ways. Type 3 jackets have a little less floatation than a Type V jacket and are not as bulky. The slimmer design allows the River Guide a greater range of movement and flexibility needed to maneuver and steer a whitewater raft. Type 3 life jackets do not have a pillow attached at the neck so the user can float on their back or turn over onto their stomach allowing them to be more aggressive in moving through the water. Similar to Type 5 lifejackets, Type 3 PFD’s comes in multiple sizes, colors, styles and design options so the user can customize a life jacket to their specific needs and tastes.
Whitewater Rafting Outfitters in Maine choose different life jackets styles and manufacturers for different reasons. Each rafting outfitter generally has a color scheme of gear including wetsuits, rafts, life jackets and helmets. While coordinating color and style is a factor, the most important factor must be safety and reliability.
Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting puts a premium on all safety equipment and chooses the Northwest River Supply (NRS) Big Water V PFD. While there are cheaper options on the market, this life jacket provides excellent floatation and comfort for their guests. The NRS Big Water jacket has great buckles, easy adjustment straps on the sides and over the shoulders and is comfortable for all users. There are many less expensive PFD options available, but Crab Apple Whitewater feels that cheaper options are less reliable, lack durability and, most importantly, are not nearly as comfortable for their guests. The key for a lifejacket is to balance safety and comfort for the user and the NRS Big Water V does the job perfectly.