Life Jacket Storage
How and where you store your life jackets matters year-round. We get it – it's incredibly easy to just toss the family's PFDs in a pile on the boat or in the garage. However, the way in which you choose to store your life jackets will directly affect the integrity of the fabrics and flotation foam's buoyancy. Whether it's the summer season or your life jackets are stowed away from the year, here are the proper ways to store your life jackets.
During Boating Season
While on the Water
While kayaking or jet skiing, you've already got a life jacket on, so skip this one if these are your primary activities. However, if you love to boat, this is an important storage tip you don't want to miss. Keep life jackets in an easy to reach location that the captain and others on the boat can quickly access. If your boat has a cabin, do not store them there! You need to have access to your PFDs in the event of an emergency like a fire or collision and having to get below deck is simply not feasible in times like these where every second counts.
Many boaters choose to store life jackets underneath seats or underneath a hardtop. If your boat doesn't have a top, consider installing mesh webbing in an area where they can be safely stored. It really doesn't matter how or where you keep them on the boat – just make sure you can get to them and have them distributed out in just a few seconds.
It's also important to note that, as a boat owner, it's your responsibility to confirm your passengers know exactly where the life jackets are located. Go over this before heading out onto the water. If you really want to ensure safety, ask that everyone wear a life jacket while riding on your boat. After all: your boat, your rules!
This applies to all water sports and activities. Once you've docked or gotten out of the water for the day, it's important to give attention to your life jackets. If you don't already have a routine for wet PFDs, they're likely to develop mold and mildew. Plus, improper care accelerates the deterioration of the fabric and flotation foam. To prevent this (and to save yourself money in the long run), follow these steps.
First, rinse them down well with fresh water from a hose. Do this even if you've been in a lake, as sweat can damage the jacket fabric. After they're thoroughly rinsed, hang them to dry in an area away from direct sunlight. Ensure they're fully dry before storing them inside in a dark and dry location.
During the Off Season
When it's time to say goodbye to the open water for the year, treat your life jackets as you would your boat. You give it special attention so it's protected over the course of the fall and winter, right? Do the same with the family PFDs.
Give them a good rinsing and allow them to air dry. Once completely dry, inspect them for rips and tears. If you find damage to the fabric, it may be time to replace your life jackets. Be sure to also feel for broken or brittle foam, as compromised flotation foam means decreased buoyancy.
Store them in your garage, boat house, or other area that offers a dark and dry environment. Direct sunlight can damage your life jackets, causing fabric to fade and the flotation foam to deteriorate more rapidly than it should. Don't stuff them in a bag or bin. Instead, hang your life jackets on hangers so they receive good ventilation. This will prevent humidity from becoming an issue should it arise, which also helps to keep mildew at bay. Nobody wants to return to their life jacket with a gross odor.
Just before boating and water sport season comes back around again, inspect your life jackets to ensure they've remained in good condition over the last several months. This may seem like an involved process, but it in fact takes little to no time to incorporate it into your routine. Mindful life jacket storage habits help keep you and your family safe and more money in your pocket.