There is a saying, ‘Safety is no laughing matter’. On or around the water, safety is just as important even if water for the most part has a soothing effect on most folk. Water is known to lull a person into a false sense of security which can become a dangerous situation very quickly. In recent years there has been an effective educational push for wearing life preservers while around or on the water. Life preservers were historically cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear but thanks to modern innovative design this is no longer the case. Life preservers in general are not regulated but to obtain an approved rating from a regulating and controlling authority, the life preserver must perform within certain strict parameters. Therefore, when out shopping for a personal floatation device it is valuable to use an approved type product and know if and how the product will perform prior to using it. For the mariners that work near or on the water, the redesigning of the personal floating device (PFD) has made it more comfortable to wear whilst working and none can compare to the incorporation of a stout work jacket and a PFD referred to as a Float Coat.
Float coats or flotation jackets are jackets that have a built-in floatation device (pfd) used while boating, duck hunting or ice-fishing. Sometimes referred to as bomber jackets, these are basically coats and life vests combined. Float coats are most often used when boating in cold conditions. The two major manufacturers of float coats are Mustand Survival and Stearns. Newcomers to the float coat industry include Onyx and Absolute Outdoors, both of which are typically less expensive alternatives. Several considerations should be thought of when choosing the right float coat.
Choosing the Right Float Coat
When looking to purchase a float coat the following list will help you think about what options to weigh.
- If I fell overboard, how cold is the water I might be in? Look for a float coat that can handle waters for your area. Be aware that cold water (less than 70 degrees F can lower your body temperature. Even if you're wearing a PFD, your body can cool down 25 times faster in cold water than in air. An example of a float coat used for cold water is the Mustang Survival Thermofloat Coat.
- Do I need a hood for additional protection? Some hoods are sold separately. Some are attached. The Kent Float Coat is an example of a floatation jacket with a hood.
- Visibility. Does the float coat have Solas reflective tape on it? USCG and Canadian approvals are on certain float coats. Mustang Survival, Classic Bomber Life Jacket W/ SOLAS Reflective Tape, Float Coats, Type III is an example of a float coat with reflective tape.
- Is the float coat breathable? If you are working in your float coat, it might get hot and it is nice to have one that is breathable and waterproof. The Mustang Survival Catalyst is an example of a breathable flotation jacket.
- Do I need a float coat in a large size like 5XL? Large sizes are typically special order, but it is important to get a float coat that will fit you and be buoyant for your size.
- Do I need tight fitting arm bands to keep water at bay? Most float coats come with neoprene cuffs to keep water from intruding
- Do I need a float coat with high visibility? Mustang Survival makes several float coats in ANSI Fluorescent Yellow.
While wearing a float coat, the US Coast Guard recommends carrying two life jackets for offshore sailing, fishing, etc. A Type II or III should be worn under most circumstances. A Type I life jacket
should be carried to be donned when the weather turns bad or for the actual abandon ship situation. So having an additional PFD on hand is recommended. Additionally, if working in extreme conditions, survival suits
are good to have onboard as well. There are a variety of float coats on the market, finding one that fits right is important. Contact us if you have any other questions on float coats or life jackets
When to Use a Float Coats vs. Survival Suits
Float coats are engineered to provide comfort, warmth, protection and importantly closed-cell foam insulation while giving suitable floatation with in-water insulation. Float coat life jackets are available in super bright colors together with reflective tape that make the wearer visible in adverse atmospheric conditions and for the hunter or the fashion conscious they are also available in camouflage or plain bomber type jackets. If considering a float coat, it is prudent to find out if a certified product is required for the project. USCG certified float coats are available from reputable companies such as ‘Mustang Survival®
’, and ‘Kent Safety Products® by Absolute Outdoors
’. According to the Onyx company web site, the Onyx float coats
do not appear to have a certification and are suitable for recreational use only (and are much more affordible as well). Float coats should not be confused with a survival suit
A float coat is a jacket that is waterproof with floatation build in, whereas a survival suit is an entire body covering that prohibits any kind of manual activity with the sole purpose of insulating the body from the cold whilst providing flotation. Float coats are a comfortable and safe method of keeping warm and dry on and around the water with the added safety should one fall in without warning. They also provide buoyancy and insulation that is vital in reducing the onset of hyperthermia and fatigue. Float coats or floater jackets are a convenient and comfortable method of staying warm whilst providing great safety features for those spending their time on and around the water and that is no laughing matter. Be smart, be safe, wear a float coat.