Types of lifejackets

Learn about the different types of lifejackets (also known as personal flotation devices).

On this page:

Lifejackets: Choosing the right one to wear

Maritime New Zealand ©2017
Choosing the right lifejacket.

Lifejackets for kids

Maritime New Zealand ©2017
Choosing lifejackets for kids.

Open waters

There are two types available for open waters

A type 401  inflatable lifejacket

Type 401 - inflatable

Achieves buoyancy by either a:

  • water-activated switch
  • manual pull cord

May include a mouthpiece

Designed to keep the wearer vertical during unconsciousness

Comfortable and convenient to wear at all times

Must provide 150 newtons of buoyancy

Guidelines for inflatable lifejackets

Download nationally agreed guidelines to help choose the right inflatable lifejacket, and know how and when to service it.

Guidelines for inflatable lifejackets[PDF: 281kB, 5 pages]

A type 401 semi-rigid lifejacket

Type 401 - semi-rigid

Achieves buoyancy by a semi-rigid foam

Designed to keep the wearer vertical during unconsciousness

Minimum buoyancy rating of 100 newtons (adult size)

Not suitable for continuous wearing on pleasure craft

Best suited for emergencies

National and international standards* that substantially comply with type 401: ANSI/UL 1123 and 1177 type I PFD offshore life jacket; AS 4758 level 150; ISO 12402-3; EN 396.

Inshore waters

A type 402 lifejacket

Type 402

Must have a buoyant collar

Not designed to keep an unconscious person’s face above water

Provides at least 71 newtons of buoyancy (adult size)

Comfortable and convenient to wear at all times

Compatible with a crotch strap

Not suitable for rough conditions

National and international standards* that substantially comply with type 402: ANSI/UL 1123 and 1177 type II PFD near shore buoyant vest; AS 4758 level 100; AS 1512 PFD type I; ISO 12402-4; EN 395.

Specialist lifejackets and personal flotation devices

A type 403 vest

Type 403

No collar

Lower buoyancy rating when compared with other lifejackets

Lower levels of support and safety compared to other models

No reflective or bright materials

Necessary for some aquatic sports

Must have at least 53 newtons of buoyancy (adult size)

National and international standards* that substantially comply with type 403: ANSI/UL 1123 and 1177 type III PFD; AS 4758 level 50; AS 1499 PFD type 2; AS 2260 PFD type 3; ISO 12402-5; EN 393.

Buoyancy aid and wetsuit

Type 404

A wetsuit with added buoyancy in specific areas. These are very expensive and suitable for some sporting activities.

Buoyancy garment

A type 403 vest

Type 405

No collar

Lower buoyancy rating when compared with other lifejackets

Lower levels of support and safety compared to other models

Necessary for some aquatic sports

Has reflective material bright colours

National and international standards* that substantially comply with type 405: ANSI/UL 1123 and 1177 type III PFD; AS 4758 level 50; AS 1499 PFD type 2; AS 2260 PFD type 3; ISO 12402-5; EN 393.

Specialist PFD

A type 403 vest

Type 406

May be fitted with a collar

Not intended for use at night

May not be suitable for all conditions

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