With boating season right around the corner, it’s important to start planning ahead to keep your family and your boat safe so you can make the most of your time on the water. Just as we use durable boat covers to protect our boats from the elements, we protect ourselves with personal flotation devices (PFD), also known as life jackets.


At Canvasworks in Cokato, we specialize in manufacturing marine products like custom boat covers, boat tops, and custom boat upholstery to help Minnesotans enjoy our beautiful lakes. We’ve put together this guide to help you make the right life jacket purchase. Check out this guide and then contact us to learn more about our custom boat covers.

Types of PFDs

Life jackets might seem like they’re all the same at first glance, but there are actually several different types of personal flotation devices, each with its own purpose.


For boating on Minnesota’s lakes, you’ll need a vest-type jacket that is intended for offshore use. Here’s a brief breakdown of the five main kinds of personal floatation devices:


●        Type I: Best for boating in rough or stormy water. These life jackets are bulky and designed to turn an individual face-up in case they are unconscious.

●        Type II: These life jackets are designed for circumstances where immediate rescue is likely but are not high-performing in rough waters. They may turn the wearer face up, but this is not guaranteed.

●        Type III: These jackets are similar to Type II life jackets in terms of buoyancy and flexibility, however this type will not turn an unconscious wearer face up and the conscious wearer may need to keep their heads tilted back to avoid turning face down.

●        Type IV: These are not life jackets but simply personal flotation devices to hold onto when waiting for rescue, suck as a life ring seen poolside or a noodle.

●        Type V: These types of PFDs are designed for specialized activities such as  a sailboard harness, deck suit, paddling vest, commercial white water vest or float coat.

Life Jacket Features to Consider

After deciding what type of jacket to purchase, it’s time to check out the bells and whistles. If you plan to go fishing, you’ll most likely want pockets to store some of your gear. Some life jackets also include tabs to attach whistles, knives, and other accessories. Remember that brightly colored jackets and reflective tape will be more visible in a search-and-rescue scenario.

The Right Fit

When choosing the right size, start with the manufacturer’s labeling that indicates the intended weight and size of the jacket. Next, it’s important to choose a life jacket that fits snugly without riding up near your face. Fasten all buckles, zippers, and closures snugly and then lift your arms over your head. If the jacket comes up over your chin, it’s too large to offer the right level of protection. The trick is to check for excess room near the openings of the arms after making sure the jacket is snug.

Order Your Minnesota Custom Boat Covers

At Canvasworks in Cokato, we specialize in custom boat covers and other marine products. Check out our online gallery to see examples of our custom boat upholstery and give us a call at 320-559-0165 to learn more or contact us online. We can’t wait to help you make the most of Minnesota’s beautiful lakes this summer!