Group of people white water rafting

What Type Of Life Jacket Do You Need For Whitewater Rafting?

Embarking on a whitewater rafting adventure along the stunning Snake River offers some of the most exhilarating experiences available in natural water settings. When you sign up for whitewater rafting with reputable guides, you know you’re embarking on a safe, informative, and unforgettable river experience that families cherish for a lifetime. A key component of ensuring a safe journey through the river’s twists and turns is the proper use of safety equipment, with the life jacket being paramount.

Understanding Life Jacket Regulations and Types


Life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFDs), are essential safety items regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard, a critical component of Homeland Security. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of life jackets and their specific uses:


Type I PFDs: offer the highest buoyancy, suitable for remote water where rescue may be delayed. These are ideal for open waters, providing excellent flotation and thermal protection.


Type II Buoyant PFDs and Type II Inflatable PFDs:  provide adequate buoyancy for waters near shore where quick rescue is expected. However, they are not recommended for rough waters.


Type III Buoyant PFDs and Type III Inflatable PFDs: offer comfort and mobility for activities like kayaking on slow-moving rivers. Although they do not ensure face-up flotation if unconscious, their design is conducive to active water sports.


Type IV PFDs: are throwable devices used in emergencies near pools or on ferries, providing immediate assistance to someone struggling in water.


Type V PFDs: include special use jackets that automatically inflate upon activation, similar to a vehicle’s airbag system, providing instant buoyancy but with a higher cost and specific use conditions.

Choosing the Right Life Jacket for Whitewater Rafting

For those rafting on the Snake River, a Type III life jacket is recommended. It strikes a balance between safety and mobility, crucial for navigating a raft through challenging rapids. This type allows rafters to move freely and respond quickly to changing river conditions, ensuring both comfort and safety.

A well-fitted Type III life jacket will provide buoyancy and keep your head above water in the event of an unexpected spill without restricting your range of motion or ability to paddle effectively. Choosing a life jacket appropriate for your size and weight is essential, as an ill-fitting one can compromise its functionality. Additionally, inspect your life jacket before each use, checking for any signs of wear or damage that could compromise its performance. Wearing the proper safety gear, like a Type III life jacket, is essential to preparing for a safe and enjoyable rafting experience on the Snake River.

Ensuring a Proper Fit for Your Life Jacket


To ensure maximum safety on the water, a properly fitted life jacket is crucial. Begin by choosing a life jacket appropriate for your weight and water activity. Once you have the right type, wear the jacket and fasten all straps and buckles. Then, adjust the fit by tightening the straps until the jacket is snug but allows comfortable breathing. Perform a “lift test” by pulling up on the top of the arm openings — the jacket should not move past your chin or ears. A well-fitted life jacket will keep your head above water and help you remain buoyant without restricting movement.

Whitewater rafting outfitters will provide you with the proper life jacket and safety equipment for your rafting trip.

Grand Teton Scenic Floats specializes in crafting memorable and safe whitewater rafting adventures on the majestic Snake River. Our commitment to safety and guest satisfaction sets us apart as the premier choice for experiencing the thrill of the river.