Life jacket requirements

With the summer months coming and outdoor activities ramping up, I found this dispatch from the Deschutes County offices (the "Marine Minute") on life jacket requirements interesting:

One of the most misunderstood issues regarding boating in Oregon is the life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device) requirement. Most people understand that adults need to carry them, and children under 12 (in other words, one day less than 13) need to wear them on powered boats that are underway.

The confusion begins when it comes to non-powered boats… craft such as kayaks, inflatable rafts, canoes, etc. that have no form of mechanical propulsion (an electric or gas-powered motor):

  • Canoes
  • Kayaks
  • Inflatable rafts of any size
  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Multi-chambered Tubes
  • Fishing Float Tubes

Oregon Revised Statute 830.005 (2) states, “Boat” means every description of watercraft, including a seaplane on the water and not in flight, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water, but does not include boathouses, floating homes, air mattresses, beach and water toys or single inner tubes.

What this means is that on anything defined as a boat in Oregon, whether powered or non-powered, one life jacket per adult on board must be carried. Children under 12 must wear a life jacket on these same kinds of craft.

The following are exempt from the life jacket requirement:

  • Air Mattresses
  • Single-Chambered Inner Tubes
  • Water Play Toys

For additional information, visit or call the Marine Division of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office at 541-388-6503.

Generally I think it’s a good idea to wear life jackets regardless, but this stuff is good to know.