As a critical part of your safety gear it is important to make sure that your PFD is up to the job. This starts from the moment you go to buy one.
Most countries set out standards for safety gear including PFDs and ensure that all that go on sale are tested and approved. Whitewater PFDs sold in the UK and Europe need to meet the safety standards set out in ISO 12402-5 and ISO 12402-6. PFDs that do meet these standards will be marked as so.
Like this Astral Greenjacket above and Palm Equipment Nevis below the specifications of the gear and the tests the design has passed are printed inside of the PFD.
Most paddling gear has a pretty hard life and looking after your gear will prolong its life and it’s ability to look after you.
Using your PFD as a cushion or changing mat will compress and damage the foam. I even make sure that my PFD sits near or at the top of my gear bag so it doesn’t get crushed.
Rinsing your gear in fresh clean water and drying it out of direct sunlight will definitely help as UV light degradation, salty or dirty water can really shorten the life span of such an important piece of gear.