Offshore, or type 1, life jackets are designed for use in remote waters. They are built to provide flotation for an extended period of time in case a rescue takes a while. They also are designed to turn an unconscious person face up in the water. These life jackets go around the neck and sit on the front of the body; this is what helps keep a person face up.
Near shore, or type 2, vests are designed for calm waters with little or no current. They are recommended for use in areas where rescue would not take long. This type is similar in construction to the type 1, but they are often made with less buoyant material.
Flotation Aid, or type 3, is what most people think of when they hear life jacket. It is a full vest that wraps from back to front and often has buckles or fasteners in the front. Type 3 also are referred to as water sport vests. This type will not turn an unconscious person face up.
Inflatable life jackets contain a pressurized air source that inflates a bladder when activated. This allows for a less-bulky life jacket that offers excellent flotation and turns unconscious victims face up. This style is popular with fishermen since they are worn over normal clothes and do not restrict movement as traditional life jackets do.