For anyone looking to enjoy some time out in the water, finding the best and most suitable life jacket for you is crucial. It can become the difference between life and death (it is a life jacket after all).
Fun Facts about Life Jackets
Life jackets are known by many different names, including Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and life vests. But no matter the name, they are an essential part of any trip that involves large bodies of water.
In the year 2012, 90% of deaths caused by drowning happened in water bodies inland (like lakes, beaches, rivers, etc.) and most of those who died were aware of how to swim. In the same year, 70% of boating deaths were caused by drowning and 85% of these deaths included people who did not have a life jacket on.
By law, boats are required to have at least one functional life jacket available and although it is not compulsory for adults to wear a life jacket while on board, children who are under 13 years of age are required to wear one.
For watersports players in the United States, some states require life jackets to be worn in the water.
Thus, wearing a life jacket is highly important and helps you remain safe while playing in deep waters. Not to mention how life jackets can support you while you swim and prevent you from drowning.
The Best Fit
Many people do not understand what the best fit for a life jacket should look like. Life jackets are supposed to fit you tightly, but also be comfortable enough that you should be able to retain some arm movement while wearing a properly fitted life jacket. Wherever you decide to buy your life jacket from, make sure to ask for a sizing chart to help find your fit. Also, when buying a life jacket, choose one that is adjustable as this can help customize the fit according to your personal size.
Trying out life jackets can be tricky. The best way to determine whether or not the fit is suitable for you is by using similar movements you would use while in water. This can show if the life jacket is too constricting or too loose.
The easiest and best way to make adjustments to your life jacket (once you have found the one) is to begin adjusting from the waist and continue upwards from there. Test your adjustments by asking someone to take it off of you. If the life jacket does not reach over your nose, you know your adjustments made for the best fit. If your straps cannot be adjusted further and you find that this life jacket can go above your nose, then you should continue your search.
The best way to determine a child’s life jacket size is to find one according to their weight.
The Right Materials
Different types of material for life jackets are recommended for different water-related activities. Nylon life jackets are the best for water sports as nylon is lightweight material that does not constrict movement. Also, such life jackets are more affordable, so if they tear during intense movements, they are easily replaceable.
Neoprene life jackets are ideal for open water activities or in the winter season. Neoprene is a material that can help you stay warm, afloat and the material is also stretchable and more flexible.
When indulging in activities like fishing, it is best to find a life jacket that has pockets with zippers as you can store your essential equipment in them and keep your hands warm as well.
Types of Life Jackets
Type I is the Off-Shore Life Jacket that is ideal for any type of water body. Type II is Near-Shore Vests that are best used for calmer waters inland. Type III inculcates Flotation Aids which are best for sailors. Type IV is Throwable Devices which include cushions and ring floats that are usually used as rescue flotation devices. Type V is Special-use Devices, which are used for specified activities.
If you are looking to buy a life jacket, one of the first three types are the ones you should be shopping for.
How to Maintain a Life Jacket
Ideally, life jackets need to be washed by hand, not by machine and instead of throwing them in the dryer, it is best to let them air dry. Machine washing and drying can have an impact on their flotation function. Also, it is best to always check your life jacket after washing it and before using it to ensure there are no cuts, tears, mildew or other such hazards that can prevent it from performing its true function. Always buy a new one if you find any such hazards in your old life jacket.
Jackets worth Your Money
Finding affordable, high-quality jackets can be tricky, but finding a reliable review can help determine whether or not a certain jacket is worth its price. However, be sure to thoroughly check the life jacket out in person or read online reviews before finalizing your sale.
The Best Cheap Options
The Stearns Adult Classic Series is the best affordable option available because it is coast guard approved and available in a unisex design. It is available in two colors (red and blue) which are vibrant enough to ensure that you will be seen in the water. Although this life jacket only comes in one size that fits everyone, it has plenty of straps for adjustment. This life jacket may not be adjustable if you are of a heavier or skinnier build because it may become too loose or tight. With such a build, it is best to find a life jacket that comes with proper size options, instead of something created for the average human.
This particular life jacket comes in handy while boating and if it does not fit perfectly, this may have a negative impact on your boating day. Plus, it is a general life jacket that is best for out of water activities.
- Approved by coast guards
- Straps and buckles allow for a customized fit
- Only available in one size that fits all, so it does not cater to the needs of the bulky or skinny.
The Autovox Adult Inflatable Life Vest is another product that comes under the best affordable category. This life jacket is available in orange and yellow which are noticeable even from a distance. This life jacket is compact enough to be stored in your pocket or purse. It comes in the shape of a horse collar, which makes it easy and convenient to carry around, not to mention the fact that it is very light. However, this life jacket has been designed without any pockets.
This particular product is ideal for boating, cruises and other such out of water activities.
- Easy to carry
- Easy to store
- Barely weighs anything
- Comes in vivid and bright colors to increase noticeability
- Not designed with pockets
Jackets that come in the Middle
If you are willing to splurge a little more on your life jacket in order to ensure that you will get the quality you deserve, there are plenty of options available.
The Lifesaving Pro Inflatable Belt Pack is a life belt that is worn at the waist. It does not restrict your movement at all. It includes a belt pack with a whistle and reflective bands. Both items can be used to get attention when rescuing is required.
This life belt is available in a variety of vivid colors that are noticeable from a distance. SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) has approved this belt, so you know it is of a higher quality. This product is also adjustable and includes zippered pockets.
This belt is ideal for those who do not want to carry extra weight with them in the water and who do not want to constrict their arm movements.
- Movement is not constricted
- Not heavy
- Approved by SOLAS
- Comes in vivid and bright colors
- Includes other items to draw attention
- Includes zippered pockets
- Cannot keep you warm
The ONeil Men’s Superlite is another midway priced life jacket that is of high quality. This jacket comes in sizes ranging from small to triple extra-large, so it will cater to your needs no matter your size. However, the sizes are smaller than the sizes you expect to see.
This life jacket is particularly useful for keeping warm during colder water-related activities. It is another coast guard approved life jacket. Also, this jacket is quite lightweight and when wearing it, it practically feels like you aren’t wearing anything as hefty as a life jacket.
- No restriction in movement
- Approved by the coast guard
- Can keep you warm
- Barely feels like you are wearing anything within a semblance of a life jacket
- The sizes are smaller than you expect, so it is best to buy a size up
The Best Expensive Life Jackets
For those of you who believe safety comes first and are willing to pay a lot for something of the best quality, premium standard life jackets are your best option. Such life jackets are long-lasting, especially when taken proper care of.
The Liquid Force 2017 Flex Life Jacket has a durable design that is perfect for someone who needs to wear it in a professional competition. This life jacket can be worn reversibly and it is so lightweight that it feels like nothing when worn.
However, it has not been coast guard approved.
- Made from stretchable, durable material
- Very lightweight
- Has not been approved by the coast guard
The O’Neil Wetsuits Wake Waterski Checkmate is another life jacket made for professional competitors. It has not been coast guard approved either. This life jacket can resist the wind and absorbs significantly less water than other life jackets. It has been designed with an overlock stitching that ensures it will not tear easily.
However, this life jacket has a tendency to cause underarm rashes because of the fact that the material is not the smoothest.
- Can resist wind,
- Does not absorb so much water,
- Provides protection against impact,
- Durable stitching.
- Has not been approved by the coast guard,
- Material is not as smooth compared to other life jackets.