It does not take much for an emergency on the water to happen. This is where the best life jackets for your use can come in handy. The last thing you want to deal with is yourself or other people on your boat struggling to keep above the water in the event everyone has to get off or they are forced off due to something happening on the boat.
The good news is that you can use a life jacket to keep yourself and others on your boat protected and safe. A life jacket will work by providing a wearer with an appropriate floatation device. This makes it easier for a person to stay above the water and to get to a proper dry surface in the event of an emergency.
All the life jackets you can find on the market include options that are easy to wear and can provide you with a great fit in any situation. Each jacket can also work with a series of buckles to help you get it on and off or to adjust its fit depending on the model. But you will have to watch for the sizing on your jacket so you can see how well it works.
Remember when finding a life jacket that you are getting one with the goal of ensuring that all people in your boating party are safe and protected. You must see that a life jacket is made with care and control. In case of an emergency in water, it is important to be familiar with the marine distress signals and how to use them.
Comparison For The Best Life Jackets And PFD
|Jacket Model||Sizes available||Material Used||Number of Buckles||View On Amazon|
|Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest||30-52 inches for adults, 52-62 inches for oversized needs||Nylon||3||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket||Three sizes with one plus-size option||Nylon and neoprene mix||1||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|O’Neill Wetsuits Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest||Available from small to 6X||Polyester||4||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest||For adults at least 90 pounds in weight||Nylon||4||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Hardcore Water Sports Life Jackets For Family||Youth from 50-90 pounds, adult sizes from S to XL||Polyester||3||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest||Three sizes from 28 to 56 inches||Nylon||2 (on the shoulders)||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Stohlquist Women’s Escape PFD Life Jackets||Three sizes||Nylon||3 (two on the shoulder and one on the bottom)||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Child Lift Jacket||Children from 30 to 50 pounds in weight||Polyester||1 (featured on the back part)||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Body Glove Paddle Pals Learn to Swim Life Jacket||Children from 30 to 50 pounds in weight||Polyester||1 (found on the back)||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
|Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24||Works for most people||Neoprene||1||Check Today’s Price On Amazon|
Features Of The Top Life Jackets For Women, Children & Men
A quick note: The products in this listing include a series of different jackets for men, women, and children. Some of these products are suitable for all members of the family, but it helps to look at what someone might be comfortable with when getting a good jacket ready. Let go through our top ten life jackets:
- Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest
- Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket
- O’Neill Wetsuits Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest
- Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest
- Hardcore Water Sports Life Jackets For Family
- Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
- Stohlquist Women’s Escape PFD Life Jackets
- Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Child Lift Jacket
- Body Glove Paddle Pals Learn to Swim Life Jacket
- Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest
The first choice to see when finding the best life jackets on the market is this one from Stearns. This comes in both a standard and oversized model for adult use. It is made with a nylon body and has a three-buckle layout for basic fitting needs. The strong nylon offers a convenient layout and is also see to see from a distance. You can get this jacket with a blue or red color.
The PE foam on the inside also provides you with enough flotation while in the water. The belts are also easy to adjust although you would have to get each of them adjusted in the same way all around for the vest to feel a little more comfortable with a better total fit.
- Simple design
- Easy to put on and take off
- Webbing materials are sturdy and do not wear out quickly
- Each buckle should be applied evenly for the best results
- Might run small for some people
Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket
This next jacket is a Type III life jacket from Stohlquist that comes in three sizes for women. It features a five-inch high and 19-inch wide body while a mix of nylon and neoprene is featured all around the body. The waistband comes with a neoprene surface that conforms to your body and is easy to adjust. The nylon on the rest of the jacket creates a smooth surface that does well around your entire body.
The PE foam is light in weight while the mesh lining keeps you cool while wearing it. The liner ensures that water will not seep through while you are wearing the jacket.
A high back is also included on this life jacket. This provides you with a good fit while the neckline stays intact and easy to handle.
- Offers foam cups for added physical support
- Sides offer a slight opening to allow for enough ventilation
- Does not shift around while in use
- The waistband on the bottom can feel tough on some people
O’Neill Wetsuits Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest
O’Neill made this intriguing life vest with standards set up by the United States Coast Guard. This is made with many sports and swimming needs in mind and works with an extensive variety of sizes.
A polyester shell is used on the outside to create a strong body that does not wear out fast. This is paired with PE foam to produce a softer body that is easy for anyone to swim in. The relaxed fit on this life vest ensures that the user will not struggle with trying to wear it.
The four buckles on this life vest also ensure a good fit. This works well for men of all sizes, but it helps to get a clear idea of the size one might need when getting such a vest ready.
- The strong body does not wear out easily
- Comes in a vast variety of sizes for all men
- Available in various colors
- The design does not produce lots of bulk
- Buckles are not easily adjustable
- Can cause anyone to feel rather war quickly
Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest
Available in four colors, this Stearns vest uses a nylon shell with a PE foam insert. An open-sided design is featured to allow for a better fit. The four buckles on this one can also be adjusted to create a comfortable fit while still allowing for enough air to move around your body.
The one-inch straps on the jacket provide you with a sturdy setup where the straps will not come apart quickly. The arm openings are wide enough to let air move through while providing you with a better range of motion as you use it while fishing or rowing among other activities. This offers a comfortable fit for adults and is not designed with kids in mind.
- Offers an extensive variety of fits for adults 90 pounds or heavier
- Each buckle can be adjusted separately from one another
- Offers enough visibility while in the water
- Might be a challenge for plus size users to handle
- Is not appropriate for snorkeling
Hardcore Water Sports Life Jackets For Family
Hardcore Water Sports makes various Type III jackets that are approved of by the United States Coast Guard. These include a size for children from 50 to 90 pounds in weight plus universal fits for regular and plus-size individuals.
The polyester body is made with a one-inch webbing material while an open-sided layout offers a comfortable fit while allowing enough air to move around your body.
The various sizes work with the same types of buckles and materials all around. This allows everyone to have matching materials. These are made with different universal fits in mind, so make sure you watch for how well individual features are organized.
- Easy to adjust each model
- Offers a strong fit on one’s body
- Might fit somewhat small for some people even when the proper recommended size is worn
- Graphic design might be a little too flashy for some people
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
The bubble foam on this vest adds a good layout. The bubble foam can be found on the inside back part to add an extra amount of padding. This can work well for keeping you comfortable and is useful for when you are sitting down while on a boat. It could be a little more comfortable and padded than the actual seats you have on your boat.
This comes with zippered pockets with an extra mesh drainage space. The pockets add a good look and allow you to get a bit of extra storage. A drying loop is also included. You can even use the whistle attached to the vest for getting people to heat you in the event of an emergency.
- Available in three flexible sizes
- Side belt can be fully adjustable
- Pockets are waterproof and fully lined
- Shoulder buckles are tough to adjust evenly
- Not for people under 90 pounds in weight
Stohlquist Women’s Escape PFD Life Jackets
This next option among the best life jackets is made with women in mind. This offers a low-profile design with a soft body. It offers adjustable straps around the shoulders and on the bottom part. This helps to fit around a woman’s natural curve. The front-pull adjuster features let you adjust the jacket to keep it from riding up on your body.
The padding around the entire jacket adds a nice touch. There is also a bit of reflective trim around the body of the jacket to make it easier for you to be spotted in the water in the event of an emergency. The convenient design of the jacket provides you with a good look that is easy to manage.
- Simply fit works well for a woman’s body
- Easy to handle the straps and buckles on this model
- Needs to be secured carefully to ensure that the jacket can fit well enough
- Front pockets are rather small
Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Child Life Jacket
This next choice is interesting in that it is a Type V jacket for children. This means that it is designed with specialized use in mind. It does have some parts that make it so it can work in a standard Type III format like in most cases. Specifically, the jacket comes with a pair of arm cuffs and a chest piece to create enough cover.
The polyester fabric on this life jacket adds a comfortable texture. The buckle on the back part also makes it easier for the jacket to fit onto a child’s body.
The important point about this jacket is that it is not necessarily to be worn with life-saving help in mind. Rather, it is designed as a life jacket that helps children learn how to swim. By keeping the child evenly afloat in the water, it becomes easier for the child to know how the water feels all around one’s body. This also helps with training a child to understand how to use the right motions while in the water.
- Soft in texture
- Can handle a child’s rough play
- Available in various fine colors and patterns for boys and girls
- Does not work well for emergency needs; a separate larger jacket is required in such cases
Body Glove Paddle Pals Learn to Swim Life Jacket
This choice is also made as a jacket for children who are learning to swim. It has a slightly larger body that makes it Type III suitable for recreational boating needs. This means that the jacket can be used to stay afloat.
This jacket features one of many fun designs that kids will love. You can order it with a ladybug, dinosaur, turtle or surfer design among many others. The layout is the same for each in that it comes with a chest piece with a strap on the back and two arm pads that link up to it. This fits most small children and is made with a comfortable polyester material that will not bother one’s skin while it is being used.
The shoulder harness offers a good fit that keeps the child from being able to remove the jacket without a parent’s outside support. This ensures that a child will keep wearing this while learning how to swim and enjoy the water.
- The fun layout is something kids will love wearing
- Simple buckle setup is easy to adjust
- Does not slip off easily
- Only for children from 30 to 50 pounds
Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24
The last of the choices to find is an inflatable model. This Absolute Outdoor jacket will inflate itself with a T-cord attached to it. It can also inflate itself automatically when it gets into the water.
The neoprene body on this jacket adds a comfortable surface. You can especially notice this around your neck as it does not chafe or irritate your skin there.
- Keeps you cool without adding lots of weight
- Fits onto most people
- You must check on how well the air can fill up on this before using it
Every concept that comes with the process of buying a life jacket should be explored carefully. This is to give you an idea of how well a jacket can work for your needs. You must look at the type of person who will use the life jacket, but several additional points must be reviewed as you will notice in this guide.
See The Arm Cuts
The arm cuts on your life jacket should be wide enough to allow anyone’s arms to fit through. This should also offer enough room to where your arms can move well when paddling a boat or when you are trying to cast a fishing line.
Loops And Other Attachments Help
Many of the best life jackets come with a series of useful hooks, latches, and loops among other items. These are spots that allow you to attach things onto your jacket. You can use this to attach fishing accessories or other boating items onto your jacket.
Check On The Filling
The filling material inside the jacket should be checked accordingly. Polyethylene foam or PE foam is very popular for use in many jackets. This foam is known for being light in weight while offering a solid body that stays afloat. The foam also offers a closed cell body that will not absorb water. This should be perfect for keeping your jacket comfortable, but you should watch for how well the foam is covered by the fabric on your jacket, which leads into the next point of this buying guide to see.
What About Inflatable Models?
You can find some inflatable life jackets on the market today as well. These life jackets are a little different from others in that they require you to pull on a lever or to use an air chamber to fill the inside of the jacket. This establishes a lighter feeling all around. You would have to watch for how the air would fill into such a jacket so it can actually keep you afloat though.
An inflatable model is best for those who are more experienced in the water. It is for swimmers who can handle the water but will need extra assistance with staying afloat. The USCG does not approve an inflatable life jacket for the people under 16 years old and the for the non-swimmers.
Some hybrid life jackets can be found in the market. These jackets feature a mix of a foam insert and an inflation chamber. These two points combine with one another to create a useful design, but it is better suited for those who are relatively familiar with being in the water. You would still have to look carefully at how one of these jackets are organized so you have something that is easy to wear.
Nylon, PVC, Polyester or Neoprene?
When you find the best life jackets on the market, you will come across one of four kinds of materials for the most part. The best life jackets are typically made with one of these materials in mind:
Nylon is used more often than most other fabrics. Nylon is popular among manufacturers for being less expensive, but it is also lighter in weight. This makes it easier for the wearer to stay comfortable while wearing the jacket. The user can wear this while paddling a boat or casting a reel.
PVC is a polyvinyl chloride material that is known to resist many surfaces. PVC can resist oils and chemicals among other items. It is also light in weight and is not all that hard to wear. It is especially lighter than vinyl, a material that this polymer is loosely based off of.
Polyester has been a staple fabric for years in many industries thanks to how it can be made with a thick and dense weave. It will not tear apart easily. It is also flexible enough to handle anyone’s movements. Polyester also fits in perfectly with a foam material and can be shaped or sized to conform to the foam’s shape and pattern.
Neoprene is more commonplace among water sports vests but it is also an exceptionally useful material for boating needs. It offers a little more buoyancy and can provide a better fit without lots of gaps between the body and the jacket. But this is also a little more expensive than many other models.
Neoprene is made with a series of synthetic rubber materials. This offers a stable body all the way through while also keeping its body intact under any weather condition.
Which of the Three Types Is Right?
When looking for life jackets, you will come across three different types:
This is an off-shore model that provides the best flotation or buoyancy. It can work well in any body of water. It is also vital for people who might become unconscious during an emergency as a Type I vest is made to get such a person to turn face-up while in the water.
The Type II life jacket is made for calm and inland water conditions where it might be easy for someone to be rescued quickly. It should also turn people face-up in the water, but its buoyancy is not as strong as what a Type I jacket has.
This basic flotation option is made for those who are conscious and are located in inland bodies of water or near spots where a quick rescue is possible. The Type III vest is best for people who need to wear vests for an extended period of time. However, anyone who is in the water while wearing a Type III vest might have to tilt one’s head backward to make it easier for that person to stay upright while in the water.
The Type III vest is the most common type of vest you will find on the market. This comes as it is easier for companies to make vests in this style than it is for getting other items ready.
It is true that there are also Type IV and V flotation devices to use. But those are not designed to be worn by people. A Type IV item is a throwable device for people who are conscious and can hold onto something while waiting to be rescued. It is also made with calm conditions in mind. A Type V device is much smaller in size and is made to be worn during very specific situations. But while these can both work, it does help for a person to wear one of the other three types of life jackets when waiting to be rescued.
Review the Ventilation
The ventilation around the jacket should be organized to where air can move through the inside of the jacket, thus keeping you from feeling overheated while wearing it. The ventilation should be found around the sides or ends of the jacket. This should come with enough air pockets to keep you relaxed while ensuring water does not sneak its way into the spot. This is important as the PE foam that many of these jackets used might add enough heat onto your body to where you might feel worn out rather quickly.
Check Out USCG Approval
Many of the life jackets you will come across are marketed as being approved for use by the United States Coast Guard. These USCG jackets are ones that offer extra protection in the water and are flexible for many uses. USCG-approved jackets are made with suitable flotation materials and fabrics that will not wear out fast. They should also be easy to wear and adjust to create a better total fit. Jackets that are not USCG-approved may still meet many of the standards the organization utilizes, but it is best to stick with something that the USCG actually endorses just to be safe.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you determine if a life jacket is of the right size?
The best life jackets are always going to fit one’s body well enough. When the jacket is of the best possible size, it becomes easier for the user to wear the jacket thanks to how it allows that person to stay afloat in the water.
The life jacket you order should be sized based on your chest size. For children, it should be based on the child’s weight.
When checking on the fit of a jacket, you would have to tighten each strap from the waist up to the shoulder. You can then pull the vest up from the shoulder straps. The vest may be too big if the vest can pull up rather easily.
You can also test a few paddles with an oar or even test your fishing rod a few times to see if you can keep a full range of motion in your arms while wearing the jacket.
Can a woman wear a universal life jacket or does she need to stick with a women’s jacket?
It is best for a woman to wear a life jacket designed with her frame in mind, what with her body needing support around many areas. But a universal life jacket can still be worn by women provided that it is flexible enough to fit along with her body and to keep you upright while in the water. Check carefully on how well such a jacket can be made when seeing how it might work for you.
How can you wash off one of these jackets?
You should be able to use simple soap and water to get your jacket washed off after a while. This should be enough to take care of most fabric materials, but you should review the specific care instructions on your model to get an idea of what to expect.
How long should it take for you to get a life jacket on?
A life jacket should be easy to fit onto your body without having you put in lots of effort to try and get it ready. You should only spend about half a minute with getting the life jacket on. Before wearing the life jacket in an emergency you should know how to do that. That will save you from being nervous.
It is vital for all people in your boating party to stay protected while out on the water. Make sure when getting the proper life jackets that you know what you are looking for and that you can find a choice that fits well on anyone’s body. This is the number one of all tips for boating safety. Make sure when finding the best life jackets around that you have jackets that can fit well onto anyone’s body without being too tight. For your safety in the waters, after wearing the jacket don’t forget to take a quality marine VHF radio with you.
Look at how well the materials inside a jacket are organized as well. The materials should be light in weight and strong enough to handle all of your flotation needs. This is to give you the protection you deserve.