Best Life Vests For Boating – Keep You Safe and Comfortable

A life jacket can be very useful when out on the water, but if it’s not comfortable, it can affect the quality of your boat trip and become useless because if it’s not comfortable, you won’t want to wear it. And if you wear a PFD that doesn’t suit your boating activities, you are taking serious risks.

Although there are only five different types of life jackets, they are many types of models and brands, and if you don’t know what to look for, it will be more challenging to find the right one.

In this article, you’ll find the 12 best life vests for boating 2023 and a buying guide to help you choose the PFD that meets all your needs!

Post updated: 28 December 2022

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1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.8 out of 5

The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is a three-type U.S. Coast Guard-approved vest designed for recreational boating and kayaking. It will work well in calm inland water when a person is conscious and float on his back. But it won’t turn an unconscious person into a face-up position.

So before you buy this life jacket, know the type of activities you’ll be doing. Although the flotation foam on this vest is thick, it’s incredibly soft and lightweight, making it super agreeable to wear. In addition, the large arm openings allow an excellent range of motion and don’t rub against the skin.

You won’t even notice you are wearing the vest when having it on so much it’s comfortable. The neoprene padded shoulders are adjustable, allowing you to tighten them to get the right fit. Another strap at the bottom goes around the waist, which helps keep the vest from riding up when kayaking.

The floatation foam comes high on the body, though, which you might not like if you prefer longer models. The mesh at the back is strategically positioned so it doesn’t interfere with the boat’s seat or kayak and keeps you cool on hot days.

The covering is made of 200 denier nylon ripstop. This fabric is tear-resistant, drys fast, and easy to clean. There is a small zippered pocket at the front with a whistle in it, making it convenient to store small things during your trip on the water.

While most users found it very useful, some said the zipper didn’t stay up and wished the pocket was more spacious. However, the mesh on the front drains water efficiently and allows excellent airflow, and the expandable zipper opens and closes smoothly.

In addition, there are reflective strips on the shoulders and back, which really come in handy if you need to be spotted in the dark.

The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is a high-rated vest that you can use not only for rec boating, kayaking, or fishing but also for swimming and floating on the water – on your back, of course!


  • Super comfortable
  • Lighweight
  • Great price.
  • Breathable and dry fast.
  • Allow an excellent range of motion.


  • Some people found the front pocket too small for their liking.
  • Several customers stated that the zipper on the pocket comes undone.
  • A few users found the vest too bulky.

Specs & Features

  • 4 Colors: Aqua, orange, purple, and yellow.
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III
  • Straps: Neoprene padded adjustable shoulder straps + Waist strap.
  • Visibility: SOLAS grade reflective material 


2. O’Neill Men’s Superlite Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

O’Neill is well known worldwide for creating high-quality life jackets. So you practically can’t go wrong with the Superlite. This is a USCG-approved life jacket type III, thus ideal for recreational boating, kayaking, tubing, swimming, or Waterskiing.

The inner foam is anatomically cut and made of closed-cell polyethylene material, making it lightweight and superbly buoyant. This life jacket will allow you to float on the water without making any effort. If you want to enjoy snorkeling without having to swim, this is the jacket for you. Users really felt secure and safe while swimming.

The outer shell of the jacket is made of durable coated polyester. This fabric is not only strong but also soft and water-resistant. It doesn’t hold water and won’t make you feel heavy when soaked.

However, know that this vest needs to fit snugly on the body for maximum safety, but if you feel compressed, it’s better to get a larger size. Although it looks a little bulky, it allows excellent mobility, plus it’s easy to put on and off, and won’t make you feel restricted in your movements when moving.

In addition, the vest features four wide webbing straps of 1.5 inches as well as quick-release buckles, allowing you to adjust the fit and secure the vest with ease. It’s also worth mentioning that the vest is constructed with overlock Stitches, meaning the seams are strong and withstand tears, making it long-lasting.

To sum it up, this is an excellent life jacket that you can count on to keep you safe and comfortable while floating on your back, of course!


  • Fits true to size
  • Excellent buoyancy
  • Great price
  • Easy to open and close
  • Allow a full range of movements.


  • Some people wished it came in more colors.
  • One person found it bulky.

Specs & Features

  • Colors: Black/smoke/white.
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III
  • Model: Long
  • Size: Small, Medium, Large

3. O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The O’Brien Women’s Impulse is a Coast Guard-approved life jacket of high quality. No wonder why this vest received such a high rating on Amazon from thousands of reviewers. The outer of the jacket is made with Biolite, a lightweight, soft and breathable material that keeps you light and comfortable. Additionally, it features large armholes and segmented panels, allowing an excellent range of motion when boating.

This is a three-type U.S. Coast Guard-approved vest. So you can use it only for recreational boating, kayaking, skiing, or sailing in calm water. The two straps across the waist make you feel secure without feeling stuffed and compressed in the jacket. The buckles of the straps and the zipper are made of sturdy, high-quality plastic, so there is no way they will rust after being in contact with water.

This is a fantastic neoprene vest that is soft and comfortable on the skin, but the downside of neoprene material is that it’s hot when dry and holds water. Other than that, it’s super light and comfy. The O’Brien Impulse Neo Life Vest comes in X small, small, medium, large, and extra-large, and if you get the right fit, you’ll love it very much!

Note that this jacket is designed to provide a snug fit. However, when you measure your chest, make sure to keep your arms down. If it slides up to your ear or chin, this means it’s too big, and you’ll have to get a smaller size.


  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Fits great
  • Stylish
  • Excellent mobility


  • Some users said it holds water when wet
  • A few customers wished the vest had a pocket for storing small things.
  • Only one reviewer said it dries slowly.

Specs & Features

  • 1 color: Purple
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III
  • Model: Long 
  • Size: X small, small, medium, large, extra-large.

4. Airhead Trend Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The Airhead Trend Life Vest is a high-quality personal flotation device that is designed especially for boaters and watersports lovers.

One of the main benefits of this life vest is its ease of use. The side buckles open and close quickly, enhancing security and safety.
The vest also has multiple adjustable straps that allow you to get a perfect fit, ensuring that it stays in place while moving around.
Users found the buckle super easy to use; they just had to tighten up the straps and were good to go!

The shell is made with a Soft UV and stain-resistant 200-denier polyester, and the inner lining is a Poly-E flotation foam. Those materials are sturdy, lighweight, and provide excellent flotation in the water.

Another benefit of the Airhead Trend Life Vest is its versatility. You can use it for a wide range of water activities. In addition to its safety and versatility, the Airhead Trend Life Vest is also very comfortable to wear. It has a soft and padded collar that prevents chafing and rubbing, as well as multiple vents that allow air to circulate and keep you cool, which is great in the summer.

Overall, the Airhead Trend Life Vest is a reliable and practical a fantastic personal flotation device to use for any type of water activity. So, if you need a lightweight and comfortable life vest that is affordable and that meets USCG requirements for your next trip on the water, look no further.


  • Lightweight
  • Allow an excellent range of motion
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to use
  • Adjustable


  • A few users said the vest runs a little short.
  • Some parents reported that the youth sizes vest would keep rising above their child’s shoulders.

Specs & Features

  • Color: Pink
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III
  • Model: Short
  • Size: Small, medium, x-small, large, x-large, youth

5. Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket

Average Rank: 4.8 out of 5

Wearing a classic life jacket can make you feel stuffy on hot, humid days and can also restrict your movement. So, if you want to remain comfortable in the water, choosing a belt pack should be the right choice.

The Onyx unisex inflatable life jacket is lightweight and comfortable. It is the perfect life jacket to keep you safe on the water. However, the pocket is pretty small, thus you can’t carry lots of items, only small stuff such as car keys or a phone.

In short, the Onyx unisex life jacket works great whether you are touring through rough waves while surfing or on flat water. There is no question that the Onyx adds a variety to people’s enjoyment when they are around water. Also, it has a convenient mesh carry bag to store when not in use.

The Onyx unisex inflatable life jacket works through oral inflation or manual activation. Most people buying this product are extremely satisfied with it because it allows total freedom of movement during stand-up paddleboarding, recreational boating, or flatwater paddling.


  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Allow a free range of motion
  • Easy to rearm and repack
  • Comes with a C02 cartridge


  • A few Canadian people were disappointed that it’s not mentioned that the belted jacket is not legal to use as the main flotation device in Canada.
  • Several users said the belt doesn’t stay velcroed on the sides when using it.

Specs & Features

  • 5 colors: Grey, Aqua, Blue, Silver, Camo
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Inflatable Belt Pack – Manual Inflation
  •  Item Weight: 7.2 Ounces
  • Size: One Size

6. Seachoice Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.6 out of 5

The Seachoice is a U.S. Coast Guard Type II Personal Flotation Device that fit people weighing 90 pounds and up, with a 30 to 52-inch chest. This life jacket is designed to turn unconscious wearers from a face downward to a face-up position.

This vest is designed for nearshore boating excursions and is a wonderful option to keep your Coast Guard legal. The cool thing about this vest is that it comes with a small transparent nylon bag that you can easily stow in the cabin, and since it’s compact, it doesn’t take much place.

It’s a pretty simple vest, nothing fancy, and although it’s inexpensive, it’s an excellent product for the price.

The Seachoice has a polyester shell filled with P.E. foam, a lightweight and durable material that won’t give you the sensation of wearing a vest.

However, be aware that this vest is relatively short; it sits just above the rib cage. So don’t be surprised when you get it. Also, some users felt a little restricted in their movements, but it didn’t really bother them for that price.

This vest is avaible in youth, adults, children, extra-large, and adult four-pack sizes. It comes in bright yellow, orange, and camouflage colors, making it easy to see you from a distance.

All in all, It’s a great life jacket to keep your boat legal on the water and wear once in a while, but if you need a vest for everyday use, this might not be the best choice.


  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with a clear carry bag
  • Bright Color to see from afar 
  • Meets USCG regulations


  • Some users found the neck too tight 
  • Several customers said the vest is too short
  • Few people felt limited in their movements.  

Specs & Features

  • Sizes: Children, extra-large, youth, adults extra large
  • 3 Colors: Bright camouflage, yellow, and orange
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Type II PFD
  • Model: Short

7. Stohlquist Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The Stohlquist is a Type III Coast guard approved PFD designed for recreational boating, paddling, and personal watercraft in calm waters. This PFD will help the wearer float when swimming, but it won’t turn an unconscious person face up if something happens. This PFD features a sculpted front, and a back foam panel, making it super comfy.

A set of four PFDs come in a nice zippered plastic bag with a mesh top to keep the vests aerated when stored and a convenient shoulder strap to carry them easily. The back panel of the jacket is a little thinner than the front to prevent interfering with the seat when paddling. Thanks to its large arms, you can move freely during your water sport.

This vest has three adjustable straps, two placed at the bottom and one at the chest, to keep it from riding up. Additionally, it features attachments to hold the straps so that they don’t hang out while boating. And the cool thing is there is a small loop stitched to the PFD to hang it somewhere when not in use.

This PFD received a high rating on Amazon; people found it easy to use, practical and comfortable. All in all, this is a great flotation device if you are a good swimmer, but if you are not, you might consider looking for another model.


  • Four PFDs in a zippered bag
  • Lightweight
  • Allow an excellent range of motion
  • Easy to adjust
  • Great price


  • Some users said the PFD rides up on small people.
  • One customer complained that the seams at the strap separated after two weeks of use.

Specs & Features

  • 1 color: Red
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III (PFD)
  • Model: Long 
  • Size: MD 34″-40″, LG 40″-46″, XL 46″-52″
  • Weight: Fits paddlers over 90lbs

8. O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The O’Neill Men’s Reactor is a USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device type III and is ideal for recreational watersports such as tubing, waterskiing, boating, and swimming. This life vest is made of Neoprene material, which is lightweight, soft, and comfortable.

As I said earlier, The only issue with Neoprene is that it holds water and tends to loosen up when wet. There is a reason why O’Neill stated the vest must fit snugly when dry. So don’t hesitate to take a smaller size if need to. Users found the buoyancy of this vest fantastic.

One even said that he could float comfortably on his back with his hands behind his head with ease. On the other hand, he found it harder to swim against the current without the fins in open water.

Thanks to its Anatomical Flex Points and segment foam core, you can move freely in the vest without feeling restricted. In addition, it has two heavy-duty adjustable straps and quick-release buckles to open and secure the vest easily. It also has a high-quality front zipper hidden under the jacket’s shell that runs smoothly.

In final words, The O’Neill Reactor is an excellent life jacket that is lighweight and provides superb buoyancy. Not to mention, it looks stylish and will definitely match your sunglasses, shoes, and outfits you wear!


  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Allow an excellent mobility
  • Stylish
  • Superb buoyancy


  • Some users said the vest fits great in the chest but is too loose around the stomach.
  • Several customers said the Neoprene holds water and dries slowly.

Specs & Features

  • 4 colors: Black, Black/lunar/dayglo, Graphite/red/black, Pacific/lunar/black.
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Life jacket
  • Model: Long 
  • Size: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large,3X-Large
  • Weight: Fits boater over 90lbs

9. ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.8 out of 5

The ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type V life jacket with Type III performance. The wearer must have this jacket on at all times to be acceptable by the USCG and use it uniquely for the activities specified on the life jacket’s label. Otherwise, they will have to carry another life jacket on board the boat.

The Absolute Outdoor is a vest that you can set up on an automat or manual. Know that if it touches the water, it will automatically inflate and keep you afloat on the surface. If you want to use the manual option, you’ll have to either pull the tab or blow the tube to keep it topped off.

There is a cap on the tube that allows you to deflate the vest if you need to. Note that you can use the co2 cartridges only once, and if you want to rearm your jacket, you’ll have to buy a new co2 kit.

Many life jackets are bulky and not breathable, making them uncomfortable and hot to wear. This is not the case with the Absolute Outdoor, as it has excellent airflow and will keep you cool even on the hottest day during the summer. As many reviewers said, it’s so lightweight that you won’t even notice you have a jacket on.

Additionally, this jacket is structured with 200 denier nylon oxford padded straps that go over the shoulders and attach to a waist belt, which you can clip and unclip easily. But that’s not all; there are cross-stretchable straps on the back, and when you sit in a kayak or a boat, it doesn’t interfere with the chair, enhancing comfort.

The Absolute Outdoor received 4.8 stars out of 5 from hundreds of reviewers, a very high rating. So most chance you’ll love it too!


  • Comfortable
  • Super Lightweight
  • Easy to store
  • Fits many chest types
  • Can bet set up on automat or manual.


  • Several users didn’t like that they could use the co2 cartridges only once.
  • A few users wished the vest came in more colors.

Specs & Features

  • 1 color: Pink
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V with Type III performance
  • Model: Semi long 
  • Size: fit a 30-52 inch chest size.
  • Weight: Fits boater over 80lbs

10.Airhead WICKED NeoLite Flex Life Jacket

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The Airhead WICKED Kwik-Dry NeoLite Flex is colorful, USCG Approved Type III life jacket that fits people over 90 pounds. This stylish vest is made with NeoLite. This material is lightweight, easy to clean, and dries fast. Plus, it’s soft, thus doesn’t rub and irritate the skin, making it agreeable to wear for long hours.

The Airhead has a sturdy zipper with large teeth, which opens and closes smoothly. Children, as well as adults, found it very easy to manipulate this vest.

Additionally, it features two adjustable straps to adjust the vest to the proper fit and quick-release buckles for maximum safety. This life jacket comes in youth and adult sizes, and although it’s available only in hot pink, it’s super popular. The armholes are spacious and allow an excellent range of motion.

It’s a fantastic vest for tubing, boating, fishing, kayaking, and you name it. The only issue with it is the sizing. Some reviewers said it runs pretty small. Also, a few users had to choose a women’s size for their kids. Just be aware of that.


  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Dries fast
  • Soft to the touch
  • Stylish


  • Some customers found the jacket too small.
  • A few people said the chart is not accurate.

Specs & Features

  • 1 color: Hot Pink
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Life jacket
  • Model: Long 
  • Size: X.S./teen, Medium, Large, X-large, Youth.
  • Weight: Fits boater over 90lbs

11. Body Glove Method Nylon Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The Body Glove is a high-quality and comfortable life jacket that is easy to put on and off. It has oversized armholes, allowing you to easily move around in it. This is a USCG Approved Type III aid flotation, which is ideal for recreational boating, swimming, tubing, and kayaking in protected water.

The outer shell is heavy-duty nylon, a tough and durable fabric that is slick, flexible, and tear-resistant. So you can be sure it will last for several seasons. The interior is a soft polyester foam that doesn’t rub against the skin, enhancing comfort.

Like the XGEAR vest, the Body Glove has no zipper but features four sturdy adjustable straps to get a secure fit and quick-release buckles to open and close the jacket with ease.

One strap is placed at the chest, and the other at the bottom. Additionally, drain holes are strategically integrated into the jacket to allow the water to escape, keeping the vest light when wet. Apart from a few complaints about the inner foam being deformed after several uses and the sizing, people loved the comfort of the Body Glove.


  • Comfortable
  • Excellent brand
  • Reasonably priced
  • Drain water 
  • Provides a fantastic range of motion


  • Some people wished the vest came in more colors.
  • Several users found the vest too small and short.
  • A few reviewers said the foam inside was deformed after several uses.

Specs & Features

  • 4 colors: Black/ Electric Blue/ silver grey, black silver, and grey.
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Life jacket
  • Model: Semi long 
  • Size: X-Small, S/M, Large-X-Large, XXL/3XL, 4XL/6XL
  • Weight: Fits boater over 90lbs

12. XGEAR Adult Water Sports Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.6 out of 5

The XGEAR is a USCG Approved Type III Personal Flotation Device that will astonish you in every category. It’s stylish, durable, and comfortable and has excellent features, such as a velcro interior pocket to store small items, a clip to attach keys, and a whistle.

In addition, the outer shell is made of high-quality nylon oxford, which is lightweight, tear-free, flexible, and easy to wash. Reviewers were impressed with the quality of this jacket when they unboxed it. The front of the jacket is built with soft PVC flotation foam, and the back with lightweight EPE foam, which absorbs shocks, providing maximum comfort and protection.

The armholes are spacious, allowing a good range of movements. This vest has no zipper. Instead, it uses four heavy-duty straps of 1.5 inches with quick-release buckles to help you clip and unclip the vest with ease.

The XGEAR is ideal for all sorts of watersports, such as swimming, boating, kayaking, tubing, and more, and is available in four different colors, giving lots of options.

It’s a fantastic life jacket at a reasonable price that will make you float like an air-inflated balloon on the water and will also give you a stylish look!


  • Great price
  • High-quality life jacket
  • Interior velcro pocket, clips, and whistle
  • Excellent buoyancy
  • Excellent mobility


  • One user wished the inner pocket was a little bigger to fit his iPhone XS.
  • A few customers said the vest runs smaller than advertised.

Specs & Features

  • 4 colors: Black/ Blue/ Red/ Lime
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III Life jacket
  • Model: Long 
  • Size: Medium, Large, 3X-Large.
  • Weight: Fits boater over 90lbs

Guide to Buying Life Vests for Boating

The ultimate life vest buying guide

There are many models and types of life jackets out there, and if you don’t know what features to look for, it can be a little challenging to find one that meets your needs. So, here is a buying guide to help you make the best choice!

5 Types of PDFs

Type I 

Type I PDFs have the Highest Amount of buoyancy and are designed for all water conditions, including remote and rough waters where rescue may take time. These will flip an unconscious person from a face-down position into a face-up position. Because of their high flotation rate, they tend to be bulky and cumbersome, but hey, they do a great job, and that’s what matters most!


  • Provide an excellent level of flotation
  • Bright colors and easy to spot from afar.
  • Turn the unconscious person to a face-up position.


  • Cumbersome and not very comfortable to wear.

Type II

Type II PFDs are designed for wearing in calm waters where rescue is fast. These are less bulky and are more affordable than type I PFDs. They are available in three different designs, hybrid, inflate, and inherently buoyant. These PDFs will turn an unconscious person into a face-up position.


  • Easier to move in around and more comfortable than type I
  • It will flip an unconscious person into a face-up position.


  • Not designed for continuous wear in rough water.
  • It will not always turn an unconscious person into a face-up position.

Type III

Type III life jackets are efficient for calm inland waters. These will keep the wearer face up after the vest inflates, but they won’t turn an unconscious person to a face-up position. Therefore aren’t suitable for non-swimmers. Both type II and type III PDFs have the same buoyancy amount and come in three different designs: hybrid, inflate, and inherently buoyant. It’s one of the most comfortable PDFs, making it ideal for wearing for long hours.


  • Comfortable wearing long hours
  • Come in different styles as well as flotation coats and vests.


  • Not designed for wearing in rough and remote water.
  • The person needs to tilt on his back, not turn in a face-down position.
  • It will not turn an unconscious person into a face-up position.

Type IV

Type IV PFDs also called Throwable Devices, are suitable for calm, protected waters with lots of boat traffic, where assistance is always available. Note that this PFD is not designed to be worn. Instead, this device is thrown to the person in the water so that they can hold on to it until rescue arrives. Type IV devices are available in horseshoe buoys, buoyant cushions, and ring buoys.


  • Great to help the person float until rescue arrives.
  • Quick and easy to use.
  • Can be used as a cushioned pillow or seat.


  • Not a good option for non-swimmers.
  • Not for continuous wear in the water.

Type V

Type V, also known as Special Use Device, is made for specific activities and can be used instead of another PDF if worn as stated by the requirements on its label. The type V PDF is equal to either type I, II, or III performance PDF (as mentioned on its label). Type V PDFs are the least bulky of all other types and have a high amount of flotation when activated in the water, making them ideal for continuous wear.

These special-use devices need to be worn at all times when underway to be accepted by the U.S. Coast Guard.


  • Not bulky, comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Good for wearing long hours
  • Excellent buoyancy when inflated.


  • Only for specific activities
  • Requires to buy cartridges to rearm the vest.
  • Must be worn when underway to be accepted by the U.S Gard Coast.

How Should a Life Vest Fit

The fit of your life jacket is super important. If it’s too small, it won’t keep you afloat, and if it’s too big, it will ride up over your head.

So here are some tips so that you can determine if it’s the right fit.

  1. Try to wear the clothes you would for boating when trying the life jacket on. It will give you a more accurate fit.
  2. The PFD should be snug but not too tight. As the U.S. Coast Gard says, the vest must be comfortably snug.
  3. When you have the jacket on, make some movement and see if the vest is comfortable enough to move in. If you feel restricted, get a bigger size or another model.
  4. A neoprene should fit snugger than a nylon life jacket because once in the water, it loosens up and become larger.
  5. If, after adjusting the straps, the life jacket rides up, get a smaller size.
  6. If you have difficulties breathing when wearing a life jacket, it’s a sign you should get a bigger size.
  7. If you can, test your PFD in a shallow swimming pool to see if it works effectively. If your vest rides up over your ching when floating on your back, this means you need a smaller size.

What Size To Get?

For adults, it’s the chest that determines the size you’ll need. For children, it’s their weight. So to get the right size, you need to measure the circumference of your chest, more precisely across the nipples, while having your arms down. Then, once you get the number, you need to use it along with the life jacket’s brand recommendation to get the right size.

What is the Best Material for Life Vest?

Life jackets’ outer shells are either made of nylon or Neoprene. Here are the pros and cons of each material to help you make the best choice for your activities. 



  • Dry quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Water-resistant


  • It doesn’t keep warm in cold water
  • Not as flexible as Neoprene



  • Softer than nylon
  • More Flexible than nylon
  • More durable than nylon
  • Greater buoyancy


  • Absorbs water, making the vest heavier when wet.
  • Dry slowlier
  • More expensive

What Color to Choose in a Life Vest.

When buying a life jacket, people tend to choose one that matches their outfits and boat color, which is understandable – after all, we all want to look good. But there is something else to take into consideration, and that is safety. A dark life jacket is difficult to see from afar. So always look for bright ones like yellow, orange, and green. And if you really want a dark color, make sure the life jacket has at least reflective stripes.

How Much Weight a Life Vest Can Hold?

Many people get confused when choosing a life jacket because they wonder how a vest with only 17 pounds of buoyancy can hold a 200 lb person. And that’s an excellent question! However, there is a simple explanation for this.

It requires only an extra 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy to keep most adults’ heads above the water’s surface. Of course, the amount of buoyancy you’ll need in the water will depend on several factors, such as your weight, chest size, percentage of body fat, clothing, bone density, and conditions of the water. But as a rule of thumb, the more physically fit you are (meaning lots of muscle and less fat, the greater buoyancy you’ll need, which makes sense since muscles are heavier than fat.

PFD Type             Minimum Buoyancy    

  • Type I                  22lbs for an adult ( For small kids 11lbs)
  • Type II                15.5lbs
  • Type III              15.5lbs (Inherently Buoyant), 22.5lbs (Inflatable)
  • Type IV               16.5lbs (For ring buoy),18lbs (For boat cushion)
  • Type V                 15.5 to 22lbs for adults

How Many Life Vests Do You Need On a Boat

The U.S. Coast Guard requires every person to wear a USCG-approved flotation personal device PFDs on any recreational boat. The amount and type of PFDs you’ll need will depend on several factors, such as the number of people on board, the type and size of the vessel, and the type of boating you’ll practice.

However, you must have one of any of the PFDs listed below for each guest on board:

  • Type I (Off Shore Life Vest)
  • Type II (Near Shore Buyant Vest)
  • Type III (Flotation Aid)
  • Type V (Special Use Device)

What Age is Required to Wear a Life Vest?

This also depends on the country’s regulations, but in the U.S., all children under 13 years old must wear an approved U.S. coast Gard life jacket at all times while underway on board a boat unless they are in an enclosed cabin or underdeck.

Is it a Must to Wear a Life Vest?

In short, YES, it doesn’t matter if you are a good swimmer or not; you must wear an approved U.S. Coast Guard life jacket that suits your activity on the water. Although the climate is pretty consistent, weather can change very fast, sometimes within just several minutes.

So never underestimate the power of nature and get well-equipped before venturing out on the water. The purpose of this article is to educate you on life jackets, not to scare you.

However, according to U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, most deaths (77%) are due to drowning, and 84% of those died because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. So whether you are boating or fishing, a buoyancy vest is a must, as it can save your life!

Life Vests and PFDs, What’s the Difference?

Although life jackets are considered PFDs, there are some differences between a life jacket and a PDF. For example, a life jacket has more padding around the neck and front areas, providing more buoyancy in the water. Therefore, a life jacket can turn over an unconscious person on his back, while a PFD will only keep the wearer floating, but it won’t flip an unconscious person face up.

What Size Does Your Boat Need to Be to Wear a Life Vest?

It depends; every country has its own rules regarding lifejacket requirements on a boat. If you aren’t familiar with the rules, you should check the regulation in your country. However, below, you’ll find the requirements for several countries.

In the U.S., If your boat isn’t a kayak or canoe and measures 16 feet or more, you must carry a throwable IV PFD in addition to the life jackets you have on board.

For example, if you have six guests on your boat, you must have six PFDs and one Special Use Device (type IV).

In Canada, a boat measuring up to 6 meters must carry an approved U.S. Coast Guard PFD for each person on board and one Special Use Device (type IV).

In Queensland, Any passenger or crew of any age must wear a life jacket on board a boat measuring less than 4.8 m in length.

In South Australians, any passenger of any age must wear one PFD type I, II, or II onboard a boat measuring less or more than 8 meters in protected water.

In Tasmania, it’s obligatory for any passenger on board a boat measuring less than six meters to wear a PFD. In addition, no matter the length of the vessel, all children under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket.

In Victoria, it’s a must for any passenger to wear a life jacket type I in enclosed waters on a boat less than 4.8m. Children under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket type I while outside of an enclosed place. If the boat navigates in inland water, every person on board must wear a type I, II, or III PFD.

In Western Australia, every recreational boat that navigates in unprotected waters must carry a Type I life jacket for any passenger over 12 months. In addition, if the length of the boat is less than 6 meters and it is under power, every person must wear a life jacket.

Tips for Checking Your PFD.

  1. Take your time and squeeze the jacket to see if there isn’t any leaking. If it leaks, you should consider throwing it away. 
  2. If there are signs of fading on your life jacket, chances are it has lost its strength. A faded life jacket can tear easily and lose its buoyancy capacities.
  3. Always store your PFD in a dry, cool, and dark place.
  4. Before you go boating, regularly test your PFD.

How to Care for a Life Jacket

If your life jacket is of good quality and you maintain it well, it can last for many years. Here are some excellent tips for keeping your PFD like new.

  1. Always rinse with clear water your life jacket in and out after each use. Never clean it in a washing machine; it will deform the foam.
  2. To remove odors and stains properly, immerse the PFD in a container filled with water and mild soap, and with a soft brush, scrub the spots. If they don’t go away, repeat the process.
  3. After cleaning your PFD device, rinse it with clear water.
  4. Let it dry and before you store it, make sure the foam and outer shell are completely dry and free of odors. P.S.: ​Never dry your life jacket on a heater or in a dryer; it will destroy it.
  5. After that, store it in an aerated, dry, and dark place.



  • Use A/M Rearming Kit 1352
  • Convertible from automatic to manual
  • Stretchable back straps
  • Type V life jacket with Type III performance approved by U.S Coast Guard
  • 200 denier nylon ripstop and 200 denier nylon oxford

Final Words

With this list of life vests and buying guide, you should be able to find the right PFD for your boating activities. What matters most is that your vest is comfortable, fits well, and looks great! Enjoy your trip on the water, and stay safe!

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23 thoughts on “Best Life Vests For Boating – Keep You Safe and Comfortable”

  1. Very informative post on life jackets, I’m in the process of restoring a boat and although we’re a way off launching it, obviously getting life jackets is something I’ve got on my list.

    The reviews are in depth and cover all aspects.

    When I do get round to purchasing life jackets for my family I’ll be re visiting your site for your recommendations.

    • Hi David,

      I am glad you enjoyed reading the post. I am sure you’ll find a life vest that meets your needs because these are the best!

      Please. let me know if you need some info, I’ll more than happy to assist!

  2. This is a very helpful article on life vests for boating. The selection that is available these days, having certainly expanded over the years, so it is great to find so many choices. I particularly like the ones that will turn an unconscious person face up, because even if you are a swimmer, if you have been knocked unconscious, you might not be able to turn over. 

    It is indeed essential to wear a life jacket if you are going out on the water. 

    • Hi Line,

      Although I am a good swimmer, I do too prefer to wear a life jacket rather than a PFD:)

      If you need any help, let me know. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for commenting on my website, and I wish you a great day!

  3. Well, I have to say, this has been an interesting article to read here. To be hobnest with you, I always just thought that a Life Jacket was a life Jacket. One of those Orange Puffy thingfs that Boat People wear at sea. But now I can see that there are at least five different types you can buy. Which would you recoend for canal boating?

    • Hi Kwidzin,

      I am glad you found this article interesting to read:). The canal is considered an inland waterway. So a type III will be ideal.

      I hope it helped.

      Let me know if you need more info. I am always happy to help.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day!

  4. Keeping safe in every physical activity (on land or water) is always essential. I believe your review on life vests is extraordinarily helpful and one should never be too careful. You are very thorough and enlightening when it comes to choosing the right life vest as comfort is a must-have as well.
    Thanks a lot for sharing and keep safe!

    • Hi Antonio,

      I am glad you’ve found these reviews helpful:) Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be more than happy to assist.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a great day!

  5. Very cool article, life jackets are one of the basic and important things when swimming. I explained in it the most important advantages of life jackets such as flotation foam and its function, it is really great, the article is very good and contains a lot of useful information.

    thank you for these information.

    • Hi Ahmed,

      Yes, life jackets are essential equipment on board when out on the water. I am glad you found the article useful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll be more than happy to help.

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

  6. Wow I found your site to be very informative and educational. I had no idea of all of the various types of vests and how they preformed. The site is easy to read and allows the viewer the best options for there size and needs. I particularly liked the fact that you provided pros and cons on all of the products. I live by a fairly large lake and am about to purchase a fishing kayak. Your in depth reviews have allowed me to make the best choice of a life preserver that will best fit for the enjoyment to come .  

    • Hi Ray,

      I am glad you’ve my site informative. Thank you. I am sure you’ll find a life vest that meets your needs:)

      Please, let me know if you have questions, I’ll be more than happy to help

      Thank you for the comment, and I wish you a lovely day.

  7. I am always careful about these things. I could not go on a trip on a boat without a life vest. But sometimes they can be so annoying. Looking at the options you have given us here, I think that my best choice is the O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo. I am impressed how stylish it is. Thank you.

    • Hi Ann,

      I totally agree with you. Life jackets can be bulky and annoying. That’s the reason why so many people don’t wear them. The O’ Brien is stylish and works like a charm in protected water. That’s the reason so many boaters love this jacket:). I am practically sure you’ll love it too.

      If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help.

      Thank you for the comment and I wish you a lovely day.  

  8. Man, you’ve given us a LOT of options and every one of them looks good.  For my money, as an avid, Kayaker, maximum movement is really important to me.  As a result, the Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket really caught my eye.  Cramming a PFD with stuff has never been important to me, but being able to store small stuff like keys can provide great peace of mind and enjoyment to the day.  All in all, I would purchase any of these.  Great upgrades and alternatives to what you normally see in your local sporting goods stores.  Thanks.

    • Hi Warren,

      I agree that being able to move freely when boating is important, and the Onyx Unisex life vest will undoubtedly allow you to have a great range of movement.

      If you have any questions, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help.

      Thank you for the comment and I wish you a fantastic day.

  9. This is an interesting and informative article. Life vests are essential items when it comes to safety. They save lives and have almost the same function as car seatbelts. Prevents drowning by keeping the body afloat in the water. Every boat or ship must have a good number of life vests. This article will be helpful for anyone looking to but the best life vest 

    • Hi there,
      As you said, life vests are a must onboard any boat, and if you go out on the water, you better choose a life jacket that is comfortable and practical :). Don’t ever go without it!
      If you have any questions, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to help. Thank you for your comment and I wish you a wonderful day

  10. My dad and I go fishing on the boat all the time with random life vests, makes me wonder if its we’re just brave or ignorant. I’ve never actually given much thought about it most probably because no one has ever told me that they can be suited to different activities but after reading this post I’ve realized I’ve been taking quite a risk. From what I’ve been reading in your post the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic life vest would really be ideal for my activities but at the same time I took a liking to the O’Neill Men’s Reactor life vest. You never mentioned the O’Neill Men’s Reactor life vest to be ideal for fishing, I mean it does allow for excellent mobility so wouldn’t it be as ideal as the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic life vest for fishing as well?

    • Hi there. 

      All the life vests listed in this article can be used for fishing. The one that you need will depend on where you will be fishing.  Protected waters? Open water?
      If you go fishing in protected waters, The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic will suit. However, if you go fishing in open waters, then you need a Type I life jacket, as I mentioned in the buying guide:)

      I hope it helped. And if you have any questions, please let me know am always happy to assist
      Thank you for your comments and I wish you a fantastic day.

  11. hello guys, I need some advice, my son is 12 year old and he is 5’2″ tall and 94 pounds, he is quite skinny, is there a specific life jacket model that would suit him good?…thanks in advance…Eric

    • Hi Eric,

      There are several life jacket models that could suit your 12-year-old kid.
      One option is the O’Neill Youth Superlite Life Vest. It is the best overall life jacket for big kids and can fit youths weighing 75 to 125 pounds.
      Another option is the Stohlquist Youth Fit life jacket. It comes in two sizes for kids from 50 to 90 pounds and 75 to 125 pounds, which could be suitable for a 12-year-old who is 94 pounds.
      I hoe it helps. Let me know if you have more questions. I’ll be more than happy to assist.
      Thank you for the comment and I wish you a great day.

  12. For me it is an inflatable option all the way. They work well without getting in the way.

    Just don’t forget you are wearing an auto inflate model and jump off the boat to cool down or you will be up for a new cannister. Haha.



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