Best Life Vests For Boating – Keep You Safe and Comfortable

Apart from the fact that a life jacket can save your life, it can affect the quality of your boat trip. If your life jacket isn’t comfortable, it will be useless. And if you wear a PFD that doesn’t suit your boating activities, it will be dangerous! A simple as that!


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 best life vests for boating and a buying guide to help you choose the PFD that meets all your needs!

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Best Rated

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, say most reviewers.

Some didn’t even notice they 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, and not everyone will like this. The mesh at the back is strategically positioned so it doesn’t interfere with the boat’s seat or kayak and keep you cool on hot days.

The covering is made of 200 denier nylon ripstop. This fabric is tear-resistant, dry fast, and easy to clean. There is a small zippered pocket at the front with a whistle in it as a bonus. It’s a great feature if you want 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 drain water efficiently and allow excellent airflow, and the expandable zipper open 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 from afar.

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!

Pros

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

Cons

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

2.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 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 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 to get the right fit, you’ll have to follow the sizing guide.

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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.

Most Popular

3.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 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 it doesn’t take much place as it’s compact.

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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, orange
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Type II PFD
  • Model: Short

4.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 it 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, 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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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

5.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.

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 without feeling insecure. However, 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 a fantastic life jacket that is lighweight and provides excellent buoyancy. Not to mention, it looks stylish and will definitely match your sunglasses, shoes, and outfits you wear!

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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

TOP PICK

6.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 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 thousands of reviewers, a very high rating. So there must be good reasons for this.

Pros

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

Cons

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


7.Airhead WICKED NeoLite Flex Life Jacket

Average Rank: 4.7 out of 5

The Airhead WICKED Kwik-Dry NeoLite Flex is a 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 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, children love it. 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. So be aware of that.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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

8.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, and thanks to its oversized armholes, you can easily move around in it. This is a USCG Approved Type III aid flotation, making it 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 enhances 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 others 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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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 deformed after several uses.

Specs & Features

  • 4 colors: Black/ Electric Blue/ silver grey, black silver, 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

9.XGEAR Adult Water Sport 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, comfortable, and has features other life jackets don’t, 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 a soft PVC flotation foam and the back with a 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 surprisingly reasonable price that will make you float like an air-inflated balloon on the water and will also give you a stylish look!

Pros

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

Cons

  • One user wished the inner pocket was a little bigger to fit his iPhone X.S.
  • 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

10.O’Neill Men’s Superlite Life Vest

Average Rank: 4.6 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.

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 it on and off. Reviewers didn’t feel restricted in their 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 this vest 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!

Pros

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

Cons

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

Specs & Features

  • 1 color: Black/smoke/white.
  • Flotation: U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type III
  • Model: long 
  • Size: small, medium, large.

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 up 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!

Pros

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

Cons

  • Cumbersome, 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 the 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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Not designed for continuous wear in rough water.
  • 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 long hours.

Pros

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

Cons

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

Type IV

Type IV PFDs also called Throwable Device, are suitable for calm protected waters with lots of boat traffics, 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. The type IV devices are available in horseshoe buoys, buoyant cushions, and ring buoys.

Pros

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

Cons

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

Type V

The 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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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 needs to 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 jacket’s 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. 

Nylon

Pros

  • Dry quickly
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Water-resistant

Cons

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

Neoprene

Pros

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

Cons

  • 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 the bright ones like yellow, orange, 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 dumb, the more physically fit you are (meaning lots of muscle and less fat, the greater buoyancy you’ll need, and vise versa.


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 devices 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 Shoe 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 onboard a boat unless they are in an enclosed cabin or under deck.

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 you venture at sea, lakes, or rivers. 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 on your deck, a buoyancy vest can save your life!


Life Vests and PFDs, What’s the Difference?

Although life jackets are considered PFDs, there are differences between both models. 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 float, but it won’t flip an unconscious person face-up.


What Size Your Boat Needs 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 onboard 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 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 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, emerge 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 having 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.

TOP PICK

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx Auto/Manual

  • Use A/M Rearming Kit 1352
  • Conversible 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’re 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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ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx Auto/Manual

9.8/10

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Life Vest

9.8/10

Seachoice Life Vest

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

  1. 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. 

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply

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