The 7 Best Life Jackets For The Whole Family

April 7, 2022
by Jack Lyons
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Whenever you are out on the water, safety is key. Whether you are water skiing, sailing, kayaking, jet-skiing, or fishing, you need a life jacket that will keep you safe and comfortable.

Luckily, there is a wide range of life vests and personal flotation devices available these days with fantastic design features and seriously effective functionality. 

We have put together a list of the seven best life jackets available online, catering for all water activities and all kinds of body types. So read on to find out how you can keep your head above water!

Mustang Inflatable Survival Corp Inflation Cell

Mustang Survival Corp Inflatable PFD with HIT (Auto Hydrostatic) and Bright Fluorescent Inflation Cell, Gray/Black

If you are after an unobtrusive life jacket that allows you to carry on with your water activities unimpeded, then this Mustang Survival Corp Inflation Cell is ideal. It is so lightweight and slender that you will barely realize you are wearing it. 

The range of motion that this flotation device affords you is second to none, and yet the extra buoyancy that it provides in the water is amazing.

In fact, this inflatable jacket provides twice as many pounds of buoyancy as a foam PFD would. That's impressive.

The minimal design makes this inflation cell a great choice for hot weather, as it does not leave you feeling sweaty and claustrophobic as you wear it.

With just the single waist strap and secure clip, you can cast off, row, hoist sails, and do whatever it is that you want to do without feeling bulky and bothered. Brilliant!

Pros:

  • Intelligent Hydrostatic Technology for auto inflation underwater pressure
  • Fluorescent coloring for fantastic visibility in water
  • Features reflective tape, strobe light and safety whistle
  • Sturdy zip closure stays shut even under extreme pressure and conditions
  • 35 pounds of buoyancy (double that of foam PFDs)

Cons:

  • Expensive price point

Also found at mustangsurvival.com

Sale
Mustang Survival Corp Inflatable PFD with HIT (Auto Hydrostatic) and Bright Fluorescent Inflation Cell, Gray/Black
  • 1F auto Hydrostatic Inflator Technology will automatically inflate under water pressure, not inadvertently in rain, spray or humidity
  • Bright fluorescent yellow-green inflation cell for improved in-water visibility
  • SOLAS reflective tape, safety whistle and strobe light attachment on inflation cell
  • SecureZipTM closure stays shut in high winds and still opens easily on inflation
  • Provides 35 lb. of buoyancy when inflated - more than twice standard foam PFDs

Stohlquist PFD Life Jacket

Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD Life Vest , Green & Black [4-Pack]

This lightweight PFD life jacket from Stohlquist is U.S. Coast Guard approved, and it has some incredible design features which make it stand out from the competition.

The foam paneling has been cleverly curved and cut to allow you the maximum range of motion with minimal restriction.

What is more, the back panel is thinner than many other life jackets so that you can sit comfortably on your craft without feeling stiff.

This jacket has handy front fastenings for ease of wear, and the high buckles help to hold the jacket in place and stop it from riding up over the course of the day.

It is an extremely lightweight and well-designed flotation aid, and thanks to the box-stitched webbing and robust buckles, it's durable too!

However, this jacket is best suited to strong swimmers, as it's not quite as buoyant as other life vests.

Pros:

  • Life Guard approved 
  • Non-restrictive, high mobility vest design
  • Sculpted Foam paneling for comfort
  • Reduced ride-up thanks to high buckle placement
  • Extremely lightweight (only 0.7 pounds)

Cons:

  • Not suitable for weak swimmers

Also available at olympicoutdoorcenter.com

Sale
Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD Life Vest , Green & Black [4-Pack]
  • FEEL THE MOVEMENT - High mobility, non-restrictive cut. Higher placement of upper buckle helps reduce ride up. Thinner back panel to reduce seat back interference
  • INNOVATION MEANS BETTER - All foam corners are rounded and sculpted compared to many 3-buckle PFDs. Box-stitched webbing is also more durable than bar-tac stitching used by other Economy PFDs
  • COAST GUARD APPROVED - Safety is our number one concern for open water explorers. Safe is exactly as you'll feel as this PFD is approved for paddlers over 90 pounds to enjoy paddling, general boating, and use on personal watercraft
  • ALL THE FLOAT - Four Adult Universal PFD life vests in a convenient zippered storage bag. Lightweight at only 0.7 pounds and available in an easily adjustable universal unisex size fitting
  • BORN IN THE WATER - Stohlquist products are the result of a lifetime of hands-on paddling and entrepreneurial spirit of founder Jim Stohlquist. Each model we offer follows the lineage of 40+ years of product innovation and refinement to provide our customers with the best WaterWare available today

Airhead Keyhole Life Jacket

Airhead Adult Universal Type 2 USCG Approved Life Jacket, Orange

This type II keyhole life vest by Airhead is a great option for those who do not want to spend a large amount of money on a very fancy life jacket. The over-the-head keyhole design is basic but effective, and it is certainly very quick and easy to take on and off. 

What's more, the majority of the padding is at the front of the vest, meaning that it tips the wearer upwards in the water, allowing their head to stay dry. Even an unconscious person will stay face up in this vest.

It also has an adjustable waist strap, and its universal size means that it is suitable for any adult. The orange color choice means that those in the water are instantly visible, and the PFD is U.S. Coast Guard approved. This jacket is an excellent, no-frills option for boating enthusiasts.

Pros:

  • Affordable price point
  • Designed to turn wearer upwards and keep head above water
  • Easy over-the-head on / off accessibility
  • Universal adult fit - one size fits all
  • Adjustable waist strap

Cons:

  • Not as durable as more premium life vests

 Also available at airhead.com

Airhead Adult Universal Type 2 USCG Approved Life Jacket, Orange
  • Basic flotation for the boating enthusiast
  • Designed specifically to provide minimum buoyancy and turn an unconscious person face up in calm water situations
  • Waist belt, Absolute Outdoor Kent Adult Over 90-Pound Compliance PFD Type II Life Jacket (Orange)
  • Less bulky and affordable. USCG approved
  • The adult universal keyhole fits adults 90 lbs. and over (30"-52" chest)

XGEAR Adult USCG Life Jacket Water Sports Life Vest

XGEAR Adult USCG Life Jacket Vest Water Sports (Black, L)

This water sports life vest by XGear is seriously well kitted out with all the fabulous features you could wish for in an activewear life jacket.

It is a great choice if you are out canoeing, sailing, rowing, fishing, or kayaking because it is lightweight and yet is also very buoyant.

The four front clips are all quick-release, so you can easily take the jacket off when you need to.

Their combined strength keeps this jacket firmly in place no matter how active you are being and means that there is no danger of this jacket coming off if you are thrown into rough waters.

The jacket comes with a safety whistle that you can blow to get someone's attention or to signal that you are in need of assistance. It also has a handy interior pocket where you can store your valuables.

Although not completely watertight, the pocket is fastened with Velcro, which goes a long way to keep your belongings dry. 

Pros:

  • Internal storage pocket with Velcro for your valuables
  • Safety whistle in case of emergencies
  • 4 front buckles for secure fit and firm hold
  • U.S. Coast Guard approved design
  • Nylon Oxford Fabric is lightweight and soft for comfort and mobility

Cons:

  • Pocket not big enough for large smartphone models

Also available at onlineoutdooroutlet.com

XGEAR Adult USCG Life Jacket Vest Water Sports (Black, L)
  • [SAFETY FIRST] Coast Guard Approval Number: 160. 064 / 4429 / 0
  • [PERFECT] for swimming, surfing, kayaking, water skiing, tubing and many more! Black/ Blue/ Red/ Lime, four colors available.
  • [WELL MADE] Made from durable nylon oxford fabric outer shell, soft PVC foam flotation (front) and lightweight EPE foam (back) for maximum comfort. 4 heavy duty 1.5-in wide belts with extremely solid quick release buckles, quite easy to clip and un-clip.
  • [WHISTLE & POCKET] Comes with a free survival whistle which is a good helper for water sports, whether you contact your teammates or ask for help. Unique designed inside pocket with velcro, good protection for your valuables.
  • [SIZE GUIDE] Available in many sizes for good fit. S (33"-37" Chest Width) | M (37"-41" Chest Width) | L (41"-45" Chest Width) | XL (45"-49" Chest Width) | XXL (49"-53" Chest Width) | XXXL (53"-57" Chest Width) | XXXXL (57"-61" Chest Width)

Zeraty Adult Swim Jacket

Zeraty Adult Life Jacket Men Womens Swim Vest Life Vest Buoyancy Aid Jacket for Swimming, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Paddle Boating

This high-density life jacket suits a wide variety of body types and is a really comfortable option if you know that you will be out on the water for quite some time.

The swim jacket has multiple adjustable features, like elasticated stretch panels in the sides and height-adjustable shoulder straps.

We love the zippered pockets on the front of this float coat because you can keep small items like sunscreen, lip salve, car keys and phones close by and easily accessible at all times.

This jacket is made from high-density cotton with excellent buoyancy properties, so it is great for keeping you high in the water. Wear it sailing, surfing, or sunbathing!

Pros:

  • Extra large armholes for greater range of motion
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and jacket width for all body types
  • Zippered pockets for convenient storage
  • High density cotton creates great buoyancy in the water

Cons:

  • Jacket sometimes rides up as it is worn

Also available at poeticsports.com

Zeraty Adult Life Jacket Men Womens Swim Vest Life Vest Buoyancy Aid Jacket for Swimming, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Paddle Boating
  • Material: Nylon + EPE high density buoyancy cotton.
  • Straddle adjustable belt easy to adjust looseness and fit the body.
  • Safeguard for water recreation, get more confidence when swimming, kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, swimming training,water park,beach holiday or sea surfing,etc. holiday or sea surfing,etc.
  • Large arm holes, allow maximum movement; Easy to store and pretty light for taking abroad. Gives people confidence to learn swim and play in the water.
  • It is never easy to choose the right size, so our last photos is created to help you make the right decision on which size is right. Please do some measure before ordering to help you get a nice snug fit.

Fishing Kayak Life Jacket

JKSPORTS Fly Fishing Vest, Fishing Safety Life Jacket for Swimming Sailing Boating Kayak Floating Multifunction Breathable Backpack for Men and Women Vest/Kayak (Deep Gray, with Foam)

The jacket is equipped with multiple, generously sized storage pockets that have zipper fastenings to keep your gear secure. There is even a handy pocket on the back of the jacket, which makes great use of that area.

The life jacket has lots of great accessory loops and attachments so you can clip your flies, reels, and rods to yourself and move about your vessel freely.

However, we'd only recommend this jacket to confident swimmers, as the buoyancy element is not as strong as in other life vests.

Pros:

  • EPE foam for superior buoyancy
  • Ripstop polyester material is highly durable and robust
  • Lightweight mesh back panel is breathable and flexible
  • Multiple accessory loops and attachment ladders for rods and reels
  • Front and back zippered pockets for gear.

Cons:

  • Takes a long time to arrive as it is shipped from China

Also available at thegalaxymart.com

JKSPORTS Fly Fishing Vest, Fishing Safety Life Jacket for Swimming Sailing Boating Kayak Floating Multifunction Breathable Backpack for Men and Women Vest/Kayak (Deep Gray, with Foam)
  • Low profile, paddle specific foam design Pockets designed for your essential gear Breathable mesh lower back Lash tab for small accessories
  • Crafted with a premium ripstop polyester shell and replaceable EPE foam inside for superior buoyancy. Inside zipper opening for convenient to take out the floating foam to be a super thin and breathable vest.
  • Four generous chest pocket, four zipped front pockets, two side mesh pocket, and one generous back pocket in total.
  • Accessory loops and attachment ladders on the chest invite custom attachments. Mesh on the back and mesh fabric inside deliver high breathability.
  • The product is guaranteed for one year.

Kids Float Vest

PROTAURI Kids Swim Vest - Toddlers Swimming Buoyancy Aid Floation Swimwear for Learn to Swim Age 1-9 Years/50N

If you have a little one who is keen to get in the water, then you might want to consider opting for this kid's float vest.

Rather than wearing traditional armbands and rubber rings, your toddler will be able to feel free and unrestricted in the water with this beautifully designed vest.

The convenient front zipper and adjustable strap make slipping in and out of this vest a breeze, and the crotch straps keep the vest nicely positioned on the body.

This vest also has a really handy grab loop at the back, which is great for parents to hold onto when kids are near open water or swimming pools. 

The vest is lightweight and made of high-quality neoprene material, which helps to keep little ones buoyant in the water, even when they are just learning to swim.

However, this vest is not a life jacket, and therefore, kids should always be accompanied by an adult in the water as they wear it.

Pros:

  • Adjustable strap for secure fit
  • Easy grab handle
  • quick release clips for speedy accessibility
  • Crotch straps to keep vest secure
  • Coast Guard approved
  • Fun, attractive design
  • High quality neoprene fabric

Cons:

  • Not suitable for leaving kids unattended

Also available at ubuy.com

PROTAURI Kids Swim Vest - Toddlers Swimming Buoyancy Aid Floation Swimwear for Learn to Swim Age 1-9 Years/50N
  • 💜UNIQUE DESIGN:Our swim vest have an adjustable safety straps to under the child's crotch which means the float vest can stays in place and increase the safety of products.The release buckles are extra strong,you don't have to worry it will damage easily.
  • 💜MATERIAL&USES:PROTAURI swimming vest is made from a neoprene outer and EPE foam inner.Neoprene material making it drying very quick and easy to pack.Also the float jacket is light,compact and durable making it ideal for have a trip.Kids can wear this float vest at beach and swimming pool,water park,boat,etc.
  • 💜PRODUCT TESTED:Safety is our priority task at PROTAURI,so we have got the swim vest tested to sure it complies with CE European Standard: EN 13138-1: 2014.
  • 💜WARNING: Please use a professional life jacket if you can't swim at all.Kids must use this swim vest under parents accompany.
  • 💜SINCERELY SERVICE:If you are not 100% satisfied with our product,please contact us,we'll refund or replace it.

Best Life Jacket - Buyer's Guide

Buying a life jacket should be an easy process. You will find that most manufacturers provide detailed information on their websites regarding sizing, materials used, construction details and any additional accessories included. 

However, it never hurts to ask questions and read through reviews online. Here are some key things that we think you should take into consideration before buying your own life jacket:

Size

It's important to ensure that the life jacket fits correctly. Make sure that the arms fit comfortably around your shoulders without restricting movement.

Ensure that the chest strap is snug but not too tight. Also, check that the waist belt does not cause discomfort while swimming.

Buoyancy

When purchasing a life jacket, it is critical to look for one that offers good buoyancy. A good quality life jacket will hold its shape and stay afloat well. Look for a life jacket that has been tested for its ability to float. 

Check that the life jacket has enough buoyancy for the type of activity you plan to do. For example, if you plan to swim in open waters, then you need to choose a life jacket that floats well.

Material

The material used in the life jacket is just as important as its size. Look for a life jacket that is well-made using quality materials such as ripstop nylon, neoprene, EPE foam and more. 

Nylon and PVC are less expensive than polyester, but they tend to wear out faster. Polyester is more durable and will last longer. Some manufacturers also include features such as reflective strips, adjustable shoulder straps, and waterproof zippers.

Coast Guard-Approved

All life jackets must meet certain safety standards set by the U.S. Coast Guard. These standards cover everything from how much flotation the life jacket provides to the overall strength of its components. Most importantly, all life jackets must conform to the following requirements:

  • Must have at least 1 inch (25mm) of buoyant material
  • Shoulder straps must be able to adjust independently
  • Waist belts must be securely attached
  • Back panels must be made of non-corrosive material

Construction Details

Check out the construction details of the life jacket. Does it feature reinforced seams? Is there a hood? Are there extra compartments? How many sizes do they come in? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself before purchasing a life jacket.

Accessories

When looking at life jackets, you may notice that some models come with additional items such as a whistle or flotation device. This is because these items are often sold separately by the manufacturer.

So if you want one of those extras, then look for a model that includes them.

Price

Buying a life jacket shouldn't break the bank. There are plenty of affordable options available. If you're after something cheap and cheerful, then consider buying a second-hand item. Otherwise, opt for a high-quality product that comes with a warranty.

Activity 

A life jacket is designed to help save lives, so it needs to be suitable for whatever activity you plan on doing. For example, if you're planning on taking part in water sports, then you'll probably need a life jacket that offers good buoyancy.

On the other hand, if you're going to be walking along the beach, then you might prefer a lightweight vest.

Range of Motion

Most life jackets have a range of motion that allows you to move freely in the water. This can make all the difference when trying to escape from a dangerous situation. 

Of course, a tight-fitting jacket will also hinder how much you can twist and how easily you can move your arms.

If you are fishing, then this could prevent you from being able to cast off successfully, and likewise, if you are water skiing, it may prevent you from being able to bend and twist on your skis.

This is why it is always best to test out your jacket and try it on before the time when you need to wear it.

Water Temperature

In colder waters, you should choose a jacket that has enough insulation to keep you warm. However, you should go for a lighter jacket in warmer climates that won't weigh you down too much and make you feel sweaty and uncomfortable.

Storage

You don't want to find yourself without a life jacket while you're out swimming in the ocean. That's why it's important to store your jacket properly.

Ideally, you should hang it up somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight. Also, make sure that you put it in a plastic bag to protect it from any damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Expensive are Life Jackets?

Life jackets vary greatly in price depending on their quality. Some cheaper models will not offer the same level of protection as more expensive ones. Therefore, it is important to research the different types of life jackets available and decide which type suits your budget and lifestyle.

Can you Drown with a Life Jacket on?

Yes, but only if the person wearing the life jacket doesn't know how to swim. The chances of drowning increase significantly when someone wears a life jacket incorrectly. Therefore, it is vital that people who use life jackets learn how to wear them correctly.

What Size Do I Need?

There are many different sizes of life jackets available. Generally speaking, most adults require a medium-sized jacket. Children usually need smaller versions of adult jackets.

Where Can I Buy a Life Jacket?

If you're looking for a life jacket online, there are lots of places where you can buy one. eBay is a great place to start. Alternatively, you could check out Amazon.

Where Can I Get a Life Jacket Repaired?

Most life jackets come with a warranty card. If you notice that your jacket isn't working properly, simply contact the manufacturer, and they will arrange for it to be fixed at no cost to you.

Final Thoughts

Buying a life jacket can sometimes seem like an intimidating task. Fortunately, finding the right product shouldn't take long. Just remember to look into the different features and benefits offered by each model and pick the one that works best for you.

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