30 Best Life Jackets

Choosing the best life jacket is more important than many boaters and fishermen realize. If a life jacket is uncomfortable it will not be worn often and potentially not worn at all, even when it is needed. Some people only have life jackets on the boat to meet US Coast Guard requirements. Experienced boaters know that having top quality safety gear can save lives in the event of an emergency on the water.

Having a life jacket just because you are required to is not the way to go. You want a lifejacket on board to protect those on the boat and save lives. This means choosing the best life jackets that work and add value.

Best Life Jackets

On some bodies of water, boaters are required to have a Type I life jacket. These are generally the orange square life jackets that go around the neck. People rarely wear these unless there is an emergency. The benefit of a Type I life jacket is that they will self-right an unconscious person in the water allowing them to breathe. The orange color and SOLAS reflectors allow them to be seen in the water from afar.

Personally, I think having a life jacket that boaters and swimmers are willing to wear is the most important. This is where having a comfortable life jacket is key. When boating offshore it is also a good idea to get a life jacket that can hold a personal locater beacon. This allows a person in the water to contact help from anywhere in the world. Below is a detailed review of the best life jackets.

Here Are the Best Life Jackets


1. O’Neill Superlite Water Skiing Life Vest

ONeill Superlite USCG Life Vest

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Estimated Price: $38

Specification
Size:
Small, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, XXX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black-Gray, Lime-Gray, Blue-Gray, Black-Red
Type: Nylon and Foam

The O’Neill men’s Superlite is a popular life jacket for waterskiing, wakeboarding, and for use on jet skis. The jacket is secured with four large quick-release buckles and 1.5-inch belts. It is made with polyethylene foam with a nylon shell. This is also a quality life jacket for general boating.

There are five different size options that will allow for proper sizing for most adults. Small, and medium sizes are a good fit for some older kids as well. In the listing, a size guide is provided. This jacket is commonly used for activities where people are expected to go for a swim. With a properly sized and tightened life jacket users can relax and float comfortably in the water. There is also an O’Neil Women’s Superlite life jacket.

This is a United States Coast Guard approved Type III PFD. This counts as a lifejacket on most recreational boats. Some commercial boats are required to have Type 1 life jackets. Boats are typically required to also carry a type IV throwable device such as a lifeguard ring or boat cushion.


2. Sterns Adult Watersport Life Jacket

Sterns Adult Watersport Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $32

Specification
Size:
Universal
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Blue, Red, Yellow
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Sterns adult watersport life jacket is lightweight, comfortable and US Coast Guard approved as a Type III PFD. The life jacket’s foam is what holds the jacket up in the water. This life jacket is intended to keep a conscious user that can swim afloat in the water.

Color options are red, blue, and yellow which are popular colors for life jackets. The red and yellow are more visible and easier to spot when in the water. The adjustable straps offer a secure way to adjust the life jacket to the body. Smaller children and younger adolescents should not use this life jacket if they are under 90 pounds, as the vest will be too large and not fit properly.

This is a popular life jacket as it works for a wide size range of people and is found at a reasonable price point. Keep yourself afloat if you end up in the water by wearing the Stearns adult watersport life jacket at all times while on your boat. It is easy to put the jacket on, adjust the straps, click to close, and you’re ready for the boating adventure.


3. Stohlquist Fit Adult Life Jacket

Stohlquist Fit Adult Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $30

Specification
Size:
X-Small, S/M, Large, XX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Red-Gray, Blue-Yellow
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Stohlquist life jacket has an open shoulder design to allow for easier arm movements. This makes it comfortable to wear while on a boat or when paddling a kayak. This jacket will provide the basic flotation needed if you end up in the water. It is not the best jacket for swimming or waterskiing. The three straps and buckles allow for the vest to fit securely. This life jacket is made of PE foam and has a nylon outer material. It is a US Coast Guard has approved Type III life jacket.

It has four different adult size options allowing for a more tailored fit to the user. There are also youth sizes available for kids.  It is important to have a life jacket that is rated for the proper weight and fit securely but is also comfortable for the user. If a life jacket is comfortable and easy to wear it is more likely that a person will wear it more often and have it on when it is needed.


4. Stohlquist Fit Kids Life Jacket

Stohlquist Fit Kids Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $20 to $30

Specification
Size:
Youth Kids, Adult X-Small
Rating: 50-90 Pounds, 75-125 pounds
Color: Gray-Red
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Stohlquist Fit life jacket is the same design as the adult version but is sized for kids. The youth-size is traded for kids 50-90 pounds, while the adult extra small can be used for larger kids that are 75-125 pounds. It is very important to have a properly sized life jacket for kids for safety reasons and because they are typically required to wear them at all times.

Kids want to be active on the water and not limited by a restrictive life jacket. The arm area of this jacket is open and makes it easy for kids to paddle kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. It is also a comfortable life jacket to wear while fishing. There are sizes of the Fit life jacket for the whole family and these are reasonably priced. The jackets are all US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD’s which meet the legal requirements for most recreational boaters. Make sure to have a properly sized life jacket for each person on the boat. It is also a good idea to wear life jackets at all times while on the water.


5. Sterns Hydroprene Life Jacket

Sterns Hydroprene Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $74

Specification
Size:
Small, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, XXX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange-Yellow-Black
Type: Hydroprene and Foam

The Stearns Hydroprene life jacket material is soft, comfortable, and has water-wicking technology. The curves at the back of the life jacket make it more aerodynamic for water sports such as waterskiing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding. Hydroprene material moves with the body, providing comfort for active sports like paddleboarding, kayaking, or rowing a canoe. This jacket is made to fit securely and is good for swimming. The bright orange-yellow colors come together nicely to create a good look and provide decent visibility in the water.

The adjustable straps make it easier than ever to conform to the body and get the best fit and hold. Those who are under 90 pounds should not use this life jacket, as it is not rated for those under this weight range. The ride up straps helps to keep the life jacket in place when it might otherwise ride up when in the water. It is good to have a quality waterski vest on the boat. This is a good option for that. When waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing it is good to have a tightfitting vest so the user can not slip out when hitting the water at high speeds.


6. O’Neill Men’s Assault Life Jacket

ONeill Mens Assault Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $100 to $125

Specification
Size:
Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, 3X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black, Green, Blue
Type: Nylon and Foam

The O’Neill Assault life jackets provide a comfortable fit that covers the full length of the upper body. It is made with NytrLite foam which is extremely lightweight and dries more quickly cause it holds less water. The life jacket fits snugly but is flexible to still allow for easy arm movement when swimming or paddling. Color options are all black, black-gray, black-green, and black-blue. Black is a good color for a swimming vest case it absorbed the heat from the sun to dry more quickly.

This vest is intended to be worn for water sport like water skiing, and wakeboarding. With sizes from small to three extra-large, there are vest sizes to fit most adults. The vest is designed for men and O’Neil does make women waterski life jackets as well.  The low back support provides additional lumbar support where it is needed most. This vest is USCG approved as a Type III life jacket.


7. NRS Chinook Life Jacket with Pockets

NRS Chinook Life Jacket with pockets

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Estimated Price: $140-$220

Specification
Size:
Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large/Extra Large, Double Extra Large
Color: Red, Charcoal, Bayberry, Orange
Type: Nylon and Foam

The NRS Chinook is a great life jacket for fishing and boating. It has large pockets that can hold fishing tackle such as pliers, hooks, small tackle boxes, knives, and flashlights. The pockets are large enough to hold cell phones and PLBs. This is a great life jacket to wear when boating by yourself as it can hold a PLB to send for help if you end up in the water. There is also a spot in the life jacket to attach a strobe light.

The open shoulder area and thin lower back of this life jacket make it great for kayaking. It is US Coast Guard approved as a Type III life jacket and provides 16.5 pounds of buoyancy. This is also great to wear as a fishing vest. When fishing on about or in a stream it is nice to have frequently used gear on your person where it can be accessed quickly. This makes changing out lures and releasing fish much faster.


8. Stohlquist Piseas Life Jacket

Stohlquist Piseas Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $100

Specification
Size:
Large-XL, XX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Khaki, Red
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Stohlquist Piseas Life Jacket is comfortable to wear at all times when on a boat. It also has front pockets that are good for holding emergency supplies such as a PLB, whistle, and strobe. This like jacket is not very restricted and is good for paddle sports like kayaking as well as fishing. Color options are red or khaki. It is made for adults over 90 pounds.

As a Type III life jacket, it is US Coast Guard approved which provides the necessary protection and security that is needed while on any boat in the water. Everyone on the boat or watercraft should be provided with a life jacket that offers protection should someone end up in the water. You can feel good about being able to wear something lightweight and comfortable. This is important when it comes to wearing something that not only looks good but can be easily worn to provide the protection necessary.

This life jacket helps keep conscious users afloat in the water. It provides 16-pounds of buoyancy. The cross clinch straps allow the vest to fit securely with very little ride up when used to float in the water. Having life jackets that are comfortable to wear is very import so users will be willing to wear the life jacket more often when on a boat. Wearing the vest will provide extras safety in the event someone ends up in the water.


9. Stohlquist Fishing Life Jacket

Stohlquist Fishing Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $130

Specification
Size:
Small/medium, Large-X-Large, XX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black-Green
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Stohlquist fishing jacket is lightweight and is a great option to wear while fishing in a boat, kayak, or from the shore. It has open sides in is not restrictive when casting or paddling. Get the best fit for your size by using the size chart. It comes in three sizes for adults over 90 pounds. This is a Type III US Coast-Guard approved life jacket with 16.75 pounds of buoyancy.

You can wear a jacket while you are active since it is lightweight and comfortable for everyone to use and wear. There are two large front pockets that can hold fishing gear and tackle. The one pocket is set up to hold full-size pliers and even has a clip point on the jacket so the pliers can be attached to a coil so it will not be lost if it is dropped. It can also be used as a life jacket for fly fishing and can hold small fly boxes. There is an attachment point on the shoulder to clip a flashlight or strobe.

The life vest fits secure with a cross-clinch harness that reduces ride up when in the water or sitting in the kayak or boat. You can find the adjustments that offer security and comfort. There are also adjustments of the shoulder straps to help ensure a perfect fit. The higher mesh on the back of the life jacket is perfect for those who want to continue to fish for longer, but want to remain comfortable and cool. Fish in style while also being organized with this custom fishing life jacket.


10. Onyx Fishing Life Jacket

Onyx Fishing Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $94

Specification
Size:
Universal, Oversize
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange, Tan, Blue
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Onyx fishing life jacket provides the perfect fit but also ensures that you get the most pockets throughout. This helps those who fish have a great way to take everything they need with them wherever they go. When fishing it is common to wear a life jacket so why not wear one that can also store gear. This is also a good fishing vest to wear in streams and rivers where the person fishing could end up in the water. Some streams have fast currents that would be dangerous to fall into without having a life jacket on. This is a USCG approved Type III life vest that has 15 pounds of buoyancy.

The jacket is also good for carrying safety gear like PLB’s, cell phones, whistles, and strobes. In addition to the three pockets, there are elastic areas that can hold fishing gear such as pliers, line cutters, glasses, knives, or flashlights. It is an adult life jacket and comes in a universal size for most adults and an oversized larger jacket for larger chest sizes. This vest fits comfortably and is not restrives making it a great life jacket and fishing vest to quickly access needed fishing gear.


11. Onyx Paddle Life Jacket

Onyx Paddle Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $50

Specification
Size:
Oversize, Universal
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Onyx, Red
Type: Nylon, Mesh, and Foam

The nylon covering on this life jacket provides a water-wicking way to remove moisture from the outside of the jacket, while the mesh on the back provides a breathable way to wear something comfortable that fits. You can ensure that the foam inside the coating provides the floating technology that keeps you above the water when you want to be.

Never have to worry about not having the right size, either. Check the size chart for the best fit based on the size that you are. The bright colors make these fun to wear, but also easy to see if you need to be seen while in the water or rescued. The foam goes up to the back of the user to provide additional support where it is needed most.

There are six different straps that work around the front and sides of the vest to adjust better to the sides of the body. The large front pocket provides the user with a way to hold items wherever they go. Additionally, you can find that the perfect comfort comes from the neoprene shoulder pads.


12. Mustang Survival Khimera Hybrid Life Jacket

Mustang Survival Khimera Hybrid Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $180

Specification
Size:
Adult
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black, Blue, Red
Type: Hybrid Foam and Inflatable

The Mustang Khimera life jacket is one of the most compact and comfortable life jackets on the market. It is great for boating, fishing, and kayaking. What is able to make it so compact is that it is a hybrid life jacket that uses foam and has an inflatable section. The foam provides 7.5 pounds of buoyancy while a 12-gram CO2 tank can be used to add 12.5 pounds of additional buoyancy. It can be inflated but pulling the inflation tap or inflated by blowing into the inflation tube.

This is a US Coast Guard Level 7o device and counts as a Type III life jacket when worn on a boat. The jacket is good a choice for people that wear their life jackets at all times. It is not a life jacket that is intended to be worn for daily swimming or active water sports like water skiing and wakeboarding.

The vest is thinner than most others on the market. My mom and dad both have these and wear them in Florida where it is hot. I think this life jacket is even more comfortable than the inflatable life jacket I wear cause it does not rub on the neck. My dad also uses a carabiner to attach a Gramin InReach to the loop in the shoulder strap and has an ACR PLB in the front pouch. This is important cause he frequently boats and kayaks by himself and needs a way to communicate with people when on the water.

Related Article: Best Personal Locator Beacons


13. Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $97-$182

Specification
Size:
Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, XX-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Blue, Red, Yellow
Type: Nylon and Foam

Stohlquist Edge is a very popular life jacket for boaters, sailors, paddleboarders, and kayakers. The shoulder and neck area is very open allowing the arms to be free and good airflow to help cool the person wearing the jacket. It looks a bit different from most life jackets because it is a side entry and has a zipper and waist buckle to secure the vest.

This is a USCG Type III life jacket that is rated for adults over 90 pounds. The small-medium size has 15.5 pounds of buoyancy, the large-extra-large has size has 16 pounds of buoyancy, and the double extra large has 17 pounds of buoyancy. The yellow and red colors offer high visibility of the person wearing the jacket. Reflective tape on the shoulder straps provides additional visibility by reflecting light.

The low cut, low profile look, and feel of this vest make it ideal to wear regardless of where you are or what you’re doing in the water. The feel of this life jacket is what makes this popular over some of the more traditional vest-style life jackets.


14. Airhead Adult General Purpose Life Jacket

Airhead Adult General Purpose Life Vest

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Estimated Price: $24

Specification
Size:
Universal, XX-Large,
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Blue, Red
Type: Polyester and Foam

This is an Airhead general-purpose life jacket. It comes as an individual life vest or in packs of four. Color options are blue or red. The jacket is made with PE foam and has a polyester outer layer. Three belts and buckles on the front of the jacket secure the person into the life vest. This is a US Coast Guard Type III life jacket and is rated for adults over 90 pounds.

These jackets are the classic vest-style life jacket. There are no standout features but these general-purpose life jackets are comfortable enough to wear and will keep the user afloat if they end up in the water.  The vest is UV resistant and soft to the touch. They are protective in the sun and in the water. They provide a full range of motion, so you can even paddle in them if you need to without having to worry about not being able to move. The vest will ride up a little when in the water so it is not great for swimming but does work for floating.


15. Airhead Trend Life Vest

Airhead Trend Life Vest

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Estimated Price: $30 to $45

Specification
Size:
Youth, X-Small, Small-Medium, Large-X-Large, XX-Large, 3X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black-Blue, Black-Pink, Hot Pink-Sky Blue
Type: Polyester and Foam

The Airhead Trend life jacket is available in sizes for kids, women, and men. It comes in color options of black and blue for men or pink and black for women. There is also a hot-pink, blue, and white vest that is for kids that weigh between 50-90 pounds. The size chart offers an inside look into which might be the best overall fit for you.

The three straps on the front can be adjusted to hug the body to provide comfort and protection. The jacket’s four straps and buckles help prevent it from riding up. It is made with PE foam and a polyester outer layer to create a lightweight vest.

This is a Type III US Coast Gaurd approved life jacket. It is the classic style foam life vest but the four large straps and buckles make it stand out from others on the market. This is a good live vest to wear all day on the boat and also performs well in the water.


16. Airhead Neolite Men’s Life Jacket

Airhead Neolite Mens Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $48 to $158

Specification
Size:
X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large, 3X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Black-Blue-White Camo
Type: NeoLite, Foam

The Airhead Neolite life jacket in blue camo is designed for men. This is a fashionable life jacket that is intended to be used for active water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing.  The Kwick-Dry NeoLite material is lightweight and made to wick away water to dry quickly. This is very nice as it can get cold wearing a wet life jacket after getting out of the water.

Two straps and a zipper on the front of this jacket help to provide a secure fit. There are seven size options to help ensure a tight but comfortable fit for the user. A size chart is available for both men and women in the listing for the Women’s Neolite Jacket.

The jacket is flexible and allows a full range of movement when swimming, paddling, or fishing. This is a good choice when you want to put something on that provides a secure fit in the water and stands out as a fashionable life jacket. It is US Coast Guard approved as a Type III life vest.


17. Airhead Neolite Women’s Life Jacket

Airhead Womens Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $64 to $133

Specification
Size:
X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Pink-White-Black Camo
Type: NeoLite, Foam

The Airhead Neolite life jacket in pink camo is designed for women. This bright pink camo lifejacket looks nice and provides a secure fit that is necessary for active water sports. It hugs the body and connects in the front with a zipper and buckles that can be adjusted to fit around the body.

There are five women size options available. You can find the perfect fit based on the size chart that is provided in the listing. The Neolite material is similar to neoprene but is fast drying. There is a Neolite outer layer but foam within the jacket provides additional flotation.

This is a US Coast-Guard approved Type III life jacket that is made for adults over 90-pounds. The Airhead Neolite is a good life jacket to use while swimming or worn by water skiers, wakeboarders, and people in a tube being pulled by a boat. Make sure it fits properly as improperly sized life jackets may now work as intended.


18. Kent Type I Life Jacket

Kent Type-I Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $50

Specification
Size:
Universal
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Kent life jacket is different from the others because it is a USCG Type I life jacket. These are often required on commercial vessels and have the ability to self-right most unconscious victims that are in the water. Type III life jackets which are very common are only intended to provide buoyancy for users that are conscious in the water.

The bright orange color stands out and is easily seen from far away. It also has reflective straps to provide increase visibility. It is common to keep a strobe light on Type I life jackets. There is a whistle provided that can help people locate someone in the water in foggy and low light conditions.

This full-body Type I jacket is not as common as the rectangular device which go around the neck. This is a great vest best but does not store quite as compact, which can be important when storing a large number of life jackets. It does provide a minimum of 32 pounds of buoyancy. The vest also has an adjustable headrest and two front buckles to secure the life jacket. This type of life jacket is not typically worn all the time as it is bulky. However, it is great to have on the boat in the event of an emergency where people need to go into the water.


19. Kent Type I Commercial Life Jacket

Kent Type-I Commercial Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $43-$82

Specification
Size:
Adult
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Kent US Coast Guard-approved Type I life jacket provides the user with a minimum of 22 pounds of buoyancy. It is made for adults that are over 90 pounds. These are the classic style of life jackets that people do not want to wear all day on a boat. They are bulky and are not comfortable to wear. However, they do provide great flotation for someone in the water.

This type of life jacket is rarely worn when on a boat. Typically there are stored in bins, placed under seats, or on storage racks. It is required that there is a properly sized life jacket for each person on the boat and that they are quickly accessible. In the event of an emergency or water transfer of people from one boat to another, the life vests would then be put on. It is important to tell everyone on the boat where the life jackets are located in a safety speech before departure.

To put the life jacket on the buckles should be undone and it should slide over the person’s head. The buckles should be snapped and the straps should be tightened. When in the water the user can sit slightly back and the user should be able to float without kicking. The life jacket can be held with the arms and hands. This is a great live jacket to have on the boat but hopefully will not ever be needed. Even though the life jacket is pretty large is rectangular shape makes it easy to store a large number of these life jackets on most boats.


20. Kent Type I Child Life Jacket

Kent Type-I Child Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $60

Specification
Size:
Child
Rating: Up to 90 pounds
Color: Orange
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Kent Type I life jacket is for kids up to 90 pounds. For commercial boats that might have kids on board, it is very important to have enough youth size life jackets as well. There is not an infant or toddler size Type I life jacket so it is important that small children have their own Type II life jacket. Kids under 13 or under 16 are typically required to wear a life jacket at all times when on a boat. That does not always mean they need to wear a Type I jacket but one does need to be on the vessel for them.

This is the same life jacket as the one above for adults but this one is smaller and provides a minimum of 11 pounds of buoyancy. It has one strap that goes around the back of the child and a second step to tighten the neck area of the life jacket. There is also a headrest to help keep the child’s head above the water. Reflective material is attached near the top of the jacket to make it more visible by reflecting light.


21. Seachoice Orange Type I Life Jacket

seachoice orange type-I life jacket

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Estimated Price: $50

Specification
Size:
Adult and Youth
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds, Child Up to 90 pounds
Color: Orange
Type: Polyester  and Foam

The Seachoice Type I Life Jacket is very similar to the Kent one detailed above. This jacket comes in both adult and youth sizes. It has one strap that goes around the waist to secure the PFD. The bright orange color and reflective tape make this life jacket highly visible in the water. It is also a great idea to attach a strobe to the life jacket.

This is a life jacket that is made for offshore use as are all Type I approved life jackets. The adult life jacket provides up to 32 pounds of buoyancy. Easy to store and stack, these life jackets are often used in commercial boats where they may be needed in the event of an emergency. When boating offshore is it also very important to have an EPIRB or PLB in addition to a marine VHF radio. In serious emergencies, the boat might sink, and having a way to communicate to get help is just as important as being able to stay afloat. In cold water situation being able to contact help quickly is even more important.


22. Kent Type II Life Jackets

Kent Type-II Life Jackets

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Estimated Price: $48

Specification
Size:
Universal
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange
Type: Nylon and Foam

These Kent Type II life jackets can be purchased separately, or in bulk packs of four. The pack comes in a clear bag that holds the life jackets perfectly. It also has a mesh section to allow the life jackets to breath and dry out. This is a good kit to have if the goal is to meet US Coast Guard regulations on a recreational boat. These are cheap life jackets but are Type II rated for adults over 90 pounds and provide a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds.  These universal fit life jackets are easy to get in the right size. Just realize that kids under 90 pounds need a youth or infant life jacket.

If these are placed on a boat to meet the life jacket requirement it is still important to take good care of them. Keep them in a dry area. Also, check the condition of the life jacket every few months. Make sure the jackets are not moldy and that when the foam is squeezed it quickly bounces back. As life jackets get old the foam breaks down and will absorb water and not provided the expected buoyancy. The bright orange color is good for visibility but these do not have reflectors. For this reason, it would be good to have a strobe on each life jacket.


23. Seachoice Type II PFD

Seachoice Type-II PFD

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Estimated Price: $34

Specification
Size:
Child, Youth, Adult
Rating: 30 – 50, 50 – 90, Over 90 Pounds
Color: Yellow, Orange, Camo
Type: Nylon and Foam

These Seachoice Type II life jackets come in a child, youth, and adult sizes. They can be purchase individually or in packs of four. These are budget life jackets but do meet the US Coast Guard requirements for most recreation boating areas. I would not recommend these are primary life jackets but are good backups. The child-size is for kids 30-50 pounds and it does have a crotch strap and grab handle. Youth size is for kids 50-90 pounds and the life jacket has straps that can be tied together near the neck ares to provide a more secure fit. Finally, there is the adult size that is for people over 90-pounds and provides a minimum buoyance of 15.5 pounds.

All of the sizes are available in orange and yellow. The adult size is also available in camo. I would not recommend the camo color unless it will be worn when low visibility is the goal. In general, it is good for life jackets to be brightly colored and highly visible. The adult four-pack comes in a clear plastic bag with a carry handle that stores the jackets in a compact way. It is important to be able to quickly access the life jackets in the event of an emergency.


24. Mustang Survival Life Jacket Coat

Mustang Life Jacket Coat

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Estimated Price: $240

Specification
Size:
Small, Medium. Large, X-Large, XX-Large, 3X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Orange, Black, Red
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Mustang Survival bomber jacket is a life jacket coat that also works as a US Coast Guard approved Type III life jacket. When boating, sailing, or working on loading docks in cold weather this is a great jacket. This jacket is easier to wear than a winter coat and a life jacket. Also, this coat does provide some insulation while in cold water as well. It is certainly not as good as a cold water immersion suit but is much better than a standard winter jacket.

The jacket is easy to put on and looks and feels just like a regular jacket. There are ventilation ports that are located on the inside by the armpits. The waterproof, breathable shell also makes this a great jacket. There is SOLAS reflective material on the shoulders and sleeves. It is secured with a front zipper and there are pockets on the inside and outside of the jacket providing the user with a way to keep items inside. When in cold water it is very important to have a quick way to communicate with others and get help. This can be with a submersible handheld VHF radio or a PLB that can be kept in the jacket at all times.

Related Article: 17 Best VHF Marine Radios


25. Mustang Survival Catalyst Flotation Coat

Mustang Survival Flotation Coat

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Estimated Price: $319

Specification
Size:
Small, Medium. Large, X-Large, XX-Large, 3X-Large
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Red, Orange, Black
Type: Nylon and Foam

The Mustang Survival Catalyst Flotation Coat is a Type III equivalent life jacket. This meets the US Coast Guard lifeguard requirements at the Type III level and provides a minimum buoyancy of 15.7 pounds. The life jacket is similar to the Bomber jacket but one big advantage is that this one has a hood. This is very important in cold wet environments. The coat is also longer and looks more like a traditional rain jacket or winter coat. This makes it very comfortable to wear even when being active.

Features of the jacket include a waterproof outer layer, handwarmer pockets, zipper for underarm ventilation, and a D-ring that can be used with a cut off switch for the engine. There is also a storm cover that goes over the zipper to reduce the chance of water or other debris from getting into the jacket.

The jacket provides the user with a way to stay afloat should they fall into the water. The red and orange colors are bright with high visibility. There is also reflective tape on the shoulders, sleeves, and hood. If you spend a lot of time near the water in cold environments this is a great coat. It is also imported to have a way to call for help if you fall in the water with a cell phone, VHF radio, Garmin InReach, AIS device, or PLB.

Related Article: Best Personal Locator Beacons


26. Mustang Survival Inflatable Life jacket

Mustang Survival Inflatable Life jacket

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Estimated Price: $148

Specification
Size:
Universal
Rating: Adult Over 90 pounds
Color: Gray, Black
Type: Inflatable

The Mustang Survival inflatable life jacket automatically activates when it enters the water. It can also be inflated before entering the water with a manual pull tab. The vest is inflated with a 33-gram CO2 cartridge and provides 33-pounds of buoyancy. This type of vest is preferred by some because it is compact and less restrictive than some foam life jackets.

The inflatable life jacket does meet the USCG requirements as a Type III vest when it is being worn. It is lightweight, easy to fit around the neck to wear everywhere you go, regardless of what you’re doing. This is popular for fishermen, sailors, kayakers, and people that stand up paddleboard. If for some reason the life jacket cartridge does not inflate the oral inflation tube can also be used to blow up the life vests. The CO2 cartridges can be replaced after the life vest is used.


27. Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket Belt

Onyx Unisex Inflatable Belt Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $68

Specification
Size:
Universal
Rating: Over 90 pounds Adult
Color: Gray, Black
Type: Inflatable

The Onyx M16 is a good option for people that do not like to wear life jackets. It very small and can be worn as a belt so it does not restrict a user’s arm or upper body movements. It can be manually inflated with a pull tab or with an oral inflation tube. The manual pull tab discharges a 16-gram CO2 tank to provide 17 pounds of buoyancy. More air can be added to provide 26.5 pounds of buoyancy when fully inflated.

Once the belt is inflated a strap goes over the head and the inflated section sits on the user’s chest. This style of life jacket should not be used by people who can not swim. If the user falls in the water the belt does need to be inflated manually. This requires the person to remain calm and swim to stay above the water. For this reason, an automatic inflation life jacket is often preferred since even people who can swim may enter the water when they are unconscious. In that case, this life jacket would not provide any flotation.

Related Article: 17 Best Inflatable Life Jackets


28. Stearns Infant Life Jacket

Stearns Infant Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $20-$25

Specification
Size:
Infant
Rating: Under 30 Pounds
Color: Blue, Red
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Stearns life jacket is made for infants and toddlers. When we say infants it does not mean newborns as babies should be over 18 pounds before taken on a boat or near the water. This is because no life jacket is properly made if a person that small. The child is secured into the life jacket with a zipper, front waist strap, and a crotch strap. There is also a headrest to help keep a small child’s head above water. The grab handle on the headrest provides a quick way to remove them from the water. It also works a handle to make sure they do not fall into the water.

The nylon and foam jacket provides the infant with a way to be protected if they end up in the water. When it comes to protecting your little one, you want to give them a life jacket that fits properly. This life jacket should fit kids from 18-30 pounds. Make sure the kid fits and is secured properly. The color options are red or blue. It is very important for a kid to have a life jacket on at all times when they are on a boat, near the shore, or even near a pool. Even with a life jacket, the kid should have close adult supervision. Just case the kid will float does not mean the child can not drown or get into a dangerous situation.

Related Article: 23 Best Life Jackets for Kids


29. Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket

Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $55

Specification
Size:
Child
Rating: 30-50 Pounds
Color: Yellow, Red, Blue, Pink
Type: Nylon and Foam

This Stohlquist Life jacket is made for children and toddlers that are between 30 and 50 pounds. It is US Coast Guard approves as a Type II life jacket and has a headrest, crotch strap, and grab handle. When the life jacket it put on is should be check for proper size and be properly secured. The zipper, front strap, and crotch strap should all be used.

Color options for this life jacket are blue, yellow, and red. I would recommend a bright color cause it is easier to spot your child and provides increase visibility if they do fall into the water. This is a Type II US Coast Gaurd certified life jacket. It is a good vest to wear for protection when kids are near the water. It can also be worn when swimming in the ocean, laked, beach, or in a pool.


30. Stearns 50-90 Pound Kids Life Jacket

Stearns 50-90 Pound Kids Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $31

Specification
Size:
Youth
Rating: 50-90 pounds
Color: Yellow
Type: Nylon and Foam

This is a Stearns Youth life jacket for kids that weigh 50-90 pounds. This is a basic and very popular vest-style life jacket made with foam and has a nylon outer layer. It is secured with three front straps and buckles. For kids this large there is not typically a crotch strap on the life jacket.

Kids in this size range are typically required to wear a life jacket all day. For this reason, it is important to get them on that is comfortable to wear and fits properly. Although this is a basic life jacket is it lightweight and not overly cumbersome for kids to wear. Make sure the child who is wearing the vest is within the weight limit, as it needs to fit them specifically. For larger kids, an adult extra-small is usually the next size up for people that weigh from 75-125 pounds. Kids under 16 are not allowed to wear inflatable life jackets. The color options of this vest are blue and red. In my opinion, red is a great color life jacket for everyone.


Life Jacket for Dogs

Life Jacket for Dogs

Buy from Amazon

Estimated Price: $26-$40

Specification
Size:
Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large
Color: Orange, Red, Green
Type: Neoprene and Foam

The Outward Hound life jacket for dogs provides pet owners with a way that keeps their dogs safe on the water. While most dogs can swim they can get tired and it is often a good idea to have them in a life jacket. There are five size options to fit almost any size dog. The size chart helps to select the proper size.

There are different vest designs based on the swimming ability of the dog. The Grandby is for beginners, the Dawson is for intermediate, and the Standley is for expert swimmers. The beginner model has floatation for their body and flotation under the chin to help keep their head above the water.

The use of this life jacket makes it easier than ever to have a dog that swims flawlessly through the water. Bring them to the lake, ocean, pool, or anywhere else when it comes to letting them cool off but know they are safe from drowning when using this life jacket to their advantage.


Information About Life Jackets

USCG Life Jacket Ratings Type 1-5 and Throw Devices

Life jackets are given a rating between 1 and 5 depending on how they work. The rating is based on several factors one of which is the amount of buoyancy they provide the user. To be a US Coast Guard Type I life jacket it needs to provide adults a minimum buoyance of 22 pounds for foam life jackets and 33 pounds for inflatable life jackets. Type II and Type III are only required to provide 15.5 pounds of buoyancy for foam jackets.

In addition to these, there are throw rings and cushions which are Type IV devices. Rings are required to have 16.5 pounds of buoyancy while cushions need to provide 18 pounds. Type V are hybrid devices that use foam and inflation.

Type I devices also have SOLAS requirements for relative marking to be more visible. The design of Type I devices is more like to keep unconscious people head above the water so they can breathe. A Type III device is meant to be a buoyancy aid to help keep a conscious person floating in the water.

All that being said the Type III life jackets are the most commonly used for adults. This is because they are comfortable to wear while on a boat. They also work best for active water sports like water skiing, wakeboarding, and tubing at high speed. Type I life jackets are bulky and uncomfortable to wear but are keep on boats in the case of an emergency offshore. In addition to life jackets, it is important to have a PLB or EPIRB on the boat.

Related Article: 14 Best Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon

Size of Life Jackets

There are a number of life jackets that can be used depending on the needs that you have and the specific size of the person. First, for kids, there are typically three size vests. Infants and toddlers life jackets are made for 18-30 pound kids. These typically have crotch straps, headrests, and a grab handle.  Next is size youth size which is rated for 30-50 pound kids. Finally, larger kid life jackets are for 50-90 pound kids. If these are two small then an adult extra small can be used with is rated for people that weigh 75-125 pounds.

Adult life jackets are sizes from extra small to triple extra-large. Most are rated for adults over 90 pounds but large lifejackets do typically provide more buoyancy. It is very important that the life jacket fits properly. If it is too large the person could slip out of it. A life jacket that is too small might not provide enough buoyancy and also be uncomfortable to wear.

There are many types of life jackets as well. Some are better suited for comfort on land and others are great swimming vests. The different types of life jackets include standard foam vests, puddle jumpers, snorkel vests, belts, harness or lift types, paddling, hybrid dual buoyancy, inflatables, and life jacket coats. Which you choose to go with depends on the use case and the location. It is important to keep in mind that everyone needs to have a properly sized life jacket on the boat.

Life Jacket Requirements

Children that are under 13 to 16 typically need to have a life jacket on at all times while the boat is underway. Everyone else also needs to have the proper type of lifejacket on the boat but are not required to wear them at all times. It is a good idea for everyone on the boat to wear a life jacket at all times unless they are in an enclosed cabin.

The life jackets should be in good, serviceable condition and they have to be the right size for those who are on the boat. Additionally, they have to be US Coast Guard approved and certified. It is not uncommon for the Coast Guard or Police to board a boat and check for life jackets. If you are found not to have the proper number and size you can be fined or the boat may be taken off the water.

Every place is different, so it is important that you consider your specific area and what their rules might be. Commercial vessels are typically required to have Type I life jackets while recreational boat requirements are generally for Type III or higher. A vessel is also required in most placed to have a nice making device such as a horn or whistle and safety flares. Having an EPIRB is also typically required on commercial vessels and inspected vessels. Having a PLB and VHF radio is also important to have on all vessels that go offshore.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best life jacket for adults?

The best life jacket depends on the application. There are life jackets specifically designed for fishing, kayaking, swimming, and water skiing. Adults are not required to wear the life jacket on the boat in most cases but it is smart to always wear one. Lifejackets that are compact and comfortable to wear is an important feature when wearing them often. Inflatable life jackets excel at being easy to wear.

When water skiing or wakeboarding it is important to get a life jacket that fits secure as it is common to hit the water at high speed. Having a secure life jacket helps it not slide off over the user’s head. People that stand up paddleboard are also required to have a life jacket on in most cases. Waist belt left jackets are popular as it does not restrict the person arms or upper body movements.

What is the best life vest for swimming?

The best life jacket for swimming depends on the application. When snorkeling the life vest should actually be an inflatable life jacket that does not have air in it. This allows the swimmer to dive under the water. The main purpose of the vest is to provide visibility to boat traffic. Also if a swimmer becomes tired they can add air for the jacket to provide buoyancy. The other type of jacket frequently used for swimming is water skiing life jackets. These have a secure fit and do not easily ride up when floating in the water. Wearing a wetsuit is another way a swimmer can get evenly distributed added buoyancy.

For kids, a swimming vest can be used to help them learn how to swim. A puddle jumper is a very popular life jacket style for kids swimming in pools and at the beach. The child should always be under close adult supervision as the kid can still drown while wearing a life jacket. Small kids that can not swim should life jacket with a crotch strap and headrest.

Related Article: 27 Best Masks for Snorkeling

How much weight will a life jacket hold up?

Most life jackets are rated for a specific weight range. This makes it easy for someone who is buying a life jacket to select the proper size. Common ratings are youth 30-50 pounds or adults over 90 pounds. That does not mean the life jacket actually has 90 pounds of buoyancy. Most people are close to neutrally buoyant in water an and extra 15.5 – 33 pound of added buoyancy can keep them floating. So the answer is most adult life jackets can keep a 180 plus pound person up but can only hold up a lead weight around 15 pounds.  The highest rate USCG Type I foam life jackets are required to have a minimum of 22 pounds of buoyancy.

Do just children’s life jackets come with the crotch strap?

Children’s life jackets for infants in the 0-30 pound range and youth 30-50 pound range typically come with crotch straps. Kids this size are typically not strong swimmers and the strap helps prevent them from slipping out the bottom of the jacket.  It is also common for adult snorkel vests to have crotch straps. When these vests are inflated they tend to ride up and the strap helps prevent this. If an adult finds it uncomfortable a good option is to make the strap loose so it doe not pull tight. Some adult Type I life jackets also have crotch straps.

Do life jackets have to be US Coast Guard Approved?

Yes, in order to be counted as one of the required life jackets on a boat it does have to be US Coast Guard approved. It also has to be the proper size for the person that will be wearing it. Life jackets also have to be in good condition. Kids should be wearing the life jacket on boats that are underway and adult life jackets should be quickly accessible.

If the life vest is being used as a flotation aid where it is not required like at a beach or in a pool it does not have to be US Coast Guard approved. Also once the boat is stopped and people are swimming or snorkeling it is usually legal to take life jackets off.  While swimming snorkel vests that are not US Coast Guard approved can be worn.

Can my baby go out on the boat with us?

When it comes to bringing a baby on a boat, you should check the weight requirements of the lifejacket. Sometimes, smaller, younger babies are unable to wear them because they do not meet the minimum requirements. In general babies under 18 pounds should not go on a boat since life jackets might not fit and work properly.  These small children, as well as others, need to have this type of protection when they are on the boat, or on a craft in the water. This is important to think about and consider when bringing a small child out on a boat.

Is one brand of a life jacket better than another?

Mustang Survival, Stohlquist, Stearns and O’Neill are all well know life jacket manufacturers. More important than the brand is the style and fit of the life jacket. Some are better for swimming, active water sports, fishing, or offshore boating. It is also very important to get a jacket rated for the user’s weight. Most life jackets are US Coast Guard approved but it is important to get one with the proper Type certification required for the location in which it will be used.


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