Life jackets have saved countless lives since they were invented in 1854. At that time they were just a simple vest made out of cork, but they have come a long way since then. They also aren’t called mean to be called life jackets anyone, and instead go by the name of Personal Floatation Device (PFD) but everyone still calls them by their traditional name.

So what is the best life jacket out there? As we said they have come a long way since being made out of cork and are now lightweight and flexible. There are different types for different activities and can now offer a full range of mobility.

To find the best life vest we’ve looked at the top life jacket reviews out there to come up with a top list and a buying guide to give you peace of mind. So read on to see which will be the best life jacket for you.

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How To Choose A Life Jacket – Buying Guide

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Type

There are many different types of life jacket, and it’s important to know which ones are which before you make a purpose as they all have different uses. The ones reviewed here are Type III as they are the best for a wide variety of different watersports.

Type I – This is the typical jacket that you’d wear when your life really is in danger. Big and bulky, they’re meant to support you even if you’re unable to swim and if you’re not conscious. These are the type you’d wear on lifeboats.

Type II – Similar to Type I except they are a little smaller and are used when you’re going to be in calmer waters for not a long period of time. Again, would only really be used in emergencies.

Type III – This is the one you’ll mainly see if you’re looking to have some fun while on the water. They are floatation aids that will assist you should you ever get into trouble, but allow mobility so that you can do your activities freely.

Type IV – These are the types that are thrown into the water in emergency situations, the most famous shape being the ring that people cling to when they’re in danger.

Type V – Similar to the type III ones, these are generally even smaller and used for more specific activities as these don’t provide as much buoyancy and are used for activities such as windsurfing.

Fit

When it comes to life jackets you’re likely to have one or two options, some come with a universal fit while others will have the regular sizes that you’d expect with any other clothes. Here you just simply have to look at the manufacturer’s recommendations to see which size you should buy.

Before you put it on, you’ll want to loosen the straps and then place it over your head. Then starting from the bottom to the top, you can then tighten the straps as you go, including any shoulder straps that the device may have. Additionally, on a child’s device, there should be a strap between the legs which needs to be secured.

When on correctly, it shouldn’t lift above your nose otherwise it is either too large or the straps aren’t tight enough. You’ll want to be able to move freely and don’t think that it might be uncomfortable just because it’s a life jacket, these jackets should feel good when they on. For added assurance, you can get out the float in the water.

Material

When it comes to material, there are two main options out there for you to consider.

Nylon – This isn’t the most buoyant material on the market, but it is the lightest. So if you’re a strong athlete who’d looking to do your activities, then this might be the best option. It is also lower on price, but it’s not the best quality material on the market.

Neoprene – This has a higher buoyancy than nylon and will most likely give you a better fit as well. It has a little bit of stretch which will give you a bit more comfort and it’s also better at retaining your body heat. They are great for watersports and is generally seen as the better material.

Weight Capacity

Each life jacket will be able to carry a certain amount of weight before it goes under, so it’s important to bear that in mind before you decide to purchase one. Most will be more than capable of holding a wide range of weights, as they come in different sizes, but it’s vital to check that your weight will be supported before you buy.

Also, the opposite can be true, if you buy a raft what is too big, then it will be bulky and might affect your mobility. Before purchasing your jackets, check the specifications to ensure that it has the right fit for you.

Color

When it comes to color, most people see it as a personal preference in regards to just picking your favorite color. When you’re out on the water, then you want to look good. People care about what they are wearing and that would be no different to life jackets.

There are different style options too, some come in plain black, some have a little detailing while others might be bright an colorful. If you’re going to be in more remote areas or doing activities on your own, however, there is another key consideration and that is one of safety

Naturally, the brighter the color the easier you will be to spot while you’re out on the water. If you ever need to be rescued, then the process would probably be sped up if you were easily spotted. If you’re looking for this added assurance, then there are a lot of options available that come in luminescent colors.

Buoyancy

Of course, the primary aim of a life jacket is to be buoyant; as they need to provide enough buoyancy that they will keep your chin and your mouth above water. For adults, this means that they need at most about 12 pounds of buoyancy in order to keep them afloat.  If you are looking at life jackets with buoyancy ratings, then the less body fat you have, the more buoyancy you’ll need as fat is a lot more buoyant than muscle.

If you’ve bought a life jacket, then it’s best to try it out. You could be able to have your head completely out of the water when you are in a relaxed position if you’re not then you need to get a jacket that is a lot more buoyant. This is an important test as you don’t want to find out the answer when you really need it.

FAQs

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Q: What age do you have to wear a life jacket?

A: For anyone under the age of 13 it is the law that the child must be wearing a life jacket if they are in a moving vehicle of any length. That jacket must also be Coast Guard approved as well. The only exemptions to that law are if the child is harnessed to the sailboat if they are in an enclosed cabin or in an emergency situation.

All vessels must carry a suitable life jacket for all the passengers on board at all times. Away from the law, it then becomes about common sense. If you’re on a SUP, you’re not far from sure and you’re a great swimmer, then you might not need them.

For watersports though, why wouldn’t you wear one? You never know if you might get in trouble and you might even get an injury when you’re out on the water. They are more comfortable than ever and you will barely notice it if you have on a well-made life jacket. Children especially should be wearing one at all time if they are in any depth of water, but it makes sense for adults to protect themselves too as you ever know what’s going to happen.

Q: What is life jacket?

A:  When most people think of a life jacket, their mind probably immediately goes to the big bulky ones that you see on rescue TV shows, or the rings that are thrown out to help people who are stranded at sea. You might even cast your mind back to films like Titanic where the life jackets were flimsy and awkward.

These days life jackets have taken on a whole new look with good designs. You see small life jackets which have a great amount of buoyancy which will keep you afloat until you are rescued. They have come along away from those initial designs. A life jacket is there in order to keep you floating while crucially having your mouth out of the air so that you can breathe, which is why life jackets have the floats on the front so that you’re leaning back in the water.

There are three types of life jacket, but if you’re looking to use yours for watersports then it’s likely that you’ll be using a lifejacket that is ‘inherently buoyant’ whereby it just uses the natural buoyancy of the materials within it to keep you buoyant. There are inflatable ones which are the one you’ll have on aircraft or used by swimmers as these are as effective and simply save space. There are also hybrid ones which have natural floats, with inflatable chambers.

Q: How to tell if a life jacket is coast guard approved?

A: Don’t buy a life jacket if it hasn’t been approved, it’s a simple rule and one that you need to stick to in order to stay safe. Any life jacket that is sold in the United States should be approved by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and you need to look for this accreditation. Some will say they are ‘USCG approved’ others will say ‘Coast Guard-approved’ but whichever way they frame it, it must say it somewhere.

All companies know the importance of this, so if it doesn’t say it, then it most likely doesn’t have it and then you have to wonder why. All the life jackets that we have reviewed here have had that accreditation, but make sure you never take it for granted if you’re ever buying a life jacket.

Globo Surf Overview

It’s probably true that no-one really wants to wear a life jacket, and it would be more comfortable without. In truth though, it’s not a case about wanting to do it, and more one about having to do it. For sports such as waterskiing, it’s now the law in most states that it is mandatory that you have to wear one, and for anyone 13 or under on a boat, then they have to wear one too. These rules are there for your safety, but in reality, you should be going above and beyond those rules.

Life jackets have never been more comfortable, they are inexpensive and easy to put on. There is little reason not to wear one, even if the danger to yourself is going to be low. If you’re any distance away from the shore, then you should have one nearby and you should have enough in a boat to cover every passenger.

Life jackets now are light, flexible and come in a whole different range of styles and colors, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. These life jackets in this list are meant to be used while having fun and have their open arms so that you can have full freedom of movement when you’re out there on the water. After you put it on, you’ll forget that it’s even there.

We all know how fun being on the water can be, but we also know how dangerous it can be as well. Wearing life jackets will give you and your family peace of mind knowing that if the fun stops, that everyone is going to be safe. Here we have reviewed the best life jackets to bring you a great list from which to choose from. So select your style and your size and your favorite color and then head out on the water, having fun while feeling safe.

Globo Surf Life Jackets Review

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My family is ready for sea adventures with the Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility and all thanks to your article!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!