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Choosing the Right Life Jacket

Choosing the Right Life Jacket: A Complete Guide

on August 15, 2021

How to choose the right life vest? with a variety to choose from which one is suited best for you? Follow this guide to help your find the perfect fit, for your specific needs.

life jackets, life vests,


Choosing the right life jacket is one of the most important considerations whenever you plan to spend some time on the water. The selection depends on your body type, gender, age, and the type of activity you want to get into! It might sound very easy, but you need to consider a few things before getting the right fit for yourself.

A life jacket, also known as personal flotation device (PFDs), is essential for anyone who takes to the water.

How to choose the right life jacket?

Girl wearing life jacket


If you are looking for the right life jacket for yourself, here is what you need to do!

  • Choose the right type based on the water sports activity you want to get into
  • Look for an appropriate size and fitting
  • Go through the size and weight requirements
  • Make sure that the life jacket is of good quality and in good condition
  • Wear it and enjoy!


Choosing the right type



Life jackets come in various types and you have to choose the best one according to the water sports activity you want to get into and according to your boating conditions! Here are five general types:

Type I Life Jackets: They offer great buoyancy i.e. over 20 pounds and are mostly designed to be used offshore. They are quite heavy to wear but can be used to turn an unconscious person’s face out of the water in case of an emergency.

Type II Life Jackets: These jackets provide around 15.5 pounds of buoyancy and are mostly meant to be used for nearshore boating excursions. They are inexpensive and have a simple design, thus the most commonly used amongst all.

Type III Life Jackets: Type III jackets are often referred to as ski vests. They also offer around 15.5 pounds of buoyancy and have a comfortable and formfitting style. Most of these jackets feature either a buckle and zip closure or a front entry with a buckle. The Type III jackets cannot turn the face of an unconscious person up, as they are mostly designed for the conscious wearers. 

Type IV Life Jackets: Type IV jackets or PFDs offer around 16.5 pounds of buoyancy and are mostly designed to be held onto the wearer.

Type V Life Jackets: They are special-use jackets that usually come with flotation coats or rafting vests. They can only be specifically used, thus not too common to be used for general purposes. 

You can learn more about the life jackets from this short but very informative video!


Choosing the appropriate size and fitting

boy wearing life jacket with father


Now that you know which type of life jacket to choose, the next important consideration is choosing the right size and fitting. Find a wearable PFD, make sure that the jacket is neither too big that it comes off and nor too small that it does not offer the right buoyancy.

Tips to find the proper fit

  • Check the label on the jacket to see the size and weight details.
  • Once you get the appropriate size, wear it, fasten the closures and then, with your arms lifted upwards, ask your friends to pull the jacket upwards.
  • If the jacket does not rise above your chin, it means that it is of the right size. If it goes up, this means that it is large and might slip off when in the water. 
  • While buying a life vest for children, look for the crotch strap that runs between the legs. It adds further safety and ensures that the jacket does not come off when in the water. 
  • Also, check that there are no holes or tears in the jacket as the jacket must be in a good condition to be used for safety. 

You can choose a perfect life jacket or PFD of your choice easily from here.

Do not forget it at home and wear it at all times

family wearing life jacket on a boat


You can learn more about the safety tips from our article that extensively covers the topic. Here is the link to it.

In 2012, 70% of boating deaths were caused by drowning. 85% of those who died from this type of accident weren't wearing a life vest. The majority of drowning deaths occur in inland waters.

No matter how good you swim or how calm the waters are, you should always have a life vest. But, of course, it would help if you had it on.

The United States Coast Guard requires all boats to have one person wearing a life jacket on board at all times. Adults are not required to wear life vests. However, they are not necessary to sit at the back of your boat while you're in the water.

Children under 13 years of age on a moving vessel must wear a suitable life vest. In addition, watersports require that life jackets be worn at all times.

See our exclusive range of life jackets! 

Things you must consider before Buying Any Life Jacket!

 1. Select the Right Kit

Nylon life vests are more flexible than other materials; they are highly recommended for water sports. They're also light and cheap.

Neoprene life vests are the best in colder climates or open water as they add warmth to the water and buoyancy.

 2. Pockets

It is worth purchasing a jacket with zippered pockets if you fish or need to keep your supplies close by. In addition, a pocket can be used to warm your hands and is a great bonus.

 3. Check the Correct Size

The right size life jacket will fit comfortably but not too tight. It should also allow you to move your arms freely. To help you find the right fit, most companies will provide a size chart. You will want to purchase an adjustable one with adjustability and straps that can tighten.

Try on life vests to simulate the motion you'll experience on the water. This will ensure the vest is entirely comfortable and allows for the movement you require.

Once you've chosen the best life jacket for your needs, adjust it from the waist to the shoulders. When you are satisfied with the fit of your life jacket, have a friend pull on it. The coat should not reach your nose.

If it does, then the straps must be tightened. If they cannot be tightened, then you should get a smaller size.

 4. Gear Loops and Lash Points

These features offer another way to attach equipment, such as a fishing tool, emergency whistle, or compass to your PFD.

 5. Mesh Panels

Some PFDs can be used in hot environments with breathable mesh panels and mesh vents.

 6. Hypothermia Protection

You should be aware of the importance and benefits of hypothermia protection if you are boating in cold environments. Your core body temperature drops quickly when you are immersed in cold water. This can lead to severely impaired mental and physical abilities. For example, even a five-minute immersion in 50 degrees F cold water can cause you to lose your ability to climb ladders, catch lines, and tread water.

An adequately fitted Type III vest can help delay the onset of hypothermia and reduce its effects. In addition, wearing high buoyancy vests such as offshore inflatable allows you to assume the Heat Escape Lessening Posture, which can double your survival time by reducing heat loss.

 7. Reflective Accents

This feature will make you more visible to rescue personnel, especially at night. To improve visibility at night, many PFDs have brightly colored exteriors.

 8. Check the Type of Your Water Sports

When shopping for a life jacket, it is essential to know what water sport you will be participating in. A life jacket can be used for many water sports. However, it's best to buy a model made explicitly for that sport.

For example, below are some suggestions for water sports!

 i) Kayaking Life Jackets

Life Jacket Buying Guide

A kayak life jacket is required if you are interested in water sports like kayaking or canoeing. These jackets have a lower profile, which makes them easier to sit comfortably. In addition, they are lightweight and buoyant and will allow for enough clearance between the seat and the spray skirt.


ii) Fishing Life Jackets (fishing vests)

These jackets are designed for fishing and have loops and holes for holding your gear.

Check our exclusive range of life jackets, you might love!

Other Types and Functions of Life Jackets you must know!

These are some other types and functions of life jackets you must know!

1. Hybrid PFDs 

This type of PFD has a solid foam flotation material and an auxiliary air bladder which can be used for additional flotation. The majority of hybrid PFDs fall within the Type III or V category.

 2. Inflatable PFDs

Some PFDs can be inflated while the wearer is still in the water. This category includes life vests that are found on commercial aircraft. Inflatable PFDs are classified as Types I, II, III, or V. They are smaller than foam PFDs in the same category and less bulky. The majority of inflatable PFDs can be inflated by pulling a small tab that activates a CO2 cartridge. To be approved by the USCG, an inflatable PFD must include an oral backup inflation tube.

 3. PFDs for dogs

right life vest for your dog

Many dogs can swim well, but others may have difficulty with the water. Although dog PFDs may not be USCG-certified, they can save lives and allow your pet to enjoy the water.

For the perfect life jacket for your dog, check these features;

  • It should be snugly fitted so that your dog can't twist, step or swim around it.
  • It would be best to choose a style with a lower profile that is less likely to catch a snag.
  • It would be best if you are looking for one that has easy-release buckles.
  • Make sure it has a handle that can be used to lift your dog out of the water.

4. Life Jackets for Women

Women's jackets are made to fit women's bodies. These jackets are typically shorter in the trunk and can be contoured to serve a woman's body best. This allows them to do better and can be safer in an emergency.

 5. Life Jackets for People of great height and stature

This PFD will have a larger Chest to fit larger bodies. In addition, these PFDs will have additional features that can make them more comfortable.

Expanding panels can be one of these features. This can make the jacket more flexible and allow you to move around. Adjustability is also a helpful feature that will enable you to tailor the PFD for your body.

 6. PFDs for children

Most children will find that adult PFD is too big for them. Children under 90 pounds should use a PFD made for children. Many companies offer life vests that are suitable for infants, toddlers, and children. The USCG-approved PFDs for children include a recommended weight range. You must make sure your child is within this range. Your child will eventually require a larger PFD as they grow. Infant pfds are vital, do not think your child will be kept safe in your arms, please accidents do happen, the best immediate protection is the life vests. Find the proper fit!

Note - Your child's PFD must fit securely. Many models for children smaller than six years old have a strap that fits between their legs. This prevents the PFD's from riding up in the water or falling off. Before you take your child on a trip, have them try on the new life vest. Before you take your child out on the water, make sure they have their flotation devices (PFDs) in place.

Want to buy wonderful life jackets? check our exclusive range

Other Factors You Should Keep in Your Mind:

Check the Inflation Methods

There are three inflation options for gas-only lifejackets. You can choose the one that suits you best. Usually, inflatable lifejackets can be inflated by inserting a CO2 bottle into the firing head. Lifejackets that are only inflated orally (without a gas cylinder) are not recommended for daily use.

 1.  Manual Inflation

The manual inflation of lifejackets is done by pulling a cord. This pushes a firing pin into the CO2 bottles, which inflates them. False activation can occur due to a damp or malfunctioning automatic mechanism or a wearer being struck by a large wave.

Manual activation won't work if you aren't conscious or under the effects of cold shock.

 2. Automatic Inflation

Automatic inflation can be activated either by water or by pressure

 i) Automatic Life Jacket started by water

The water-activated automatic firing head has a small pellet/bobbin that retains a strong spring. The pellet/bobbin dissolves quickly in water, releasing the spring and pushing the firing pin towards the gas bottle.

Most people prefer inflatable pfds, the reason for this is, if they fall into the water and go into the shock, the inflatable pfds will automatically inflate

 ii) Automatic Life Jacket activated by pressure

Hydrostatic (Hammar) lifejackets function similarly to an automatic one but with a dissolving pellet. The case protects the pellet from water and lets it in only if submerged for a few centimeters. The fire will not go off if it is fully submerged.

If you participate in activities that involve you being regularly soaked by water or excessive spray, you should consider this lifejacket.

Hydrostatic lifejackets that contain CO2 bottles are less susceptible to corrosion.


Can you drown with a life jacket?

Your chances of drowning are very slim if you don't get trapped in a vessel or drag under the current.

A life jacket, which is similar to the snorkel fins that help you move through the water quickly, or the water shoes that protect your feet from cuts and scrapes, is designed to keep you protected in the water.

 How to Take Care of a Life Jacket?

Life jackets must be hand washed and let dry naturally. Your life vest's buoyancy will be affected if it is tumble-dried. So please make sure you inspect everything before using it. Also, be aware of mildew and any rips. If you have any doubts, replace it as the life jackets are designed to save your life.

Inflatable life jackets can be damaged, so be extra careful. First, it would be best if you inspected the inflatable life jackets for any punctures. Then, inflate it using the auxiliary nosepiece to check if the life jacket is still airy.

Your life jacket should never be left out in the sun. Over time, UV rays can damage and weaken the materials. So, allow it to dry in a cool, sunny place.


Benefits of Wearing a Life Jacket:

These are some great benefits you can have with life jackets;


1.  Life jackets save lives

The numbers are the proof, and life jackets can save lives. Life jackets are the equivalent of a seatbelt for a car. They help you stay afloat if you get into trouble. According to the US Coast Guard statistics, 84% of those who drowned in boating accidents were not wearing their life jackets.


2.  Life jackets keep you warm

It is not about floating in the water, but it is also about keeping warm in cold water. Proper life jackets are designed to wrap around your body and keep you warm until help arrives.


3.  Life Jackets Face you in the Right Direction

You may be seriously injured if you get thrown from a boat or jet ski. Life jackets are great because they can flip you over to face the sky, not the ocean. This slight change can save your life.


4.  Wearing a lifejacket or a PFD can cause a ripple effect

If you set the example, it will help ensure that all passengers aboard your boat have their PFDs and lifejackets adequately secured. Not just having lifejackets onboard is enough. Everybody on board must have a life vest, and it must be secured appropriately.

 Choose the right life jacket, make sure it's a proper fit, all live vests must be coast guard approved! This is your personal flotation device, when you find yourself in the water always stay in a face-up position. The face-up position means you will be lying on your back with your face towards the sky. Do not worry about freedom of movement, or hot weather all boating activities require every person on board to wear a coast guard approved life vest.

Find the right life jacket for you and your family at Marine Supplies US your online marine store


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