Best Life Vests Reviewed & Rated for Safety
We can all agree that there is no better feeling than enjoying the beautiful, warm weather as you bask in the sun. Especially if you are able to be out on the water. Let’s be honest. Whether it’s a planned vacation or not, spending quality time in the sun is the pinnacle of a weekend or the entire summer.
You can imagine the scene: the music is playing, you are surrounded by family and/or friends, drinks are cracked open, the sunbeams radiate and the water glistens. All of your worries drift away in the summer winds. But, when it comes to spending this most fulfilling experience in the middle of the water, on a beautiful boat, it’s critical to keep your safety at the forefront of your mind as well.
- Stearns Adult Classic
- Three-Buckle Design
- Absolute Outdoor Onyx
- Automatic and Manual Options
- O'Neill Superlite
- Polyethylene Foam
Before you plan a boating experience with friends and family, there are a few important things to plan for. No matter how many times you have spent out on the water, it’s critical that you take the appropriate measures to be safe. This includes simple things like a first-aid kit and communication devices. Accidents can happen to even the most advanced sailors or boaters. It also includes one piece of equipment that is vital for everyone on board. The life vest.
Life vests are one piece of equipment that should be at the forefront of any boater’s mind. Whether it’s your first time or your thousandth time on the water, having a high-quality, safe, and tested life vest could make all of a difference should a crisis arise. With that being said, before you are quick to release from a dock or launch, we have some special insight for you. Today, we are going to share with you our in-depth analysis of the very best life vests on the market today, all of which have been reviewed and rated based on safety, protection, and comfortability.
Going forward, you should know that there are hundreds of different life vests to pick from. In our research, what we learned was that the following 10 life vests are the absolute best in class. If you want to feel safe while enjoying a boating experience, making sure your weekend or summer bliss continues on for years to come, then consider the following products.
10 Best Life Vests
1. Stearns Classic Series
The quality of this life vest is known to be one of the best in the industry. At times, there comes a brand that tries to reinvent the wheel. However, this is the classic wheel. This life vest is made of Nylon for easy breathability but maximum protection when out on the water. Other than that, it is coast guard approved which means it was highly tested and ran through a series of events before it hit the shelves.
Three Buckle Design
When out on the boat, this active gear brand wants to ensure that protection is the main result. Therefore, they have designed the three-buckle boating vest, a three-buckle design that ensures maximum protection and security. Whether this is used for the adults or the kids of the family, this particular vest will save lives no matter any occasion.
Cost and Value
The cost per value for this product cannot be measured. However, finding a quality vest at a reasonable price is made easy with this manufacturer. The build quality, the easy design, the breathability, and the functions of this vest make it an easy contender for anyone looking for safety gear for their boat. With that said, this product is fairly priced at the medium scale for a vest.
2. Absolute Outdoor Onyx
Have you ever heard of an automatic/manual design life jacket? A traditional lifejacket is made of Nylon and is designed in a way that can keep an individual afloat when on the water. This particular manufacturer created a life jacket with a T-cord, a string that when pulled will inflate the jacket with air, this is known as the manual function. The automatic function inflates automatically when the jacket makes contact with water. This design is both genius and innovative.
Although the safety of a life jacket is unprecedented and extremely important, many people tend to get annoyed with how bulky it can be, especially when they are trying to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, and enjoy their boating experience. This manufacturer has removed the bulkiness from the design by offering a slim life jacket that saves lives thorough inflatable means, making it a perfect choice for young kids and adults who are looking for a lightweight life jacket.
Cost and Value
When evaluating cost per value for such a vital and important item, there is no cost for saving lives. However, measuring the value of this product in regards to design and ingenuity alone makes it a worthwhile product to have. This life jacket alone is worth on the high end of the spectrum. However, it is due to the design, the lightweight nature, and the automatic inflatable technology used to create this great life jacket. Highly recommended by numerous sources.
- The fabric is made of a durable material that can withstand accidents, punctures, and tares.
- The life jacket inflates with a manual T-cord or automatically upon contact with water.
- The lightweight fabric makes it ideal for everyone.
- The neoprene neckline is soft, avoiding any scratches or neck irritation from typical life vests.
- Automatic and manual design add flexibility.
- Installing the CO2 cylinder can be confusing.
- Can inflate by itself if placed in the sun for too long consumers have mentioned.
3. O’Neill Wetsuits Superlite
When out and about on a boat, wearing a life jacket is essential. For that matter, anytime you or a friend is out on the water, it is essential to wear this form of protection. However, wearing a traditional life jacket design can get extremely heavy and exhausting after a while. Not only that but uncomfortable if you are trying to enjoy the environment. Therefore, this lightweight design is made of Polyethylene Foam which is soft, comfortable, and easy to wear all day long.
There are numerous vests out there that feel bulky and uncomfortable. This is not one of them. With the relaxed fit design, created by this premier outdoor brand, this manufacturer created a relaxed fit vest that is suitable for all body types, which can be difficult to find at times. It is lightweight, comfortable, and feels as if you are wearing a regular fitting vest that can practically save your life in the case of emergencies.
Cost and Value
The value of this life jacket is only matched by the amount of flexibility and design options available. Most importantly it is built from quality materials, it is USCG approved, and it is seriously tested in extreme situations to ensure optimum safety. The cost of this product ranges from medium to price to the higher end scale depending on color choice and sizes. With this in mind, we can say that the quality build is worth it for anyone wanting a quality flotation device.
- Perfect for wake sports and extreme sports including jet skiing, tubing, waterskiing, and surfing.
- The durable and coated Polyester Shell creates a really strong exterior.
- Relaxed fit allows anyone to wear it comfortably.
- The designed is made with minimal bulk in mind.
- Sizes can run small for certain individuals.
- Certain customers feel that it feels more like a corset than a vest.
4. Stohlquist Flo
Now, when it comes to life jackets most people think of those uncomfortable bright orange jackets that are really weird to put on, look odd, and feel uncomfortable. However, this manufacturer understands that when accomplishing any water sport that last thing a person desires is to be uncomfortable. With this particular life jacket, an individual can focus all of their attention on the activity ahead while fully trusting the product. It includes a sculpted foam frame for comfort and a high back flotation system to ensure back support.
Another aspect of a life jacket that makes most people incredibly uncomfortable is the amount of perspiration that can happen. A life jacket is known for being really hot and not having any breathability if it’s the standard build. The premiere build of this life jacket includes an ultralight and breathable material with open mesh shoulders and sides that allow an individual to not feel bulky or hot.
Cost and Value
Cost per value is always determined by an individual. With this in mind, the product is built from quality materials and includes many wearable benefits. The value for such an item is on the high-end scale, and the price reflects this. This should not be looked at as a deterrent considering this brand is a trusted company offering one-of-a-kind solutions to people that can appreciate expert craftsmanship.
- The open sides allow for optimum ventilation.
- The high-performance vest includes a 400x200 denier out shell that is rip top.
- The Inner 200D liner allows for padded comfort.
- Foam chest allows for maximum mobility.
- Two color options are stylish.
- Can be hand washed with soap and water in the case it gets dirty.
- Only available for women.
- Women have mentioned that it can feel too bulky for certain individuals.
5. O’Brien Traditional Neo Life
As we have mentioned in this article, traditional design can sometimes be bulky and odd to wear. This brand has mastered the traditional design with this new type of life vest. It includes a two-buckle safety design and zip closure ability without removing movement or restricting comfort. This design has been often preferred by many people despite the new designs out there because it is safe, secure, and trustworthy.
4 Color Options
What makes a brand such as this is their versatility. They already provide excellent customer service and quality products that withstand the test of time. So, how can they get even better? Well, with providing four different color choices, everyone in the family can wear their favorite life jacket matching a color they like.
Cost and Value
When evaluating cost per value for such an item it is important to look at the brand's history. This particular manufacturer of life jackets has been known for years for providing great active gear for water sports such as this. Therefore, it makes sense that their product would match the brand they have built, quality and innovative technology focused on safety and fun. The cost is considered on the higher end. However, for a trusted brand such as this, it is worth it.
- Neoprene vest for a comfortable and tight body fit.
- Buckle design for tampered safety.
- Zip up closure for added peace of mind.
- Approved by the USCG.
- Trusted company.
- Users have mentioned that this product may feel too tight at times.
- Users have mentioned that this product runs small.
6. Hardcore High Visibility
In the case of emergencies, it is vital for coast guards or other people out on the water to be able to see you and/or the group of people you are with. Therefore, this particular life jacket has the name for a reason, they are considered high visibility jackets with neon-like colors that shine brightly during daylight. The colors include green, orange, purple, red and white. These colors are aimed to help find an individual in the case they fall of their jet ski or other emergencies.
The construction of a safety product such as a life vest must be made from the most tare resistant, durable, and strong materials. This particular life jacket is made from polyester construction which is breathable, allows for maximum comfort, it’s easy to clean, and helps the flotation process.
Cost and Value
When talking cost per value, no one can put a price on saving a life. Therefore, brands such as this that are focused on easy to use safety products such as a life vest make it easy for people to stay safe when they love sports such as water sports. Therefore, the cost per value is determined by how an individual sees the product. We consider this product a lightweight and well-built life jacket that resembles a traditional life jacket design, built from a trusted company. However, it is the high visibility colors that make it worth every penny. On the cost scale, this is considered medium cost.
- A trusted company focused on extreme water sports products.
- Color choices look attractive and really stand out.
- The polyester design is easy to wear, clean, and comfortable.
- 3-buckle design offers added measure of security.
- The sizes run small
- Can feel snug when its dry.
7. Rrtizan Portable Inflatable Canvas
By ‘one breath at a time’, we meant because it is inflatable. This life vest is not like a typical life jacket, it serves more as a security measure when out at the beach or snorkeling. It aids in staying afloat and the simple access mouthpiece makes the process a lot simpler. In fact, an individual can access the mouthpiece of the life vest even when out on the water. If you are snorkeling you can easily release the air to get closer to the beauty below, or if you are floating you can simply add more air to help you stay up.
This particular vest includes easy to lock body straps that allow an individual to adjust them wherever, whenever. The body straps are located at mid-section and between the legs. This means no riding up, no discomfort and no potential of the vest slipping or sliding off.
Cost and Value
As we talk value to cost, there is a preconceived notion that the more expensive it is, the more value it brings. However, a simple design such as this life vest brings plenty of security. Some families are only looking for simple solutions to their life vests and this one brings just that. With plenty of color choices available, you can bring happiness to anyone in the family by giving them this as a gift. It is the gift of safety that will bring smiles on everyone’s faces, including you while you watch your kids play from the edges of a hammock.
- The Canvas-like material is durable and can withstand up to 220lbs of body weight.
- Much more lightweight than typical life vests and jackets.
- Comfortable air adjustment nozzle while in the water makes it easy to stay afloat of swim more.
- Best suited for snorkeling and beach days.
- Crotch strap can be quite tight for people above 200 lbs.
- Users have mentioned that it rubs at the neck sometimes.
8. Full Throttle Dual-Sized
For a vest such as this one to make it as one of the top premier water sports vest in the industry, it must get approved by the higher-ups. Who are the higher-ups? Well, there is a strict test that all life vests must go through. Not only that, but they must withstand almost everything and be able to keep a person safely afloat for hours on end in the case of emergencies. All of this is approved by the United States Coast Guard, and we are excited to share with you one of those approved vests. This approval rating alone means this product is made of the finest design qualities of a life vest.
There are numerous factors that are extremely important for a life vest to become approved or considered a sports vest. Some of these factors include design quality, materials used, safety measures, ease of use, and most importantly, weight. The weight of a life vest for extreme water sports must be lightweight. No jet skier wants to go on a jet ski wearing a 10-pound life jacket. This one securely passed that test by providing a lightweight designed without losing structural integrity.
Cost and Value
When concluding the worth of a product we take into consideration how valuable it is. The reason being that cost is subjective to a person. However, the value for the cost is determined by factors such as durability, quality materials, and how easy it is to use. Therefore, we can say that this product although is not considered ‘expensive’, it offers plenty of value for the price as an extreme water sports vest.
- Adjustable chest strap and belts allow for added security.
- Two color choices.
- S. Coast Guard approved product.
- Perfect for extreme water sports such as boating, fishing, jet skiing, etc.
- The lightweight and durable design make it a great life vest.
- Flotation foam interior.
- Not too many color choices.
- Users have mentioned that it can be too short for a tall individual.
9. X-Lounger Inflatable
The easy to inflate design makes it very simple to inflate and get in the water. In fact, it has been tested that an individual can inflate it in about 15 seconds time. Now, this is very beneficial, and so is the quick deflate option. All that a person has to do is insert the cap into the air valve and the air will begin to be released.
A product like this must be made from an extremely strong and durable material. This is exactly what this inflatable life jacket is made from. This life jacket is made from a high-quality tear-resistant material that ensures optimum security and fun while out on the water. The reason being, it brings security, extends the longevity of the product, and protects against possible scratches and abrasions. Never worry about your inflatable jacket popping on you again!
Cost and Value
When considering the cost per value for an item such as this inflatable life jacket it is vital and extremely important to consider what the item is used for. If this is considered for a fun day at the pool, beach, or a lagoon swimming day life jacket, that is fine. However, for more serious days out on the water or for extreme water sports, this may not be the best option. Considering the relatively low price, this life jacket is perfect for anyone wanting to ensure a bit of security.
- Multiple color options
- The easy-to-access tube used to inflate will allow an individual to adjust the buoyancy while in water.
- An attached whistle can be used for emergency purposes.
- An improved inflation tube cap prevents the air from leaking.
- The waist and between leg straps are adjustable for a better handle and more comfort.
- Perfect for all sizes and the whole family.
- Individuals mentioned that it is not for extreme sports.
- Users have mentioned that it is not best for long times on the water.
10. FLOWT AK-1
The design of this life jacket was created with an intention in mind, to provide minimum buoyancy. This alone makes it one of the best designs for simple watercraft days. However, the design meets all the criteria needed for a day out on the water. Made from A-grade materials, and includes a body strap for safety, any individual will be comfortable in this well-built life jacket.
What makes a product even more fun to buy is when you get to pick your desired color choice. This particular life jacket offers three color options to choose from, orange, yellow, and camo. The orange and the yellow are meant as high visibility colors to ensure safety when out on the water. However, the camo is an aesthetically pleasing design. For everyone in the family, the colors are eye-catching and pleasing.
Cost and Value
Speaking of cost and value, it is simple to see why a life-saving device may cost a bit more on the scale. Considering the quality materials of this life vest, the purpose that it is intended for, and the approval rating from the United States Coast Guard, this life vest is considered a medium-cost life jacket compared to others on the list.
- Nice colors to choose from.
- Simple design.
- Tear resistant materials make it easy to wear and easy to use.
- Designed for boaters or fisherman out on a boat.
- A simple floating device that is easy to use.
- The product does not fade in the water according to numerous users.
- Individuals have mentioned that it runs small.
- Users mention that they wish it had more color choices to choose from.
After we spent enough time scanning and evaluating the many different life vests that are available for consumers to pick from today, we came to a strong conclusion. In truth, since there are so many different products to pick from, it can be incredibly difficult for a consumer to pick out the best life vest based on safety alone. Each product out there, whether online or in store, claims to be the best. So, how can you ever decipher what is the best product? This was precisely our aim with today’s article. We understand how important it is to avoid defective products, especially when it comes to products that are designed to protect someone’s life. This is not something you want to risk. So, rather than just purchasing any life vest on the market, our guide today is intended to be the answer, demonstrating the very best of products, all which, without question, are worth the money.
Moreover, our intention with this article was really to help interested readers, like yourself, figure out what is the best life vest for your need and use. In this, we wanted to share only the most pertinent information regarding life vests, and only the very best of products. You should know, we spent the countless hours doing research so you don’t need to. This allows you to spend the time enjoying being on the boat or in the water, safely, rather than spending hours doing research. Does it get any better than this?
So, what life vest matches your needs?
Criteria for Evaluating the Best Life Vests
As we have discussed at lengths within the article, when it comes to the life vests industry – it’s saturated with hundreds of different products for consumers to pick from. While it’s nice to have options – it’s also counterproductive and can do more bad than good. Reason being, since there are so many different life vests – consumers are happy just picking a product that “looks good” rather than taking the time needed to research and evaluate different products. As a result, these consumers receive faulty products, poorly designed products, or are required to sit on the phone for hours with customer service departments trying to request a refund that will take two weeks to process. This huge inconvenience can be avoided! To help fellow interested consumers, like yourself out, we created this handy guide. You see, a high-quality life vest is an important purchase and should not be done impulsively.
Before we started to create our list of the very best life vests on the market today, we created a list of what it meant to be considered “the best” in this market. There were specific features and characteristics that jumped out immediately, like safety, materials, and even innovations. In light of these, we scanned through dozens of different products, utilizing this list of criteria. In this, we were able to highlight the very best life vests, and the very worst. Rather than having you scan through the market and figure out what is the best, we did the research for you! Below, you will learn precisely how each product was evaluated. Intrigued? Keep on reading!
Evidently, one of the most important characteristics of a life vest comes down to safety. Since the sole purpose of a life vest is to keep an individual afloat and safe, should something happen – it was important that each product was tested and approved for safety, whether an adult life vest, youth life vest, or a children’s life vest. With that being said, as we began to scan the market – it was our intention to only share products that truly represented the safest life vests on the market. Each product on our list today was built with unique innovations and technology to ensure consumers, like yourself, that you can enjoy being on the water, without thinking about anything else. For research purposes, we carefully looked at each product and product description to see how the manufacturer approached safety. What unique features did they include to secure consumers? Did they get their product tested for approval? What are previous customers saying about the safety features?
When it comes to evaluating and researching any product – it’s critical to observe the materials that a manufacturer used to make it. It’s that we can begin to draw conclusions as to whether a product is worth the pennies or not. During our research, after we looked at the many different safety features of each life vest, we moved onto the materials. We observed how the manufacturer shared the materials they used and if they offered consumers any assurance for their material choice. This may be either a warranty or even a money-back guarantee. After we figured out what the material was made of, we scanned through a few pictures of the product to verify the quality of the material and then double checked with previous customers. Since the product material is a consideration of all consumers, most customers will share their experience and thoughts on the grade of materials.
When purchasing a life vest, one thing that not too many people think about is the natural weight of the vest. Now, here’s the truth: whether the product is beautiful or not, if it’s heavyweight, you won’t want it. Reason being, when in the water, life vests can already feel slightly heavy. So, if you purchase a life vest that is heavier than normal, it can be uncomfortable or even cause irritation. When we began to develop our list of the best vests, we carefully evaluated for the weight of each product. What you will find on our list are products that were intentionally made from lightweight materials because of this very reasoning.
When you are in the market to purchase any product – you want to make sure you get a product that lasts. Wouldn’t you be upset to purchase a brand new life vest just to find out it rips the moment you strap the first buckle on? Anyone would! This is why, as we began to create the list of the best life vests, we wanted to ensure that each product was high-quality and could last a lifetime. Now, to figure this out, we needed to do a few different things. For one, we needed to look into the material design and how the manufacturer was ensuring customers their product would last. Typically, this is done through double-layer stitching or stronger construction materials. From there, we took the time to verify the company’s description of their product with their images. Lastly, we cross-referenced our insights with what previous customers were saying. In doing this, we were able to draw some very strong conclusions.
Now, life vests are meant to keep you afloat when in the water. So, as we evaluated each life vest, not only did we look at the different materials and safety features, we needed to carefully look at the comfortability features. Reason being, again, you don’t want to purchase a life vest that is uncomfortable in-and-out of the water. Typically, manufacturers will boast about their comfortability features, which typically involves some degree of added foam padding or breathable/ventilated backing.
When we were evaluating different life jackets, we were able to draw a conclusion that there were two different grades of life vests: simple floatation devices and life vests with quality innovation. With that being said, we kept a keen eye out for products that offered something different than a typical floatation device. Whether this meant a unique design feature such as three-buckle designs or perhaps an automatic-to-manual feature, we wanted consumers to see what the best in class entailed. As you will note from each product on our list, there is something unique and special about each product’s innovation. The commonality between the entire list is that each product is notable for its safety innovations.
Cost to Value Ratio
In our opinion, one of the most important features that all consumers need to take into consideration is something known as the cost-to-value ratio. For those that do not know, the cost to value ratio is the absolute best and proven way to ensure that you are receiving your money’s worth for a purchase. Now, this does not require any fancy math – don’t worry. All you need to do is compare the pricing of a product with its competition. You should be able to tell whether a product is priced higher or lower than its competitors. From there, it’s critical to look at the pure value of the product, aside from its cost, at first. This may entail reading the product description or even checking in with previous customers. Once you have a great understanding of the value, you can begin to draw conclusions regarding its price tag, in comparison to the rest of the competition. Evidently, products that are priced higher than the competition that lacks similar value are not worth the costs.
One of the main reasons why people don’t like life vests, or they take them off after a few hours of wearing them, has to do with a concept known as breathability. Have you ever worn a life vest, just to find yourself sweating and smelling bad? Chances are, the vest lacked proper ventilation. Now, this is directly related to the type of material that a company will use in the build of the product. What you are going to want to look out for is a life vest that is made from some type of ventilated material or includes an outer or inner mesh material. When we performed research for this article, we ensured that each product had some degree of breathability technology built into the core of the life vest. This is to ensure maximum comfortability while on the boat or waters.
Design and Colors
As much as safety and materials are an important component – so is the design and color of a life vest. In truth, you never want to purchase a dull life vest. Otherwise, it can prove to be counterproductive and difficult for finding a person when they are in dark waters. With that being said, as we performed research and evaluated each life vest for our list, we only wanted to offer products that came in unique designs and colors, while also packed with value and safety. Do keep in mind, you should never purchase a life vest purely based on design. As the name of this guide implies, we evaluated our products based on safety, not design and colors. If a company is marketing their product based on this feature, it’s not worth the purchase. The design and colors should be secondary to the quality of the product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you know if a life vest will fit comfortably?
A: If you are ever curious and want to know if a life vest will fit comfortably before purchasing it, it may prove beneficial to review the sizing chart. Take a look to see what sizes the life jacket was made for. Keep in mind, each life vest on the market today is designed for a specific audience. It’s important to purchase one that is made specifically for your body shape and size. In this, you can also look at previous customers reviews and experiences with the life vest, whether positive or negative. Sizing and fit is an important piece of the puzzle that everyone is asking. So, you are bound to find some good responses there!
Q: What does Universal Sizing mean?
A: You might have noticed when doing some research and looking at other vests that companies tend to market their life vests as “universal sizing”. Simply put, this is a fancy way of saying “one size fits all”. However, many of the universal sizing life vests come with numerous adjustable straps, ensuring that any individual that the vest was made for can comfortably wear the vest in and out of the water.
Q: Is color an important feature to consider in a life vest?
A: Colour is most certainly an important feature to consider. Reason being, if you are purchasing a darker colored vest or one that matches the color of the water, it can be difficult to spot someone in the water, whether during extreme sports or in an emergency. It’s important that each person on board as a notable life vest that can be spotted out by color. This will make it easier for everyone on the boat or other boaters around.
Q: What is the difference between Neoprene and Nylon materials?
A: This is a great question that responsible consumers should be asking. In the industry, top-notch companies are rotating between neoprene and nylon materials. To answer the question simply, neoprene tends to be a stronger material that can handle more wear and tear. In addition to this, neoprene tends to be more favorable among customers because it’s softer, making it more comfortable. Nylon, on the other hand, tends to be more commonly used, as, depending on the grade of nylon, can be cheaper for manufacturing purposes.
Q: How do you know if a life vest is safe?
A: The whole purpose of a life vest is to make sure that you are safe when on the water and on a boat, right? Well, before purchasing a life vest, there are a few things that you can do to verify the safety of the product. For one, take the time to look to see if the product has been approved by the USCG or the United States Coast Guard. Additionally, you can also look to read previous customers’ reviews to see how their experience went with the vest. Now, we would like to mention that, every single product featured on our list today was reviewed with safety in mind. So, if you are looking for a safe life vest, consider one of the options above!