Choosing which life jacket to buy
A life jacket buying guide
If you are planning on heading out onto any major body of water, it is essential for you to wear a life jacket for safety purposes. The best life jackets fit correctly and comply with state and county requirements. Use this buying guide to help you decide on which life jacket to buy in order to keep you safe while enjoying water sports.
>> What activities do you need the life jacket for?
In order for you to determine the best life jackets to use, you first need to consider the activities you will be doing. There are various types of life jackets that are made specifically for water sports like boating, fishing, skiing and more. The life jacket styles you choose should fit properly while allowing you to perform any activities without much difficulty. Certain life jackets are also necessary depending on how deep the water is.
>> Consider who will be wearing the jacket
As you are learning how to buy a life jacket, keep in mind that you need to consider who will be wearing the life jacket. Dimensions vary depending on factors such as age, gender and body type. For example, children's life jackets come in three different sizes depending on weight. Because life jackets are needed for buoyancy purposes, the jacket needs to not only fit but also allow the person to float securely in the water without going below the surface. By determining who the life jacket is for, you are better able to narrow down your choices and discover which life jacket to buy.
>> Consider material
Life jackets vary in terms of the type of material that is used in the inner and outer areas of the jacket. One of the most common materials for the outer area of life jacket designs is nylon. Nylon life jackets are easily adjustable around different body types and dry quickly when exposed to the sun. On the other hand, neoprene life vests are form-fitting around the body and offer additional flotation support when submerged in water. Neoprene life vests are common for advanced water sports like wakeboarding and water skiing. Nylon vests are most often used on fishing or kayaking outings.
As far as the inner workings of life jackets go, there are many options. While foam features a low density design, it is resistant against cold temperatures. Polyvinyl-Chloride (PVC) is resistant against sunlight, chemicals and fire for additional protection and has a prolonged lifespan. Kapok is a type of fiber that is taken from the Kapok tree. Because of its lightweight properties, kapok flotation vests are very buoyant and have the advantage of being recyclable. The best life jackets for you need to consist of a material that is appropriate for your water activities.
>> Consider size
Life jacket sizes differ depending on factors like weight and age. While these swim vests are often displayed in size types like extra small or extra large, you are also able to determine what size vest you need by your chest size. For example, for an adult life jacket in a large size, the recommended chest size is between 40 and 44 inches. Always be sure to check life jacket dimensions to ensure that you are purchasing the correct size for you or someone else. Size plays a major role when deciding on which life jacket to buy. If you end up choosing a life jacket that is too small for your body type, your mobility is limited. Choose a life jacket that is too large and it may fall off and compromise your safety while out on the water.
>> Consider style
After understanding which material and size you need, consider life jacket styles when figuring out which life jacket to buy. Keep in mind that style not only affects mobility, but comfort as well. Many of the most common life jackets feature a pullover style. This style is favored because it makes it easy to take the jacket on and off, while allowing for a large range of movement. The best life jackets for children utilize a zipper style. The zipper style is easy for children to put on and often uses buckles to keep them secure. The side-entry style of life jacket is commonly used for watersports like jet skiing. This style features a zipper and buckles on one side near the rib cage for comfort around the body.
>> Consider the type of life jacket
As far as different types of life jackets are concerned, each varies depending on the location and sport they will be used for. PFD life vests and jackets are classified as a type of US Coast Guard (USCG) Approved Vest. According to U.S. law, anyone who is riding on a boat must have this style of vest for safety purposes. If you are planning on riding on a wave runner, water skiing or performing some other style of water sport, you may want to choose a competition vest when deciding which life jacket to buy. A competition vest features a design that is lightweight and comfortable, while giving you the greatest mobility possible. It is important to keep in mind that these types of life jackets are not approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
>> Consider life jacket categories
As you understand how to buy a life jacket, keep in mind that you need to check with your state's Department of Natural Resources to see what category of life jackets are required depending on age and activity. U.S. Coast Guard life jackets differ in terms of classifications. These classifications fall under safety standards for different activities. This is why a fishing and marine outing will require a different classification of life jacket when compared to wakeboarding. No matter what body of water or activity you choose, some type of life jacket must be taken along with your boat accessories as a safety precaution. A Type I personal flotation device is generally required for any offshore outing and is designed to keep anyone in the water in a face-up position. A Type II life jacket is often required for all small children, where there is potential for a quick rescue to the boat. For water sports, a Type III vest is usually required because it is comfortable and lightweight. To be sure you are complying with the law, consider the required life jacket category of your location to avoid any safety issues.
>> Consider additional options
Life jacket brands also offer additional options to help you stay safe in large bodies of water. Reflective tape is a helpful option to consider if you are swimming at night. In case you need to be discovered, you can easily be found. While thinking about which life jacket to buy, consider one with storage capacity to keep your boat keys and other belongings from falling overboard. If you are thinking about which life jacket to buy for children, choose life jacket designs that feature bright colors. This will ensure that children remain easily discoverable at all times while in the water. Many life jackets also offer inflation options for extra buoyancy. These types of life jackets inflate manually or automatically when detecting water or when submerged in a minimum amount of water pressure.