Getting out on the water is great fun. Whether you are boating, kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding, nothing beats immersing yourself in the dynamic energy of natural water of oceans, lakes and rivers.
But taking part in water sports can be dangerous. Even if you are a strong swimmer, you are still at risk. If you injure yourself as you fall into the water you might not be able to stay afloat, or your body could go into shock in the cold water.
It is always best to be safe and wear a life jacket. This means you can relax and have fun in the knowledge that if anything goes wrong, you will be safe.
But how do you know which life jacket you should get? There are so many different ones, it can be daunting to search for a life jacket that will meet your needs.
We have made it easier by putting together a list of the best life jackets available. We have also gathered some useful information about how to choose the right life jacket, and answered some common questions.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest is a perfect life jacket for many water-based activities including kayaking. It is made from heavy duty nylon fabric with ripstop technology to make it extra durable and tear resistant.
The buoyant foam panels stay in place as you move and are lightweight- the life jacket weights only 1.7 pounds. The life jacket is designed to allow flexible movement so you are not hindered when it comes to paddling.
This life jacket is US coast guard approved and has SOLAS grade reflective material to make sure you are visible on the water. The life jacket has six adjustment straps which allow you to get a comfortable and snug fit.
The shoulders are also adjustable with neoprene pads for additional comfort. The mesh panels in the front and back of the life jacket make it breathable and stop you getting too warm.
This life jacket has useful zippered pockets. They are expandable with mesh drainage, perfect for small accessories.
The life jacket also has an attached whistle for safety. The life jacket is pale gray with a choice of 4 accent colors - aqua, orange, purple, or yellow.
Leader Accessories specialize in outdoors, sports and home products.The Leader Accessories Adult Universal life jacket is US Coast Guard approved.
It is made from durable Nylon with soft PVC foam. With 4 heavy duty Buckles & adjustable chest belts you are able to get a comfortable and secure fit.
The velcro storage pocket is perfect for personal items and includes an attached whistle for additional safety. The life jacket comes in a choice of 4 colors- black, green, red or blue. It is fairly lightweight weighing just 1.95 pounds.
The Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest is a US coast guard approved life jacket that is made out of durable nylon. The inside is PE foam which is super lightweight- the whole life jacket weighs less than a pound!
With 4 adjustable chest belts, a three buckle design and webbed straps, this life jacket will fit snugly and feel comfortable. The arm holes are large for flexible movement and paddling.
The life jacket comes in a choice of red or blue. It is perfect for wearing on a boat, to the beach, or for activities like kayaking and canoeing.
The Rrtizan snorkel vest is inflatable rather than having flotation foam. You can inflate it on the go and blow extra air into it at any time with the air valve, which is automatically closed when you let go of it. It is made from tear-resistant polyester and PVC which makes it very durable.
The life jacket has heavy-duty front zipper closure and adjustable straps on the waist so you can get a secure fit. There is an additional strap that attaches to your leg to prevent the vest from floating away if it comes off while you are in the water.
There is a mesh panel on the back of the jacket for ventilation which will help keep you cool. The vest is lightweight, weighing just 0.7 pounds. It can be folded up as small as a book which makes it easy to fit into a bag for travelling.
The life jacket comes in black, or a choice of 4 neon colors - blue, yellow/green, pink and orange. The bright neon colors add excellent visibility. This jacket is a great choice for kayaking, snorkeling, or swimming.
The O’Neill Superlite Life Vest uSCG Approved and is designed for use during water sports. Designed to fit snug for your safety. Minimal bulk design allows full mobility and easy on and off.
This jacket weighs 1.27 pounds and uses lightweight polyethylene foam flotation. The jacket is made from durable coated polyester which is soft and hard wearing. It is also water resistant. The seams are overlock stitched for additional durability.
The webbed belts are adjustable and the quick release buckles make it easy to get in and out the life jacket.
If you are stuck between two sizes it is advised to choose the larger size for a more relaxed fit, as you can tighten it with the adjustable belt. The design is gray and blue with black straps and detailing.
This is a basic but effective life jacket. It has a simple shape with a keyhole neck and an adjustable belt. It is very durable as it is made out of nylon, durable PE foam and polyester.
The bright orange color will ensure that you are visible in the water. It is not as adjustable or comfortable as some other life jackets, but is very affordable as it comes in a pack of 4.
Whilst it is safe, it is better designed for boat trips where there is less chance of ending up in the water, rather than water sports like kayaking.
This inflatable life jacket is US coast guard approved. It automatically inflates in the water or can be activated with a handle. You can turn off the automatic inflation feature if required.
This life jacket is ideal for warmer weather. It has a low profile design to keep you cool, and is extremely lightweight weighing only 1 pound. The jacket is comfortable with a stretchable Flex-Back insert.
You can choose from blue or pink with black detailing and straps. The life jacket is made from durable nylon with tear resistant ripstop technology.
The Eyson Slim Inflatable Life Jacket automatically inflates in the water and can be manually inflated with a pull handle. It inflates within 3 to 5 seconds and adjusts automatically to keep your head above the water.
There is an additional backup oral inflation on the jacket. When tested in a factory environment, the life jacket stays inflated for a minimum of 48 hours with only 5% buoyancy loss in the first 24 hours.
Safety comes first with this life jacket. It has two SOLAS approved reflectors to keep you visible in the water. There is a high frequency safety whistle attached to the jacket and a useful D ring for hanging other items and safety equipment. It also comes with a handy carry grab.
This lightweight life jacket is made from waterproof polyester which is tear and puncture resistant. It has a soft neoprene neckline for additional comfort and an adjustable belt so you can ensure a secure and snug fit.
The quick release buckle makes it easy to get in and out of the jacket and the slender design keeps you cool in warm weather. The life jacket is washable and air dries quickly.
You can choose from 5 attractive colors - black, blue, olive, yellow, red.
The Airhead Orca Life Jacket is a US coast guard approved product that features soft and durable Kwik-Dry Neolite material, which makes it comfortable to wear all day long both in and out of the water.
It has a segmented hinged design for flexible and comfortable movement, making it perfect for water sports.
The jacket can be zipped closed and has two hidden adjustable straps for a snug fit. The quick release buckles make it easy to get the jacket on and off. The design is simple but sleek, black in color with some silver and white colored detailing.
This life jacket is made from strong Nylon and TPU materials with ripstop technology making it tear resistant.
The straps have high strength webbing and are adjustable for a secure fit. The quick release straps make it easy to get in and out of the jacket and the slim design allows for flexible movement.
This jacket inflates automatically when immersed in water with a manual pull handle. There is an additional oral inflation tube in case of emergency.
It comes with two CO2 cylinders, one for the jacket and one replacement. The jacket inflates in 3 to 5 seconds.
Best Life Jackets Buying Guide
Now that you know which life jackets are the best, how do you go about choosing the right one?
The first thing to consider is whether you want an inflatable life jacket, or one with built in flotation foam. Inflatable life jackets are more portable as they can be deflated and fold up small. They often have a slimmer profile and are good for flexible movement.
However, they are more vulnerable to punctures. If they inflate automatically then you will need to periodically replace the gas cylinder. Life jackets with flotation foam are not as lightweight but are generally more durable.
The next most important thing to think about is the safety features of the life jacket. A backup oral inflation tube is a good safety feature for inflatable life jackets.
A good lifejacket will have some reflective strips to improve your visibility both on and in the water. A high frequency safety whistle attached to the jacket will help you to attract attention in an emergency.
If you are going to be wearing your life jacket in warmer climates then you may want one with a mesh panel on the back for breathability and to keep you warm.
Best Life Jackets - FAQ's
What Size Life Jacket Will I Need?
Most life jackets are fairly adjustable, so you should be able to find one that you can adjust to fit you nicely. If you are choosing between two sizes then go for the larger one. This will allow more space for movement and you can use the adjustable straps to tighten it.
What Other Safety Equipment Will I Need?
Depending on the activity you are doing and your surroundings, you might need a helmet to protect you from hitting your head on rocks or logs and trees.
What Other Gear Will I Need?
If you are taking part in water sports or spending a lot of time in or around water, it is a good idea to get a dry bag. It is a water tight bag that will keep all your personal items dry. You can also get some bungee cords so you can fasten your bag to your boat or kayak.