In this post I’ll go over 3 types of life vests you should know about if you’re thinking about making a new PFD purchase.
Please note that this post is on styles of live jacket design, not United States Coast Guard approval ratings. Click here to read about the different USCG life jacket types.
3 Types of Life Vests
The first type of life vest you should know about (and hopefully one you are already aware of) are the traditional foam life jackets.
These life jackets are your stereotypical, bulky vests that are found in almost every commercial vessel and many recreational boats as well.
The traditional foam vests have a lot of advantages. The two most important are that they’re usually cheap and come in universal or near-universal sizes and include adjustable straps. This is what makes them such a popular option for any commercial vessel that takes on a variety of different passengers.
Traditionally, these vests have also been perceived as the most secure option, but with advancements in flotation technology that is not necessarily the case. Foam life jackets continue to dominate the USCG Type I and Type II life jacket categories.
Inflatable vests are an increasingly common option for individuals with private recreational crafts. They are often Type II or Type III approved for recreational use, and Type V approved for commercial use.
The number 1 benefit of having an inflatable vest is that they are both extremely comfortable and provide for excellent range of motion. Their smaller size means that you can more easily maneuver around the boat and the comfort element makes them practical for spending a full day out on the water.
Finally, the third type of life vest you should know about are fitted and neoprene vests. While not all fitted vests are neoprene and not all neoprene vests are fitted, the two often go hand in hand.
These vests are usually designed for a tight fit around the torso, which means that if you purchase one you’re more likely to purchase it for a specific person rather than an extra accessory to have on board just in case.
Fitted vests are comfortable if you like a snug feel, and are sized more like clothing than traditional life vests. This means that the right size vest should feel tight but also allow for plenty of room to maneuver easily.
I hope this post helps to give you a brief overview of the different types of life vests you might consider. You can click here to browse more life vest options and see my recommended brands and models.