What To Know Before You Buy A Teen Life Vest

before_you_buy_a_teen_life_vestWhen it comes to purchasing life vests for their teenage children or other young passengers, many boaters are unaware that the requirements and characteristics of a good teen life vest are very different from those of an adult.

In this post I’ll go over a few things you need to know before you buy a teen life vest. For a list of recommended teen vests, click here.

Don’t Buy An Inflatable Teen Life Vest

Inflatable life jackets are not appropriate for teenagers!

No inflatable life jacket is Coast Guard approved for teens or children under 16 years of age, and even if you have a 16 or 17 year old on board, you should think twice about letting them use your inflatable vest.

The key determination here is the size of the teen. Since adolescents grow at different stages, it’s hard to set a firm age limit for when it’s appropriate to use inflatable vests. If you have a scrawny 16-year old, for example, even though they might be legally able to use the vest, it’s probably better to hand them a different option.

Check USCG Age and Weight Approval

All USCG approved life jackets will have a recommended age and weight approval limits associated with them.

There are a number of vests that are appropriate for both adults and teens, but you should always check the specific recommendations for the vest you are considering before you buy.

Double-Check Additional Features

Finally, in some cases, vests that include specific, additional features (aside from buoyancy) may have fine-print limitations on when those features are available.

One example is vests that advertise an ability to right a person face-up in the water. Sometimes, this feature (which is not a requirement for USCG approval) only applies to individuals who meet certain size and weight requirements, which small teens might not yet meet.

In these cases, the vest will still function and remains USCG approved for teen use, but the extra features may not apply.

Fortunately, it is extremely rare to have a vest advertised with a feature that does not apply to all users of the vest, and all of the top life jackets will be up front about who their vest is appropriate for.

Nevertheless, it’s important to consider all of the specification details when considering purchasing a teen life vest.

Click here to see the best teen life jackets.


Find The Best Life Jackets In No Time! See Top Recommendations and Learn What To Look For

best_life_jacketsThere’s a lot of debate among boater safety experts about what makes some life jackets better than others.

In my mind, there are a few key characteristics that all the best life jackets have in common. In this post I’ll give you a short life of some of my top recommendations and then outline the features you should be looking for to find the best life jacket easily.

3 Recommended Life Jackets

Click here to see a complete list of adult life jackets.

What The Best Left Jackets Have In Common

In addition to being USCG approved, the best life jackets are all comfortable, durable, and provide a full range of motion.


In my opinion, life jacket comfort is one of most underrated features of life jacket design, and usually takes a back seat in favor of security and technology.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how safe the life jacket’s ratings are unless you’re actually wearing the vest! The vest’s level of comfort is an extremely important factor in determining the frequency with which the vest will actually be used.


Secondly, durability is extremely important. While many boaters stock their boat with budget foam vests, many of these less-expensive options deteriorate rapidly.

Personally, I’d rather pay a little more upfront in order to have a vest I know is going to last for 10 years or more. Longevity and durability really make the best life jackets stand out from the rest!

Full Range of Motion

Finally, it’s extremely important to get a vest that allows for a full range of motion.

Like comfort, agility is an important factor in determining when and how often you’ll actually be wearing the vest.

Think about it this way: if you can’t maneuver easily, you’re less likely to wear the vest up on the foredeck to reef the main or take down the spinnaker, and those foredeck situations are when you’re least secure and need the PFD the most!

Click here for a full list of recommended adult life jackets.


What Life Jacket Buoyancy Do You Need To Stay Safe?

life_jacket_buoyancyLife jacket buoyancy is an important and yet often misunderstood concept when it comes to purchasing your next life jacket.

In this post I’ll go over a little bit about how life jacket buoyancy works and then explain how to tell what buoyancy level you really need.

How Life Jacket Buoyancy Works

Many boaters are easily confused by buoyancy ratings. It’s common to see buoyancy in terms of pounds, and usually something in the range of 15-30lbs of buoyancy is normal for an adult USCG approved vest.

For many, that raises a key question:

If the life jacket is approved for 20 lbs of buoyancy, how can it keep a 200lb adult afloat?

Buoyancy Numbers Reflect Dead Weight

The answer is that the weight represented in the buoyancy is in relation to the dead weight capabilities. That is, if you were to place a 20lb piece of lead on top of the life jacket, a 20lb-approved life jacket would keep that piece of lead afloat, but would sink if you put a 21lb piece on top.

Human weight is not dead weight. Upwards of 70% of the human body is water, which is effectively saying that you lose the majority of your weight when you’re in the water.

Buoyancy Also Relates To Displacement

Additionally, buoyancy is also determined by displacement.

Simply put, an object will float if it displaces more water than its weight. This explains why a cargo ship can stay afloat even though a block of steel will easily sink.

The human body will naturally displace a lot of water, and we can influence this displacement manually, by adjusting our position (you float more easily horizontally than vertically) or by controlling the amount of air in our lungs.

How Much Buoyancy You Need

The result is that in order to stay afloat, a life jacket only needs to account for 5% or so of your body weight, but a little more than that if the conditions are rough.

That’s why for inland waters, Type II and Type III vests are USCG approved with as little as 15lbs of buoyancy. For open water, Type I vests are approved at 22lbs of buoyancy.

For the overwhelming majority of people, these numbers are perfectly adequate and are more than enough to keep you afloat. For clinically obese individuals (over 300lbs), however, it may be best to use a life jacket with a higher buoyancy rating.

Click here to see a list of USCG approved adult life jackets.


Proper Life Jacket Storage Guidelines You Can Start Using TODAY

life_jacket_storagePracticing proper life jacket storage is an important boating safety habit.

Proper storage can help maintain the durability of the vest and ensure that all parts of the vest continue to function as designed, lowering the risk for tears or mechanical failure.

In this post I’ll go over a few tips for stowing your PFDs.

Life Jacket Storage Tips

When you’re at dock, it’s good practice to develop a life jacket storage routine to properly prepare the vest for the next time you’re ready to go out.

There are a few simple guidelines to follow.

  1. Rinse the jacket with fresh water. If the PFD was splashed with or submerged in salt water, you should always rinse the vest with fresh water before stowing. Over time, even small amounts of salt can begin to corrode away the material, so rinsing the vest helps keep it durable and long-lasting.
  2. Don’t stow the vest in direct sunlight. When it’s time to put the vest away, you want to make sure the vest doesn’t come into direct sunlight. This means it’s usually best stowed below deck or in one of the holds. Over time, continuous exposure to sun will not only fade the vest, but weaken the material, risking tears or mechanical malfunctions.
  3. Designate a specific location for storage, and use it! Finally, it’s important that you stow your life vests in a specific, designated place. Simply “throwing them down below” doesn’t cut it. You need to know they’re tucked into the pocket on the port side of the V-berth, or in the starboard aft hold near emergency raft. Keeping a consistent location makes the vests easier to access the next time you go out.

The Best Life Jacket Location When Under Way

Even if you’re just taking a short trip through calm waters, when you’re under way your life jacket should never be stowed!

The best life jacket location when under way is on you!

However, if you decide not to wear your life jacket, at a minimum you should have the vest easily accessible.

This means out of the hold and out of it’s bag. Ideally, you’ll have at least one life jacket per passenger within arm’s reach of the cockpit.

That could mean resting on the seat (foam vests make great backrests!) or clipped onto the life lines. The key is simply to have it out, available, and ready to go in case you need it.

Click here to read more about choosing a good life vest, or click here to see top life jacket recommendations.


3 Life Vests Boating Experts Recommend

life_vests_boatingWhen it comes to making your next life jacket purchase, it’s important to consider the reputation of the company producing the vests.

Just as you wouldn’t purchase a car without looking up consumer reports, your life vest should come from a reputable provider, and be appropriate for the activity you want to engage in.

In this post I’ll show you 3 life vests boating experts recommend for the safety, security, and reputation of the brand.

3 Life Vests Boating Experts Recommend

Mustang Survival

Mustang Survival has been creating high quality life vests for years.

Their best advancements have come with the increasing popularity of their inflatable vests. They offer two top-of-the-line options, one with automatic Hydrostatic Inflation Technology, and the other with both manual and automatic options.

What makes this brand stand ahead of the crowd is the combination of comfort and security. Their vests are lightweight with a soft foam fabric, making it easy to wear whether you’re sitting in the cockpit or maneuvering around the foredeck.

Definitely, a top option, and I highly recommend it.


Stearns is something of a household name when it comes to safety on the water.

Though most famous for their affordable USCG approved vests, Stearns also makes a number of higher end options that are appropriate for any type of water.

One of their most reputable jackets is their Type I offshore vest with harness. The vest is fully capable of handling any weather scenario, and is USCG approved with the highest marks.

You can also click here fo to see the top Stearns Type II vest.

MTI Helios

MTI Helios is another top player when it comes to water safety.

Like Mustang Survival, their vests are designed with comfort in mind, which make for a great option for any recreational boater.

Read more about my recommended MTI Helios life vest.

Or, click here to browse more adult life jackets.


Find The Best Adult Life Vest in 3 Easy Steps

best_adult_life_vestBuying a new life jacket is a task every boater should take seriously, but finding an adult life vest that’s right for you isn’t always easy.

In this post I’ll show you how to choose a life vest in 3 easy steps. You can also click here for my list of top adult life vests.

How To Find The Best Adult Life Vest

Know What You Need

Finding the best adult life vest is largely a matter of determining what your needs are for the vest. The most important consideration you need to make is what level of USCG approval you need for your boating activities.

USCG Type I vests aren’t usually necessary for recreational boaters, and are intended for extended offshore use.

USCG Type II and Type III vests are the most common recreational options. These vests are designed for inland and near coastal waters, and are meant to accommodate the overwhelming majority of boater needs.

Read more about USCG life jacket types.

When you’re figuring out exactly what you’ll be using the vest for, remember to keep in mind that life vests last for years, so even if you’re just cruising around the bay now, if you’re planning an offshore trip in the next few years you may want to gear up accordingly.

Know Your Preferred Style

Once you know what USCG Type you’re looking for, the next step is to understand what you’re looking for out of your vest.

Do you do a lot of maneuvering on the boat and need a vest that keeps out of your way? Do you want a life jacket that you can wear loosely or do you prefer a tighter, snug fit? In the event you fall into the water, do you need the vest to be ready to go instantly or are you comfortable inflating it manually?

These are a few of the questions you should ask yourself when picking a vest style. Some of the most popular styles are:

  • Inflatable vests: great for comfort and staying out of the way so you can maneuver easily.
  • Neoprene vests: snug fit that will hug your chest tightly. Often used for athletic movement.
  • Soft foam vests: a modern approach to the “traditional” foam life vest.

Read more about these styles of life jackets.

Set Your Budget

The last step you need to find the best adult life vest for you is to set your budget.

When it comes to life jackets, prices are all over the map. From bare bones $10-20 foam vests to premium $200 options, you can find something on any budget.

I usually recommend you opt for a mid or high end vest over a standard budget option. The durability and comfort of more advanced PFDs will far exceed that of the cheaper vests. Since this is a purchase you’ll be using for years and since comfort is an important factor in how often you’ll actually wear your vest, this is a good area to splurge for the right model.

Browse budget life jackets (under $50)

Browse mid-range life jackets ($50-100)

Browse premium life jackets ($100+)


3 Reasons Why You Should Buy An Inflatable Life Vest Today

manual_inflatable_life_vestIf you’re thinking about buying a new life jacket or other USCG approved PFD, you should think about whether or not you want to buy an inflatable life vest today.

Inflatable life vests have become extraordinarily popular over the last few years, as automatic flotation, sensor, and protection technology has improved.

Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider your next purchase an inflatable one!

Why Buy An Inflatable Life Vest?

High Level of Comfort

Comfort is one of the most important and most often overlooked aspects of finding the right life jacket.

In addition to just feeling better and more lightweight, inflatable vests are designed with comfort in mind. Having a comfortable vest means that you’re more likely to wear your vest more frequently.

This is an extremely important consideration when you’re on the water and one of the factors that will help keep you and your crew safe at all times.

Remember: Even the best life jacket only works when you wear it!

Full Range of Motion

Along with comfort, the compact size of the inflatable vests (when uninflated) means that they give you a wide range of motion.

This is great for any situation where you need full agility: regardless of whether you need to set a fishing line or gunning to win the weekly beer can race, having this flexibility will often come in handy.

One Size Fits Many

Unlike many fitted or foam vests, which come in a range of sizes, many inflatable life vests are designed to fit a wide range of adults.

This means that inflatable vests are a good option for outfitting your boat to accommodate a range of potential passengers, without having to purchase multiple sizes of vests.

Having fewer vests can help you save space, make it easier to find a vest for every passenger, and even helps justify the cost of splurging on premium life jackets for your boat.

For more information and to find a list of the top inflatable life jackets, click here.