When 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.