hidden cost of cheap life jackts

Hidden Cost of Cheap Life Jackets: What To Know Before You Buy

hidden cost of cheap life jacktsIf you’re getting ready to buy a new life jacket, price can be an extremely important factor.

Before you buy cheap life jackets for your boat, however, you should make sure you understand the hidden costs involved. In this post I’ll outline what to consider before you make the final decision.

You can click here to see my top recommendation for a budget life jacket.

You might also wish to read this related post on Budget Life Jackets vs. Premium Life Jackets.

3 Points To Consider Before You Buy Cheap Life Jackets


The first and one of the most important considerations you can make is to estimate how long the life jacket is going to last.

Think about it this way: a $20 vest is ultimately more expensive than a $50 vest, if the $50 vest is expected to last for 10 years and the $20 vest will only last for 3 years.

While longevity numbers vary drastically from vest to vest, you can check manufacturer specifications for a warranty or other guarantee, or browse user reviews before you make your purchase.


Along with longevity, durability should also be an important factor. Many of the less expensive, foam vests are prone to easy tears, fading, and other minor defects.

While these issues don’t usually affect the performance of the life jacket, over time they can make the vest appear ratty and worn, even after relatively minor periods of use.


Finally, I’m a firm believer that a life jacket’s comfort is one of the most important factors you can consider.

The reason is simple: if a vest is comfortable, you’re more likely to wear it frequently. A life vest that’s stowed below deck does you no good in the moment you need it!

There’s no denying that the mid-range and premium life vests see a huge bump in comfort levels. For me, that’s an investment I’m willing to make, even if I’m on a tight budget.

Making The Decision

Ultimately, only you can decide the right line between meeting your budget needs and finding the vest that’s right for you for the long term.

Your life jacket purchase is an investment in your safety over the long term, and is personally one place I’m willing to spend a little more.

If budget is the top consideration, you can see my top-ranked inexpensive life jacket here.

Otherwise, click here to browse a full list of adult life jackets.


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.


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.


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.



Revere Inflatable Belt Pack: What To Know Before You Buy

revere_inflatable_belt_pack_pfdRevere is consistently ranked as one of the leaders in water safety gear, life vests and other PFDs.

The Revere inflatable belt pack is a USCG approved, type III PFD appropriate for calm inland water activities.

Pros and Cons of the Revere Inflatable Belt Pack

This is a great PFD, but whether or not it’s right for you largely depends upon what activities you intend to use it for.

What It’s Good For

Revere is one of the best brands out there when it comes to water safety and emergency rescue equipment.

While their inflatable belt pack PFD is not as renowned as their heavier duty options, like the Type I life vest or inflatable raft, the inflatable belt is a good option for anyone involved in casual, low impact, calm water activities, in which the use of a life vest is a supplemental feature, rather than a main priority.

Examples of good use include:

  • Kayaking
  • SUP
  • Small craft fishing
  • Laser or dinghy sailing

For these activities, this PFD is a solid, USCG Type III approved option that maximizes your comfort by staying out of your way.

The manual inflation setup has an easy access handle, which inflates a vest suitable for a wide range of adult sizes. The vest must then be manually placed over the individual’s head to rest on their shoulders and provide proper inflation.

What It’s Not

The Revere inflatable is not a deep water, coastal cruising, or racing life vest.

If you are engaged in a high impact sport that involves a high probability you’ll wind up in the water, this PFD is probably not for you.

The focus is on comfort and ease for small craft, inland water accidents and man overboards, not choppy or rough water rescues, nor extended submersion times.

Also remember that as with any inflatable belt PFD, inflation is not automatic, and you will need to manually place the inflated vest over your head in order to properly use the PFD, thus it is not recommended for situations in which unconscious or inhibited motion is a strong risk.

How To Decide if the Revere PFD is Right for You

Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to purchase the Revere inflatable belt pack comes down to what your expectations are for a life vest, and what your intended use is.

For any calm, inland water activities, from paddle sports through small craft (under 30ft) excursions, this is a great PFD to have in your arsenal. The ease of use and convenient, wearable technology make it one of the vests that is least likely to get in your way while you’re out on the water.

That factor alone trumps most other considerations in my mind, since a life vest is only as good as the number of times you wear it, and you’re more likely to wear it if it stays out of your way when you don’t need it.

Click here to read more about the Revere Inflatable Belt Pack, or see a list of the top Adult Life Jackets.