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.
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.
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+)