When selecting a youth life jacket, there are a number of points to consider that are distinct from what an adult life jacket might provide. While many adult life jackets are appropriate for teens and youth, and can fit well, it is important to take an accurate look at the teen life jacket to make sure it is a good choice for your youth.

teen life jackets and teen life vests

Teen┬áLife Jackets Can’t Be Inflatable

One of the most important factors to consider is that it is illegal in the United States for teens under the age of 16 to wear inflatable life jackets.

This means that many of the popular choices that adults wear are off the table when it comes to proper selection of the life jacket.

It’s also important to keep in mind that US law requires all teenagers and children under the age of 16 to wear a life jacket whenever they are on board a vessel of any kind. Many boaters are not aware that while life jackets are always recommended, they are required for a youth life jacket.

Youth Life Vests: Size and Fit

As with any life jacket purchase, it’s important to keep in mind the size and fit of the vest, and choose a vest with a specific person in mind, or allow for an adjustable vest that can accommodate multiple body types.

Ideally, the life vest will secure snugly around the chest and torso, and, if the person were to fall in the water, the vest would not rise up above the shoulders to cover the neck.

If the vest is for a specific individual, this can be tested with a shallow water test in calm conditions, such as those provided near the shoreline or in a swimming pool. If the vest rides up when the teen is submerged in the water, the sizing is not appropriate, and the vest should be tightened.

For a dry test, a rule of thumb is to tug gently at the vest to assess how easily it moves off of the teen’s body. If there is too much space between the vest and the youth, it will easily slide around. This is an indication that the vest is too loose, and will ride up in the event the individual is submerged.