Which Life Jacket is Right For Me?
One of the more confusing things to do when shopping for gear to use on your sailing trip, is to find out which life jacket/vest is for your for your type of boating. Today we will help you out with this confusing topic. Coast Guard Requirements: You must have a type 1, 2, 3 or 5 vest that must fit you for everyone on board. Any boats over 16 Ft, you must have a throwable device( cushion, horseshoe, ring or life sling)
What is a type 1 Vest? These are the big commercial vests with 22lbs of buoyancy, inteded for those on commercial vessels and not for recreaction
What is a type 2 vest? These are more inexpensive, common type of vest. These have a single strap around the front and are usually orange in color. These jackets are typcally not that comfortable. We suggest the next couple we will discuss….
What is a type 3 Vest? These provide 15.5lb’s of buoyoncey and come in a wide variety of styles and are excellent in-water perfomance wise. We reccomend these for sailors . For colder seasons a life vest type 3 JACKET would be recommended
What is a type 5 Vest? These do not fit in any of the other vest categories. It may have a harness built into it for offshore sailing. So do not shy away from these vests if you are looking for something specific sailing sport wise. Inflatables are type 5’s
There are about 8 categories of boating, So…
Which type of vest should I wear for each sailing category?
If you are a day sailor, either on a dinghy or small keel boat , we recommend a type 3 . These are adjustable in many ways (shoulders, to pull down on your torso for a good fit) and they have adjustable sides to really snug it around so it doesn’t ride up on you if you fall into the water.
What if you are riding around on an Elyxyr sailing across the Pacific?
If you are going off-shore, we recommend an inflatable. 35lb’s (or sometimes more) of buoyancy will help keep your head and mouth out of the water, and most inflatables also comes with harnesses, most of the time you should be clipped in, running across the deck, using a jack-line or teather. If you are disconnected, the inflatable will inflate to a very large shape which will give you plenty of time to be rescued! For sailboats where you have to grind winches, steer and tail lines, this gives you plenty of freedom to move so you aren’t stuck in a big foam devices
If you have the lucky opportunity to own a power boat or were invited onboard one of these beauties you will notice that they have stable platforms and the bulwarks are high , so falling out of them can be really hard to do. Since these sport fishing boats are capable of crossing oceans and can sometimes find themselves in really rough conditions we recommend an inflatable (most comfortable in our opinion) plenty of freedom of movement, High buoyancy if you do go in accidentally , and usually come in manual or water triggering auto style.
If your plans are to go off angling on a fishing boat (for example: a Boston Whaler) we recommend a type 3 that are specific to fishing. Will have encircling belts and pockets upfront.
Flexible soft foam , highly adjustable , and a spot to leave your tack..we reccommend Type 3
A type 1 is recommended here , as you are required to have these on board. They stack well , universally sized (90lbs or above usually) and have a shiny relective tape, which helps with emergencies in order to spot those that fall overboard.
Anytime the vest is USCG approved, it usually is a high quality/ high grade vest so keep this in mind. This O'NEIL Reactor vest is very versatile. You can use it for any water sport and was designed with boating at the forefront. It comes in a few different colors. We like the Reactor and we are impressed with it's flexpoints, strechy durable neoprene, and marine grade foam that stays soft and contoured to your body. After testing we found that it is very good for keeping water out (non-absorption through the neoprene cells)
The Marine foam is broken up with neoprene to easily bend up and down more naturally and doesn't feel like "You are sitting inside of a barrel" feel you would get with other vests. We also like the thin straps and concealed belt system. No flopping around and nylon does not like sun so these nylon straps don't get caught on the cleats of your boat and they don't wear out! We also love the zipper stopper so the zipper stays up high. It is anatomically cut, at a great price-point.
Improvements: There really isn't much for improvement here. This vest has all the bells and whistles with safety and comfort in mind. This may be a little out of the budget for some but it is well worth the cost and can save you from lots of headaches of having to run through life vests. It will last a lifetime!
Overall Rating: 4.8/10
Much like the Onyx MoveVent dynamic vest, the Curve vest also conforms to the body just like a glove. It’s innovative vented channel helps to keep the body cool while padding. It also feature excellent mobility, sculptured foam that conforms well to the body at all times. It also has a mesh ventilation in the front and back to allow for maximum airflow. This vest is optimal for kayak sailing!
This is a class 3 floatation which is in the upper echelon of safety requirements. Ours came with a whistle. The move in “Movevent” must mean all vented because there are vents in the front, back and rear. We really like that it has vents all throughout.
- Soft, lightweight flotation foam
- 200 denier nylon outer shell
- Provides excellent mobility for recreational paddle sports (canoe, kayak, SUP)
- Ventilation in front and back to keep you cool
- Mesh in lower back fits high back seats and sit-on-top kayaks Sculpted and flexible design conforms to you and stays in place
- Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
- Adjustable side belts
- Strong, durable zipper closure
- Zip assist loop at zipper base
- Beer belly strap for those who need it!
- Pockets on either side of the front of the vest which have mini vents on the bottom of them
Improvements: The whistle it comes with can be a little bit stronger but does have deeper tones. As far as the vest it rides high but can be pushed down with the belly strap.
Overall Rating: 4.7/10
8| Eyson Slim Inflatable
We are really big on inflatables ( make sure they are coast guard approved) which only qualifies as coast guard approved when you are wearing it, not when it is stowed away somewhere so make sure you are wearing it , especially if you are about to get pulled over! This Eyson is NOT coast guard approved but does carry a CE liscense. All this means to you is that you will need to have a coast guard approved life jacket stowed somewhere on board if you wish to wear one of these Eyson’s and still stay compliant.
We really love these Eyson’s. They are super slim and really don’t carry much weight at all. We would much rather have hardly any back weight with our vests and this is exactly that. These automatically inflate and they are really visible (orange or bladder tubes with reflective integral tape) because that have so much more flotation then a foam life jacket, they will keep you up higher in the water and will be more likely to turn an unconscious person over with head back , so a safer vest in the water.
The Eyson slim inflatable jacket inflates in about 3-5 seconds when the inflation cord is manually pulled or automatically when immersed in water.It has reflectors on the airbag which allows the wearer to have high visibility when in darkness. This jacket has a durable ripstop fabric which helps to resist tear and puncture. It is made with high quality and heavy duty nylon fabric which is soft and light.
It has a quick release buckle for putting on and taking of the life jacket at all time. This jacket provides comfort, safety and peace of mind for the flatter, sportsman or anybody either or recreation or when at work.
– Waterproof Polyester Oxford Neoprene
– Nylon + TPU air bag material
– Inflates at less than 5s
– Floats for over forty eight hours.
-Buoyancy loss after 24 hours less then or equal to 5%
– CO2 Weight
Improvements: you will have to keep a re-arming kit on board just in case the inflatable vest inflates/deploys! Not recommended for anyone under 16 years of age or 80lbs.
Conclusion:The Eyson is recommended for any kind of sailing. We would not recommend if you are going to be in the water repeatedly, because once these deploy you will have to re-arm it and its not the most convenient thing to do. They also do not do well at high speed water impact, we would rather use a foam/tradition life jacket instead if you are racing your boat. Overall though it is absolutely our choice for recreational /low key sailing for its comfort and effectiveness.
Overall Rating: 4.5/10
The Onyx MoveVent dynamic life vest is made with a high grade SOLAS material for high visibility. This vest conforms to the body and take up the shape of the body like a glove and yet its innovative vented channels help to keep the body cool while paddling. This vest features excellent mobility and a sculpted foam design that conforms to the body and mesh ventilation in the front and back to allow for maximum airflow.
This vest accommodates all level of padding.
Improvements: The whistle isn’t as loud as it needs to be. We love everything else about this vest. Great construction. All-in all this is one of the more versatile foam vests on the market today.
Best Use: Any Kind Of Sailing.
- Utilizes a soft, lightweight flotation foam
- SOLAS grade as reflection material for visibility
- zippered pockets that expand with mesh drainage
- 200 denier nylon ripstop and nylon Oxford Lash tab for smaller items
- Drying loop on back of the vest
- Comes with attached whistle for safety
- Provides excellent mobility for recreational paddle sports (canoe, kayak, SUP)
- Ventilation on the front and back to keep you cool
- Mesh on the lower back and fits high back seats and sit-on-top kayaks
- sculpted and flexible design conforms to you and stays in place
- has shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
- Adjustable side belts
- very strong, durable zipper closure
- Has a zip assist loop at zipper base
6| NRS Vapor
We like the reflective piping around the front of the NRS. The vapor is easy to put on with 2 buckels on the side of the vest which is a nice feature to have, and will also do a good job not getting caught on cleats of your boat
The NRS Vapor PFD is a Type III lifejacket which gives you the look, feel and performance of a high-end life jacket. That is because it is very high end. we like that the zipper is straight down the vest for accessories and that the attachment point for accessories is on the top right. It is much easier to utilize because of placement. We love the top loop for hanging up the vest. We also like that the shoulder straps are very long to make way for better adjustment and a more personalized fit. We also love the hand warmer pockets on the sides. One side pocket is lined with felt and the other side pocket is unlined. We like the longness of this vest and the fact that it is segmented into three pieces.
Improvements: we would have liked if this vest had reflective piping strips on the back and shoulders. It might rub up against you in kayak sailing, but in other kinds of sailing where you have space and can lean, you won't really notice it.
- Entry and adjustment is easy. Just open the two side buckles, slip the jacket on and buckle up. Once adjusted, it fits right every time.
- The soft foam wraps around your body and moves with you for "I forgot I had it on" comfort
- The action-cut design frees your arms for unrestricted paddling and rowing, and its light weight will never slow you down.
- The chest zipper opens a huge pocket that covers the front of the jacket.
- Behind the pocket is a roomy hand warmer pouch for chilly fingers.
- Also includes a lash tab for your knife and reflective piping for low-light visibility.
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
This Stohlquist Ebb is a coast guard approved PFD. It is especially cut for both men and women with floatation closer to the stomach. Shoulders have adjustable straps. What they've done on the side is kinda of a cross body tightening system with adjustments by the peck area , which allows for more of a form fit. Zipper snap pockets (lined with fleece) on the sides are a nice touch.Front zip. Spongy mesh panel near the innerback side so it is fairly comfortable.
These are ideal for kayak sailing . These feature a ripstop material on the outside(durabilit) and mesh interior which keeps you nice and cool and keeps perspiration away from the body. and fits a wide range of body types there are 8 points of adjustmetns which is excellent for form fitting. The cinch strap it wraps the body diagonally from the top of the chest to the lower back so the vest won't ride up on you.
We really like how big the arm holes are on this vest so you will get a wide range of motion and has sculpted . The foam is also skived on the sides so that in contours to your torso.
Improvements: It is not as lightweight as we thought it would be but it is definitely high quality. We loved what they did with the neorprene
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
The Stohlquist Flo jacket is made specifically to suit the female counterpart for all your sailing adventures. It is made of sculpted foam panels on the upper torso which wraps a woman’s body naturally for a soft and comfortable fit. This jacket also features a a high back design that sits above seat backs found in sit-on-top kayaks and a unique, cross-chest cinch harness that wraps around your body from the chest to the lower back keeping your life jacket from riding up and crowding your chin.
This high performance life jacket is made of an ultra durable 400*200D, ripstop nylon she’ll and a 200D inner liner which helps to keep the body warm at all times. The mesh shoulder and back allows for maximum ventilation and it helps to give comfort and keep the body dry and warm. It has a neoprene padded, Lorraine back waistband so as to prevent the jacket from chafing the skin. This high quality jacket keeps the body safe and comfortable for an enjoyable day during recreation or sport.
Improvements: We really don’t see any negatives with this Vest. The only thing we wish it had were reflectors.
It’s USCG Approved and type III PFD so the quality is outstanding. It’s got sculpted cups and princess seams in order to really contour to a women’s torso.
- Wide armholes for increased mobility
- Open sides for airflow and freedom of movement
- Mesh shoulders and back for cooling and maximum ventilation
- High back design fits comfortably above kayak seat backs
- Cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride up
- Neoprene padded lower back waistband for added comfort
- 1-1/2” webbing belt with dual forward pulls for a trim, low-profile fit
- Two large pockets for added storage
- Entry grip tab at zipper base for easy on/off functionality
- 8-points of adjustments for a custom like fit
- Sculpted foam panels wrap around your chest and form to your body
- Pared foam edges wrap around your body for a flexible fit
Overall Rating: 4.8/5
Overall Rating: 4.7
3| Gill USCG
We really love this USCG Gill PFD …This type III is a little bit thinner but at the same time longer cut. The front zip pfd is really high end and the front entry zipper has a keeper made velcro to keep the car up so it doesn’t slide down . The front zipper pockets are nice for storage. Quick release buckle and adjuster and straps are on the side, so once you clip shut you can pull the straps from the side to tighten. Adjustable shoulder pads really work nice. To take off you just unzip and unclip.
Improvements: May be slightly too long for some but other than that. We also love reflectors on all of our gear and this unfortunately doesn’t come designed with reflector material for added safety. This vest however, is one of the best PFD’s on the market today.
Conclusion: If you are looking for a USCG foam PFD for large or small boat racing or to just keep on board with you, the GILL USG is an ideal choice. This is a Type III so it is well worth the cost.
Overall Ratings: 4.9/5
Jerk to inflate! Thats all that needs to be done with this USCG approved Absolute Outdoor Onyx Am/24.
How to deflate Life Vest
This life jacket has a manual inflated mechanism, a red indicator showing that the lifejacket is not ready to be used, the inflated chamber, oral inflation tube , cap and protective cover
- Remove discharge CO2 cylinder(remove counter clockwise until it is free. discard cylinder
- deflate the inflatable chamber: to release the air, remove the cap from the oral inflation tube turn over and depress the protrusion of the cap into the valve inside the tube: this will open the valve and allow air to escape. With one hand depressing the valve and the oral tube, press out most of the air out of the chamber. then press out of the air from the right chamber, then the rest of the chamber. Do not ring or twist the chamber when deflating
- Replace the cap on the oral inflation tube
How to Re-arm Life Vest
You will need Onyx K3 01 kit is required. This kit comes with a new CO2 Cylinder and a green indicator tab. Steps:
- 1. Reset the inflator lever and insert the reen indicator tab that is included in the re-arm kit
- install co2 cylinder . line up the threads (1/2 inch threads) with the threads of the inflator mechanism and turn the cylinder clockwise. before going out on the water always check that the green indicator tab and co2 cylinder are in place
How to Repack Life Vest
- Make sure the Jerk to inflate tab is below the chamber
- Using the fold lines printed on the chamber, fold the edge of the yellow inflatable chamber under. The front comes over , mash a hook and loop on the side of the cover. Press and secure the hook and loop
- Using the fold lines on the right side, fold the other side of the bladder under
- Fold the front over, match and secure the hook and loop
- using the fold lines on the upper part of the chamber, fold the chamber under so it is inside the cover, and finally mash and secure the hook and loop.
1 | Stohlquist Edge
The Edge is a great PFD if you are into dinghy sailing because of how compact and light it is. It's a side zip, so all you do is throw it over the head, grab the EZ pull tab and your done. Ez pull tab allows for a nice grip to start the zipper, 2 straps on the top of the jacket and two on each side, so that you can custom fit it to your body. Their Rapture technology, means that the foam panels are actually shaped to your body.
We really love the reflective piping on the front back and shoulder straps! This PFD is pheneomenal and has all the blls and whistels
The Stohlquist Edge life jacket is made of a mini ripstop nylon outer shell with a 200 outer liner. It has a roomy, Top loading front pocket where other accessories such as phone, trackers can be placed for easy accessibility and protection. It also has a mesh side for maximum ventilation, they are made so as to make the body float on water easily without harming oneself.
- Ergonomic WRAPTURE shaped torso.
- Adjustable shoulders, 4 side pulls, and front waist buckle closure.
- Low cut, offset front-zip entry.
- Large arm openings for unrestricted whitewater and SUP paddling.
- Contoured padded shoulder straps.
- High visibility 3M reflective accents.
- Roomy, top loading front pocket for secure storage and easy accessibility.
- Mesh sides for maximum ventilation.
- Mini-Ripstop nylon shell & 200 denier oxford liner
Best Use: Dinghy Sailing
Conclusion: This is a very affordable USCG and it comes with all the bells and whistles. The only thing we can say is that the zipper may fail after a while, but if you take care of this Vest it should last you a lifetime!