Top 10 Excellent Life Vests Wear on a Sailboat: Additional Essentials to take on board

Sailtack Endorsed (Safety Rated)

Life Vests Model Material Pros Cons Overall Value Age Group Rating
‎Neoprene All-around best sailing life vest on the market. PFD with or without wear. Can add a side utility pouch for PLB light, or mirror. Solas Reflective tape on the bladder along with a white accent strip on the top of the outside which also adds to the reflection. Extremely easy to wear. Inflates only when submerged, so wont inflate onboard inadvertently(1F auto Hydrostatic Inflator ). Great around neck and shoulders. SecureZipTM closure stays shut in high winds and still opens easily on inflation. 35lbs of buoyancy when inflated. On the Pricey side but well worth the value with a long expiration date. On the heavier side you will know you are wearing it. 98 18+
‎Polyester US Coast Guard Approved Type II PFD which helps turn a body upright if someone were to hit their head. Takes less then a second to inflate. CO2 cylinder is replaceable and manually gets the job done. Extremely Lightweight, stays Cool and Very Comfortable. Extremely breathable, the soft polyester does the job and wicks away moisture and provides comfort without the chafe. You can really wear this all day. Accessible easily Accessible zippered front picket for storage of accessories. Good for chest sizes between 30-56 inches. 35lbs of Buoyancy which is 2.5 times higher than the minimum. Awesome manual override functionality Not great for reflective options. 97 18+
Foam (inner and outer core) Best performance vest on the market. Do not realize that you are wearing it. Great for racing sailboats. Passes the lines and wire test, will not catch onto anything. Very trim low profile with no front zipper. Most comfortable on this list , great for sailing in any conditions or on any boat. Ample Arm hole space. Additional emergency buoyancy on side metal bar is a nice touch. Front foam panel made up of two parts and breaks perfectly for comfort. front pocket is almost unusable, enough to fit an iphone but besides that wont fit much else 97 18+
‎Stainless steel 22 pounds of flotation, Great sized pockets all around this vest. Can fit a Gps in one of the front ones. Box stiched stress points , the shell of this vest is Codura which adds to the durability. Rescue belt functionality works really well Not the most comfortable around the, somewhat limited in maneuvering when it comes to sport sailing 94 18+
Nylon 17.5 lbs of flotation, Excellent Level 5 PFD, slim design, great upper body action, reinforced shoulder straps and detachable carabiner. There is a big clamshell pocket on the front that cant fit a first aid kit pretty easily pockets are not truly waterproof, 17.5 Lbs of flotation may not be enough for some weighing a bit heavier. 94 13+`
Nylon Safest vest on the market. Has Gaia and PE foam inserts (PVC free). 16.4 lbs of buyancy rating 16.4 lbs. USCG Type V approval. Pullover style and really comfortable. ; 500 Denier Cordura with a Nylon shell. Quick release harness. NO PVC. Really comfortable on the Torso. Pricey but worth the expense 92 2 +
Nylon Coast guard Type III. Designed for touring with a high back flotation panels . Great for storage with lash tabs, D-rings and 2 large zippered pockets. 6 adjustment points 400 denier ripstop nylon fabric resists tears and abrasion. Mainly Kayak but great for sport sailing 94 13+`
‎Nylon USCG Approved Type III. Great construct with Kwik-Dry Neolite. Snug fit. Great value with high quality Nylon zipper can work better. 94 90lbs +(7-8 Yo +)
Nylon USCG Approved , Foam Core with excellent flex points that gives a lot of flexibility, Quick release safety buckles and high quality zipper. One of the better Neoprene vests on the markets, great for water sports like waterskiing, tubing and swimming. great for dinghy sailing. zipper seems to zip 2 inches short of where wed like to see around the chest line. Internal straps will eventually get tangled. fabric can do better at whisking away water. Vest needs to be washed constantly. 94 13+`
Life Vests Model Material Pros Cons Overall Value Age Group Rating


Life vests are going to be your most important safety item you choose to bring on the sailboat. For and alternative and for our go-to list of life jackets click here. Your chances of survival while wearing your life vest significantly increase when wearing them. Keep in mind, about 80 percent of tragedies on the water come from drowning or not wearing one at the time of incident.


throwable buoy

The thing is, in the US alone, USCG (US Coast Guard) approved life vests (which are personal flotation devices, or PFD’s) are actually a requirement for every sailboat to have onboard. As a rule:

  • Sailboats less than 16ft, USCG regs require at least one wearable vest for each person on board.
  • Sailboats 17+ ft long, you will need one life jacket for each person, and on top of that a throwable flotation device. We recommend the Cal June no strap ring buoy.  It is a great size, customizable and is actually US Coast Guard approved

Many sailboat owners and sailing instructors/schools keep the legal requirement of these flotation devices and vests at all times. You should always double check and ask though, before heading off the dock and setting sail whether all requirements are met just to be sure!

Choosing the right Life Vest

To guarantee your safety, you should absolutely wear a life vest that fits you first and foremost. All are sized by the weight of the person and the chest size of the person; you can check for reference on the inside label of the vest, as there should always be that information on the label or near the label. Almost all USCG classifications are made based on performance of many hours, so those standards are pretty accurate.

Type III vs Other Types

Typically, a comfortable reliable vest graded by the USCG will be labeled type III. For personal use this is the way to go and will likely be the choice. Great for use on dinghies and day sails or bigger keelboats in protected environments.

type I life jacket

type I life jacket

Other types will include the following:

Type I

This is your moreso your clunker of a jacket. The Type I is the jacket that when worn will have the person wearing it face up in the water, when they are knocked unconscious.

Type II

your very common and cheapest most affordable life jacket. It keeps you safe but usually not as comfortable or snug as your long day sailing options.

Type V

Type V Life Vest

Type IV

This type is usually your throwable life ring or flotational device that will always be kept on deck. Always go with a USCG approved one. You are required to have these on sailboats larger than 16+ feet and you toss them in the water incase someone goes overboard. It will save your life!

Type V

This inflatable life vest or jacket always comes with a compressed air cannister. Mostly all offshore keelboat racing sailors will wear this kind of life vest or jacket because it is the least bulky of all the types.


How to Wear your Life Vest Properly

Other than making sure it fits custom tailored to your chest size and body type, some other keys to consider:

  • Always make sure its not tight and cutting off circulation. A snug fit is a right fit
  • Tighten and adjust the straps until very comfortable
  • Life vests/jackets should always be worn on a dinghy, since it has a propensity to capsize
  • Make sure everyone on board knows where the vests, jackets and buoys are at all times
  • Those who cannot swim, children and anyone needing extra assistance needs to always be wearing this gear
  • If you your vest or jacket is waterlogged or has a broken strap, replace it immediately

For more information on dinghy sailing, click here.

Keep everyone on board safe and remember to have fun!!!!!

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