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Reviewed by our experts:

20 Best Life Jackets & Vests in 2022


Our experts at work

We gave our Gear lovers one job:
Test 30 different Life Jackets and write reviews of the best.

The result is 20 of the best Life Jackets on the marked today.

torben lonne

Torben Lonne

Editor at
Torben is a dive nut, with a passion for traveling and gear.

You love being on the water, whether it’s kayaking, paddling, boating, or snorkeling, but as you probably know, safety first.

And that’s precisely what we are going to talk about in this buying guide – life jackets and Life vests.

A life jacket or Life Vest is a must in every time you go out on the water! Period.

And the simple reason for that it provides fantastic reliability and can save your life without any exaggeration.

Some life jackets are cheaper and come with fewer features, others are more expensive hence are designed with greater features. No matter the case, in this guide you’ll find some of the best life jackets on the low-end and the high-end when it comes down to the price.

You’ll be able to relax your mind, knowing this guide will deliver you every single necessary thing you need to be aware of when purchasing a life Jacket Vest.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it:

Top 10 Best Life Jackets In 2022

You can skim through our quick top 20 life jackets or go further down and read in-depth descriptions. There you’ll find the things we like and don’t like about each PFD.

See our quick top 10, or go further down and read our in-depth reviews.

You can put your worries at peace, knowing that whatever life vest you choose from this guide, it will, undoubtedly, be high in the high rankings when we speak of life security and durability.

We’ve assembled three different sections depending on your budget:

  • Budget life jackets.
  • Mid-range life jackets.
  • High-End life jackets.
best budget life jackets

Best Budget Life Jackets

If you have a spending limit and you aren’t able to invest too much in a life jacket, don’t worry. We have found PFDs of incredible quality, durable enough to keep you above the water and protect you from any potentially dangerous situations… e.g. recirculating holes.

best mid-range life jackets

Best Mid-Range Life Jackets

Here you can find pricier options but with a higher quality and life endurance. More convenient features, such as pockets and additional foam, can be found here so you can feel more comfortable in the life vest.

best high-end beach wagons

Best High-End Life Jackets

If you have the budget and you are willing to invest in a high-quality life jacket, this would be the perfect section for you to explore. Oodles of features, effectiveness, comfort, a utility is what a high-end life vest brings to the table. The cost here starts at $100 and can go up to $350+.

The Best Budget Life Jackets

As we mentioned above, this would be the perfect section for if you are looking for an affordable pick.

And at the same time with enough durability and reliability to keep you safe.

In this budget section, we will take a look at 4 of the best affordable PFDs on the market.

The O’Neil Men’s Superlite is the budget-friendly life jacket you will be able to find. It is ultra-lightweight and comes in a stylish design. The life vest can be used for water skiing, tubing, and swimming, or just as a floating device. It doesn’t feature a bulky design, which leaves more room for you to move in. The jacket is made from a durable coated polyester shell and gives a sturdy exterior.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Durable and strong exterior.
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Easy to move in.
  • Mesh provides quick drainage.
  • Dries quickly.
What we like:
  • It comes with four safety buckles to ensure the vest stays secure.
  • It uses an overlock stitching that makes the seams robust and reliable.
  • The armhole size is strategically measured for optimal safety in any situation.
What we don’t like:
  • Some customers complain about the jacket being more significant than it should be. To prevent such an issue, simply order one size smaller.

If you need a reliable jacket, this is the pick for you. The coat is well insulated and dries very quickly. The jacket is equipped with four safety buckles ensuring that you are secure. The vest is an excellent buy if safety is your number 1 priority.

The ONYX movement is ideally suited for any outdoor activities you get up to. The life vest comes with mesh at the back in case you have high back seats, which can cause discomfort. As an added safety measure, the jacket uses SOLAS grade reflective material. This makes you stand out while you are in the water. The coat has expandable zipper pockets to store your stuff.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Heavy-duty nylon fabric.
  • Expandable zippered pocket.
  • Shoulder adjustments.
  • Has reflective material.
What we like:
  • The SOLAS material makes your jacket quite visible.
  • The life jacket has a mesh drainage system for quicker drying.
  • As an extra precaution, a whistle is attached to the life jacket that you can use in emergencies.
  • The vest doesn’t breathe very well in hotter conditions.
What we don’t like:
  • The jacket gets warm when left in the sun

With this life jacket, your safety is guaranteed. All precaution has been taken to provide you with the best vest. The whistle can be used to alert people of any emergency that may occur. You can adjust the life jacket to fit you perfectly.

Moreover, the jacket also comes with neoprene comfort pads. The material used in making this jacket is heavy-duty. However, it is still lightweight, allowing your body to move quickly.

The Stohlquist Life Jacket will keep you out of many pickles due to its steadfast design. It has three buckle straps at the front to make sure you are secured in rough conditions. This PFD is Coast Guard approved. The vest only weighs 7 lbs and is ultra-lightweight.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Adjustable three buckle system.
  • Sheer back panel.
  • Lightweight at 7 lbs.
  • Fits adults more significant than 90 lbs and with a 30”-52” chest.
  • Bright red and grey color.
What we like:
  • There is a loop at the top of the life jacket that you can use for natural drying and storage afterward.
  • The straps are box stitched. This increases the jacket’s durability.
  • The PFD is Coast Guard approved, which gives you added reassurance.
What we don’t like:
  • It does not fit well on a woman size 6.

This life jacket is well suited to cover all your floating requirements. The 16 lbs jacket is USCG approved. As a result, it can hold a weight higher than 90 lbs with 30” – 52” chest. The life jacket has a universal fit to support a more considerable amount of people.

If you are looking for a comfortable option for yourself and your partner, then you might consider choosing the universal Stearns Series life jacket. It is made to fit all sizes. However, if you happen to be quite more considerable or slim, you might want to refer to a jacket that is designed specifically for your weight & size. That’s because if you don’t feel the PFD tight enough when you dive in the water, it can loosen up and slip from your body. And this is something you definitely want to escape if you find yourself in jeopardy. It is made from nylon which means you can move and paddle without any issues. It’s suitable for a vast array of water sports such as kayaking, wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, and more. In order to provide extra comfort and convenience, the vest comes with 3 adjustable straps so you can make amends depending on your comfort and preference.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • The vest is available in 2 colors: Red and Blue.
  • Constructed from Nylon
  • 3 buckle straps available
  • It’s suitable for adults who weigh over 90 pounds.
  • It’s priced at $25
What we like:
  • It has added nylon foam to its design which delivers extra comfort and convenience when you put the life jacket on.
  • Suitable for multiple water-based activities. It’s definitely a reliable option which you can use any time even when diving.
  • The PFD is quite comfortable to adjust so it can fit your size and create a coveted comfort without much effort.
What we don’t like:
  • It’s not particularly suitable for any size. As we mentioned earlier, if you are overweight or very skinny, you might want to refer to another life jacket that covers your weight & size.

All in all, it’s quite an attractive option. And that’s because it has a simple design, yet it is highly comfortable and able to sustain you for extended periods. 3 straps are available for maximum adjustability. If you don’t know what’s going to be a convenient pick for you and you want a couple of pairs for your wife and kids, this would be the perfect option to go with if you are on a budget.

Similar to the Stearns Series the Onyx boating vest comes with 3 adjustable straps for excellent comfort. It is also approved from the US Coast Guard. A cool and significant feature adding more comfort and convenience would be the added padding around the neck. However, due to this additional cushioning, it becomes quite hard to move your head around. The life jacket is provided with large armholes for better movement when participating in different water-related activities.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • The life vest is available in 2 different colors – orange and yellow, which are one of the most bright shades. And this is highly important so you can be easily noticed when the jacket is put on.
  • 3 adjustable straps
  • Large armholes
  • Lightweight
  • Priced at $13
What we like:
  • Additional foam and cushioning are added to this life jacket assuring you will feel comfortable enough.
  • 3 adjustable straps so the PFD can fit easily and tight to your body.
  • Large armholes are designed so you can move freely without any issues.
What we don’t like:
  • Due to the added padding near the neck, the head movement is restricted.

On the whole, the Onyx General life vest is a highly comfortable and convenient option. It’s suitable for many water sports, but keep in mind that you will have some issues with your head movement. It’s very lightweight, and you can pack it easily anywhere without much effort.

If you are looking for a compact life jacket, that has an eye-catching design and isn’t bulky…
The Onyx Universal Paddle Vest would be an excellent option for you. Unlike the previous model, this PFD comes without neck cushioning, and you can move your head around easily while paddling. Large armholes are also provided so you can move freely without any issues. A cool feature here that misses most budget PFDs is that this one has additional pockets. Extra pockets are handy when you have to store essentials in a hand-reach. A great avail here is the mesh added to the bottom half of the back. This allows the PFD to filtrate better and produce more excellent airflow so you can avoid any sweat on your back.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Made from neoprene
  • Breathable mesh lower back.
  • Durable foam back that accommodates back seats
  • 6 adjustable straps available for maximum comfort
  • It’s priced at $35
What we like:
  • Due to the lack of neck cushion, this paddle vest would be an incredible pick for a vast majority of water sports.
  • The large armholes provide extra comfort and free movement when you take part in water-based activities such as kayaking, swimming, boating, and many more.
  • The foam added to the back adds incredible comfort.
  • It’s exceptionally lightweight and allows you to fit it in any backpack.
What we don’t like:
  • A bottom strap isn’t available. This might result in an inappropriate fit and cause the vest to slip off.
  • The zipping might cause overheat during a hot day.

All in all, it’s an excellent option for people who participate in watersports most of the time. The life jacket is very lightweight, and you can wear it anywhere without any issues. A decent pick when it comes to comfort and safety.

The Best Mid-Range Life Jackets

You’ve gone through the budget vests, but it seems like you can spend more in order to get awesome and incredible features added to your life jacket. If I am right, this would be the section for you. Here we will take a look at mid-range PFDs that comes with oodles of amazing features and are priced between $40 and $100.

So if you think, this would be a budget suitable for you, sit back, relax and keep reading. You might find the perfect pick for you in the following 4 astonishing life jackets under $100.

You will love your time in the water with the O’Brien Men’s BioLite Life Jacket that is US Coastguard approved. The jacket features a breathable design. This will aid in faster drying. A significant feature is that the coat comes with segmented panels. It has large armholes that will significantly improve your range of motion. The vest has two adjustable belts for a snug fit that won’t move around during vigorous activity.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • BioLite construction.
  • 2 adjustable belts.
  • It comes in a variety of color options.
  • US Coast Guard approved.
  • Wide armholes for easy moveability.
What we like:
  • The PWC lanyard comes with an attachment ring that keeps the rope out of your way.
  • The BioLite material will ensure breathability and faster drying.
  • It comes in a variety of bright colors so you can be visible.
What we don’t like:
  • The jackets run two sizes small.

The O’Brien life jacket is equipped with all the necessities you will need to stay upright in the water. The jacket has two adjustable straps that will grant you extra comfort and convenience. The straps will also make sure you are secure and that the coat won’t slip off. This PFD is US Coast Guard approved, which shows it is of high quality.

“Quite incredible and long-lasting” is how we would describe this life vest. The ultra-stylish jacket will undoubtedly turn heads when you are in or out of the water. This personal floating device comes with a double strap above the zipper. The zipper is there to ensure that the vest stays in place while you are in the water. The jacket is US Coast Guard approved for added security.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Wide armholes.
  • Has a back stretch panel.
  • The product is lightweight and not bulky.
  • US Coast Guard approved.
  • It comes in a variety of colors.
What we like:
  • The jacket has a flexible v-back that stretches with the movement of your body.
  • It has a biolite design, which gives you more breathability and provides the jacket with excellent drying capabilities.
  • It has a neoprene outer surface for added comfort.
What we don’t like:
  • It is not suitable for children.

The life vest is durable and has a fantastic design. You will be comfortable, and the jacket offers breathability, as well as security while in the water. The wide armholes will increase your movement capabilities while still enjoying the water.

So you are looking for a lightweight mid-range life jacket with heaps of features that allows moving without any restrictions? You might find the Premium Quality Manual Inflatable life jacket to be quite a good pick for your preference. The remarkable advantage here is the waist wrap. There aren’t any chest straps to withhold you so you can move freely. What’s even better is that reflective bands can be added to the waist to increase visibility if you happen to stumble upon a dangerous situation.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Built from high-quality materials: Nylon, Neoprene, Polyester
  • Free movement due to the lack of chest straps
  • Additional zipped pockets and compartments
  • Made for adults under 330lbs (150kg)
  • Priced at $85
  • Adheres to the SOLAS standard
What we like:
  • Due to the waist straps, arm and neck movement becomes quite an easy task.
  • A few zippered pockets and compartments are added so you can keep crucial stuff such as a knife and rope in a hand-reach if you come across at a perilous situation.
What we don’t like:
  • Can’t offer you much warmth because a lot of cushioning is missing. However, it can be worn comfortably on a neoprene suit.

In general, this is one awesome PFD, allowing you to move freely and it is incredibly lightweight. Due to the lack of weight, you can utilize the life jacket in the vast majority of water-based activities. Absolutely worth every single penny.

Amazing comfort and attractive design in one single PFD? Yes, and that would be the Onyx Curve life vest. Unlike the previous life jacket, the Onyx Curve comes with additional cushioning to provide warmth and comfort to the body. And what’s even better is that it has a mesh back design so it can cool faster and offer excellent airflow. If you are wondering if the vest provides free movement allowing you to take part in most paddling sports… then my answer is simple… Yes, it offers incredible comfort and enables you to move your hands and neck without any restrictions. This is probably one of the most comfortable vests on the market due to Amazon reviews.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Multiple sizes available
  • Soft and lightweight cushion
  • Mesh lower back design
  • It’s priced between $40 and $100, depending on size and color.
What we like:
  • Suits perfectly to the body. If we have to describe this life vest with a single word that would be comfort.
  • Extremely lightweight. After wearing it for some time, you’ll literally forget that you are equipped with a paddle vest.
  • Smooth movements are a definite part of the overall assessment of this product.
What we don’t like:
  • The life jacket misses pockets. And D-ring attachments aren’t also available.

Truth be told, if you are only looking for exceptional comfort, you will probably won’t find a better option than this. However, if you are planning to keep essentials in a hand-reach when participating in watersports, this isn’t the pick for you. That’s because extra pockets aren’t available.

By the name, we can tell that the Chinook life jacket is mainly used for kayak fishing, fly fishing and fishing in general. The great advantage of the NRS vest is that it provides fishermen with several various sized pockets. You’ll be able to handle any tint and accessory you find useful in the vest’s pockets. Similar to the previous model, this one comes with mesh designed back to provide better airflow and comfort.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • A great pick for fishing
  • Several different sized pockets
  • Mesh back design
  • Priced at $85
What we like:
  • As you already know, it delivers remarkable effectiveness to every angler due to the multiple added compartments.
  • Rog-holder is available, as well as Net attachment D-ring.
  • Adheres to the US Coast Guard standard
What we don’t like:
  • Due to the large and bulky front design, overheating might occur.

All in all, if you are a fisherman and you are merely looking for an effective PFD, this would be the best option for you among all other mid-range life jackets. Comfort and utility are what brings this vest to the table. An astonishing pick that every angler should have added to its equipment.

Quite unusual and compelling is how we would describe the NRS Vapor life jacket. It features a lightweight and side-entry design for faster and easier put-on and off operations. What’s even better about this PFD is that there is a large zippered compartment of the front side of the vest. Besides small stuff such as a whistle and a band, you can keep larger essentials in the pocket too. On top of that, a lash tab is added to the front design that keeps your knife comfortably and in a hand-reach.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • 18 inches wide
  • 1 large zippered compartment
  • Side-entry design
  • Features soft and flexible foam
  • Made of high-quality materials – 200D Nylon
  • Priced at $80
What we like:
  • The large front compartment allows you to keep essentials in a hand-reach.
  • Added cushion for excellent comfort and convenience. You simply put this life vest on and participate in any water-related activity without any movement restrictions.
  • The life jacket is extremely lightweight, and you can carry it anywhere without much effort.
What we don’t like:
  • Some customers complain about having a rash during paddling. So if you are highly allergic to any kind of Nylon or polyester, you might skip this option.

All in all, the PFD features quite an unusual design, but it is highly convenient. You can use it in multiple watersports. Keep in mind if you have relatively soft and gentle skin, a rash can occur. And this is something you definitely want to avoid when you are picking a life jacket. Otherwise, it is a fantastic pick that features quite a large zippered compartment.

If you are looking for a compact jacket for your toddler, that has an eye-catching design….

The Stohlquist is the ideal life jacket to keep your toddler safe and secure in the water. This life jacket has a double collar that offers excellent mobility and support in the water. The coat wraps around the body of the infant and pushes his face upward. You will also receive added security with a quick-release button over the entry zipper.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • It comes in vibrant colors.
  • Quick-release button.
  • A buoyancy of 7 lbs and 6 oz.
  • Has an adjustable crotch strap.
  • Double collar.
What we like:
  • The infant life jacket has a double collar that cradles the child’s head but still allows for full movement.
  • The life jacket has an open back for more breathability and seat comfort.
  • There is a grab handle that makes the rescue process a breeze.
What we don’t like:
  • The jacket does not come with reflectors.

The infant jacket will let you rest assured that your baby is safe in the water. You will have a grab handle that you can use to pick up your infant any time when an emergency occurs. The jacket comes in a wide array of bright colors to easily spot your kids.

The Best High-End Life Jackets

Here you will find only end-game life jackets for real professionals. And by professionals, I mean people who spend the majority of their days at the sea or the ocean. In these cases, you must be absolutely ruthless when it comes to picking a life jacket. You need to get the highest quality vest with added foam for warmth, extra pockets to keep your knife and other crucial rescue accessories. But keep in mind, the high-end life jackets come at a substantial price of $100 and up. Not the best option for everyone.

If you are seeking a durable and lightweight vest, the O’Neil jacket has got you covered. The O’Neil Men’s Assault is manufactured with neoprene polyester that has a great look and is very stylish. With this jacket, you will always be floating upright. The coat can also manage any weight capacity. The vest is USCG approved and is perfect for various water sports. O’Neill Men’s Assault has a minimal bulk design that aids in full mobility while you’re in the water.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Lightweight neoprene shell.
  • Uses nitro lite foam.
  • Minimal bulk design.
  • It comes with two strap buckles.
  • Long zipper in front of the jacket.
What we like:
  • The jacket has nitro lite foam that absorbs 15-20 % less water.
  • The zipper is long enough to keep the life jacket in a stable position.
  • The jacket provides you with lower back lumbar pads for extra support for your core.
What we don’t like:
  • The black material absorbs heat when left in the sun.
  • The jacket runs tighter than expected.

The O’Neil is black and is one of the most reliable jackets on the market. With this product, you will have a lot of breathing room and flexibility. You will also receive extra protection and comfort for your back. The life jacket will be a great asset to your swimming and open water supplies.

The Stohlquist jacket is comfortable and also has all the trimmings of a stylish jacket. The jacket is designed to have a mesh covering at the back to support you against the seats. The shell is made out of 500 deniers Cordura and 200 denier oxford liner.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • It comes in vibrant colors.
  • Easy to clean with soap and water.
  • Has ventilated shoulders and back.
  • Dimensions are 7” high and 17” wide.
  • Has roomy front zippered pockets.
What we like:
  • You can adjust the straps on your shoulders for a tailored fit.
  • The back has a mesh net that improves breathability.
  • The jacket has a cross-chest harness that ensures it stays stable.
What we don’t like:
  • Pockets are too small for electronic devices.

The Stohlquist will be your all-in-one floating device for years to come. It is made out of ultra-lightweight nylon material. The mesh back will ensure breathability on those hot, humid days. You will also encounter a wide variety of vibrant colors. This will give you an added safety advantage.

This life jacket will have you enjoying the water for hours while providing you with a comfortable experience. It has a neo-style design that is modern and trendy. The outer part of the jacket is made from biolite material for extra breathability. It will undoubtedly give you that edge in the water if you participate in water sports or water activities.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Wide armholes.
  • Two adjustable belts.
  • US Coast Guard approved.
  • Biolite material.
What we like:
  • The biolite construction gives you more room to move and is more breathable.
  • The big armholes give you the ease of access and exit.
  • The classic zipper with the two strap buckle ensures the life jacket stays snug when worn.
What we don’t like:
  • The jacket is limited in color varieties.

This life jacket is compact and does not weigh that much. It is a fantastic fit that can be adjusted with the two buckle straps. You will manage to put it on and off with relative ease due to the large armholes. This jacket is highly recommended by everyone who has purchased it. It is a good buy for its price range.

The first pick for the high-end life jackets would be O’Neill ‘Men’s Life vest. That’s because if you are seeking for impressive comfort, design, and free movement, and you have the budget to spend on it… O’Neill life vest would be the perfect fit for you. It comes with an attractive and non-thick design. Extra cushioning is added for maximum comfort and reliability.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Suitable for multiple watersports
  • 2 easy-to-remove buckles
  • Minimal bulk design
  • Priced at $136
What we like:
  • The comfortable structure and design make it perfectly suitable for various water-related activities.
  • Due to its elegant design, the person using it is granted with considerable mobility and freedom.
  • US Coast Guard approved.
What we don’t like:
  • The stomach padding area is too thick, and this might cause overheating.
  • There aren’t any pockets, and this counts as quite a considerable disadvantage when we are speaking of high-end life jackets. On the other side, comfort, design, and effectiveness are the things that make it up for the price.

On the whole, this is an excellent life vest. It is elegantly designed, and it comes with extra cushion and padding for greater comfort during watersports. It is definitely worth the cost.

When we are speaking of high-end life jackets, it would be disrespectful not to mention the Astral GreenJacket life jacket PFD. Truth be told, this is the most expensive pick on our list, guarding its price of $270. However, when it comes to rescuing missions, there wouldn’t be a better option on the market. The vest features a pullover entry so you can put it on and remove it from your body in just a few seconds. As most high-end PFDs, this one is designed with oodles of features such as PE foam inserts, PVC-free Gaia, durable Nylon, and many more that add to the overall comfort and design of the jacket.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Features high-quality material – nylon
  • Additional pockets are available.
  • Attractive and comfortable design
  • Highly expensive – $270
What we like:
  • The life jacket is perfect for river guides and expedition paddlers equally.
  • PE foam inserts are added to the design so you can move comfortably and experience free movements when participating in paddling sports.
  • Made highly durable so it can be your “buddy”” life jacket for extended periods. You’ll won’t have to search for another vest for years to come.
What we don’t like:
  • The only disadvantage we see here is the high price. If you can afford it, go for it, this is probably the best pick on the market.

All in all, it is worth every penny. If you don’t have a spending limit and you are ready to invest in the real deal, this would be the perfect option for you.

As the name suggests, the Astral Ronny Fisher PFD is designed explicitly for expert anglers. It features a front zip entry, and it comes with multiple storage options so you can keep essentials in a hand-reach. What’s even better about this life jacket is the added cushion and mesh back design. This allows you to experience unmatched comfort and you will be able to relax on your seat without rubbing your skin against the jacket.

Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Primarily made for fishing.
  • Features front centre zip entry
  • Made from nylon
  • It’s priced at $183
What we like:
  • It’s highly comfortable and features several various sized compartments to keep your essentials in a hand-reach.
  • The mesh-back design provides better ventilation so you can avoid finding your back in sweat.
What we don’t like:
  • The life vest is quite bulky, and if you plan to dive, you won’t be able to see your feet. Keep in mind it’s quite heavy too.

In general, this is an excellent pick for every expert angler who plans to have successful fishing campaigns. The multiple compartments allow you to have a knife, whistle, and other crucial stuff in a hand-reach. It’s definitely worth the price.

The Best Life Jackets in 2022

There are a couple of crucial things to consider before investing in a life jacket. To come with a vest that fits your personal style and preference perfectly, you’ll have to be aware of essentials such as size, design, weight capacity, color, and others that add supremely to the overall performance of the PFD.


Everything comes down to the size of the life jacket. If the vest is too small, there will be a movement restriction. If it happens to be too large, you’ll have trouble staying afloat. The perfect size is determined when you have the jacket put on, and someone tugs the PFD up. If the jacket doesn’t go up to your neck and nose and stays in its place, congratulations, you’ve found your perfect size.


It’s crucial to have mesh drain panels added to the life jacket. They allow the PFD to dry quicker than average (hours faster), and provide proper ventilation. Thus you will be able to deliver excellent care to your back, avoiding sweating and perspiration.

Weight Capacity

It’s crucial to be aware of the floating capacity when you are choosing a life vest. Besides the size, the weight also takes a critical place in for our guiding list. That’s because if you are overweight and buy a jacket that is meant for lighter people, you might find it quite useless.


The thought “color being unimportant” probably goes through your mind right now, but let me tell you why this is wrong. Brighter colors, especially orange and yellow, provide better visibility. And people will be able to see you if you are 100 meters away from them. Therefore rescue you.


The last essential pillar that constructs the buying decision. Nylon and neoprene are what you are looking for. They provide better durability than other materials. For example – a polyester life vest will last up to 5 years, while a neoprene one will do it for 6 and a half years.

So, after you’ve read this whole guide, you now know why a life vest is crucial to your safety and how to choose one. If you don’t want to bother yourself with buying decisions, we’ve done the dirty work for you and listed the best life jackets, depending on your budget.

Leave a comment below if you already have a life jacket and we will be happy to assist you with anything!

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about life jackets and vests

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Can you drown with a life jacket?

    Unless you are trapped inside a water vessel, drag under by the undercurrent, or are stuck with your feet to an inanimate object in the water, your chances of drowning with a life jacket are extremely slim. 

    Similar to the snorkel fins created to help you propel through the water at a fast speed or water shoes invented to protect your feet from cuts, a life jacket is designed to keep you safe when in the water.

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    What is the difference between a life jacket and a PFD?

    In short, life jackets are meant to be worn by weak swimmers and children on boats, whereas Personal Flotation Devices are intended for constant wear both in and around the water. 

    Another difference lies in the performance of the two life-saving devices. While life vests are designed to help you gain consciousness, PFDs allow for mobility when practicing an active water sport.

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    What do life jackets do?

    Just like the name suggests, life jackets are supposed to keep you afloat (read=alive) should you fall overboard. While it sounds self-explanatory, you need to make sure you have the right life vest.

    Here’s how to choose the life jacket that could potentially save your life:

    • Opt for the model that is designed for the water sport you are planning on practicing; 
    • Scan the weight requirements of the particular jacket and make sure it fits you well;
    • Make sure it is in good condition, meaning that there are no holes or tears;
    • Wear it!
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    What are the best life jackets?

    The best life jackets are the ones that are versatile enough to be used while paddling, snorkeling, boating, and kayaking. And, surely, the security they provide is not just a nice bonus, but rather a necessity.

    To narrow down your list of choices, look at our personal picks:

    Read full reviews of each life jacket on DIVEIN.COM by clicking the links above.


  1. Brian Adamson

    I am 82, I have a small Aluminium boat 12″. I have had two incidents when going lake fishing. Falling into water in very low temperatures. The problems are using an automatic Air operated life jacket.When I am in the water I am very restricted With my arms and the angle of my body tends to push me more on my backTherefore I am more restricted on the bottom In shallow waters. I am looking for a jacket that is zipped with two straps or more, My weight is 200lbs/5’6″ chest 48 inch chest with clothes.
    The water conditions I would be in would be relatively calm lakes

  2. larry

    I am looking for a jacket with velcro stretch lumbar support, and with a pocket

  3. Frank Carter

    I am looking for a lifejacket for Laryngectomees. I don’t breathe out of my nose or mouth. I am a total neck breather, I breathe out of my stoma in my neck and can not get water in it! If I fall into water, the water will fill my lungs and I’ll drown. Can you help me find one? Thanks

  4. Torben Lonne

    Hi Frank,

    I’m sorry, I’ve no idea which Life jacket/vest that would do well here. Are there not some support groups that can help, and maybe someone in the group that have faced same problem and found a suitable product.

  5. Mary

    I want to know what you recommend to wear for boat fishing that is not bulky & hot?

  6. Chuck

    I am a short man, 5ft 3inch. I am I good shape and am a non swimmer. I enjoy boating and water sports and am looking for a light weight fitted jacket to be comfortable in the water. I want it to be secure and not float up around my neck

  7. Linda S Burt

    My sister and I just purchased an inflatable kayak and are not happy with our bulky life vests. They are the standard classic ones. Can you help me with one that is the lightest weight that is safe? I am 170 lbs. and my sister is 130 lbs. We are willing to pay for whatever price we have to to find comfortable vests.

  8. Carla Sadoff

    Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Jacket:
    I have not been able to find this in the $40 or less group. is there a place where I can buy one for under the $40?

  9. Torben Lonne

    Hi Carla,

    I can see the prices have gone up on this model. I can’t find it at this price either, so we’ll have to update the guide.

    Thanks for the comment.

  10. huia

    Hi there

    i am trying to find an answer to this question:

    is there any life jacket, life preserver etc that is GUARANTEED to keep head above AERATED water

  11. Torben Lonne

    Hi Huia,

    Not in the once that we have tested, as this was not part of our critics in the tests.

  12. kahsih

    This is so much helpful!! life jacket is essential things!! thanks for this information

  13. Julie

    I am an 82 yr old female. There is a pool at the apartment complex where I live. The pool is large but does not have a large 3ft level and drops fast. I would like to find a preserver that I could wear in the pool and feel safe.

  14. Jennifer Quine

    I am petite, good swimmer like to paddle board and kayak – but can’t find a comfortable light vest option.
    5’1 110lbs Suggestion?
    I also have 2 children similar size as me that swim in the lake – I alway insist they wear life jackets – any recommendations for small (but not child size) vests that are flexible for movement?

  15. Vicky

    Hi my other half has bought a jet ski but he can’t swim, I know sounds rediculous but it’s how he roles! I want to get him a life jacket, please could someone advice me on one that would be good for impact (hopefully not needed and one that will help him float if needed)

  16. Meerkus

    I recently purchase a life jacket form Mustang Survival, and it’s been great to me. Super comfy and the material feels top quality. Have you ever tried them before or reviewed them? I’m looking to buy one for my kid shortly and want to get them the best available. Cheers!

  17. Bradley Axmith

    I’ve not tried any PFDs from that brand, but I can see they have mostly inflatable life jackets–the likes of which I use when sailing. They’re great for freedom of movement. We’re currently updating our list with newer and improved options. Could be it makes the cut if it makes sense to get our hands on one.

  18. Susan

    I have a special needs grand daughter who is 12 y/o and weighs 84 lbs, she cannot swim, what would you recommend?

  19. Jennifer Baker

    Looking for a light weight pfd to wear while swimming in open water. I am 5’9″ and weigh 185 lbs. I am a strong swimmer but also want to be safe.
    I have a paddle vest for kayaking but find it too bulky to swim in.

  20. Laney

    Literally not a single recommendation for women. It’s important, because I’m currently searching for something that is going to be comfortable to wear while having boobs. Feeling pretty left out right about now.

  21. Bradley Axmith

    I’m sorry that you’re feeling overlooked. It’s not unjustified. Hope it helps that we are currently curating and working on lifejackets for women. It’s on its way! Any models you’d like reviewed, please reply with the names.

  22. Helena

    Looking for a jacket with a whole mesh back and not too bulky . I need it for kayaking and find all the jackets out there restricting. I am frustrated 😞 TIA


    I’m 74, female, and a non swimmer who lives on the bay. I read a while ago about a new type of life preserver that would keep me upright in a standing position. Are you aware of these? If so, who makes them?

  24. Cathy Tippenhauer

    My 11 year old grandson is a good swimmer, loves the water, but recently had a seizure and will now need to wear a life jacket for lake swimming. Is there one which would allow him to swim underwater and keep him safe should he have a seizure?

  25. Kimberly chai

    Hi there my sister and I are both petite and we are non-swimmers we are planning a trip to the beach we will be playing along the shoreline and may be in the ocean up to at least our waist and in the resort pool we believe in safety first and are looking for a life vest to wear upon our research we have found that there are universal life best in Life vest that are made or promoted for women is there really a difference between the two which one would be better for us also what would be the best class class one class two or class three for what we are using the lifevest for thanks so much I greatly appreciate your information

  26. joe

    what life jacket is best for someone is actively working (crew of 2-3 people)on a sail boat. This is regards my daughter about 120lbs and 5′ 4″. They are on the open sea (pacific). The owner has life jackets but I’ve seen auto inflatable “accesories” that will add extra buoyancy .Such as a waist style device.

  27. Bradley Axmith

    Hi Kimberly. Because we’ve seen that there is in fact a difference and that there is not enough info about it, we researched and wrote a guide to womens life vests. We had some writers test them to see how they’re different. Each model has some unique sizing for comfort and safety. Hope this helps.

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