Best Life Jackets for Boating of 2019

  Comparison

Product Size Weight Price
Driftsun Universal Fit Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest PFD Driftsun Universal Fit Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest PFD 18 x 19 x 3 inches 1.8 pounds $
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest 20 x 21 x 3 inches 15.2 ounces $
Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket 19 x 14 x 3.5 inches 2.1 pounds $
Kent Type II Adult Life Jackets with Clear Storage Bag Kent Type II Adult Life Jackets with Clear Storage Bag 21 x 12 x 11 inches 3 pounds $$
ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket 20 x 12 x 0.1 inches 1.6 pounds $$$

Nowadays, there are so many people who are passionate about boating and water sports that the entire industry has developed more than ever. If you are planning to buy a boat or you simply like to spend your vacations yachting, kayaking or doing water sports, you must consider the fact that you must stay safe, too. Not only the US Coastguard checks the existence of life jackets on boats of all sizes, but this is also a matter of self-awareness. Keep in mind the fact that wearing a life jacket has nothing to do with your ability to swim, your experience or competency. Even the most experienced swimmers can be a step closer to their deaths if not equipped properly. Cold water, deep water, huge waves or an agitated sea or ocean can get you into real trouble. 

If you already know that wearing a life jacket when boating is crucial and you started looking for the best models out there, you surely think about the aspects that make a good PFD. First of all, look at the quality of the materials, the type of the vest and the reliability of its design. If, in the past, life jackets used to be bulky and uncomfortable, that is not the case anymore. You can find comfortable, lightweight vests or jackets that keep you safe and allow you to enjoy the experience at the same time. Most modern life jackets have strong, durable straps and buckles, but you should not overestimate their quality. Look for models with straps that can be easily hauled back to the boat. 

There are many things to be considered when buying such a floating device. If you have done your part of the research but still didn’t find the best model for your needs, take a look at the five products below. We have selected some of the best-selling models, analysed them based on personal observations and consumer feedback and highlighted their pros and cons. Check them out below. 

1 Driftsun Universal Fit Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest PFD

This life jacket from Driftsun has a beautiful design, it is lightweight and allows for a full range of movements. It is comfortable to wear both on board and in the water. It is made of high-quality, durable, ripstop fabric, which is why it is capable to offer full protection. It includes a whistle that can help you drag attention immediately in case you find yourself in danger. It has hi-vis straps and a maximum chest size of 48 inches; it is fully adjustable and it inflates automatically thanks to a 33g CO2 cartridge and an inner chamber. All you have to do to inflate it is to pull the T-cord.

This life jacket, just like the other products in this list, is Coast Guard approved. It was designed for active boaters who sail in a range of waters and conditions. Thanks to its soft neoprene neckline, it has a durable comfort. More than that, it comes with a 300D protective cover that ensures long-lasting durability. For safety reasons, it has reflective rape and a manual inflation tube. Although it is a great life jacket for boating, it isn’t recommended for diving. Due to the fact that it is a universal fit and a fully adjustable model, you don’t have to worry about the size.

What’s to like?

  • It is reasonably priced
  • It is a universal fit
  • It inflates automatically
  • It has a manual inflation tube
  • It is comfortable to wear
  • It is lightweight
  • It is ideal for boating
  • It has safety features
  • It is fully adjustable
  • It has a compact design
  • It includes a whistle

What’s not to like?

  • It is not recommended for free diving

2 Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

If you are looking for a unisex life jacket, Stearns Adult Classic Series is ideal for your needs. It comes at an affordable price and has some great features. First of all, it is worth mentioning that it comes in a choice of red or blue, two colors that are bright and drag attention easily. This is a universal fit, too, but the buckles and straps only adjust lightly, which means that it isn’t suitable for someone who is particularly large or very slim. If that is your case, you may want to go for a larger life jacket.

This life jacket is ideal for boating, being US Coast Guard approved. Design-wise, it is open-sided, it has 3 slightly adjustable buckles, it is made of nylon and has a durable nylon shell. It is lightweight enough to make your journey as comfortable as you expected, whether you are planning to sail, wakeboard, do water ski or tubing. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that it is made of Crosstech Flotation foam and has 2 one-inch webbed straps. It is only recommended for adults with a minimum weight of 90 pounds

What’s to like?

  • It is inexpensive
  • It is ideal for boating and water sports
  • It is adjustable
  • It has a lightweight design
  • It is open sided
  • It is ideal for boaters with chest size between 30 and 52
  • It has 3 adjustable buckles
  • It has 2 adjustable straps
  • It is made of durable nylon
  • It has PO foam interior
  • It is unisex
  • It comes in 2 colors
  • It is US Coast Guard approved

What’s not to like?

  • It isn’t highly adjustable
  • It requires manual inflation

3 Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

If you are looking for a Coast Guard approved life jacket that you can use in all waters, and will inflate automatically on immersion, then you will love this product. Oxyn’s M-24 model is an automatic life jacket that is ideal for boating and fishing. It inflates manually when needed, giving you the ability to inflate it yourself in case of emergency. This model is made of hi-vis, ripstop fabric, which means you’ll be easily seen. Also, it will not be damaged if you come in contact with different objects or rocks whilst in the water. This is a lightweight life vest that comes with large armholes. This gives you freedom of movement and plenty of comfort.

Although this model is considered to be bulky by some users, it has a lot of advantages. Unlike other life jackets for boating, it has large storage pockets. Also, it has soft neoprene around the neck, it is made of high-quality fabric that resists tears and punctures, it comes with a D-ring attachment and padded air mesh for ventilation. Its only downside is the fact that it CO2 cylinder is not installed, and you will need to attach it and arm it before use. It is not recommended for persons under 16 years old or persons who weigh less than 80 pounds. However, if it fits your size, you will be completely satisfied with its quality, as it raises to premium standards.

What’s to like?

  • It has a compact and practical design
  • It is an automatic life jacket
  • It can convert to manual inflation
  • It is comfortable to wear
  • It has soft neoprene neck line
  • It is made of durable fabric
  • It comes with a D-ring attachment
  • It has reflective piping
  • It has padded air mesh
  • It is recommended for boating and fishing

What’s not to like?

  • It is pricier than the average life jacket for boating
  • It isn’t recommended for non-swimmers

4 Kent Type II Adult Life Jackets with Clear Storage Bag

This is an inexpensive way to stock your boat before starting to explore the waters. The quality of this set of life jackets isn’t premium, but they can be used in case of emergency. It is rather a way of being compliant and staying safe in life threatening situations. However, they are not recommended for water sports. When buying this product, you get a pack of four, in an easy-to-store bag with a carry strap. All 4 life vests in the pack are a basic size for standard adults. They are orange, have hi-vis strips and are Coast Guard approved, but best suited to inshore boating.

This product is only recommended for confident experienced swimmers, as they may not allow a quick and easy rescue of someone who is struggling in the water. They are a very inexpensive purchase, but it is a great addition to the stock. It is even great to have them onboard as spares. This set is intended as compliance spares, more than anything else, but would also be fine for a family or group of friends taking a boat out on a lake or river, in safe condition. This set is approved by the U.S Coast Guard.

What’s to like?

  • It is inexpensive
  • It is easy to store
  • It is a set of 4
  • All 4 jackets are Type II
  • It is foam filled
  • It is great for a compliance stock
  • It isn’t bulky
  • It comes in standard size
  • It comes in orange
  • It is a manual life jacket
  • It isn’t adjustable
  • It is ideal for calm areas
  • It is approved by the U.S Guard Coast

What’s not to like?

  • These life jackets are recommended for emergencies only, as they aren’t very sturdy and thick

5 ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket

Yet another product from Onyx, the Absolute Outdoor model is great for experienced swimmers, water sports enthusiasts and sailing fans. This life vest is Coast Guard approved for inshore sailing. Although it is an automatic model that is easy to use, it doesn’t perform very well in cold water. It can be inflated manually and if let on automatic mode, it will inflate automatically on immersion. This is a lightweight vest; it has a full CO2 cylinder and instructions for attaching and readying the CO2 cylinder.

This life jacket in our list is a high-quality product, highly comfortable thanks to its soft neoprene neckline, as well as its design. It allows for a full range of regular movements and does not interfere with the arms while swimming. This is quite a pricy life vest that deserves your attention. It is 10-inch high and 10-inch wide, it is made of durable fabric, it has well-made materials that do not tear and puncture easily, it is lightweight and slender. Its T-cord attachment makes it easy to change from the automatic mode to manual mode and start inflating orally. It is a Type III life jacket that is ideal for boating, especially for adventurers who want to make sure that they stay safe no matter what. It isn’t recommended for non-swimmers or persons who don’t have enough experience in the water.

What’s to like?

  • It is great for boating and water sports
  • It has a practical design
  • It measures 10 x 10 inches
  • It is made of high-quality fabric
  • It resists to tears and puncture
  • It inflates automatically
  • It has a manual mode using a T-cord
  • It has soft neoprene neckline
  • It is comfortable to wear
  • It is lightweight
  • It lets you move freely
  • It has an adjustable strap
  • It is approved by the U.S Coast Guard

What’s not to like?

  • It is quite pricy
  • It is not recommended for non-swimmers

Why is it so important to wear a life vest when boating?

There is a good reason why boating activities have been so closely supervised by the US Coast Guard. Actually, there is a fatal reason why they do it. It has been shown that out of all boating fatalities, 76% of all deaths were caused by drowning. If it crossed your mind even for one second to go boating unprotected, maybe you should also know that 84.5% of drowning victims were not wearing any type of floating device. This is not only tragic, but it also raises a big question mark. Why are we not wearing life jackets, when they can be found online and in stores all over the US? Clearly, the risks aren’t fully understood until, too many times, it is simply too late. 

Boating without a life vest is extremely risky. You never know when dangerous winds or waves can hit the boat, when a storm starts all of a sudden or when someone simply loses balance. If you are into boating and you understand the importance of wearing a floating device, then you should choose the model that is most compatible with that particular activity. Suspender inflatables are really comfortable and lightweight. They are often used for water sports. Belt-packs are stylish and less bulky than life jackets. Inherently buoyant jackets are ideal for open waters and areas with rough waters. 

Do life jackets need maintenance?

It might sound strange at first, but life jackets do need maintenance. Here are a few of the things that you should do. Start by checking each and every one of the jackets on your boat at the beginning of the season. Look for flaws in the straps or hardware and make sure that you stop using them if any of these is not working impeccably. Check the fabric for leaks, mildew or oil saturation. Also, ensure that the fabric is not ripped or torn. If you see any sign of deterioration such as mildew stains or punctures, simply discard them. To maintain the jackets, clean them regularly, store them in well ventilated spaces, allow them to dry in open air and keep them away from sources of direct heat such as a dryer or a radiator. As for the things that you should not do under any circumstances, you should know that life jackets should not be used as throwable devices. Also, cleaning them is important, but do not use harsh detergents. 

What are the safety regulations for boating?

If you were wondering what are the criteria that you must fulfill in order to respect the law and stay safe at the same time, here are some things that we believe you should know: regardless of the boat, at least one jacket per person should exist on board; everyone should own a vest that fits them; all children under 13 should wear their life jacket at all times; life jackets should be US Coast Guard approved; they should be accessible and easy to unpack in case of emergency. 


Becoming confident in any boating situation can take years of experience. Even then, extreme situations in which people’s lives are at risk arise. As beautiful as it is, water can be a dangerous and unpredictable place. If you want to enjoy its beauty, you must also be prepared for the worst and get equipped for it. Therefore, when planning your boating trips, cruise, kayak routes, make sure that you have high-quality life jackets for everyone, that they fit and that they are functional. The 5 products in our list are some of the best models on the market, being made of durable materials and having great floating capabilities. Choose the type that suits you best and ensure that it is compatible with your activity. 


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