8 Best Life Jacket Reviews 2017 [For infants and Kids too]

A personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a life jacket or life vest, is a piece of equipment designed to help you stay afloat in water. It gives you more buoyancy if you are conscious and it keeps you face up if you are unconscious. A life jacket is an important part of pool safety, but for other accessories you'll want to check out these pool safety fence reviews and article detailing why you need quality pool alarms as well.

According to The Life Jacket Association (PFDMA) brochure, nine out of ten drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety and involving boats under 20-feet long. Most drowning victims had a life jacket available and chose not to wear it. Do not let this happen to you, your family or friends. Wear a life jacket in all situations which may result in accidental drowning.

ModelEditor RatingPrice 
Stohlquist Unisex Infant/Toddler Nemo Infant Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device
4.5$$
O'Neill Wetsuits Wake Waterski Mens Superlite USCG Nylon Life Vest
4.3$$
Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket, 30-50 lbs
4.7$
ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
4.6$$
Stohlquist Women's Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device
4.5$$
ONYX Type II PFD Life Jacket
4.4$
Flowt Type III All Purpose Life Vest
4.3$$
Kent Commercial Type I Jacket Style Life Jacket, Orange
4.6$$

Buying Guide And Useful Advice

Whether you are a swimmer or a non-swimmer, you need to stick to the most important advice about a life jacket: Make sure to wear one. Most states require boaters to have a PFD which is US Coast Guard (USCG) approved, the proper size for the wearer, in good condition and readily accessible.

What sized life jacket should I get?

For adults, your chest size and not your weight will determine what size is right for you. As for children, their weight determines the right size. Sizes vary by PFD brand and model, so always check that the best life jacket of your choice is also the right size for you.

A life jacket needs to be snug and fit you like a glove. At the same time, it needs to be comfortable enough to allow you to move freely and without chafing while paddling, fishing or enjoying your boating trip.

Women should consider women-specific PFDs versus unisex styles. Women's PFDs typically offer a better fit thanks to added contours to fit women’s bodies.

The more straps a PFD has, the more adjustments can be made to customize its fit.

Once you've selected the right size, and purchased your potential life saving PDF, it’s time to try it on.

First loosen all the straps then put the PFD on and zip it up. Start at the waist and tighten all the straps. If it your life jacket has shoulder straps, tighten them last. It should feel snug but not uncomfortable.

Next, pull or have someone pull upwards the PFD shoulders for you. If it moves up past your nose or head, tighten the straps. If it still moves up, the PFD is too large size for you.

Check the typical movements for the activity you had bought the life jacket for. Make sure it is comfortable and will not chafe you as you wear it. Also test your PFD in a pool or shallow water to see whether it does its job right. It should not ride up or slip over your chin while floating.

For infants and small children, a PFD should have a padded head support to help keep the child’s head above water, a grab handle to help you get the child out of the water and a crotch strap to help keep the PFD from riding up.

Materials PFDs are made from

The outer shell of a life jacket is usually made of nylon or vinyl. The material which keeps the life jacket afloat is sewn inside. There are three classifications for the substance inside a life jacket: inherently buoyant, inflatable and hybrid.

Floating materials most commonly used today are plastic foams, such as polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene, and need to be better than just cheap plastic. Don't think even the best pool floats are acceptable substitutes.

5 Types of PFDs.

Type I: Offshore Life Jackets for rough or remote waters where rescue may take a while. They are bulky but have the most buoyancy. For better visibility, they are in bright colors. This type is your best life jacket if you get unconscious. It will turn you face up in the water.

Type II: Near-shore Vests for calm inland waters, where a quick rescue is likely. They are less bulky but provide less buoyancy.

Type III: Flotation Aids suitable for all situations where there is a chance for a quick rescue. They offer freedom of movement and the most comfort for longer use. These will help you get in a face-up position, but you may need to tilt your head back to avoid being face down in water.

Type IV: Throwable devices, cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble and provide backup to a PFD. These are not for nonswimmers, rough waters or the unconscious.

Type V: Special-use PFDs are to be used for the activity specified on the label. Varieties include kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, hybrid vests and deck suits.

To check buoyancy of your PFD, tilt your head back and relax your body. Your chin should be above water and your breathing should be easy. If your mouth is not above the water, you need a PFD with more buoyancy.

The USCG requires the following minimum buoyancy.

Now, check out the top rated life jackets in our life jacket reviews!

Best Life Jacket / Best Infant Life Jacket Reviews

Editor Rating:

4.5/5

Stohlquist Unisex Infant/Toddler Nemo Infant Life Jacket will keep your baby safe and secure while boating, swimming, or just playing in the pool! Feel confident with your little one in and around the water.

One of best infant life jackets will keep your infant safe without you having to tote him around on your hip. Instead, you’ll be enjoying the pool together or feel that your toddler is safe in a boat with the whole family around.

The parents appreciate the safety of this life jacket. The toddler is secured with a zipper, chest strap and crotch strap. There’s no way he’s coming out of this jacket! It’s 5" high and 16" wide.

Another liked feature is the double head rest. It is especially helpful when the toddler can’t hold their head up very well. The double hear rest gives them additional stability if you feel you can’t provide it on your own because of the size of this life vest.

In our infant life jacket review we need to point out a unique wrap-around flotation which will turn a child face up in all situations. In addition, dual support collars cradle the head. Stohlquist Unisex Infant/Toddler Nemo Infant Life Jacket features a front zipper entry with quick-release chest strap for security thus providing best life preserve for toddlers.

Another great feature is the adjustable crotch strap which secures this best toddler life jacket in place and keeps it from riding up. Handy grab loop at the top of the head flotation cushion lets you keep a safe hand on your baby at all times.

The grab loop adds to better and easier control of an infant in the water, which makes this PFD the best toddler life jacket for swimming. The 200 denier nylon shell and oxford liner will provide durability and safety.

This life jacket is Type II with sea level buoyancy of 7 lbs 6 oz. It is USCG approved as each reliable infant life jacket needs to be.

Things We Liked


  • ​Unique wrap-around flotation turns the infant face up
  • ​Front zipper entry and adjustable crotch strap
  • ​Dual support collars cradle the head
  • ​Handy grab loop

Things We Didn't Like


  • Tends to flip the toddlers onto their back: good for safety, not as good if the child wants to play in the water

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

4.3/5

O'Neill Men’s Superlite Nylon Life Vest has a durable coated nylon shell that will hold up to years of heavy outdoor use. Quick release buckles allow easy on-and-off and the vest is among USCG approved life jackets so your safety is guaranteed. This means you can focus on enjoying your favorite water sport to the max.

The soft and comfortable O’Neill Men’s Superlite life jacket features closed cell PVC marine foam for optimal buoyancy while minimizing bulk as well as a durable coated nylon shell that will hold up to years of heavy outdoor use.

O'Neill Wetsuits Wake Waterski Mens Superlite USCG Nylon Life Vest

Being lightweight, breathable and comfortable are a few more reasons why O’Neill’s Coast Guard approved life jackets continue to be great options for those seeking the ultimate features in performance and style. You’ll find it comfortable to wear and not hindering paddling a kayak and in case you are in the water, you will float effortlessly.

Minimal bulk design and strategic armholes sizes allow for maximum comfort and maneuverability while wearing O'Neill Men’s Superlite coast guard approved life vest. It's extremely light weight, has a very nice design and you’ll really like the color.

Cash in on O'Neill’s 60 years of product innovation and excellent reputation in the industry with this quality wake vest which will allow you to enjoy this summer’s challenges without breaking the bank.

Things We Liked


  • ​Quick-release dual safety buckles
  • ​Minimal bulk design
  • ​Soft and comfortable
  • ​Strategic armhole size for easy movement

Things We Didn't Like


  • There is no space to loosen or tighten the straps, as they come fully extended so be careful about the size you order

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

4.7/5

Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket, 30-50 lbs

Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket stands out from most other life jackets made for toddlers due to the high quality materials this jacket is made from and its overall safety, durability and comfort. The thing you will really like about Puddle Jumpers is that the vests do not chafe the kids, and they do not slide up to their necks.

Fifteen bright and vibrant designs and colors to choose from help the child to be seen at all times, even in low visibility conditions. Your child will never slip unnoticed and you’ll be relaxed enough to enjoy family moments of water fun knowing that the child is safe.

For less chafing and increased levels of comfort, the Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket is made of woven polyester and very soft fabric. This allows the child to happily make a full range of movements and provide comfort for spending all the time it wants in your pool or on the beach.

This best child life vest does a great job at making sure your toddler is always in an upright position. Feeling safe and comfortable, the children who use Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket often learn to swim more quickly than others.

It will really boost the kids' confidence while in water, especially if they are reluctant or scared to leave the shallow end where their feet can touch the bottom of the pool or ocean. Using this jacket will help the kids actually practice the swimming movements which you are teaching them.

The jacket is made in the USA using the highest quality materials. It is tested for durability and US Coast Guard-approved when worn on boats. However, never assume that even the best life jacket for kids is a replacement for full parental supervision.

Apart from the safety and comfort, this jacket’s antimicrobial properties built in will easily resist odor-causing bacteria. It’s good to know your kid is not just safe in the water but also free from bacteria cased infections.

You will love this learn-to-swim aid for your kid and the kid will love fun, bright and lovable quality graphics. The graphics will stay bright and colorful for seasons to come. This is the highest rated and best life vest for kids our life jacket reviews.

Things We Liked


  • ​Woven polyester for softer fabric with less chafing
  • ​Comfortable design allows more freedom to swim and play
  • ​Learn-to-swim aid for beginners in the water
  • ​Antimicrobial properties

Things We Didn't Like


  • Extendable buckle would be appreciated

Price:

$

Editor Rating:

4.6/5

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket automatically inflates upon immersion in water or when you pull the “Jerk to Inflate” handle. It is equipped with back-up inflation by mouth and includes a 25-gram cylinder

This life jacket is made of durable nylon ripstop fabric that resists tears and punctures and features a low-profile design that helps keep you cool in warm weather. You will appreciate this feature as most life vests are thick and can get quite hot.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 life jacket will provide you with comfort, safety and peace of mind. Its comfortable, lightweight low profile design makes you unaware that you are wearing it but it will guard you in case of trouble. It can be automatically inflated or will inflate when you hit the water.

This slim life jacket features soft neoprene neckline for all day comfort and it is made from durable fabric which will resists tears and punctures. This vest is not confining and has plenty of room to move and breathe and we consider it the best life vest for intensive outdoor water activities.

Compared to a standard vest, this one will be especially beneficial while kayaking since it doesn’t restrict your movement while paddling. You should also opt for the automatic type if you are into high-speed boating as you can easily be knocked out after hitting the water at high speed.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is intended for persons 16 years of age and older and over 80 lbs. It’s not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers and has minimum buoyancy of 22.5 lbs. when inflated.

Designed as a Type V life jacket with Type III performance, the Onyx Outdoor A/M 24 Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket converts from automatic/manual to manual-only inflation. It is US Coast Guard approved and actually the #1 choice of Mr. Charter because of its automatic deployment. This makes it especially useful to prevent boating related drownings.

Things We Liked


  • ​Low-profile design
  • ​Keeps you cool in warm weather
  • ​Resists tears and punctures
  • ​Automatic or manual inflation

Things We Didn't Like


  • No safety rings or harness

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

4.5/5

Stohlquist Women's Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Stohlquist Women's Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device features soft 200D inner liner and 400x200 denier ripstop outer shell. Ripstop fabrics are woven using a special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping. During weaving, thick reinforcement threads are interwoven at regular intervals in a crosshatch pattern.

This life jacket for women is highly durable and has Neoprene padded back lower waistband. Open sides and mesh shoulders and back allow maximum ventilation.

The jacket also features1-1/2” webbing belt, dual forward pulls for a trim and low profile fit. High back flotation fits comfortably above the seat backs found in today’s sit-on-top kayaks, if you are a keen paddler.

Stohlquist Women's Flo Life Jacket is Type III PFD with sea level buoyancy of 16 lbs. 2 oz. so safety is guaranteed as long as you make sure you have the right size and put it on when on water.

Not bulky and allowing full range of arm motion, this device is amazingly comfortable. Ladies, if you are looking for a "girl friendly PFD”, this is the ones. It sits nicely on your back with not a lot of bulk. You will definitely like the upper breast area that doesn't create additional bulk there.

Also, this life jacket will not make you feel hot when you wear it. And the most important part, it will keep you afloat in the water. The zippered front part will keep the jacket securely on.

It doesn't ride up and it doesn't squeeze you or get twisted straps. You will really like the front pockets to hold things you need. A really impressive quality women's life jacket at a great price!

Things We Liked



  • ​Neoprene Padded waistband
  • ​Open sides for ventilation
  • ​Cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride-up
  • Lightweight PE Foam with inner mesh lining 

Things We Didn't Like


  • A bit too bulky

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

4.4/5

ONYX Type II PFD Life Jacket

ONYX Type II PFD Life Jacket is designed specifically to turn an unconscious person face up in calm water situations. It is less bulky and more affordable than a Type I offshore life jacket.

This is a U.S. Coast Guard-approved type 2 life jacket. It is designed to offer reduced bulk and greater comfort and is ideal in calm, inland areas.

The jacket offers basic flotation and a universal fit and can be worn by people with many different body types. Adult size Universal fits adult chests 30"-52" and over 90lbs. Adult size Oversize fits adult chests 40"-60" and over 90lbs.

This is also a toddler life jacket coast guard approved if you choose child size which fits children under 50lbs.

Onyx strives to bring reliable, dependable, and trustworthy gear to your family's adventures. This type 2 life jacket will keep you on the water longer. You will feel comfortable and have fun outdoors.

This is a great affordable life jacket which complies with the law and safety regulations which state that you must have a life jacket in the boat for each person. And it will save your life in an emergency. Keep a few of these in your boat for you and your boating guests.

If you are planning a camping trip and taking an inflatable boat, you do not want to go unprotected. Another thing you won’t like is to risk fines by the Coast Guard crews who check up on the boaters. This jacket may not be the most comfortable life vest but is a must have affordable safety precaution.

Things We Liked


  • ​Affordable life saver
  • ​Durable and reliable
  • ​Basic foam flotation for boating enthusiasts
  • ​Features universal fit.

Things We Didn't Like


  • Not too comfortable for longer wearing

Price:

$

Editor Rating:

4.3/5

Flowt Type III All Purpose Life Vest provides comfort and safety for all types of water activities. Its lightweight and durable foam fits snug and won’t limit your mobility. Open-sided styling allows for adjustability and large armholes will provide greater mobility.

This type 3 life jacket features 150 denier polyester construction with adjustable belts. It is designed to provide a secure fit.

You can choose several different sizes. Infant vest features closed sides to eliminate possible strap chafing. It also includes a leg strap, heads up pillow, and grab strap for quick retrieval of the infant. The chest size fits 20"-25".

Child vest features a leg strap for added safety. The chest size fits 25"-29". This is more of a safety vest than one to help teach a child to swim.

Equally reliable youth vest has a chest size that fits 30"-52".

For adults there are two models: Universal Adult which fits 90 lbs. and over, with the chest size of 30"-52" and Oversize Adult fits chest size 52"-62".

You can also get a 4-pack which contains four adult universal sized type 3 life jackets which are USCG approved. The 4-pack includes a storage bag to keep your vests in one place and provide convenient storage. The bag has a convenient strap for easy carrying.

This is a great life jacket for the price. It is adjustable, sturdy, durable and well made but also comfortable enough for most people. The color does not fade nor do buckles degrade due to the exposure to sun.

It is easy to put on and easy to take off. It will keep you safe and secure without being too bulky. If you have guests coming with you on boat trips, get a 4 pack: the jackets are great and the bag is perfect for packing them for a trip.

Things We Liked


  • ​Several sizes for the whole family
  • ​Durable and well made
  • ​A storage/carrying bag included
  • ​Lightweight and durable foam

Things We Didn't Like


  • If you are big, even the largest size may not fit so check it carefully

Price:

$$

Editor Rating:

4.6/5

Kent Commercial Type I Jacket Style Life Jacket, Orange

Kent Commercial Type I Jacket Style Life Jacket is designed for extended survival in rough waters where rescue may be slow in coming. This type 1 life jacket is required on commercial crafts.

This jacket can turn an unconscious person to a vertical or slightly backward position. It features a highly visible orange colored fabric and fits adults 75 lbs. and over.

Type1 life jacket is built for extended survival in waters where rescue may be slow. Kent Commercial Type I Jacket Style Life Jacket offers 32 pounds of minimum buoyancy and is constructed from polyester with inherently buoyant foam that won't waterlog.

SOLAS grade reflective shoulder patches increase visibility in dim and hazy conditions and the bright orange color alerts rescuers of your whereabouts. Adjustable straps provide a snug fit and the design of this life jacket turns most unconscious wearers face up in the water. This jacket has large armholes for increased mobility and D-ring for lanyard attachments.

If you're offshore fishing, racing, or cruising, Type 1 commercial vests are for you. A standard near shore vest can become saturated after only a few hours in the water, so Type 1 is the safe choice. Due to their bulkiness and rigidity, they aren’t comfortable for continuous wearing.

Things We Liked


  • ​Built for extended survival in waters
  • ​Durable and reliable materials used
  • ​Large armholes for increased mobility
  • ​SOLAS grade reflective shoulder patches

Things We Didn't Like


  • Not comfortable for longer wearing

Price:

$$

Laurie S.

As a multi home owner for 15 years I’ve tried out a ton of pool products and methods and have found out the best ones that work for me.

I love helping out other people with real, honest advice and spending time with my family. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me in the about or through a comment.

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