Last updated: 16/10/2022

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Welcome to our big life jacket test 2022. Here we present all the life jackets we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best life jacket for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a life jacket.




Summary

  • Life jackets are a classic swimming aid. They are suitable for non-swimmers to learn how to swim, but also as a safety waistcoat for water sports.
  • Life jackets for children and babies are not intended as life jackets. They only provide sufficient buoyancy to make swimming easier. When buying a life jacket, make sure you find one that meets your individual requirements.
  • There is a wide range of lifejackets available. You can get inexpensive lifejackets that function as a simple buoyancy aid and elaborate models that come with additional features.

The Best Life jacket: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a life jacket

How does a life jacket work?

All lifejackets work on the same principle. They contain several chambers that provide active buoyancy. These chambers are filled with foam, for example. They are also hermetically sealed. There are also lifejackets with air chambers that can be inflated. Mostly, however, the air cushions are firmly incorporated into the waistcoat.

You can find life jackets in all kinds of colours and shapes. (Image source: unsplash.com / Miguel A. Amoutio)

How much does a life jacket cost?

The cheapest models start at less than 20 euros. There are no upper limits to your budget. Quality has its price, even with life jackets. The quality of life jackets can make or break your life, so don’t save money in the wrong place.

Which well-known manufacturers of life jackets are there?

The leading manufacturers are Secumar, Kadematic and Marinepool. They offer babies, children and adults life jackets of the highest quality and safety. The higher the Newton number and thus the safety, the more you have to invest. Secumar, for example, offers life jackets at a good price-performance ratio. At 275N, you have to reckon with approx. 130-390€. Other manufacturers are:

  • Compass
  • 12nautical miles
  • Spinlock
  • Lalizas
  • Baltic
  • Aquadesign
  • Atlantis Italia
  • Ocean Concept
  • Pilot

What are the alternatives to a life jacket?

Depending on your interests, there are several alternatives to life jackets. For non-swimmers in childhood, water wings are particularly suitable. However, there are also swimming aids that are suitable for adults, such as a swimming noodle or a swimming board that supports swimming. For experts who use a life jacket for safety reasons in water sports, there is an interesting alternative that is very innovative. It is called Restube. The Restube buoy therefore not only offers more safety, but also more fun and freedom during water sports activities. The usual excuses, such as “it’s too uncomfortable” or “too bulky”, can be easily solved.

Decision: What types of lifejackets are there and which is the right one for you?

There are different types of life jackets available. In order to obtain the right buoyancy for adults as well as children, a distinction is made between the following categories:

  • Fully automatic lifejackets
  • Solid lifejackets

Buoyancy aids and life jackets are distinguished on the basis of their buoyancy. This is measured in Newton (N).

Buoyancy in water of life jackets is given when the material is lighter than water.

Materials such as PVC are used for this purpose.

Category buoyancy characteristics area of use
Buoyancy aid 50 N Not faint-proof and not suitable for children under 30Kg small rowing boats
Lifejacket 100N Faint-proof, restrictive depending on clothing Protected waters
Lifejacket 150N faint proof, mostly fully automatic open sea, recreational boating
Lifejacket 275N faint proof open sea with extreme conditions

PCV is mainly used for buoyancy aids and lifejackets up to 100N, max. 150N. With more than 150N, a correspondingly large amount of material would have to be used in the chest and neck area, so that these lifejackets are no longer load-bearing. Therefore, inflatable lifejackets are used from 150N – semi-automatic or fully automatic. Gaseous substances such as CO2 or nitrogen are used for this purpose. Most companies use nitrogen because it is non-toxic, non-flammable and easy to store in small compressed gas cylinders.

The inflatable life jackets are packed small when uninflated and can thus be worn all the time without restricting movement. An automatic inflation device allows the lifejackets to be activated at any time. Most of the time, a lifebelt is also included with the lifejackets, which additionally secures life in very heavy seas. Depending on where and with which boat you are travelling, it is important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages carefully beforehand.

Did you know that there are also life jackets for dogs? They are often a lifesaver for humans, but life jackets are also available for dogs to save them from drowning on a boat trip.

What are the characteristics of a fully automatic life jacket and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The fully automatic life jacket has an integrated automatic system that triggers a CO2 cartridge when it comes into contact with water. This inflates the shell of the waistcoat within seconds. When inactive, automatic lifejackets give you great freedom of movement. You can move around undisturbed on board. When inflated, the buoyancy force of the lifejacket is so strong that the person is turned into a safe supine position. Thus, the head is in the air and the person can breathe freely.

Advantages
  • Fainting safety
  • freedom of movement
  • visibility
Disadvantages
  • No buoyancy uninflated
  • Regular care
  • Lack of panic hook

What are the features of a solid lifejacket and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Solid lifejackets are filled with a solid, non-absorbent material. The lightweight material is buoyant so that the wearer does not sink. Due to the buoyancy bodies, which provide constant buoyancy, you always float on the surface of the water. If there is no buoyancy body on the neck, you can still move around relatively well. Because the buoyancy bodies are made of solid material and are located all over the upper body, they offer practical insulation in colder temperatures.

In addition, the solid bodies offer good protection in the event of an impact due to their thickness. Many solid body waistcoats are fitted with a panic buckle to which a tow line can be attached in an emergency. They are also equipped with pockets in which you can stow a whistle, for example.

Advantages
  • Constant buoyancy
  • protection against cold
  • protection against impact
Disadvantages
  • No fainting protection
  • less comfortable to wear
  • hindrance when swimming

Buying criteria: These are the factors you can use to compare and evaluate lifejackets

In the following, we will show you which criteria you can use to decide between different lifejackets. The criteria you can use to compare lifejackets include:

  • Buoyancy
  • Age recommendation
  • Size
  • Weight class

In the following paragraphs we will explain what is important in each aspect.

Buoyancy

A certain amount of buoyancy is necessary to keep a person’s head above the surface of the water, for example. In addition, the person’s body should be turned by the life jacket so that the mouth and nose are kept in the air. This is called torque. Your clothing plays an important role here. The buoyancy of a person to the water surface is achieved at a minimum of 100 N – provided the person has the life jacket on unclothed.

All other lifejackets must have a minimum of 150 N or 275 N.

A classic life jacket has about 50 N buoyancy. Life jackets or buoyancy aids have a buoyancy of between 100 N and 275 N. Depending on the water you are in, you should look for a higher buoyancy.

With the ideal buoyancy, you can relax effortlessly in the water. (Image source: unsplash.com / Nicole Reyes)

At 100 N, you can stay in sheltered waters, whereas at 275 N, you can feel safe even on the high seas with difficult conditions.

Size

The size of the lifejacket is very important. It must fit properly to ensure good protection. If it doesn’t, the waistcoat can restrict your freedom of movement or it can slip over the neck area. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kePfa0nnDJ4 A good fit is therefore inevitable for a life jacket or life vest. Manufacturers provide several fit details with each lifejacket:

  • Chest circumference
  • Body size
  • Weight

The interaction of these three points determines the fit. Once you have found a lifejacket that fits perfectly, I would stay loyal to the brand. This way you can be sure that you or your child will have a well-fitting lifejacket.

Weight class

There are big differences here. Depending on who the lifejacket is for, it must be suitable for the weight of the person. Stand on the scales again at home or measure the weight of your child. It is important that the life jacket is designed for the weight of the user in order to provide the necessary buoyancy. By the way, this does not necessarily only include people – there are also products for animals, especially the practical life jacket for dogs.

Age recommendation

When buying a life jacket, you should pay attention to who the life jacket is for. If you are looking for a life jacket for your child, the age recommendation should match the age of your child to ensure the best possible protection.

You can find the right life jacket for every age. When buying, pay attention to what the manufacturer recommends. (Image source: unsplash.com / Mail Bauland)

A life jacket for a baby, for example, comes with a bathing suit. This prevents the baby from slipping out of the waistcoat. Suitable waistcoats for babies are available for children as young as three months.

Trivia: Interesting facts about life jackets

Which lifejackets are suitable for kayaks?

Things are often more turbulent in a kayak. That’s why you need a higher-quality life jacket. The normal versions are less suitable for this. They lack important equipment such as pockets or zip lines.

For kayak trips, you should pay special attention to the quality of your life jacket. (Image source: unsplash.com / Pete Nowicki)

For kayak beginners, it is worth asking a trainer or a kayak rental company. They can give you the relevant information and help you find a suitable waistcoat.

Storage and care

When not in use, life jackets should not be left lying around in the blazing sun, otherwise the material will quickly lose its robustness and quality. It is best to store the life jacket in a dry, warm place away from light. If you are at sea or on holiday, lifejackets can also be stored very well in water-repellent bags. You can find such bags either from the manufacturer or you can use other weatherproof bags.

Maintenance

Here are some principles for lifejacket maintenance:

  • every 2 years
  • Life span of a life jacket: approx. 10 years
  • maintenance is provided by the manufacturer
  • watch out for colour changes of the material, tears or cuts
  • automatically inflatable lifejackets require more maintenance

Image source: unsplash.com / Felix Serre

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