Finding the perfect coastal life jacket for you can be a challenging task with all of the brands and color options available on the market. Take a look at the best 8 coastal lifejackets you should consider when purchasing your next lifejacket.
A lifejacket is a lifejacket is a lifejacket, right? They all conform to a similar set of safety standards (ISO 12402-3 for coastal/non-harness or 12401 for harness versions) meaning they must all do the following:
- Turn a person over and float them in the safety position
- Maintain a minimum height of chin above water
- Have a whistle and a lifting strop
- Be constructed from a material that is highly visible and recognisable as a safety or distress colour (bright orange/yellow)
- Have a minimum area of reflective tape
And yet all lifejackets have their own characteristics. The design of the casing and buckles, the position of the CO2 inflation bottle; the shape of the bladder; the location of the whistle, inflation tube and lifting strop, and other key attributes that can all affect how comfortable and practical they are to wear and use both in and out of the water.
To determine this we put a selection of popular 160-180N coastal lifejackets through a series of real world tests on a range of different body types carried out by nine experienced professionals at Western Maritime Training in Plymouth.
Their comments are their own personal findings based on hands-on use rather than official laboratory tests. Needless to say, all the lifejackets meet the official safety standards required by their ISO ratings.
That’s why our scoring is based on ten other criteria which we feel are important to owners of motorboats:
- In water – What it’s like to wear when inflated.
- Adjustability – Ease of adjustment.
- Buckle – Ease of fastening and unfastening.
- Comfort – When worn uninflated over a foul weather jacket or a T-shirt.
- Practicality – Do any parts snag or catch?
- Equipment – Do all the accessories work and are they intuitive to use?
- Visibility – Of the casualty in the dark.
- Arming check – Ease of inspecting.
- Repacking – Ease of repacking and re-arming.
- Style – Does it look and feel good to wear
8 of the best coastal lifejackets tested
This is the cheapest lifejacket, something of a blast from the past for those of us who were boating back in the 1980s and 1990s. But, this is a tried-and-tested way to construct a reliable lifejacket and if you can live with its basic comfort levels, it’s a reliable piece of kit.
Mike, who tested it in the pool, commented: “It inflated quickly when manually activated and has good bladder positioning. It turned me quickly from face down and the oral inflation tube is easy to reach.
“It’s relatively comfortable. I found the lifting strop but it’s not marked. A bit fiddly but it’s simple and it works.”
The Waveline isn’t the most stylish of lifejackets on test but it performs as well as any other lifejacket in this category when it comes to the basic safety functions.
The flat Velcro closure of the casing makes it easy to check the arming mechanism and to repack the lifejacket after inflation. There’s also space in the casing to add a light and sprayhood.
Not the most stylish or comfortable choice out there but undeniably effective and good value.
Pros: This Waveline is the lightest on test and weighs just 800g fully armed. The Velcro closure makes this lifejacket really easy to check and simple to re-pack. Attractive purchase price.
Cons: It has about as much style as a flat red thing can have.
In water: 8/10
Arming check: 8/10
Overall score: 61%
Ocean Safety Kru Sport 170 ADV
This well-respected jacket from Ocean Safety’s long-running Kru range features a scooped neck to relieve pressure or rubbing on the neck and a plastic buckle closure for quick, easy fastening. The harness version has the option of a two- and three-bar stainless steel buckle.
It features Ocean Safety’s ‘Wave Barrier’ technology, which promises a sub-five second turning speed, to ensure the wearer’s airway is raised above the water as quickly as possible. It also features an interlocking bladder which aims to prevent the flow of water into airways, “dramatically reducing the threat of secondary drowning.”
However some wearers had concerns about other elements. Anna commented: “The mounting of the CO2 bottle feels wrong. The bladder forced the canister against my chest. A sprayhood and light are included and the light came on straight away.
“The sprayhood doesn’t feel as rigid as some, though, and dropped too close to my face. Despite tightening the crotch strap in the water, it still didn’t quite feel right.”
Toby commented that the zip is on the opposite side to the top-up tube, which makes it tricky to remove the air completely when repacking it.
Pros: Smart-looking. Ocean Safety brand is well established and trusted with service centres readily available everywhere. Crossover bladder design.
Cons: As per a previous test conducted on this lifejacket, it has suboptimal positioning of the CO2 canister on the curve of the bladder which causes it to rotate on inflation and jab into the chest or ribs of the wearer.
In water: 5/10
Arming check: 4/10
Overall score: 65%