Sailing has it all - it’s relaxing, fun, and can be thrilling! But, even when the waters are calm, you need to be properly prepared in the case of an emergency.
Danger can lurk whenever and wherever you are sailing, so safety is of paramount importance.
Before you head out sailing, you need to ensure you have all the necessary equipment. One piece of kit which is essential is a life jacket. How important is this?
Well, consider the fact that it is called a “life” jacket, and you can understand that it can be life-saving in certain circumstances.
Conditions can go south pretty quickly when sailing and without the right safety equipment, things could soon turn catastrophic.
If you capsize and find yourself in the water, you can only stay afloat for so long. But, with a quality life jacket, this time can be significantly extended, giving you more chance of being rescued.
Although all life jackets must conform to a set of standards set out by the ISO (International Sailing Federation), it can be confusing trying to find and then decide on which one you should buy.
For instance, some suit certain body shapes better than others. In fact, life jackets come in all shapes and sizes, with unique characteristics and elements that may or may not suit your needs.
In today’s post, we have reviewed a selection of the best life jackets available for sailing today.
We have considered the pros and cons of each life jacket, in terms of design and safety. And, don't forget to read our buyer’s guide to find out what you should be looking for when buying a new life jacket.
Let’s get started.
Best Life Jackets For Sailing - Guide
OUR TOP PICK
As a top-selling life jacket on Amazon, it’s no surprise that this Stearn Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest is one of the best-quality examples on the market.
Made with 200D nylon shell and top-quality, durable PE foam, this life jacket is suitable for a range of water sports, from wakeboarding to waterskiing.
It is also constructed with open sides and four one-inch webbed adjustable straps, meaning it offers more breathability and should fit most body shapes whilst feeling comfortable.
Although suitable for many body types, reviews show that this Stearns Watersport jacket is one of the very best and most popular for men and youths with slim builds.
You can choose between blue and red colors to suit your preferences, and it is US-Coast Guard approved.
Therefore, you can buy this life jacket knowing that it has been tested thoroughly by experts and could become life-saving if ever needed.
- Adjustable straps - offers improved breathability and comfort for different body shapes
- Made from 200D nylon shell - constructed from high-quality, durable material for long-lasting use
- US Coast-Guard approved - tested by experts to ensure it meets all the standard requirements
- Quite small armholes - some customers have found the fit can be a bit small, and the armholes are too tight for paddling
Made from durable ripstop cover fabric, the Spinlock Deckvest Lifejacket Harness 6D is flexible and lightweight, yet a very sturdy life jacket.
It is capable of resisting punctures and tears that can easily occur when sailing. If you sail in all types of weather conditions, this should withstand the elements.
Sporting an ergonomic design, this Spinlock life jacket features a very sturdy safety harness. This means it sits comfortably around your shoulders and around your neck, whilst allowing you to move easily and freely.
It is also designed to keep your head above the water, to keep you safe if you fall unconscious. Also included is a sprayhood to protect you further.
This professional-grade life jacket should protect you and always keep you safe in the water. It is ideal for both beginners and experienced sailors alike.
And, although it inflates automatically when water runs up through it, you don't need to worry about it inflating when it gets a little wet from rainfall or water spray.
Whilst this is an issue with many life jackets, the Spinlock Deckvest Lifejacket Harness H6 utilizes a paper capsule within its interior to help it either inflate or deflate.
Safe, comfortable, and easy to use, the Spinlock Deckvest Lifejacket Harness H6 comes with all bells and whistles, like an antenna for improved visibility when in the water and a flashing LED light.
Yes, it may be quite expensive, but you can’t put a price on your safety.
- Great features - comes with an LED flashing light and a flexible antenna for improved visibility
- Durable - resistant to tears and punctures so should last a long time
- Comfortable - a reliable safety harness sits nicely over your shoulders and around your neck and allows you to move freely
- Expensive - more costly than many of its competitors
The Astral V-Eight life jacket is constructed with a mesh base to give sailors improved freedom of movement when in the water.
Its freeing design is what sets this apart from many others, and what could be a matter of life or death in certain scenarios.
The sides of this vest are open, so your arms are not constricted, and the shoulder straps are comfortable. Also, the panels are situated low on the vest so it doesn’t move up and become obtrusive to your face.
The foam panel of this life jacket is made with EVA foam and Polyethylene (PE).
These are found on the front and back, so the vest can accommodate your boy shape better. This clever design feature means that the Astral V-Eight life jacket is suitable for both sexes to wear comfortably.
Also featured on this vest are a quick-release buckle and a zipper closure on its front. Along with two buckles that are fully adjustable on the shoulders, you can easily adjust the jacket to fit you properly.
It is also highly breathable with mesh on both sides, meaning you stay cool when sailing.
With two front pockets that are zippered, you can safely store important devices on you at all times, such as strobes, or an emergency whistle.
With a buoyancy score of 16 pounds, this is approved by the US Coast Guard and is suitable for a range of water sports.
- Available in different sizes - suitable for most body shapes and sizes and can be worn by both men and women
- Bright visibility colors - gives you increased visibility when in the water
- Comfortable and durable - can withstand extreme weather conditions for long-lasting, reliable use
- Quite bulky - some may find this life jacket a little cumbersome when wearing it and hard to move around in
Here, we have a best-selling life jacket for women - the Stohlquist Edge Personal Flotation Device. Specially designed and sculpted to fit a woman’s frame, this life vest is one of the most comfortable on the market.
Whereas some unisex jackets fit women, they can become uncomfortable after wearing them after some time. But, this Stohlquist vest will remain comfortable for long sailing voyages.
Featuring exclusive sizes, shortened torso lengths, a small cut, a high mesh-back design, back pads, ventilated shoulder pads, and supportive inner cups, this flotation life jacket is ideal for sailing.
Moreover, it comes with a cross-chest cinch harness, preventing any ride-ups for free movements and supreme comfort.
Large zippered pockets allow you to store important items, such as an emergency knife, safely and out of harm’s way. It also features a reflective logo for added security and visibility.
Designed for all types of water sports, such as kayaking, the Stohlquist Edge Personal Flotation Device life jacket is just the ticket when heading out sailing.
- Designed specifically to fit a woman’s frame - with a smaller cut and shortened torso, this life jacket is comfortable to wear for most women's body shapes
- 4-way accessory back lash tab - easy access to important tools and items
- Reflective front and back - provides additional safety and visibility, when on board and if you’re in the water
- Little uncomfortable for taller, larger frames - some customers have reported that this life vest doesn’t fit all that well for women over 6 feet tall
Here, we have a slim life jacket constructed from durable nylon material. The Onyx Absolute Outdoor Life jacket is a top-quality life vest that is both puncture- and tear-resistant.
Thanks to its thought-provoking design features, it is highly durable for long-lasting, reliable use.
Unlike some durable life vests, the Onyx life jacket is pleasingly lightweight. It is so light, in fact, that you may forget that you even have it on! This means it is very comfortable and can be worn for elongated periods of time.
This life jacket can also be inflated automatically, as well as manually, which is critically important in the case of an emergency.
Even if it is deflated when falling into the water, it will automatically inflate to ensure you stay afloat and safe.
This is thanks to a carbon dioxide cylinder that inflates if it becomes submerged by 4 inches or more of water.
If you choose to inflate it manually, you can simply pull on a T-chord fitted to the jacket’s base. And, if you become unconscious, the jacket will hold your head and face above the water at all times.
You can wear the Onyx Outdoor life jacket on top of your clothes, such as a t-shirt or shirt, and still remain comfortable. It is USCG-approved and can be used for a variety of water sports.
- Very comfortable - its neckline design is super comfy and can be worn for hours
- Lightweight - can wear on top of t-shirts and shirts without feeling too heavy
- Automatic and manual inflation - will automatically inflate if you fall in the water to keep you afloat
- Hangs low on the body - because of the Co2 cartridge, it can hang a little too low on you as you sail
Our last pick on the list today is this award-winning deluxe life vest from Mustang Survival Corp. Made with Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT), this life jacket improves your safety and requires little maintenance in doing so.
The Mustang Survival Corps Inflatable PFD with HIT life jacket automatically inflates if you become submerged in 4 inches or more of water.
So, if you get wet from rain or splashes from the water below you, it won't accidentally inflate. Once it is inflated, it gives 35 pounds of buoyancy.
We were blown away by this, as it's almost double as much as the standard you find in most life vests.
Included with this life jacket are an array of impressive, life-saving features, such as a safety whistle, solas reflective tape, and an attachment for strobe lighting.
It also comes with an adjustable harness to ensure it fits any type of body size. It also allows freedom of movement thanks to a couple of d-rings that attach the jacket to the jack line.
You will be able to move your body and hands freely, so you are not restricted in any way.
Thanks to bright fluorescent colors (yellow and green), this Mustang Survival Corps life jacket is highly visible in all light conditions. It is also suitable for many types of water sports, whatever the weather conditions.
- Very comfortable - designed to fit most body shapes without restricting movement
- Incredible buoyancy - provides 35 pounds of buoyancy, which is double that of most life vests
- Made with HIT technology - automatically inflates when submerged in 4 inches or more of water to keep you safe
- Not available outside the U.S. - you would need to pay high shipping fees if you wanted this overseas
When purchasing life jackets, there are multiple factors you need to consider beforehand.
From its size and fitting to whether it automatically or manually inflates, the features of a life vest tend to separate the best quality vests from the worst.
Below are the top considerations we looked at to pick our top 6 life jackets for sailing. Think about these when buying your next life jacket to ensure you get the right one for you.
Size And Fitting
All life jackets are categorized according to their buoyancy levels. Measured in Newtons (N), you must select a life vest that’s buoyancy level is compatible with your weight.
Different sizes are available for men, women, and, of course, children and babies.
You need to ensure your life jacket fits you securely but is not uncomfortable. It needs to be tight enough so it’s not loose on you and low on the body.
Most high-quality life jackets, as we have above, come with fully adjustable straps and belts so you can easily hug the vest to fit your torso and shoulders correctly.
The Type Of Water Sports You Do
The life jackets on our list are all ideal for sailing and a host of other water sports.
However, not all are suitable for a range of water activities, so you need to find one that suits you and your needs.
In general, your activity determines the level of buoyancy your life vest should be.
So, a life jacket for sailing may not be the best option for kayaking or dinghy sailing. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer for more information on their life jacket.
Automatic Or Manual Inflation
This is a key feature to look out for in any type of life jacket. Life jackets are either inflated manually or automatically via a gas bottle built into the jacket.
The majority of life jackets inflate manually, but more automatic inflatable versions are hitting the market these days.
You can easily inflate a manual life jacket, either orally, or by pulling a cord on the jacket.
The jacket then fills with CO2 and is inflated. The advantages of using manual life jackets are that they do not inflate automatically if water hits them, triggering activation at the wrong time.
However, in cases of emergencies, the wearer may become unconscious so would not be able to inflate the vest themselves.
This is where automatic life jackets excel. These types of life vests inflate when you enter the water, usually after you are submerged under a certain amount of water (around 4 inches).
These are typically the best option for sailors as they do not require any effort from the wearer.
Therefore, if they become unconscious or are in a state of shock and are unable to activate the life jacket by themselves, the life jacket will automatically inflate and keep the wearer afloat.
You can also find models that are both automatic and manually inflated (as seen above).
Harness Or No Harness?
Some life jackets can be used as a harness thanks to an attachment point. This provides another safety line in the case of an emergency.
This attachment is typically made from metal or soft material and comes in the form of a loop on the front side of the life vest.
You need to consider whether you want to be attached to your vessel, or if it would be safer to float free in the water if you come into trouble.
For sailing boats, of course, you would not want to be attached to the boat as it would likely sink.
Also, powerboats travel at high speeds so you should not attach yourself to these, either. For kayaks, however, it could be a safe option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Material Is Best For A Life jacket?
The main types of material for life vests are foam-filled, gas-filled, and hybrid. Foam is typically best for lower-performance buoyancy aids, but is also low maintenance, affordable, and tends to last years.
Gas life vests require frequent inspections to make sure the bladder or bladders are in full working order. The gas bottle also needs to be checked and charged regularly, too.
Hybrid jackets also require gas bottle maintenance, but are the highest performing life jackets, alongside gas jackets.