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    What's the Best Life Vest?

    What's the Best Life Vest?

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    Life jackets are more comfortable than ever before. There are so many different styles that are specifically designed for every type of water activity. Adult boaters have asked me what the best life vest is for them because they trust my water safety knowledge and expertise.

    My first question to those who ask is are they a confident, strong swimmer? The reason I ask that is because inflatable life jackets are by far the most comfortable. They come in suspender and belt styles that you hardly realize you have on until you need them. However, they can take approximately 5-7 seconds waiting on an automatically inflatable life jacket to inflate or longer when pulling the cord on a manually-operated one. If the mechanical device doesn’t work then you will need to inflate the life jacket using the oral inflator. If you’re not good at treading water, you could possibly panic and drown because you are trying to survive and forget to inflate the life jacket. These do require regular maintenance to make sure they stay in operable condition. Plus, when not being worn they need to be stowed in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area so it’s not good to store them in your hot boat, garage or car. Also, these are only authorized for use by people 16 years of age and older. They are great for so many water activities, but always check the manufacturer’s label to identify what activities the U.S. Coast Guard has approved for your life jacket.

    Inherently buoyant life jackets are very durable and come in a variety of styles, materials, and sizes. Some are designed to float unconscious wearers in a face-up position, which is best for open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. I can swim well, but I’ve worn one of these in those conditions and they’re not the most comfortable life jacket to wear, unless you’re napping. It feels somewhat like wearing one of those neck pillows I see people carrying and sometimes wearing through airports.

    A less cumbersome inherently buoyant life vest is the style with narrow straps over the shoulders and large arm holes designed for ease of arm movement. I highly recommend these for sailing, kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding. These also work well for fishing, but many anglers prefer the typical fishing life vest made mostly of foam. Sometimes these have neoprene or mesh shoulders and sides making them very comfortable. The mesh makes them cooler to wear too. Plus, fishing life vests have lots of pockets that provide easy access to extra fishing tackle.

    For towing sports such as tubing, skiing, or wakeboarding, neoprene life jackets are the most popular of the inherently buoyant life jackets. They are also the best for personal watercraft use because they are designed to withstand high-impact activities and they come in a variety of stylish colors.

    The best life jacket is the one that you will wear! When buying an inherently buoyant life vest it’s important to size it right and try it on for the perfect fit, especially for children. If it isn’t comfortably snug it can fly off when you enter the water. Raise your arms over your head or pull up on the shoulders of the life jacket to make sure it stays in place and doesn’t ride up on your chin. Keep in mind that it may float up higher on you when you’re in the water. Inflatable life jackets actually need to fit you loosely, so before you buckle them adjust the strap allowing extra length. There needs to be room for it to inflate. I know some big guys that have problems finding one of these that will fit them after it’s inflated.

    It’s critical to test how your life jacket fits in the water! There’s a learning curve, especially on using inflatable life jackets, so testing it first in calm water that you can stand up in is a good idea. That way you can get comfortable with how long it takes to inflate and practice using the inflation tube in case you need to use it. Some belt-type inflatable life jackets have to be put over your head after they inflate, which is actually easy to do in the water. However, you may have to let a little air out with the oral inflate/deflate tube to get this type of life jacket over your head.

    Some people complain about the costs of some styles of life jackets. I heard a good response to that when a guy told another one that his life should be worth more than his expensive boat. The fact is people still buy orange, horse-collar-style life jackets because they’re cheap. Yes, I mean the people and the life jacket are cheap. I’m well-known myself as being cheap or frugal, as I like to call it. But, I buy life jackets that people will wear because I value my life and the lives of those who ride on my boat.



    Date Taken: 08.17.2018
    Date Posted: 08.17.2018 14:58
    Story ID: 289300
    Location: US

    Web Views: 43
    Downloads: 0