Choosing The Correct Life Jacket

From survival gear to watersports, learn how to choose the right life jacket.

The sheer variety of life jackets available might surprise some boaters. Models include those created specifically for boaters who like to paddle, fish, perform tricks at the end of a towrope, or cruise in cold waters. The Mustang Catalyst jacket ($350) featured at the top left of this page, for example, is built for cold-water boating. The following provides a primer so you know what to look for if you seek a specialty life jacket for your boating adventures.

Mustang Survival MIV 10

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
The MIV 10 minimizes weight and discomfort while casting.Courtesy Mustang Survival

Fishing
This MIV 10 inflatable fishing vest from Mustang minimizes weight and discomfort while casting. A mesh liner offers a cool fit, and six large pockets carry safety gear and fishing tackle. A D-ring holds clippers, and a sheepskin patch secures flies and hooks. Manual inflation means you can wade with it or fish in soaking rain or spray; it won't inflate unless you pull the cord. mustangsurvival.com

O’Brien SUP Vest

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
O’Brien's SUP Vest offers maximum ease of motion when paddling.Courtesy O'Brien

SUP
You want larger armholes and a shorter body, like the way this O'Brien SUP Vest is cut, for maximum ease of motion when paddling a stand-up paddleboard. Features such as adjustments for waist, sides and shoulders help maximize effective paddling, and zipper pockets stow essentials. obrien.com

West Marine Dynamic Move Paddle Sports Life Jacket

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
In this life jacket, your arms have full range of motion.Courtesy West Marine

Kayak
Roomy armholes and slim shoulder straps minimize bulkiness so your arms have full range of motion. The short-cut design sits higher on your torso for less restrictive movement around your midsection while sitting. Reflective material increases visibility. There's a lash tab for a sheath knife or other items, and it has expandable zipper pockets. westmarine.com

Lifeline Comp Vest

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
So-called “100 mph jackets” are the choice of many performance boaters.Courtesy Lifeline Race Gear

Performance Boating
So-called "100 mph jackets" like this Comp Vest from Lifeline are the choice of many performance boaters. The collar diverts water, so it can't catch under the helmet. It incorporates special impact-reducing flak material. It has extra-wide 1 1/2-inch leg and chest straps, and D-rings for kill switches on both sides. Available in custom colors and designs. lifelineracegear.com

Ronix One Capella CGA

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
Flex and fit mark top watersports life vests.Courtesy Ronix

Watersports
Flex and fit mark top watersports life vests such as the Ronix One Capella CGA. It is U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type III, so it counts against your carriage requirement. It features ­cylindrical construction, asymmetrical segmentation and a water-resistant liner. ronixwake.com

Mustang MIS230-HR

Choosing The Correct Lifejacket
Mustang’s MIS230-HR can keep you afloat and alive in even the coldest waters.Mustang Survival

Offshore Cruising
An immersion suit (aka Gumby suit) like Mustang's MIS230-HR can keep you afloat and alive in even the coldest waters. It includes a watertight face seal, built-in harness, and 5 mm neoprene layer for flotation as well as protection against hypothermia. mustangsurvival.com