2015 Water Sports Gear Guide: Vests

Protect your body and potentially save yourself with the right life jacket.

Life Jackets

Find the Right Fit
Much like the shoe-buying process, there's nothing quite like trying before buying when it comes to getting a properly fitted life jacket, and that's the biggest perk in choosing a new vest in a well-stocked pro shop. For starters, remember that there's a considerable amount of stretch to a vest when it gets wet. Bill Porter, owner of one of the country's top pro shops, recommends paying particular attention to how the vest fits on your upper chest and around the waist. "If there are 'gaps' or 'air' between your skin and the vest, you can almost be assured that it will rise up from your shoulders when you're in the water, or roll up from your waist during a deepwater start. Your vest should fit snugly."
Boating
USCGA vs. Competition Vest
Before you plunk down more than $100 for that ultralight competition vest you've always wanted, you'd better be aware of your local boating laws on public waterways. In many cases, the U.S. Coast Guard requires that a boat must have a Type I, II, III, or V life jacket for each person aboard, and boats 16 feet and over must have a least one Type IV throwable device as well. A USCGA life jacket offers increased floatation from a competition vest, while comp vests generally allow more freedom of movement. Your Preferred Entry
These days there are multiple ways to don a life jacket. There's the classic front-buckle vest, front zipper or a combination of both. You can also opt for a pullover vest with a rear zipper, or even a side-zipper entry. No matter what style you choose, one thing is true: It's all about personal preference. Today's top water-ski and wakeboard athletes wear a mixture of all the styles mentioned above.
Hyperlite Team
Men's CGA Things We Like: Excellent range of motion. + Beefed-up rib panels ensure extra protection. + Quickly drains for a lightweight feel on the water. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $150
hyperlite.com
Hyperlite Team CGA Vest
Women's CGA Things We Like: U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation puts safety first while offering pro-level performance. + Concealed straps create a clean, stylish look. + Super comfy and flexible. Sizes: XS-XL MSRP: $150
hyperlite.com
O'Brien Team
Comp Things We Like: 1.5 mm four-way stretch neoprene. + Heavy-duty front zipper keeps the segmented foam panels snug against your body. + Extremely light and competition worthy. Sizes: XS-XXL MSRP: $120
obrien.com
Body Glove Bob Soven
Comp Things We Like: Strategically placed Aerolite foam covers all of your vital parts. + Flexible and light. + Simple single-zipper closure. Sizes: XS-XXL MSRP: $130
bodyglove.com
Body Glove Harley Clifford
Comp Things We Like: So light that you hardly know you're wearing a vest. + Unique surf-style/wood-grain look. + Magnaflex shell provides maximum comfort. Sizes: XS-XXL MSRP: $130
bodyglove.com
Body Glove Life Jacket Pink
Women's Comp Things We Like: Lightweight on the water. + Contoured fit for a woman's body. + Segmented foam offers catlike flexibility. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $100
bodyglove.com
Body Glove Rusty Malinoski
Rockstar Energy Signature Comp Things We Like: Segmented foam allows flex in any direction. + Heavy-duty front zipper maintains a secure, tight fit. + Rockstar Energy theme. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $130
bodyglove.com
JetPilot Aaron Rathy
Comp Things We Like: Reversible design allows two Aaron Rathy-inspired looks. + Durable PVC foam core. + Stretch panels protect and move with your body. Sizes: XS-XL MSRP: $130
jetpilot.com
JetPilot Recruit
Women's CGA Things We Like: Simple front-zip design with a two-buckle closure and four color options. + Impressive freedom of movement for a CGA vest. Sizes: XS-XXL MSRP: $60
jetpilot.com
JetPilot S1
CGA Things We Like: Convenient lanyard clip for use with PWCs. + Low cost makes safety affordable. + Soft polyester won't irritate your skin. Sizes: XS-XXXL MSRP: $30
jetpilot.com
JetPilot The Enforcer
CGA Things We Like: A comfortable blend of nylon and neoprene construction. + Low- bulk fit doesn't restrict movement. + Mesh drain panels quickly exit water. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $70
jetpilot.com
Liquid Force Reflex
CGA Things We Like: High-quality, stretchy PVX flotation foam. + Powerflex neoprene and speed skin paneling shed water quickly. + Stretchy light lining fabric encases the jacket for a cozy feeling. Sizes: XS-XXL MSRP: $120
liquidforce.com
Liquid Force Watson
CGA Things We Like: Retains much of the same flexibility and comfort as the Watson Comp vest. + Wide neck and large armholes enable natural movement. + Side-zip entry and snap buckles produce a clean look. Sizes: S-XL MSRP: $130
liquidforce.com
Camaro Impact 2.0
Men's Comp Things We Like: Reversible design allows two looks. + Integrated shock protection and flotation in all of the vital places. + Form-fitted to the body but provides excellent freedom of movement. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $160
camaro.at
Radar X-Vest
CGA Things We Like: Easy to don and take off. + Five-panel design places protection and flotation in all the right places. + Ease of movement for beginners and experts alike. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $150
radarskis.com
Ronix Parks Capella
CGA Things We Like: Circular construction and form-fitting rib protection. + Oversized armholes. + Eye-catching graphics complete the stylized look of Parks Bonifay's signature life jacket. Sizes: S-XXL MSRP: $157
ronixwake.com
West Marine Dynamic Move
CGA Things We Like: Sculpted and flexible design conforms to your body. + Front and back ventilation panels. + Massive armholes and low cut around the neck reduce weight while allowing unrestricted movement. Sizes: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL MSRP: $50
westmarine.com