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If there’s one thing you don’t want to skimp on when getting out on the water, it’s your life-saving and safety devices.
There are lots of things to consider when buying the right safety equipment - from satellite devices and electronic equipment, to simpler products such as rafts, buoyancy aids and life jackets should the worst happen and you end up in the water.
It’s the latter we’re looking at here, taking a closer look at some of the best lifejackets on the market today and investigating what you should consider when assessing which type of jacket is the best fit for you.
There will be a number of different things to consider when looking at life jackets, including what kind of vessel you’re travelling in and what kind of activity you’re doing. All life jackets should measure up to industry and legal standards (ISO 12402-3) and have a whistle, light and a harness to attach a tether to.
If you’re sailing away from more crowded waters into wilder, rougher territory, or sailing and kayaking at night, for example, you really need to pay careful attention to some of these aspects that’ll increase your chances of survival and being found should everything go awry.
If you’re kayaking, canoeing or generally taking part in more casual inshore watersports, we’ve also included traditional and lightweight buoyancy aids here as well as more offshore sailing and commercial-grade jackets.
Here are some life jacket options worth considering.
Helly Hansen Sailsafe Inflatable Race
Designed for the offshore sailor, this example from famous sailing and outdoor brand Helly Hansen features a lightweight and flexible design, an integrated deck harness and an emergency light.
The unique patented design is constructed with weight and freedom of movement in mind - and acts as a superbly comfortable life jacket for general coastal activities as well as both inshore and offshore sailing.
Lalizas Alpha Inflatable 170N
Offered up as a no-frills life jacket for everyday use, this is an affordable option in traditional red, which eschews advanced technology and snazzy design for something rather more tried and tested.
This still means it performs well in most circumstances however - the inflation system is automatic (with a mouthpiece for manual inflation) and it also comes with a stainless-steel D-ring for attaching harnesses and safety lines.
Seasafe I-Safe Leisure Lifejacket
We liked this lifejacket for its customisation options - adding interchangeable covers to alter the appearance of the jacket, which is a nice touch.
Ordering the standard setup provides you with a whistle, padding and a crotch strap for extra safety, but optional extras include additional harness loops, flares, spray hoods and a fitted SOLAS light.
Baltic Fishfarmer 165n Life Jacket
If you’re looking for your lifejacket to provide first-class durability and strength when out at sea, you could do a lot worse than look at commercial lifejackets.
This option from well-known ocean safety manufacturer Baltic offers a PVC outer cover to ensure it stays resistant to oil, UV light, mould and other elements that degrade the quality of a life jacket over time. It comes with reflective patches, an attachment for a spray hood and a holder for a VHF radio.
Helly Hansen Rider Vest
A really affordable option for those of us who want to get out on the water in our kayaks, this life vest has been specially designed for dingy and light, inshore watersports.
It offers soft-foam comfort and an easy front-entry zip, meaning that it’s very straightforward to wear and has low bulk and high stability. We liked the fact it comes with a flare pocket, and the price is very reasonable too.
Bear in mind this is a buoyancy aid for low-risk watersports, rather than an out-and-out lifejacket that will save your life in more critical or dangerous environments.
Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport Lifejacket
This is a good middle-ground lifejacket, suitable for recreational and casual boating.
Priced fairly competitively, the jacket features a lightweight design meaning it’s one of the most compact units available on the market at the moment.
Its unique bladder shape and construction is designed to ensure the wearer floats ‘face up’ in the water should they go overboard - especially vital if they happen to be unconscious.
Peak UK Explorer
This has been designed purely for sea kayaking and kayak touring in mind, and we liked its vibrant approach, unique design and huge storage and pocket space.
Two large pockets sit at the front of the jacket, and the radio, flare and hydration spaces on the jacket also are incredibly useful when out kayaking on the ocean for any length of time.
Features a tough rip-stop polyester and now ships in a range of different sizes.