10 Best Life Vests of 2022 to Keep You Safe During Water Activities

Made from premium materials, the Jetpilot Neoprene Vest is our top pick.

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No matter which water activity is your favorite—whether it’s paddleboarding, white-water rafting, kayaking, or jet skiing—wearing a life vest can help to keep you safe. “You may choose to use a life vest anytime you or your child is near any water, including a pool or beach,” Chris DeJong, founder of Big Blue Swim School, says. “Life vests are specifically designed to keep someone afloat, turning the wearer face-up with their mouth and nostrils above water.”

Reviewed & Approved

The Jetpilot Shaun Murray Neoprene Vest is our men’s top choice, thanks to its premium materials and extra protection around the ribs and sides. We also recommend Mustang Survival Women’s Destiny Vest, our women’s top choice, thanks to its adjustment capabilities and reflective trim.

Life vests come in a wide range of materials, colors, fits, and types. To find the best life vests, we reviewed dozens of options from the top, trusted brands. We also interviewed a founder of a swim school and a kayaking coach for expert insight, and chose the best life vests based on price, material, fit, and more. 

Based on our research, here are the best life vests on the market.

Best Men’s Overall: Jetpilot Shaun Murray Neoprene Vest

4.8
Jetpilot Life Vest

Jetpilot

Pros
  • Made from premium materials

  • Durable

  • Extra protection around ribs and sides

Cons
  • Only comes in one color

  • Expensive

  • No mesh pockets

We chose Jetpilot’s Shaun Murray Neoprene Vest as our best overall pick. It has been expertly designed by a professional wakeboarder, who tested it during every watersport you can imagine before it was made available to purchase. This life vest is made from flex-lite neoprene, which makes it not only soft and lightweight but also durable. It holds less water than other life vests, which is great for any watersport you may decide to do.

Although only available in one color, we love the silver look. It’s U.S. Coast Guard-Approved, and there is foam cut and segmented into 19 panels on the life vest. That means there is extra support, especially around the ribs and sides, areas that usually hurt the most when you fall.

Sizes: XS-2XL | Material: Neoprene | Certifications: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: One

Best Women’s Overall: Mustang Survival Destiny Foam Vest for Women

4.8
Mustang Survival Vest

Walmart

Pros
  • Large mesh pockets

  • Six points of adjustment

  • Enhanced visibility in low light conditions

Cons
  • Only comes in one color

  • Only comes in two sizes

  • Expensive

Because it has six points of adjustment, we recommend Mustang Survival’s Women’s Destiny Vest for its thoughtful features. It’s great for women who usually find the fitting on life vests awkward, and there is even added support for the shoulders and bust areas. The large mesh pockets are ideal to keep your valuables safe and secure.

We love the reflective trim on the front, back, and shoulders, because it means it can be used in the late evening or night, or on days when there is low visibility. Although it only comes in one color and two sizes, this life vest has all the features you need. 

Sizes: S/M and L/XL (two sizes) | Material: Nylon/neoprene | Certification: Harmonized Level 70 - USA and Canada | Flotation: 15.7 lbs | Colors: One

Best Budget: Stohlquist Fit Unisex Adult Life Jacket

Fit Life vest

Amazon

Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Designed for high mobility

  • Thinner back for comfort when seated

Cons
  • Only comes in two sizes

  • May ride up during use

  • No reflective trim

For a budget-friendly option, we recommend Stohlquist’s Unisex Adult Life Jacket. Like many others on our list, this life vest is U.S. Coast Guard-Approved. It’s both lightweight and comfortable, because it’s made from polyethylene foam. It doesn’t matter if you want a life vest for the beach or for a watersport—this one comes at a reasonable price point.

This life vest has a thinner back, compared to the front, to make it more comfortable when seated, and it has larger armholes than other life vests on our list for increased mobility. The downside is that it may ride up during use, which might not be ideal for some watersports. There is also no reflective trim for when there is low visibility, and it only comes in two sizes.

Sizes: Universal and Oversized (two sizes) | Material: Polyethylene Foam | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: 18 lbs | Colors: Four

Best for Kayaking: L.L. Bean Breathable Highback Vest

Life Vest

L.L. Bean

Pros
  • High-back construction

  • Well-padded

  • Enhanced visibility in low light conditions

Cons
  • Only comes in two colors

If you’re looking for a life vest for kayaking, we recommend L.L. Bean’s Breathable Highback Vest. This life vest has a high-back construction, making it more comfortable when seated in a taller kayak or canoe seat. It also has reflective material on the front and back, which is ideal for low-light conditions. 

We love how padded this life vest is—it gives you extra comfort and protection when doing any water activities, especially when you fall. There’s also a mesh pocket to keep your valuables secure. L.L. Bean’s Breathable Highback Vest comes in two colors.

Sizes: XS/S, M/L, XL | Material: Nylon | Certification: Not listed | Flotation: 16 lbs | Colors: Two

Best for Paddleboarding: Field & Stream Element Angler Vest

Angler Vest

Dick's Sporting Goods

Pros
  • Large range of sizes

  • Heavy-duty front zipper

  • Convenient for fishing sports

Cons
  • Only comes in two colors

  • No reflective trim

For paddleboarding, we recommend Field & Stream’s Element Angler Vest. We love the large range of sizes on the life vest—this means that there should be an option for everyone out there. There’s a heavy-duty front zipper, so it’s easy to put on and take off this life vest. But what’s also great is that there’s a rod holder, which makes it perfect for fishing or angling. 

A mesh pocket at the front keeps your valuables safe and secure, and although there is no reflective trim for low-light conditions like on some other vests on our list, we do like the fact that it’s made from premium materials.

Sizes: M-3XL | Material: Nylon/neoprene | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: Two

Best Inflatable: Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket

Inflatable vest

Amazon

Pros
  • Lightweight and durable

  • Large range of colors

  • Back-up oral inflation tube

Cons
  • One universal size

  • Not U.S. Coast Guard-Approved

Eyson’s Inflatable Life Jacket is our top pick for inflatable life vests. In some situations, an inflatable life vest may be preferred over a foam life vest (which is what all of the others on our list are). This is usually because they are more compact and lightweight, which are exactly the features that Eyson’s Inflatable Life Jacket boasts. It can be inflated manually in seconds by pulling the cord, but there’s also a back-up oral inflation tube in case it’s needed. This life vest also comes in a wide range of colors.

Although it only comes in one universal size and is not U.S. Coast Guard-Approved, it does come in at a great price point, and it is extremely comfortable for all-day use.

Size: Universal (one-size) | Material: ‎Polyester, Nylon, Neoprene, Thermoplastic Polyurethane | Certification: CE-Certificated & SOLAS-Approved | Flotation: 33.7 lbs | Colors: Nine

Best for the Beach: Airhead Wicked NeoLite Vest

Life vest

Airhead

Pros
  • Large range of sizes

  • Made from quick-drying and soft materials

  • Minimal bulk design

Cons
  • Only comes in one color

  • May need to order a size up

For trips to the beach, we recommend the Airhead Wicked NeoLite Vest. When you’re at the beach, you’re usually looking for a life vest that’s less bulky, and that’s why we love this life vest. It weighs less than others on our list, and because it’s made from quick-drying and soft materials, it should keep you both comfortable and dry. There is a large range of sizes you can choose from, from youth to XL, so you can match your children if you wish.

One downside is that it only comes in a hot-pink color, which may not suit some people’s tastes. Note that you may need to order a size up from your usual when ordering. Otherwise, this life vest is secure and easy to remove, making it perfect for a day out at the beach.

Sizes: Youth-XL | Material: Nylon | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: One

Best Neoprene: O'Brien Women’s Focus Life Jacket

Life vest

Amazon

Pros
  • Made from environmentally friendly materials

  • Lightweight and comfortable

  • Designed for high mobility

Cons
  • Only comes in one color

  • No mesh pockets

  • No reflective trim

We recommend the O’Brien Women’s Focus Life Jacket if you’re looking for a neoprene life vest. Made from environmentally friendly materials, this neoprene life vest is fast-drying, light, and comfortable, making it great for any watersport you choose to do. The wide armholes also give you increased mobility.

Be aware that there are no mesh pockets for your valuables and no reflective trim for low-light conditions. And note that it only comes purple (which we love, by the way!). Otherwise, it’s a dependable life vest that comes at a reasonable price point. 

Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Neoprene | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: One

Best Size Range: Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Life Jacket

Life vest

Amazon

Pros
  • Large range of sizes

  • Marine whistle included

  • Large storage pocket

Cons
  • No reflective trim

In need of a life vest that offers a wider range of sizes? We recommend the Onyx MoveVent Life Jacket. We love this option because of the range of sizes it offers, going up to 2XL. It’s not often that you see life vests that have comparable sizes. A large storage pocket is included, which helps to keep your valuables in easy reach, and there’s a marine whistle attached so you can call for help in case of an emergency.

Although there is no reflective trim for low-light conditions, the Onyx MoveMent Life Jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard-Approved vest that can keep you safe while you're doing your favorite water activities.

Sizes: XS-2XL | Material: Nylon | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: Four

Best for Kids: O’Neill Youth SuperLite Life Vest

Life vest

Amazon

Pros
  • Large range of colors

  • Minimal bulk design

  • Durable

Cons
  • Some colors are more expensive than others

  • Some kids may not like the snug fit

We chose the O’Neill Youth SuperLite Life Vest as our top pick for a life vest for kids, mainly because it has a wide range of colors to choose from, which should appeal to most children’s tastes. It also boasts a minimal bulk design and is extremely durable, which is ideal for kids who love to play.

Note that some colors are priced at nearly double those of others, and the snug fit on this life vest may be too tight or uncomfortable for some kids. Otherwise, it’s a top pick from a trusted brand, which is why it made our list.

Size: Universal (one size) | Material: Nylon | Certification: U.S. Coast Guard-Approved | Flotation: Not listed | Colors: Six

Final Verdict

The Jetpilot Shaun Murray Neoprene Vest is our top men’s overall pick, as it’s made from premium materials and has extra protection around the ribs and sides. Its durability means that it’s great for multiple uses. 

We also recommend Mustang Survival Women’s Destiny Vest. We love the adjustment capabilities on this life vest, and the mesh pockets are great for keeping your valuables secure.

How We Selected

To choose the best life vests, we first spoke with Chris DeJong, owner of a swim school, and Elliott Davidson, a kayaking coach. They shared their advice on the reasons for using a life vest, how and why the fit of a life vest matters, and the factors to consider when purchasing one.

Next, we researched dozens of different life vests from the most trusted brands and picked the best products based on quality and value. We also considered fit, color, materials, and the type of life vest.

What to Look for in a Life Vest

Type

Life vests can come as either standard or inflatable. Inflatable life vests are usually lighter and more comfortable, making them great for all-day use. They do, however, require manual inflation, so you may prefer standard versions that do not. The best type of life vest for you also depends on other factors, like the watersport you do and your swimming ability.

Fit

When shopping for a life vest, consider how it fits. If you get it wrong, it may not protect you in your time of need. “A life vest is usually adjustable around the waist and shoulders with straps. This is so that you can get the life jacket around the natural middle between your neck and waist. It shouldn't be one extreme or the other,” Davidson says. When it comes to fit, you’ll want a life vest that fits snug but also allows some room for movement.

Price

The price point for life vests varies. If you’re going to use it often and perhaps in rougher conditions, investing in a high-quality, durable, well-fitted life vest is recommended. If you’re not confident in your swimming abilities, it’s also recommended to get a high-quality life vest. However, if you’re going to use it less often or in less-extreme conditions, you may prefer a more budget-friendly option.

Certification

The most common certification to look for is the U.S. Coast Guard certification. Not all life jackets are approved by the U.S Coast Guard, so you may want to consider that before buying a life vest. “A U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket is required for certain activities, such as boating, and care should be taken to select the right device for the situation,” DeJong says.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the different types of life vests?

    You can get standard life vests, which are made from a foam material, or inflatable life vests, which are usually lighter and more comfortable for continuous wear. The benefit of standard life vests is that they don’t need to be inflated by pulling a cord or by manual inflation. However, they can be bulkier than inflatable versions.

  • What is the best material for a life vest?

    The outside of most life vests is usually made from nylon or neoprene, or a combination of the two. Nylon is less expensive, and lighter, making it great for paddle sports. For more intense sports, neoprene is usually preferable. It’s more expensive but provides a snug fit and higher amounts of buoyancy, which is great for keeping you safe.

  • How should a life vest fit?

    The best color for your life vest depends on where you’ll be using it. If it’s for the beach or for low-risk activities, any color you prefer will usually do. However, if you’re using it for more extreme water sports, you may want to purchase a bright and visible colored life vest, such as orange or yellow. That will make you easier to spot in case of an emergency.

  • What is the best color for a life vest?

    The best color for your life vest depends on where you’ll be using it. If it’s for the beach or for low-risk activities, any color you prefer will usually do. However, if you’re using it for more extreme water sports, you may want to purchase a bright and visible colored life vest, such as orange or yellow. That will make you easier to spot in case of an emergency.

  • What are the safety features of life jackets?

    When it comes to additional safety features on life jackets, some come with none as standard, and some may have one or two additional features. However, it’s important to note that these can be added afterward. For example, crotch straps, a whistle, a light, and a spray hood are all things that could enhance your chances of survival, so you may want to consider adding them on. “If there are crotch straps to stop the lifejacket from rising up, make sure to use them,” Davidson says.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a certified personal trainer and health and fitness writer, Ravi Davda understands how important quality product recommendations can be. He recommends products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well reviewed by those who’ve tried them.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. How to buy A life vest. PRO TIPS by DICK'S Sporting Goods. Published December 8, 2021.

  3. How to choose the right life jacket for your needs: Boat safe: Water sports, product reviews, and Nautical News.

  4. Lifejackets – how to choose a lifejacket and maintain it.

By Ravi Davda
Ravi Davda has been involved in the fitness industry for nearly 10 years, having gone through a major weight loss journey in his 20s.He is a certified personal trainer and loves the nutrition side of health and fitness. He has a degree in Mathematics with Economics and runs a marketing agency, Rockstar Marketing.Ravi loves lifting weights in the gym and is also a digital nomad. He has learned to adapt his training style based on the different situations he's been put in (for example, the pandemic, keeping up with fitness whilst on the move) and therefore understands the importance of honest product reviews.