Depending on the water activity, the shape and design can make even the best life jackets uncomfortable to wear, and that means you’re less likely to use it. These picks are the best life vests for specific activities, as well as a budget pick that’s an all-around-use if you just need a life jacket on hand for whatever life brings.
As goes the old saying, the best life jacket is the one you will wear!
This is the best life jacket for paddle boarding. It's thoughtful design and high quality materials make it comfortable to wear whether you are standing or sitting on your next paddle adventure.
(These life jackets are also sold at Costco during the summer season as Hyperlite Paddle Vests)
Specifically designed for paddle sports,the mesh lower back fits high back seats and sit-on-top kayaks. The side are open, so there's nothing for your arms and elbows to rub on during a long paddle session.
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The price on these life jackets varies depending on the size and color combination chosen. This is a very popular life jacket on Amazon and has thousands of great reviews.
The O'Neill research and development process provides the good quality, fit and functionality. These life vests continue to set new standards of excellence in design for all wake and waterski athletes. Available in both a men's and women's version.
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Often the best seller in the Life Jacket category, this life vest is for fishing, casual boating, adventuring, swimming, surfing, kayaking, water skiing, tubing and many more; or storing away in a set to stay prepared or to offer to guests.
Department of Transport approved, this is a great budget life vest for all water sports. While not specifically designed with features for paddling or fishing, this is a cheaper option that will serve you well if you're a couple-times-a-year sort of user.
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For less than $40, this is the best life jacket for a little added flotation while out enjoying the water.
Inflatable life jackets are great to use when swimming, snorkeling, or surfing. They are small, light, and compact when deflated. If you do run into trouble, or simply want to float a little easier while snorkeling, you can quickly inflate them in about 10 seconds by blowing into it.
These inflatable life vests are made of tough PVC and nylon fabric, and they feature a smooth-working zipper closure.
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Careful! When buying for children to use while boating, make sure the life vests are approved by Transport Canada!
There are many swimming jackets available online for kids, but if you're looking for something that is Transport Canada approved for children to use on a watercraft, you'll need to be careful! We found this approved life vest for kids from Onyx. It's rated for children from 33-55 lbs, and it's Transport Canada approved.
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Stearns (a branch of Coleman) makes this approved life jacket for infants in Canada.
It's specially-fitted for children between 20-30 lbs. (9-14 kg), with an extra contoured float above the neck—like a pillow—to encourage face-up flotation. A rescue handle allows adults to easily move the child from the water or the boat. Transport Canada approved means you can legally use it in watercraft.
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There are many cheaper options for a fishing vest, but to find one that is Transport Canada approved, we again have to sift through the countless knock-off import vests, and turn to Onyx.
This life vest is U.S Coast Guard approved, which means that it is also approved for use in Canada as they combined their standards of approval.
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What approval ratings should the best life jackets have?
Transport Canada is the governing body for water safety in Canada, and they give approval to life jackets that meet their standards requirements. Recently, both the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada have harmonized their standards, so that either body can approve life jackets. For more details on this, visit Transport Canada.
Before you buy a life jacket, check to make sure it has the USCG or dual USCG/TC label affixed on it.
Are life jackets unisex, or are there specific men’s and women’s?
Most life jackets are unisex, but if you’ve had comfort issues with life vests in the past you might want to consider a vest made specifically for your…… body shape. Women-specific life vests typically have fewer front buckles, placed lower down the vest to increase comfort.