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5 steps to picking the right kids life vest

5-Step Kid's Life Vest Guide

Kid's life vests are confusing and picking the right one shouldn't be hard so we have some easy to follow steps to guide you through the process.  First off congrats for being safe and following the rules of the water.  When your lake or river is packed with boaters you never know what can happen so having the proper safety devices like adult and kid's coast guard approved vests is important.  Now on to these easy to follow steps for choosing a kid's life vest.

Step 1: Know the Kid's Weight

All kid's life vests range by weight from toddler to junior.  The most common sizes go from 0-30 pounds for toddlers, 30-50 pounds for young kids, 50-75 pounds for big kids, and 75-120 for junior and early teens.  Having the right vest to accommodate the weight is one of the most important factors in having the life vest work properly.  

Step 2: Who is using the Vest?

This seems like an easy question but if you have multiple kids who are boys and girls it's always nice to pass it down to the younger sibling or other family members.  Getting a unisex vest with neutral colors is always a good way to save on future purchases.  This also is also guest-friendly for your friend's or relatives kids.

Step 3:  What is the Propose of the life vest?

Is this vest for a pontoon riding, fishing, or action sports like water skiing, tubing, and surfing?  Lots of times you can save on a kid's life vest by purchasing the standard material because these can be worn over t-shirts or other garments.  There is nothing wrong going this route as the vest will work the same way.  On the other hand, if you plan on using the vest for more active sports then consider a neoprene life vest.  With an upgraded fabric you will find out the life vest causes less irritation to your kids.  These vests will also fit a little sportier or tighter around the body as most are meant for touching the skin vs wearing clothing underneath.  The bottom line is if it's going to be a dual purpose at all go with the neoprene styles and the kids will thank you.

Step 4: Safty is Key

Yeah we know that's why you are buying a kid's life vest in the first place (to stay safe on the water).  The point is its not just having a vest on it's having the right one on to help avoid future accidents and to keep your kids safe.  So picking a life vest with certain features will help you achieve that goal.  If you want a more in-depth look at safety for kids on the water then check out boating safety mag for additional links and articles.  Back to the mission first, the color is really important because brighter kid's life vests will help you to spot your kids in the water.  Not only that it also helps other boaters see them as well.  Your kids might not like the idea of wearing the brightest life vest you can find but it is nice for the boat driver to spot it on a busy lake day.  If anything make sure the area from the air pit up to the shoulder sections are the brightest areas.  This is what you will see when they are in the water.  

Next, the vest should have 2 to 3 buckles along with a zipper and a zipper stopper.  The zipper stopper stops the zipper from coming undone if the user takes a hard fall in the water.  The buckles are the next backup device and can help you adjust the fit of the vest if your kid is on the small size of the weight range.  They also act as the backup if the zipper comes undone or didn't work properly. 

Step 5: Always Have it and Wear Them

Just remember to always have the life vest with you while boating and better yet keep it on the kid's on and around the water.  Putting it on before you even get to the boat is a great way to do it. This ensures no one will fall in the water without a life vest while you are loading gear and people on the boat.  It doesn't take but a second to have a child wander away and step off a dock or over the edge of the boat.  Knowing they have the life vest on will give you peace of mind and ensure they are safe.  If you are traveling to a destination with water be sure to pack them and take a plastic bag with just in case you have to bring them back damp or wet.

Here is the quick recap version

  1. Know the weight of the participant
  2. Who is using it - (Can it be a unisex colorway)
  3. What is it being used for? - Water sport or Casual Boating
  4. Safety Features on the vest - Buckles, zippers, Bright Colors
  5. Always have it and wear it - Put it on before you even get in the boat


If you have more questions on kid's life vests just send us an email or give us a call.  Every waterway has slightly different regulations and rules so be sure you know them before you start boating with your kids.  Thanks for checking this out and be sure to head to 88 Gear to find the latest life vests for both kids and adults. 


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