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Top life Vest Features

Top Features in Life Vests

 Purchasing a life vest sounds easy, but there are more things to consider than just the size.  Some factors will include who is going to use it?  What will it be used for?  Will there possibly be high impact falls?  Is the user a good swimmer?  Last does it need to be coast guard approved or will a comp life vest work?  Considering all these factors we will mainly focus on the adult vests.  The youth or kid's life vests are pretty simple as they go by weight, neoprene, and color choices.

The first step would be to narrow your selection down to coast guard approved or comp life vests.  If you are not familiar with the differences of the vests that's ok we will try and simplify the main points.  The CGA or coast guard approved jackets usually have a thicker foam for better floatation and are approved by the coast guard.  You may also see a buckle or two over the zipper as an additional safety measure.  Most of the kid's or youth life jackets are coast guard approved.  This example we are going with the thinner profile of a comp vest.

The comp vest provides ample flotation for a experience swimmer but it is not coast guard approved.  When choosing your comp vest the number one feature to start with is the entry point.  The entry point is also know as the way the vest goes on the user.  There are 3 main ways you will see these life vests and they are:

  • Front Zip Entry 
  • Side Zip Entry
  • Pull Over Life Vest

The most common style would be the front zip.  This is where one of our favorite features comes into play.  If you have this life vest style and have taken a hard fall then you might have experienced the vest coming up or the zipper blowing out.  This is why we like front zips with a lower buckle or boa system.  This allows the user to keep the vest tight around the belly area for a more custom fit and prevents the vest from flopping up.  There are also styles that have a double buckle but they are placed slightly higher in the belly area.  Another feature that you will want on a front zip life vest is a zipper cover and stopper.  Some vests just have the stopper and not the cover which is fine.  The stopper is located at the top of the vest right under the zipper once its zipped up all the way.  The cover goes over the zipper reducing rash and irritation to the user.  These features can be found on both coast guard approved and comp vests.  You can find multiple follow life vests with the zipper cover integrated on their vests. 

The next big feature on life vests is the foam.  This is something you don't see and can't really test out.  The best thing to do with the foam is read reviews and do a little research.  Notable aspects on the foam are the following:

  • How much water does it hold. 
  • How fast does it dry
  • Is it placed in smaller compartments

The first item how much water does it hold will tell you how buoyant and light the vest will be.  If the foam absorbs too much water the vest will become waterlogged and will make it heavy.   The drying speed is nice if you are in and out of the water a bunch.  Last the foam compartments is how the foam is placed in the life vest.  If the foam is in larger pieces and sections it has the opportunity to move around and it could become uncomfortable.  Having the foam stitched into smaller sections makes for a more custom and predictable fit.  The life vest should hold it's form better and fit more comfortably for a longer period of time.  The image below shows an example of the foam in individual pockets. 

Individual Foam pockets in life vests

Last is the material the life vest is made from.  Neoprene vests seem to provide a better and more comfortable fit. It has a flexy soft layer that feels comfortable against the skin.  The last thing you want is a rash or irritation while you are on the water.  Neoprene is a key feature on kids vests as they grow quickly and may have new spots irritating them.

A quick rundown of some features you want to look for

  1. Foam
  2. Safety Buckles
  3. Entry Points - Zip or Pull Over
  4. Irritation Protection - Zipper covers & Neoprene
  5. Coast Guard or Comp Vests

Thanks for checking out some of the top features in life vests.  We hope this helps your purchasing decision and gives you a few things to watch for.  Check out what's new with comp and CGA vests at 88 Gear Sports

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