When you see photos of people getting rescued or floating around due to loss of control, what stands out? To us, in most of the photos we see when the authorities or other sailors come to help, is that the people in trouble are wearing the best life jacket for sailing! It should be one of the first things you reach for when things start going downhill, in case you need to abandon ship and jump in the drink.
As a captain of a sailboat, or any boat for that matter, one of the first things you think about is your safety and the safety of your guests. Ok, we must admit, that may not be the first thing we think about, but it definitely ranks high up there. Nothing could ruin your day or trip faster than running into an issue and being ill prepared. But when you have the right gear and all the preparations have been made, even running into an issue can be a little less stressful.
Various types of best life jacket for sailing
When you consider the type of best life jacket for sailing you will need, you need to think about the type of sailing you’ll be doing. Some questions you should ask yourself are: Am I racing? Day Sailing? Extended cruising? The term “sailing” is such a general term that you really need to think about what type you’ll be doing for the most part, then choose the best life jacket for sailing that fits that need. You’ll also need to consider the rules and regulations as to what types of life jackets are required onboard. On top of that, consider the features you’ll want, based on your needs.
For example, do you want an inflatable life jacket? Will you be wearing a life jacket the whole time or do you just need it in case of emergency? Do you need pockets to store some items on you? Will you be cruising offshore and overnight and will need to strap into a harness as well? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself before embarking on your sailing trip. Knowing these things, and being well prepared, will ensure you will have a fun and safe sail!
Here are some of the best life jacket for sailing that we’ve found, and even used when we’re out sailing. Hope you’ll find the right one for you.
1. NRS Vapor PFD
The NRS Vapor PDF is a Type III US Coast Guard certified life jacket. This means it’s good for sailing in protected inshore waters where chances of rescue are fairly good. Type III life jackets are generally more comfortable than Type I and Type II but at the expense of providing less floatation.
The NRS is a very nice and comfortable best life jacket for sailing, since 2 shoulder adjustments as well as side straps for the perfect fit. Put the life jacket over your head and adjust the straps to fit. Release 2 of the side straps to take off, then from that point on, the jacket will fit perfectly every time as you only have to slip it on and close the 2 straps. The cut of the jacket is such that it will allow you plenty of movement room without feeling restrictive. If you’re going out for day sailing single handedly, and don’t want to wear a bulky life vest, the NRS fits the bill perfectly.
Some other great safety features of this vest are the pocket and the reflective materials. There is a front zippered pocket that covers the whole front of the jacket. It comes in hand if you wish to keep items on hand. A bonus is the pouch behind the zippered pocket where you can stick your cold hands to warm them up briefly. The reflective piping is good for low-light to make sure you’re seen.
2. Stohlquist Edge Life JacketOur 2nd choice for the best life jacket for sailing is the Type III USCG approved Stohlquist Edge. Again, good for day sailing in protected waters where rescue is expected fairly quickly. We like this one because of good features for comfort and convenience. It has adjustable shoulder straps and 4 side pulls for a snug fit. The ergonomic WRAPTURE™ torso ensures a great fit once you adjust the straps to your body.
As far as convenience features, it has an offset front-entry zip. This means you don’t have to mess with the adjustable straps once you set them to your body. Just un-zip and re-zip the side zipper, throw the straps over your shoulders and zip yourself up again. The large arm openings mean you have lots of mobility. Another convenience factor is the front top-loading zippered pocket which means you can store items on your with easy access.
Some of the comfort features for this best life jacket for sailing include the mesh sides for added ventilation to prevent overheating. Let the gently breezes guide your voyage but also keep you cool and comfortable while wearing safety gear!
3. ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life JacketWhile this is a Type V with Type III performance in our list for best life jacket for sailing, we wanted to include this one because of its simple, easy to forget you’re wearing it design and good functionality. Its no-bulk design means that you won’t feel like you’re wearing a huge vest on you and given it’s slim design, you also won’t overheat.
Add to that the fact that it automatically inflates when submerged, you can rest assured you’ll be safe if you happen to go into the water. The manual t-cord pull strap lets you inflate the vest should the CO2 canister fail or if you forgot to get a new one after it expired. Additionally, there is a back-ip oral inflation tube for when you need to pump some more air into the jacket. This will give you more buoyancy.
For comfort, there is a soft neoprene neckline which helps prevent any kind of chafing around the neck. The durable fabric resists tears and punctures. Given its slim design, you’ll have full range of motion and the jacket won’t get in the way of your sailing activities.
Type V with Type III performance?
Let’s talk a little about the Type V with Type III US Coast Guard approved rating. Type V means that it must be worn to meet the requirements, and it’s not guaranteed to overturn an unconscious person. So you trade off some of the safety features for comfort. This is why we wouldn’t recommend this for offshore sailing, but on inland protected waters where help can reach you quickly, this is a good option.
4. Kent Adult Universal Type I Life Jacket Style PFD
This is a Type I Universal life jacket meant for the serious sailor. If you plan on doing any extended cruising, you should have a Type I life jacket on board. It is designed for extended survival in rough waters where rescue may be slow in coming, as it will turn most unconscious sailors face up in the water.
It can be easily slipped on over your head, and then adjusted with the straps to fit you snugly. Normally, you would keep this onboard and put it on when things started getting rough, but personally, we’ve been on some sailing trips where we chose to sit through a particular leg of our trip with these on. While it’s a bit bulky and the neck support feels like you’re sitting against a pillow, it just made us feel more safe!
The life jacket has bright orange fabric, SOLAS grade reflective material, and attachment loop for a safety light, and includes a USCG approved whistle. The design is better than some other bulky jackets as some have reported that it fits better in storage lockers on their sailboat.
5. Stearns Merchant Mate II
Another great Type I best life jacket for sailing. The Stearns Merchant Mate is good for offshore or extended sailing as it has a foam-filled collar for extra head support. It will turn the wearer face up in water, which is a good thing if the wearer happens to be unconscious. The life jacket has 2 adjustable chest straps to help you improve flotation angle.
SOLAS grade reflective material on panels ensures you’ll be visible in murky or low light conditions. There’s an attachment point for a light and/or whistle. The bright orange material helps you stand out in the water also, so that rescue teams can spot you from afar.
Easily slip this over your shoulders and buckle the two adjustable straps for a snug fit when the need arises. Good life jacket to store on the boat during calmer weather or wear it while sailing during rougher weather. Keep in nearby in case you need to reach for it quickly.
Is there a best life jacket for sailing?
I think at this point the answer is fairly obvious that it depends! It does depend on the type of sailing you’ll be doing. If you’re planning on crossing oceans and sailing around the world, you better have some Type I best life jacket for sailing otherwise you’ll find yourself in trouble pretty quickly. On the other hand, if you are just doing some day sailing on your lake or some close to shore waters, you can branch out and look for something more comfortable to wear. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits your activity and make sure that it’ll keep you afloat if you happen to go in the drink! Be sure to also read about taking care of your life jackets. Now go out there and enjoy some sailing, all this talk of it sure makes us long for the water.