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Life Vest Buying Guide

Choosing a vest can be as vidal a decision as choosing any of your other gear. You need to decide which type of vest you are looking for as well as the materials that are used to make the vest. These factors will determine the fit, look and cost of your floatation.

To size yourself for a vest, measure the thickness of your chest(measure around your chest under your arms). Most vests will have a size range according to this measurement. Remember, vests are meant to save your life, FLOATING IS FUN! So, don't buy you vest baggy!


United States Coast Guard Approved vests are vests that meet the requirements of the US Coast Guard and are required on all motorized vessels. Laws in different states vary so be sure to check your local laws on vests before boating. The Coast Guard requirements are a certain amount of floatation along with 3 points of contact. This includes but is not limited to: 3 buckles or 2 buckles and a zipper. Generally speaking, USCGA vests are thicker and tend to float you higher in the water.

These vests are thinner and generally offer more flexibility and greater range of motion. While these vests will keep your head above the water, the tend not to float you as high up as a USCGA vest. When sizing a Comp Vest, do not leave any space! These vests will stretch out    and are meant to have a very snug fit.

Vests are constructed of all different types of materials. Some are more comfortable and more durable than others, thus, fluctuating the price of the vest.


Nylon vests come in at the lower end. They offer a more general fit. Also, nylon is more suseptable to wear and tear from sun, heat and impact.

Neoprene offers more flex and provides for a more specific, comfortable fit. Neoprene vests will have a more even contact with your body and be more durable to the elements.