7 Best Jet Ski Life Jackets in 2020 [Buyers Guide]

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Jet ski life jackets are considered to be one of the most imoprtant jet ski safety accessories, and for good reason.

These devices are not just required by the law in every state, but they can save you from being injured or even being killed. So, you always need to wear a life jacket, without question.

You will probably need more than one because not only you, but your passengers as well must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when out on the water.

In order to ensure you’re getting the best jet ski life jackets, we have created a buying guide that explains the sizes, materials and features. Beyond this information, you can find tips on how to take care of your life jackets and store them so they’ll last longer.

Our buying guide also contains completed reviews on the 7 best life jackets for jet skiing, so you have all the information you need to make the best buying decision. (All these models are USCG approved!)

Do You Have to Wear Life Jacket on a Jet Ski?

Do you have to wear life jacket on a jet ski?

You and your passengers have to wear life jackets on a jet ski as it’s required by the law. All of the life jackets must be in good condition and be the appropriate size for the user. Moreover, they have to be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard!

Safety is the main and most important reason why you must wear a life jacket on a jet ski. These devices are designed to keep you above water in case you fall off while riding your jet ski.

These issues arise much more frequently when on a jet ski compared to a boat, so we recommend that you learn how to reboard a jet ski, as well a how to flip it over the right way if it capsizes. (Doing it wrong can damage your engine!)

It’s good to know that it’s not just you but all of your passengers must also wear a correctly sized life jacket while riding on your jet ski. It can save your life in case of an accident!

If you are considering tow sports, wakeboard riders as well as tubers have to wear life jackets at all times. The good news is that you can use the same life jackets for tow sports that you use for riding a jet ski.

Beyond their importance, wearing a life jacket on a jet ski is required by law, so never forget to put one on before you hit the water!

FAQs About Jet Ski Life Jackets

Who must wear a life jacket on a jet ski?

On a jet ski, the operator and all of the passengers have to wear USCG-approved life jackets, regardless of their age!

When you can stop wearing a life jacket?

You have to wear life jackets any time you operate the jet ski by law, so you can stop wearing it when you stop operating the jet ski. It means you don’t have to wear a life jacket if you’re on the dock or if you stop swimming or snorkeling during your ride.

Speaking of children, keeping safety in mind, they should put on their life jackets in the parking lot before you head to the boat ramp!

Can you drown with a life jacket on?

Unfortunately you can drown even with your life jacket on. If you are knocked unconscious because of an accident and you float in the water face down, it may end in a drowning if someone does not come to your aid.

How long can you survive in water with a life jacket?

How long you survive in the water with a life jacket depends on many things like your physical and mental skills, the temperature of the water and the weather conditions. If the water is warm and you wear a wetsuit, you can survive for days.

How do life jackets stop you from sinking?

Life jackets can stop you from sinking as they create buoyancy on the water. Simply put, the life jackets create extra lift as they’re filled with foam which floats on the top of the water.

Think about when you try to push an empty bottle underwater; the deeper you push, the harder it is. That’s buoyancy!

What Type of Life Jacket do You Need for a Jet Ski?

To ride a jet ski safely and legally, you need a USCG-approved, Type III life jacket. These life jackets have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds, which is enough to keep an adult’s head out of the water. It also has to be mentioned that this type of life jacket doesn’t turn the unconscious user floating in the water to a face-up position!

What is the Best Life Jacket for Jet Skiing?

The best life jackets for jet skiing are arguably the neoprene life jackets, as these models offer more mobility. Additionally, they’re more stylish since you can even choose a life jacket that matches the color of your jet ski. The best jet ski life jackets feature D rings, which are an attachment point for the safety lanyard.

What is a neoprene life jacket?

Unlike regular models, the neoprene life jackets are made of a special synthetic rubber, known as “neoprene”. This material is flexible over a wide range of temperatures and also has good chemical stability.

What is the difference between a regular life jacket and a jet ski life jacket?

The difference between regular and jet ski life jackets is that jet ski life jackets are usually more flexible since they’re made of neoprene. They also feature some additions like whistles or D-rings which are necessary for any jet ski rider.

How To Choose The Best Life Jacket for Jet Skiing

USCG Approved

There are so many different types of life jackets that it’s easy to get confused when trying to choose the right one. Before you buy one, you need to make sure that the model you choose is USCG approved so that it complies with the law!

The U.S. Coast Guard has categorized life jackets into different types to match a specific activity. If you’re on a personal watercraft you need to be wearing a Type III vest. It should go on easily, be comfortable and not be so bulky that it restricts your movements.  Type III Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) have a buoyancy of at least 15.5 lbs., which is enough to keep a conscious adult male or female’s head and chin up out of the water. They are not made to keep an unconscious adult floating face-up. This is why you should always ride with others to be completely safe.

These vests are designed to be sufficiently durable for long-term wear doing many different watersports, including water skiing, jet skiing, wakeboarding, snorkeling and/or jet ski fishing.

Type III life vests are well designed to fit snugly and are easy to put on and take off. Overall, they look fashionable and most of the life jackets you find will belong in this category. The ones we’ve recommended above are all USCG approved and meet the legal requirements for Type III life jackets.

Life Jacket Sizing and Fit

It is very important that the size of the life jacket you’re wearing be correct. Because there are so many different companies making jet ski life jackets, using a variety of methods to determine size, this isn’t easy. Some use a universal fit while others offer specific options in terms of sizing.

You can buy a PDF in infant, child, youth and adult sizes. The size for an adult is determined by the size of their chest, not their weight like it is with children. To correctly measure your chest put the tape measure around the broadest area. Look for this number on the manufacturer’s list of recommended sizes to get the correct size from that brand.

Beyond size, you need to take additional steps to get the correct fit on a standard life jacket:

  1. Loosen each strap before putting the vest on and zipping it up.
  2. Once it’s on, tighten one strap after another, beginning at your waist. If there are straps on the shoulders, do them last. Stop when it fits snugly, but is still comfortable.
  3. Ask someone to pull up on the vest at the shoulders. If they can get it to move up above your nose or head, you need to continue tightening the straps. If it keeps moving up, your life vest is too large.
  4. A PFD in the right size should feel as snug as a glove while allowing you to comfortably move around without chafing.

Generally speaking, your PDF should fit you comfortably while being secure no matter what size you are or what you’re using it for. If it doesn’t fit you properly, it won’t be comfortable and it could put your life in danger.

A life vest that fits too loosely, cannot help you float should you fall into the water!

It’s vital that your vest fit you properly. This is exactly why there are separate men and women PWC life jackets, since men and women are built very differently. A good number of adjustable straps is important since they ensure you can get the right fit, which is comfortable but snug.

Aside from the proper size and fit, you need to make sure that the life jacket you’re getting can allow for the level of mobility needed for the activities you will be engaging in. All of the vests we’ve been discussing have open arm holes, but some are larger than others. If you plan on using your life jacket for jet skiing, it needs to provide you with a complete range of motion.

PWC Life Vest Materials

There are a number of different materials that PWC life vests are made of, which is something you will want to consider in making your choice. Every life jacket we’ve mentioned in this article is of the highest quality, but they are made with different outer materials. The most common materials used for this are neoprene and nylon. Consider the pros and cons of them both:

Nylon PWC Life Jackets

  • Most commonly found in life jackets made for paddle sports
  • More affordable than other types of fabrics
  • Lightweight, yet strong and durable
  • May not be as stylish or comfortable as other fabrics

If you’re mainly concerned about getting an affordable jet ski life jacket that complies with USCG requirements, nylon would be your best bet. To play it safe, buy a whole lot of them in varying sizes, at least one in each size. This way you will always have the right size on hand when family and friends join you for a ride.

Neoprene

Neoprene is definitely a higher quality material than nylon, which makes it more preferable. This material is also able to stretch naturally, so the fit will likely be more comfortable for you.

  • Most commonly used in life vests made for watersports
  • Makes the life jacket fit comfortably snug
  • Neoprene life vests tend to be more stylish in design
  • A bit more expensive than nylon

The best jet ski life jackets currently available on the market are made of neoprene. There is no comparison in comfort if you’re looking at neoprene vs. nylon life jackets. Neoprene wins by miles!

You can wear your neoprene life jacket for extended periods of time and not feel any shoulder discomfort. But, when it’s drenched in water it does feel heavier and warmer as well.

Features

Beyond getting the correct size, in the material and design you want, don’t forget to consider the other features. The USCG requires you to keep a sound-signal device onboard, so the best practice would be to attach a whistle to every life jacket you own.

You can find small and efficient whistles specifically designed for the marine environment. Strap one to each life jacket so it is within easy reach when it’s needed.

Prismatic reflective stripes (white or yellow) are also commonly seen on life jackets for better visibility. However riding at night is prohibited in most states, but there are still some places where it’s legal. So, if you prefer riding your jet ski at night you can make good use of these reflective straps.

Beyond that you can consider attaching a small waterproof flashlight or some other light device to your life jacket, especially if there is a chance you could be jet skiing it the dark!

Additionally, don’t forget the safety lanyard, as it’s required by law as well. The best practice is to attach it to your life jacket! (There is usually a D-ring sewn into the vest for this purpose.)

7 Best Jet Ski Life Jackets

The Assault Jet Skiing Life Jacket by O’Neill

The Assault USCG-approved life jacket is amazing. The hidden dual-belt closure system gives it a stylish look while providing the full protection and float capability of a top-quality life vest.

The quality of the O’Neill Assault is far above that of any other USCG-approved jet ski life vest, in terms of appearance and comfort while riding.

The streamlined look makes it appear a lot less cumbersome than most life jackets. The shell is filled with Nytrolite (neoprene) foam, making it very flexible so the wearer enjoys full mobility whether they’re riding, sitting or doing something else while wearing it.

The technologically advanced Nytrolite foam is the best feature of this life jacket. It weighs three times less than traditional foam while absorbing 20% less sea water, which makes it even more lightweight than other vests.

Furthermore, its buoyancy is about 10% more than you have with PVC foam, which reduces the amount of foam required for the same flotation ability.

There is no need to prioritize safety over style because you can enjoy both when you’re wearing the Assault by O’Neill.

Men’s Reactor by O’Neill

The Reactor USCG Jet Ski Life Vest for Men combine safety and mobility by segmenting the foam in the core as well as anatomically positioned flex points. This allows for a complete range of movement even with the expanded panels used to provide a comfortable fit for the male physique.

Safety is enhanced with the heavy-duty zipper in front, along with the quick-release buckles, which do not impede the fit or range of movement. The Men’s Reactor is made of a combination of neoprene, polyester and mesh (at specific points), which makes it lightweight and quite comfortable.

This is a great life vest for anyone who enjoys watersports. The Reactor can be worn jet skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, waterskiing and even swimming. While some issues have occurred with bunched up foam in the shoulders, this life jacket is what you would expect from the O’Neill brand – top quality.

Phantom PWC Life Vest for Men by Body Glove

With the Phantom, you also have a neoprene life vest that closes with two straps and a zipper in front. You will have no trouble adjusting this life jacket to fit and no worries about riding up during any activity.

Body Glove also makes a women’s version of this impressive life vest. You can be confident about the materials it’s made of, the workmanship and construction throughout.

Although it is a bit more cumbersome than others mentioned here, it certainly does not impede your activities no matter how intense. The Phantom is also available in a variety of color schemes, some are even made with bright yellow or red panels.

They also have lots of reflective logos for safety, which can be very helpful in open waters.

The Superlite PWC Life Vest by O’Neill

Unlike your typical life vest with large panels on the front and back and wide-open sides, the Superlite is more enclosed. This design distributes the foam more evenly, so the profile is lower, and the vest fits more snugly. Overall, the vest has a simple, yet durable design. Since it’s made of nylon, it dries more quickly than a neoprene vest, while still being quite comfortable.

Most life jackets have a front zipper, plus they close with a belt to make them even more secure. But the Superlite is different. It has no zipper at all, and instead closes with four highly durable straps. Three of these straps go all the way around the body, which gives it unparalleled strength. The straps adjust very easily so you can get the perfect balance between comfort and fit. The sizes go to 6XL, so even if you’re big and tall, you can wear the Superlite.

The Superlite is designed to enclose the wearer’s upper body a bit more than other vests, without being too restrictive. With its low profile it’s easy to forget you even have it on. It’s also quite durable so that it protects you even if you’re engaging in tubing, which is a pretty rough watersport.

The Superlite is designed with the main body as thin as feasible, however it does have double-thick shaped panels on each side at the waist for more padding and buoyance, without impairing your movement. Overall, the Superlite is very cleverly designed and among the best youth jet ski life jackets.

What makes this jet ski vest even better, is that you really look great wearing it. It comes in a variety of colors, many of them shades of grey and black. However, there are some bright accent colors that you can choose among, some brighter than others. Without a doubt, the Superlite is an excellent life vest for jet skiing, wakeboarding and tubing.

Traditional Neo Life Vest for Men by O’Brien

The Traditional Neo for Men is known for its comfort, but some wearers claim that the woven material irritates their skin and it’s even worse when they’re in salt water.

With this in mind, you might want to wear a wetsuit under this vest. Otherwise, this O’Brien classic design is a great choice. This is one of the least bulky designs, offering maximum movement due to huge cutouts for the arms, making it perfect for any watersport.

The Traditional Neo has a full-length zipper for closing and two belts to make it more secure. It’s also made of a stretchy fabric for the perfect fit. For those of you who want to look your best while riding your jet ski without sacrificing safety, this vest would be a good choice.

The Impulse Neo Women’s Life Jacket by O’Brien

The Impulse Neo life vest has been specifically designed for active women who engage in watersports. It has a comfortable feeling 1.5mm outer layer of neoprene, zippered closure in front, plus two belts that can be adjusted for fit with side buckles that are squeezed to release. These features make the Impulse a highly comfortable and secure life vest for women.

What makes this vest even better are the wide armholes plus all the hinges in front and back that allow for improved flexibility and range of movement.

It’s important that this vest fit properly so you need to measure yourself exactly and order the recommended size or select one size off. When customers try estimating their correct size, they usually find they’ve miscalculated.

O’Brien made sure the Impulse for women jet ski life jacket was aesthetically pleasing with an interior lining in bright purple, with very noticeable white and purple stripes as the dividing line between the solid black sides and a tastefully patterned front.

The Neo Life Vest for Jet Skiing Youth by O’Brien

The Neo by O’Brien is among the very best youth jet ski life jackets because it not only provides safety and comfort, it’s highly functional as well. What makes this life jacket so lightweight is the unique BioLite construction.

The O’Brien USCG-approved Youth Neo dries faster than vests made of neoprene and it’s eco-friendlier as well. The vest is secured with a zipper and buckles, which are kids can easily use. The material is very comfortable and breathable, so kids will wear it without complaining.

These vests are available in a variety of bright colors, which kids love.

How do You Clean a Jet Ski Life Jacket?

How do You Clean a Jet Ski Life Jacket?

To clean a jet ski life jacket, brush it off first with a soft brush, then wet the surface. Dip a damp cloth into mild soap and clean the life jacket with this carefully. Finally, rinse down with a garden hose and put it to dry in a shady place.

Can You Wash Life Jackets in the Washer?

No, it’s highly recommended not to wash your life jacket in a washer, as it may damage the life jacket’s surface or in the worst case, the foam as well. The best practice is to clean your life jacket by hand!

Conclusion

What is the best life jacket for jet skiing?

The best jet ski life jackets are definitely the neoprene models. Before you decide to purchase yours, make sure that the one you choose is USCG approved. Pay attention to the sizes, so that the size you get is the correct one for you.

And consider the available additions as well! Don’t forget that you will probably need more life jackets, as your passengers will have to wear one in the correct size each time they ride with you.

Considering that your life may literally depend on it—along with the fact that you want your PFD to last as long as possible – proper care is essential. The most common mistake is made by just tossing your wet life vest in with all your other gear and leaving it until your next ride.

To avoid mildew, odors, and premature wear, it’s important that you rinse your vest out with fresh water after each use and hang it out of the sun to fully dry, as direct sunlight can damage the material.

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