Most riders will find a Type III, “ski-vest” style jacket most comfortable. Type III jackets typically open at the chest, and are secured with a combination of straps, buckles or zippers.
Make sure to choose the correct size. Size, corresponding chest dimensions and weight range, as well as Coast Guard approval status are all printed on the interior of the jacket. Ultimately the fit should be snug, but comfortable. Parents will want to pay extra attention to children’s life jackets, as kids don’t always perfectly match the dimensions…and grow fast. Children’s jackets should not be so large that the front panels overlap or the jacket droops off the shoulders, or so small that front panels don’t come together, or straps, buckles and/or zippers can’t fully close the vest. Smaller children will also benefit from vests featuring a crotch strap, as it adds additional peace of mind that the vest will not slip off overhead.
As to materials and styles, most life jackets consist of inner foam panels, wrapped in nylon or neoprene to protect the foam and add both color and style. Nylon is typically a cooler material, neoprene warmer, but neoprene vests often conform more closely to the body, making them feel less cumbersome. In addition to traditional, front-closure vests, pullover styles are also available. The solid front panel of these vests often appeals to more athletic riders, or those that want the added protection of a solid piece of foam protecting the chest.
As to extras, look for a plastic D-ring sewn securely into the seam at the front of the vest. All Sea-Doo life jackets feature this ring, as it provides a convenient spot to securely clip the craft’s safety lanyard.
Ultimately, whether its function, style, color and graphics or all of the above, choose a life jacket that you will be willing to wear every single time you go out on your watercraft. A life jacket will only do its job if it’s worn.