Best Life Vest Reviews 2023

A personal flotation device (PFD); also known as a life jacket, life preserver, life vest, lifesaver, buoyancy aid, or flotation suit, has saved countless lives since its invention in 1928 by Peter Markus. It is designed to help its wearer stay afloat in the water. Choosing the right life vest can be a tough job as there are countless life vests and life vest makers in the world. More so, you need to know the exact type of life vest you need in order to make the best choice for you. To help you, we have scoured the internet and now present our best life vest brands. Since we have focused on only one product from each brand, you will do well to check out other life vests that they offer at your convenience.
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Our Top Choice
O’Neill Superlite Nylon Life Vest
O’Neill’s leadership in the market comes from an R&D process that is committed to best quality, fit, and functionality in the industry.
This life vest does not come with multiple attachments to add weight on you. It is very comfortable to wear and will not hinder paddling a kayak.
You may have slight difficulty selecting the right size for you.
Type V
S to 3X large
Lightweight polyethylene foam
Best Value
StearnsAdult Classic Series Vest
Stearns has established itself, since 1971, as the recognized industry leader in the life jacket business through its consistent delivery of functional and safe life jackets.
This life vest is well-constructed with well-made buckles. It will serve as a perfect flotation device for your child when swimming.
A slight difficulty is that you need to undo the straps on the sides for a good fit.
Type III 
Oversized & universal
200 Denier nylon
Men; women
ONYXMoveVent Dynamic Vest
Onyx makes outdoor gear that makes you want to stay outdoors longer, and which allows you to experience nature on your terms.
This vest has arm holes that are so big nothing bothers you while paddling. It comes with a whistle attached to a thin cord inside the pocket.
You may, however, encounter some difficulty with getting the right size for you.
Type V
X small to XX large
200 Denier nylon
Men; women
O’BrienYouth Girls Life Vest
For well over 50 years, O’Brien has been in the business of creating products for the definitive family fun on the water.
This vest is really colorful, comfortable, and has great buoyancy. It fits nicely and doesn’t bunch up too much.
One downer is that the interior of the vest is open to the water and anything else in the water.
Type III
Lightweight biolite construction
FlowtAK-1 Type II Life Jackets
Flowt® has consistently offered to its teeming customers quality, safety, and innovation in recreational and commercial flotation products.
It fits large adults and smaller women as well, and is very affordable.  The very bright color does not fade even with regular use.
This vest may not be the best in quality but it sure gets the job done.
Type II
Infant to oversized adult
Men; Women

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What is the Best Life Vest?

Now that you have finished reading this buying guide, you probably have a clearer idea as to the type of life vest you really need. We have reviewed some of the best life vests available and we are confident that one or two of them will meet your needs. We invite you to pay attention to the features of the following life vests as reviewed by us.
Our Top Choice
The O’Neill Superlite Nylon Life Vest, made of lightweight propylene foam-coated polyester shell also has quick-release dual safety buckles for increased safety. If you are looking for a life vest designed with women in mind, then check out the O'Neill Wetsuits Women's Wake Waterski Slasher Comp Vest which is less affordable.

O’Neill Wetsuits Wake Waterski Men’s Superlite USCG Nylon Life Vest – Available in 4 Colors & 6 Sizes

O'Neill is a family-owned business which began in 1952 when Jack opened the first surf shop in a garage. He first began by shaping a few balsa surfboards and then selling accessories like paraffin wax and a few vests which he glued together from neoprene. By 1980, Jack O'Neill's surf shop had transformed into a prosperous international company, blazing the trail in the world's wetsuit market and one of the best in beach lifestyle sportswear in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

The O’Neill Superlite Nylon Life Vest (Selling for $39.95 - Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is made of lightweight Polyethelene foam-coated polyester shell. It is very soft and comfortable so you can wear it for a very long time. Its quick release Derlin Buckles means you can easily pull it off without any hassle. Here are more features of this life vest:
  • It has a minimal bulk design which means it feels like you aren’t wearing anything
  • Has strategic armhole size to help you easily wear or remove it
  • Quick-Release Dual Safety Buckles for increased safety
  • Life vest is USCG approved
  • Has a mesh for drainage
You can wear this life vest all day while kayaking and would never feel confined or restrained.
Best Value
The Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest is a US Coast Guard-approved PFD with three adjustable chest belts, webbed 1-in. straps, durable nylon shell, and PE foam inside. If you are looking for a life vest with a V-flex design then check out Stearns Men's V1 Series Hydroprene Life Jacket which is more expensive.

StearnsAdult Classic Series Life Vest Jacket – Available in 3 Sizes & 2 Colors

Stearns began to manufacture top-quality outdoor products such as life jackets, water ski belts, and plastic boat interiors in the late 20th century. In 1971,due to a federal law change that allowed companies to design a better-looking Type III PFD that didn't have to be a bulky orange block, Stearns became a leader in the PFD market. In 2008, Coleman added to its household of brands the unique quality of Stearns products which has become the most well-known player in the life jacket business.

The Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest (Selling for $29.44 - Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) enables you to enjoy a comfortable day on the boat. This US Coast Guard-approved PFD is constructed with three adjustable chest belts that help make your day on the water a comfortable one. Following are other lifesaving features of this vest:
  • Has a polyester shell for all-day comfort
  • Durable Crosstech® flotation foam to keep you floating on water
  • Its open-sided design gives you more breathability
  • Has three buckles for a secure fit
This life vest has been approved for use by individuals weighing 90 lbs. or more
The ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Vest Soft is made of lightweight flotation foam with ventilation in front and back to keep you cool, adjustable side belts, and strong, durable zipper closure. If you are looking for a type-V life vest, then you can check out the more expensive ONYX A\/M-24 Deluxe Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket with equally excellent features.

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest – Available in 2 Colors & 3 Sizes

If you are looking to experience nature on your own terms, then the Onyx brand of outdoor recreation products, which provides reliable, dependable, and trustworthy gears, is your go-to brand. Onyx products include a complete line of rainwear, PFDs, hunting and fishing life jackets, paddling life vests, and pet vests. Onyx also stocks cold weather apparel and equipment for hunting and ice fishing.

The ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Vest (Selling for $64.99 - Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is a vest that conforms to your body like a glove, yet its state-of-the-art vented channels help to keep you cool while paddling. This vest features excellent mobility, sculpted foam designs that adapt to your body, and mesh ventilation in the front and back which make maximum airflow possible. This innovative life vest has other features including the following:
  • Has a SOLAS-grade reflective material for visibility
  • It is fitted with an expandable zippered pocket with mesh drainage
  • Has a lash tab for small accessories
  • Has a mesh in lower back which fits high back seats and sit-on-top kayaks
  • Has shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
  • Comes with an attached whistle for safety
  • Provides exceptional mobility for recreational paddle sports
  • Has a drying loop on back
This life vest is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
The O’Brien Youth Girls Life Vest is a US Coast Guard approved life vest with wide armholes for comfort and a lot more resistant to mold and mildew than most vests. If you are interested in a men’s vest then check out the O'Brien Traditional Neo Life Men's Vestwith outer Neoprene for a comfortable fit, zip closure, and 2 belts for safety.

O’BrienYouth Girls Neoprene Life Vest – Available in 2 Colors

O’Brien understands that your time on the water is prized and is committed to helping you get the most pleasure from that time. For over 50 years, O’Brien has focused on creating products for the definitive family fun on the water. It works hard to design, test, manufacture, and improve each and every product so your time on the water will make memories that last a lifetime.

The O’Brien Youth Girls Life Vest (Selling for $42.49 - Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) is made with a zip closure and 2 belts for security and has a BioLite outer for comfortable fit. Its weight is much lighter than those of vests made with Neoprene.
Other features include:
  • Made of breathable material so you cannot suffocate
  • Made of BioLite fabric printed with Soy based inks
  • It is more environmentally friendly than neoprene made vests
  • Has more resistance to mold & mildew than many other vests
  • Comes with wide armholes for comfort
This life vest is a US Coast Guard approved vest.
The Flowt AK-1 Type II Life Jackets come in a soft but thick clear vinyl zippered box with a vent at the top and fits anyone 90 lbs. and over with a chest size range of 30"- 62". If you are looking for a Type III life vest then check out the Flowt Type III Multi-Sport Life Vest that is made with soft 150 denier polyester fabric.

Flowt AK-1 Type ll Life Jacket Universal – Available in 3 Colors, 4 Sizes & 3 Pack Sizes

The Flowt® brand is synonymous with quality, safety, and innovation in leisure and commercial flotation products.
Whatever your favorite activity is, from boating, to water skiing, to fishing, to paddling or hunting, Flowt® is dedicated to providing top-quality life jackets and PFD’s that will enhance your on-water and outdoor experience.

The Flowt AK-1 Type II Life Jackets(Selling for $14.21- Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) can be best used for passengers that are afraid of water and want something reassuring, or in the event of a sinking boat, you could throw one on and make for shore.

Flowt has other interesting life vests that you may want to see:
  • Flowt Type lll Angler Fishing Life Vest. This is an ideal vest for the fisherman searching for style, comfort, and value
  • Flowt Mesh Fishing Adult Life Vest Type III PFD - This tan and green vest comes with dual belts and dual pockets
  • Flowt Infant Type II or Child Type III Character Life Vest. This is a child’s vest with adjustable belts, chest strap, and leg strap
  • Flowt Type III Extreme Sport Life Vest. This is your go-to vest for skiing, wakeboarding, boating, and fishing
  • Flowt Co2 Manual Vest-Universal Adult-Red/Black-33 Gram. This vest offers the widest range of motion, without any limitations to your movement

How Do I Choose the Best Life Vest?

Imagine 1912, the year the Titanic sank. What if the life vest had been invented (it wasn’t invented until 16 years later, in case you didn’t know) and each person had their own. Imagine how the outcome of the tragedy would have been changed and how many lives could have potentially been saved.

In a bid to curtail the number of deaths from drowning, a man called Peter Markus went to work, and in 1928, he invented the first life vest. Over the years, the technology of making these life vests has been greatly improved upon leading to the availability of a wide range of options for a wide range of functions.

In the life vest industry, it’s usually a “one-size-fits-all” affair, except when it is considerably smaller for kids. You should also bear in mind that there are different kinds of life vests for different occasions and different water bodies. So, determine what your adventure is going to be, is it deep sea fishing? Or kayaking on a shallow river? Or water skiing on the ocean? After deciding upon your adventure you can get an appropriate life vest suited for that experience. If you can’t seem to make up your mind, then you can go for a versatile life vest to ward off any uncertainties you might have.

To aid buoyancy in water, life vests are made with foam. These foams differ in quality, even though ultimately, they keep you afloat. Any life vest that is worth its salt and must be able to keep you afloat (it’s called a “life” vest for a reason) in addition to protecting your body from the risk of hypothermia.

To ensure that your life vest will actually guarantee life and not death, you might want to go for vests that are approved by the U.S Coast Guard (USCG). That way, your mind can be at ease on your fishing or boating expedition. Please, note that life vests aren’t meant for swimming novices alone, even professional swimmers should wear them too. Accidents happen and they aren’t ours to control either, so it’s better to err on the side of caution than play dice with the “forces that be”.

If you’re deathly scared of water and a kayaking adventure is still on your bucket list, then like Nike, “just do it!” but do it with a life vest. You will have fun, and if the unexpected happens, the vest will float you right back up. Life vests are quite secure and comfortable. They come complete with safety belts that hold the vest together so they don’t come apart with the water currents. So, you’re safe!

Important note: There are actually laws that demand that a boat carry a PFD for every one person traveling in it. Please, be assertive about your safety the next time you go boating. Demand a life vest. It’s your right. Now, more on the features you should look out for when scouting for a life vest…
A life vest won’t be an item that will break your budget. $15 to $50 should be enough to land yourself a solid life vest. The ones that are higher up the price scale are usually so because they have more detailing in design and sometimes a better quality of foam material. All vests reviewed in this article offer value, so budget or high end, you’re safe. On the other hand, anything lower down this price range is a cheap life vest that you should disregard. Your precious life and those who love you are worth much more than the little extra you would be spending to get a better life vest; think about it!
You can hardly get it wrong with a life vest but here are some points to note about their features. Here they are:
  • Materials
  • Safety belt
  • Size
  • Color
  • USCG approval
So, how do all these relate?
Construction and Design
Like we said earlier, life vests are made with foam (polyester, cross-tech) to increase buoyancy in water and floating. They are equally made of tough material that are resistant to wear and tear which means that your life vest can last for a long time. You might not even ever have to replace them.

Some brands make their life vests with a triple, double or single lock system, but all life vests, as a matter of necessity, come with safety belts. For life vests, most times, it’s “one size fits all” so sizing might not really be a bother except when you’re looking for something for a child. There are life vests that are especially made for children which come in attractive colors and styles that are different from adult life vests.

Some brands also offer different types of life vests for different genders. So, you can find life vests unique to men, women, or even boys, and girls. Of course these life vests are color-coded, so you find that the female vests come in pink, buttery yellow, and other soft hues, while the male vests come in more masculine colors like blue and other darker hues. As a rule, though, life jackets come boldly colored for speedier rescue response, in case of an incident.

Adult life vests are generally of one size as we have pointed out earlier, and it helps, of course, that straps are adjustable. So whatever your chest size, you can always adjust your life vest for a perfect fit.
Performance and Ease of Use
What many people do not know about life vests and what we haven’t mentioned here yet is that life vests do much more than keep you afloat. Imagine you get lost at sea, without a life vest, your chances of dying triples even if you’re a strong swimmer. This is because there’s the hypothermia to deal with (an ocean is colder than your sub-zero freezer) and then again, sooner or later, your strength will fail and you might drown if help doesn’t come fast enough.

What a life vest does is to help preserve your body heat so you don’t die or slip into a coma from hypothermia. It also keeps your head above water, so it’s dry enough to hold in your body heat.

Another different scenario: an individual falls suddenly into water during an excursion on a yacht. The normal human body reaction to that is to “fight!” This is very normal whether you’re naturally panicky or calm, not to mention that it proves that you’re human, not a fish. Now, with a life vest, that individual floats upwards immediately so s/he can buy some time to adjust to the idea and think straight without the risk of drowning when s/he kicks.

Contrary to what you might think, the bright colors of life jackets are not just there to make a fashion statement. They really are a huge part of your saving grace. If a life vest isn’t brightly colored enough, rescue teams might not come quickly enough, since you won’t be easily spotted as you bob along, especially if the rescue team is flying overhead.

Generally, the most difficult feature to use on a life vest is the thick zipper that is included in addition to the traditional safety belts. But then again, anything for double or even triple assurance of survival is totally welcome, don’t you think?

Get the Best Life Vest of 2023!

Thank you for taking time to go through these reviews. We trust that you now have the information you need to pick the right life vest for you. You can now place that order.

Our Top Choice
O’Neill Superlite Nylon Life Vest
Best Value
StearnsAdult Classic Series Vest
ONYXMoveVent Dynamic Vest
O’BrienYouth Girls Life Vest
FlowtAK-1 Type II Life Jackets