Lifejackets; an essential piece of kit for anyone taking to the water – right? Well, you might not think so judging by the number of adults you see not wearing one
But happily even the most irresponsible grown-up always seems to insist on any kids in their charge being fitted with a personal floatation device of one kind or another.
And therein, with numerous options to choose from, lies a good question: What sort of kit should you buy to keep your kids afloat?
What to look for in a good kids lifejacket
The answer will depend on a number of factors. First and foremost, what kind of water activity, or activities, will the child undertake? While a buoyancy aid may be fine if junior is a competent swimmer, they can be a bit on the bulky side making them less appropriate to wear around a boat compared to, say, a self-inflating lifejacket, some of which are so unobtrusive you hardly know you’re wearing one.
Important for physical activities such as kayaking is to have a kids lifejacket with cutaways around the arms so as not to interfere with paddling. Dinghy sailors will also appreciate cutaways, together with a higher cut to allow for bending and a clutter-free exterior profile to prevent snagging.
Whichever type of floatation aid you decide upon, ensure it is a good, comfortable fit – and don’t forget that kids grow quickly, meaning a regular size review is essential. Regardless of which waterborne activity your kids are involved in, take the matter of their safety seriously – their lives depend on it.
According to the RNLI, around 200 people a year drown around the coast of the British Isles, so donning a kids lifejacket – be your child a boater, personal water craft user, paddleboarder, water skier, kayaker or whatever – isn’t an option, it’s just common sense. And that goes for all you adults out there too.
To help you make your choice, here’s our pick of kids lifejackets to consider.
Best kids lifejackets available right now
Baltic Ocean kids lifejacket
Baltic’s Ocean 100N kids lifejacket is everything you would expect from a leading manufacturer of safety equipment of many years standing. It’s rugged, tough and built to last with a performance to match.
Like the many of the kids lifejackets we’ve looked at, its buoyancy rating is 100N, (the N stands for Newton, the measure of force), and among its many features is an integral safety harness approved to EN ISO1095/EN ISO 12401.
The D-ring on the centre fastening strap (fitted to the back of the 3-15 kg jacket and the front and back of the 15-30 kg product) allows the user to be clipped onto the boat.
Should the child enter the water, the large padded head and neck support will certainly be welcomed. With a lifting handle under the collar, whistle, top and bottom ties and a crotch strap this is jacket very much designed for use at sea.
Reasons to buy: 100N buyonacy rating, large head and neck support, lifting handle
Reasons to avoid: Premium price
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Crewsaver Crewfit junior auto lifejacket with harness
The most expensive of the lifejackets included here, Crewsaver’s Crewfit Junior is a self-inflating lifejacket. Rated at 150N and ISO 12402-3 approved, it’s also the most buoyant product we’ve selected.
The key advantage of automatic lifejackets is their relatively small size and bulk, which makes them comfortable and unobtrusive to wear – so much so, that we’ve been known to forget to take ours off when we go ashore!
Crewsaver is a premium brand and this jacket makes no compromises to safety whatsoever. Suitable for larger children of between 20 – 55 kg, the Crewfit Junior features Crewsaver’s Fusion 3D design technology to combine comfort with practicality.
Reasons to buy: Self-inflating, comfortable, premium brand
Reasons to avoid: Premium price
Jobe kids lifejacket
Available from sports retailer Decathlon, this lifejacket from Dutch watersports company Jobe is a serious piece of kit indeed. Certified to 100N and available in two sizes – XS/S for kids weighing less than 20 kg, and M/L for larger children up to 20 kg – it is robustly constructed with quality materials used throughout.
In terms of features, starting from the top there’s a carry strap fitted to the large padded head support, which has two hi-vis reflective patches sewn in.
The jacket is secured by chunky zip fastener and held firm by two adjustable straps. An attached whistle and a crotch strap, also fully adjustable, completes the line-up for this attractive kids lifejacket which we feel will inspire confidence, both in the kids and their guardians.
Reasons to buy: Hi-vis, carry strap, adjustable straps and chunky zip fasteners
Reasons to avoid: Premium price, could be more size options
TWF 100N kids lifejacket
At the time of writing, this item was listed as Amazon’s Choice of kids lifejackets. Bright orange and enhanced with hi-vis reflection strips, the TWF Kids 100N jacket is EN, CE and ISO approved.
It also boasts a number of attractive features, such as a fully adjustable crotch strap and an attached whistle. The padded collar provides support to the head and our overall impression is of a quality product that is built to last.
Available in two sizes – 10-20 kg and 20-30 kg – the TWF Kids 100N kids lifejacket is suitable for boys and girls.
Reasons to buy: Bright colours and hi-vis strips, attached whistle, built to last
Reasons to avoid: Could be more size options
Zsdchongya buoyancy aid
Another product available through Amazon is this lifejacket vest from Zsdchongya, one of a raft of Asian manufacturers producing moderately priced safety equipment.
This one is a buoyancy aid as opposed to a full lifejacket and as such is best suited for kayaking, paddleboarding and similar activities, although it can be used as a swim-aid too.
We were attracted to this vest by its choice of neoprene as the main material, triple buckle fastening and adjustable leg straps.
Available in six sizes from S to 3XL, sizes S and M are claimed to be suitable for children of up to 18 years of age.
Reasons to buy: Neoprene, a variety of sizes
Reasons to avoid: Buyonacy aid not a lifejacket
Zip vest buoyancy aid
As you might expect, a plethora of buoyancy aids for children are available through eBay. We’ve picked just one, this entry-level product which is available in no less than six colours and three sizes; S (1-4 years old), M (5-7 years old) and L (8-10 years old).
Constructed of high tear resistant 200D nylon and filled with polyethylene foam, additional support for the jacket’s zipper is provided by a single centre-buckle strap.
There are also adjustment straps on both sides of the waist, two leg straps and a carry strap. While we would not recommend leaving a small child unattended in it at any time, this vest does look as if it may be a good way to introduce junior to the water.
Reasons to buy: Budget option, high-tear resistant nylon
Reasons to avoid: Shouldn’t leave children unattended, basic option
Price: £12.82 – £13.29
Read Yachting World’s group test of kids lifejackets, as published in the March 2018 issue.