10 Best Floaties and Floatation Devices for Adults Who Can’t Swim of 2021 (Buyers Guide!)

If you’re an adult who can’t swim, every body of water seems that much riskier. Yet floatation devices and floaties are almost solely marketed towards children. That can leave you scratching your head when heading towards a pool, lake, or river. 

Where do you find the best floaties and floatation devices for adults who can’t swim? And once you’ve found floaties made for adults, which ones do you pick? 

As you’ll see, these choices have a lot to do with the activity at hand. Kayaking and snorkeling might call for different floaties than a water aerobics class. And what’s best for those activities differs from what you’d want on a ski boat on the lake. 

Regardless of what you plan to partake in, If you’re looking for reviews on the best adult personal floatation devices or PFDs, you’ve come to the right place. Below we review our top ten picks for adult floatation devices, from casual, made-for-the-pool floaties to real-deal US Coast Guard-approved life vests. 

Then, we give a full buyer’s guide, so you know what to look for while shopping. So, if you need an adult floatation device, read on, fellow non-swimmer! The following list is full of things to keep you afloat, no matter the water situation. 

The Best Floaties and Floatation Devices for Adults Who Can’t Swim (Top Picks)

Below we listed our top adult floatation picks in no particular order. The numbering simply makes it so you can easily see we didn’t lie: there are ten top picks to choose from. The suggested use for each selection varies, which we discuss in the review beneath it.

1. Onyx MoreVent Dynamic Life Vest 

Maybe you’re considering paddling out on the water in a kayak or canoe. Even if you don’t swim, these lake or pond activities are fun to partake in, but you’ll need a floatation device to be safe. The Onyx MoreVent Dynamic Life Vest is the ideal option in that case. 

This US Coast Guard-approved jacket is effortless to move in. It’s made with paddling in mind and won’t ride up around your shoulders like other vests do. 

It also has a mesh back piece that allows for high seat-backs, as you’ll find in certain kayak models. And it’s ventilated, so even paddling on a hot summer’s day, it’ll be easy to cool off.

Of course, if it really gets hot, you could always jump in the water to refresh yourself. With this life vest on, you’ll be perfectly safe, even if you can’t swim. 

That said, this vest isn’t the best choice for other water activities. It’s overkill if you’re hanging out by the pool or attempting water aerobics. And those with broader torsos may have trouble with the cut. It seems to fit people with more petite frames best. 

Pros

  • Designed for full range of motion in arms and shoulders
  • Ventilation strips keep you cool while paddling
  • Embedded whistle to alert others if you’ve fallen out of your vessel
  • High-back design sits above kayak seats 

Cons

  • Full life vest may be overkill for the pool or more casual activities
  • On the pricier side of things for floatation devices 
  • Those with larger torsos may not fit in this cut as well 

2. TopSung Floatie Armbands for Adults (and Kids) 

Just because you can’t swim doesn’t mean you should skip the pool party. TopSung Floatie Armbands are perfect for casual water play. 

Sure, they look a little childish, but they’re easy to wear and use. More importantly, these armbands work to keep you afloat. They’re exactly like the floaties you see toddlers wearing but will keep up to 220 pounds above water. 

Since they don’t restrict your range of motion at all, the way a vest or other floatation device would, these floatie armbands are also ideal for adults who want to learn to swim.  

As a bonus, their design works just as well for any kids at home because the armbands are adjustable. If you need to fit a larger arm through, just don’t inflate them as much, and vice versa.  

This pick is extremely affordable, and we love that they come in multiple colors. So you don’t have to wear safety-orange, unless you want to, of course. 

Pros

  • Casual and affordable option for pools 
  • Easy to use and store
  • May help with teaching adults how to swim

Cons

  • Not for use in large bodies of water or for water sports
  • May look childish 
  • Only supports up to 220 lbs 

3. Onyx Automatic or Manual Inflatable Life Vest

Automatic inflatable life vests are awesome for non-swimmers heading out on a boat of any size. It’s not for immersive water activities or for use in strong seas. But if you’re fishing, whale-watching, or enjoying a sunset cruise, the Onyx Automatic (or manual) Inflatable Life Vest is discreet to wear and easy to use. 

This vest automatically inflates when it hits the water or when the user pulls the inflation tab. It’s narrow around the front, more like a harness than a real vest, and only has straps across the back. 

Of course, there are downsides to any vest that relies on automatic inflation via CO2. If you store this vest in moist conditions or an area where condensation collects, it will likely activate and inflate, even without you in it. 

It also takes a little time for the vest to inflate fully. That means that should you go overboard, you may go under for a few seconds before the vest pulls you up. For adults who can’t swim and fear the water, this pick may be an absolute no.   

Plus, you have to remember to install the CO2 tank before you set off on your boating adventure. Forget that, and you’re just rocking a nylon accessory that won’t do you any good if you find yourself in the water! 

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear
  • Automatic inflation provides peace of mind 
  • Allows freedom of movement for fishing or water activities 
  • Doesn’t take up storage or suitcase space  

Cons

  • You have to install the CO2 container yourself
  • Inflation may activate in moist storage conditions
  • Inflation takes a few seconds, leaving the wearer in the water unaided for that time 

4. BumFloat Handsfree Recreational Float

Sometimes even if you could swim, all you’d want is a floating seat. Something hands-free so you can hold your drink, preferably. And that’s where the BumFloat Recreational Float comes in. 

It’s not for safety while deep-sea fishing, nor would it be comfortable on an afternoon cruise. But if you’re looking to linger in a lake or pool, it might be perfect for you. 

It looks like an adult-sized diaper, but no one can see that once you’re in the water – thank goodness! And it will absolutely keep you upright and afloat.

It’s not suitable for swimming or any sort of water activity, though. It’s more for casual water hang-outs. If you want to enjoy a drink with friends in the deep end of the pool, the Bumfloat is the ideal floatie pick. 

Pros

  • Floating seat allows you to relax upright in calm water
  • Hands-free design means you can hold a drink or camera while you float
  • Allows for complete range of motion

Cons

  • Looks and feels like wearing an adult diaper
  • May push users forward or backward in less-than-calm conditions
  • Crotch area gets uncomfortable with prolonged wear 

5. Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest 

For an all-purpose, safe, US Coast Guard-approved life vest, you can’t beat the Stearns brand. This classic life vest may not be the most comfortable, nor does it have any high-tech features, but it will keep adults who can’t swim safe.

Non-swimmers are often and rightfully timid around oceans, lakes, and streams. The Stearns Classic Series Vest provides peace of mind for watersports and boating, as well as just about any other water activity. 

Unlike recreational floats or inflatable vests, a life vest like this requires no action by the user. Simply put it on, and you’ll float, regardless of the water conditions. 

That said, this is a traditional foam life vest that comes in a universal adult size. That means it fits almost no-one perfectly, and it may chafe. It may also get very hot, which can make it uncomfortable to wear on sunny days. 

Pros

  • Provides safety for non-swimmers in all types of water conditions
  • Easy to use; put it on, and you’re set! 
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard for watersports and recreational use

Cons

  • May chafe underarms or around straps
  • Universal size means one size fits no one perfectly
  • Foam and nylon construction will be hot on sunny days

6. Wildhorn Inflatable Vest 

This vest is made with snorkeling in mind but works well as a recreational floatation device. You shouldn’t rely on it to save your life in harsh conditions or anything like that. But if you can’t swim and still want to snorkel in shallow waters or hang out in the pool, it might be perfect for you. 

The Wildhorn vest is inflatable, which is excellent for travel since you can deflate it before you pack. It’s a very stable vest as well, meaning you won’t have to fight to stay in position if you’re attempting to learn to swim or want to see fish while snorkeling. And, it gets ten points for style; this vest looks sleek! 

As we said, though, it’s not going to provide the same buoyancy as a full-blown life vest. As a non-swimmer, we might think twice before wearing it in the ocean or to kayak. It’s more of an I-might-learn-to-swim, hangout-in-the-shallow-end, sort of vest.

Pros

  • Keeps body stable in water
  • Inflatable design perfect for travel
  • Sleek cut and colors look great on the beach or by the pool

Cons

  • Not for staying afloat in large bodies of water or harsh conditions
  • Multiple velcro straps can become a tangle when storing or taking on and off
  • Lack of reflective panels or bright colors means the vest is less visible to other boats or lifeguards 

7. Omont Swimming Belt 

Swimming belts are popular tools for children and adults learning to swim, but they also work well as floatation devices in certain conditions. The Omont Swimming Belt is excellent in shallow waters or within a pool, but it’s not recommended for non-swimmers outside of that since it easily comes off. 

Depending on how you wear it, losing the floatie could be as simple as letting go. It straps on at the waist, but you can use it as a swim ring too. Beyond that, this inflatable swim belt doubles as a neck pillow if you’re traveling, which is nice. 

It self-inflates and deflates via a button on top. And it comes in bright colors, so it’s easy to spot in the pool or lake. We love it for traveling to tropical destinations, as well as for non-swimmers who are learning to swim. 

Pros

  • Self-inflates via button
  • Multi-functional; use it as a belt, swim ring, or neck pillow
  • Adjustable straps work for kids and adults of all sizes 
  • Bright colors make it easy to spot and act as an added safety precaution

Cons

  • Easy to let go of or lose
  • Won’t keep you upright the way a vest does 
  • Simple design won’t provide peace of mind to those who can’t swim and fear water 

8. TopSung Tube Armlets for Adults

When you can’t swim, hanging out in the deep end with friends used to be out of the question, Topsung’s adult tube armlets change all that. They’ll have you relaxing in the deep end without the formality of a full life vest. 

Okay, they’re really less armlet and more an inflatable but simplified vest with one small clasp in front. But Topsung calls them armlets, so we’ll go with it. 

Overall, this product is great for pools, maybe for very calm lakes or ponds, but it has some major cons outside of those areas. For one thing, the inflatable design on these has no covering. The armlets are entirely plastic and could easily pop or deflate in the wrong setting (i.e., amongst twigs or branches in a lake, river, or stream). 

Beyond that, the design is hard on the user’s shoulders. The float wants to rise up out of the water, and it may become strenuous to keep it down. It’s also hard to put on on your own and might be embarrassing to ask for help. No one wants to be the adult who needs help with their floaties at the pool! 

That said, for casual use at a pool party or on vacation, the armlets work great! They’re affordable and easy to pack because they deflate! 

Pros

  • More casual than a life vest
  • Inflatable means easy to pack and store
  • Doesn’t look childish like regular arm floaties do

Cons

  • No covering over the plastic means they could pop in the wrong conditions
  • Tends to ride up, putting pressure on shoulders 
  • Hard to put on yourself, may require assistance

9. XGEAR Adult Vest for Watersports 

For many non-swimmers, a watersports vest may seem like too much, but the XGEAR adult vest might be a good option if you want to cruise the lake or river on a boat. 

It looks incredibly sleek, and there’s no doubt it will stay on with its four belts and heavy-duty clasps. Even if you go overboard while the boat’s moving fast, this vest will keep you afloat. It’s US Coast Guard approved and comes with a whistle to alert others that you’re in trouble. 

It also has an inner pocket to keep your valuables safe. Unfortunately, the pouch isn’t big enough to fit standard items like an iPhone. And, the vest itself runs a little short. Luckily, it’s adjustable and available on Amazon. So, if you need the next size up, returning shouldn’t be a problem. 

Pros

  • US Coast Guard Approved full Life Vest 
  • Four belts means it will stay on 
  • Safety Whistle sewn in
  • Sleek design looks great 

Cons

  • Vest may run short
  • Inner pocket isn’t large enough for standard valuables
  • Price is higher than other floatation options 

10. O’Brien Vinyl Dipped Floatation Swim Belt 

Water jogging and aerobics are popular fitness activities because they’re low impact and great for those with joint issues. But if you can’t swim, you may be afraid to join in at your local gym or recreational center. 

The O’Brien Swim Belt is an excellent option for adults who want to partake in water fitness classes but can’t swim or those who want to learn to swim but aren’t quite there yet. It will keep you buoyant and out of the water as much as you want to be but still allows for free range of movement so you can participate in fitness classes. 

Made for pools, the water belt isn’t ideal for other types of water activities. We don’t suggest using it on a boat or when enjoying the ocean. You’ll want a lifeguard, instructor, or both around to ensure you’re safe in the water, even with this belt on. 

Pros

  • Ideal for participating in water fitness classes as a non-swimmer
  • Perfect for learning to swim as an adult
  • Design looks more adult than other floatation options 

Cons

  • Not for use outside a pool 
  • Won’t keep you upright without effort; you have to paddle a little bit
  • Doesn’t work as well for smaller adults

(You might also be interested in reading our article on Best Non-Swimmer Life Jackets)

Floaties and Floatation Devices Buyer’s Guide! – Making the Best Purchase

If you’re heading out to buy a floatation device, it’s essential to understand a few things. 

First off, you need to know what buoyancy is and how it works. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll be able to easily decide on the type of personal floatation device (PFD) you want. 

From there, it’s important to learn how to wear and maintain your PFD of choice. An ill-fitting vest or other floatation device is practically worthless in the water. 

Plus, saltwater and chlorine are harsh on fabrics. For that matter, so is the sun! Learning about proper care for floatation devices means you’ll know when it’s time to replace them. 

Finally, for an adult who can’t swim but wants to be around water, peace of mind is crucial. And the only way to have that is to test your floating device. We’ll talk about how to test for buoyancy, so you feel safe on your next water outing.  

Buoyancy and Types of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) 

Like we said, the first thing to understand when shopping for a PFD is what buoyancy is and what it means for floating. 

Buoyancy, or floatation, is the force needed to keep a person’s head above water. It’s measured in pounds, and most adults only need around 11 pounds of it to keep their heads afloat.  

Most floatation devices, especially vests, provide far more than 11 pounds of buoyancy, but knowing what it is and how it works gives you another point of comparison. 

You should know, too, that your weight, lung capacity, and bone structure all affect floatation. The water conditions and the clothing you wear play a part too.

It might be counterintuitive, but the US Coast Guard website points out that the more body fat you carry, the easier it is for you to float. That’s because fat isn’t as dense as muscle or bone. 

Muscular, athletic builds are at a higher risk for drowning if they can’t swim or find themselves in rough conditions. And, just because you weigh more doesn’t mean you’ll need a more buoyant floatation device. 

The US Coast Guard also gives a breakdown of the different types of floatation devices. They place them in three categories: inherently buoyant, inflatable, and hybrid. For adults that can’t swim, inherently buoyant options are the safest. Inflatables and hybrids may work but aren’t as highly recommended. 

(We also have other recommendations of Best Buoyancy Belts for Water Aerobics)

Inherently Buoyant 

Inherently buoyant floatation devices include many of the vests on the list above. This category is for items that require nothing to make them float. Put them on, and you’re safe; that’s that. 

Though they can be bulky and often run hot, these are the ideal floatation picks for adults who can’t swim but wish to partake in water activities. We wouldn’t wear them in the pool, but they’re the ideal option in a boat or on the lake. 

Inflatables

When the USCG talks about inflatables, they’re referring to vests and waist-packs that need to be inflated to float. Some inflate automatically, some you have to manually blow up. 

Our list above included casual inflatable floaties for the pool and shallow water use, as well. Though not considered official PFDs by the coast guard, we put them in this category for discussion. 

Inflatables are great because they tend to be more comfortable to wear, and they take up less space to store. For an adult who can’t swim, though, they’re also not as safe. 

They might work well in a pool or a shallow lake with calm conditions. But, remember, even with automatic inflation, they take a few seconds to blow up — seconds that the wearer is submerged in water. 

If it’s an inflatable that’s already filled with air, as is the case with adult floaties or armlets, it’s likely not as durable. And, it probably won’t stay on as well as a legitimate life vest. 

(You might also be interested in reading our article on Best Personal Floatation Device Belts)

Hybrid

Hybrid PFDs exist, but they’re mainly for serious watersport participants. They’re pricey and typically not ideal for adults who can’t swim. 

Floatie Features to Look for 

As an adult who can’t swim, the best floatie or floatation devices will have the following: 

  • Pockets or Storage: To hold valuables like keys or even a phone.
  • Whistle: This is for safety, to let others know you fell off the boat or are otherwise in distress
  • Bright Colors: So you can easily be seen in a pool, lake, or ocean by lifeguards and the rest of your group
  • Ventilation: Especially for vests, so you don’t get so hot on sunny days
  • Easy-To-Store and Packable: This is ideal if you’re planning to travel or only want to use the device seasonally 

How to Size, Wear, and Maintain Your Floatation Device 

Now that you know what to look for and likely have an idea of what floatation device to buy, let’s zoom in on the essentials. Below, we determine best practices for sizing, wearing, and maintaining your adult floatation device. 

Finding the Right Size

When picking the right size floatation device, weight is less important than actual inches in most cases. For life vests, you’ll want to measure your chest at its broadest point. With belts or other wearables, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

When trying on life vests, especially, make sure you begin with all the adjustable straps completely loose. Put the vest on and then tighten each strap so that the vest stays firmly in place but is still comfortable. 

You may need assistance with this, depending on the placement of the straps. It’s also a good idea to wear clothing that you actually intend to wear beneath your floatation device (if any). And, make sure you’re comfortable sitting and standing. 

For inflatables that go over your arms, blow them up to about 70% of their capacity. Put them on, and then finish inflating so that they fit snugly and won’t come off. 

Wearing and Maintaining Your Floatation Device

Wearing your floatation device is pretty straightforward once you know it fits. Simply make sure the clasps are latched, and you’re set! 

Maintaining floaties and other PFDs takes a little more effort. Saltwater and chlorine can be harsh on plastics and nylon coverings. Always rinse off your floaties and vests after using. Then dry them in the sun. 

But beware! Sun is harsh on foam and plastic, so make sure you don’t store your floatation devices where they dry. Deflate floaties and other inflatables, and keep them in a sturdy storage container or put them inside. 

Life vests do well packed in heavy-duty storage containers too. Or you can hang them in a closet or garage. Keeping them dry and clean will keep them useful for years to come. 

Testing Your PFD for Buoyancy

If you can’t swim, making sure your floating device will hold you up could be a matter of life and death. So, you might want to test it for peace of mind before you take it out on a boat or to any sort of deep waters. 

Since you’re not a swimmer, you’ll need to find someone capable to help you out in the water. You’ll want your buoyancy tester to be as close in size and shape to you as possible. 

Ask them to wear your floatation device into the water, someplace where they can’t touch the bottom, like the deep end of a pool. Then have them lean back into the float or vest and relax completely. 

The PFD should keep them afloat without any problem. If it doesn’t, it may not be buoyant enough for you to use on your next water outing. You might want to consider purchasing a new one before you head out on your water adventure.  

Best Floaties and Floatation Devices for Adults Who Can’t Swim Comparison Chart

Product PriceAvailable SizesMaterial Product Features
Onyx MoreVent Dynamic Life Vest$XS/S/M/L/XL/2XLNylonVentilation strips keep you cool while paddling
TopSung Floatie Armbands for Adults (and Kids)$S/M/L/XLFoamCasual and affordable option for pools, easy to use and store
Onyx Automatic or Manual Inflatable Life Vest$M/L/XLTextileComfortable to wear, automatic inflation provides peace of mind
BumFloat Handsfree Recreational Float$M/LPolyesterFloating seat allows you to relax upright in calm water
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest$L/XL/XXLNylonEasy to use; put it on, and you're set
Wildhorn Inflatable Vest$S/M/L/XL/XXLPremium BuckleKeeps body stable in water, inflatable design perfect for travel
Omont Swimming Belt$S/M/LPolyamideSelf-inflates via button, multi-functional; use it as a belt, swim ring, or neck pillow
TopSung Tube Armlets for Adults$S/M/LPVCMore casual than a life vest, inflatable means easy to pack and store
XGEAR Adult Vest for Watersports$XL/XXL/XXXLNylonUS Coast Guard Approved full Life Vest, four belts means it will stay on
O'Brien Vinyl Dipped Floatation Swim Belt$SVinyl Coated FoamPerfect for learning to swim as an adult

Wrap-Up 

When people hear the term floaties or floatation devices, they often think of children. But adults who can’t swim need something to stay afloat too! 

There’s no reason to avoid swimming pools, lakes, or boats simply because you’re not a swimmer. Today there are all sorts of adult-worthy floatation devices that can keep your head above water. 

The activity you’re doing will determine what type of float works best. If you’re on a boat, you might want a life vest, which can save you even in rough water or poor conditions. But in a pool, a set of adult floaties or a swim belt may be all you need. 

Whatever you decide, getting in the water will be much more rewarding than watching from the shore. With the right adult floatation device, you’re sure to stay safe and comfortable. 

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