7 Best Women’s Life Jackets of 2020 (Buyers Guide!)

Boating laws differ from one state to another, and you will find that requirements for wearing a personal floatation device can vary from one area to another. We recommend using a life jacket to stay safe anytime you’re near a body of water.

Wearing a personal floatation device or PFD is a simple measure you can take to prevent a drowning accident. It’s a must-have item for activities like boating, kayaking, fishing, tubing, stand-up paddleboarding, and many other hobbies. You never know when an accident will happen and should wear a PFD even if you’re a strong swimmer or feel that boating conditions are relatively safe. 

The best women’s life jackets meet high-quality standards and requirements created by organizations like the BoatUS Foundation. Choosing a PFD that meets these standards is crucial since wearing a vest that performs as intended could be a matter of life and death. 

Our PFDs for women reviews will give you a better idea of the different features and benefits available and help you choose the right vest for your needs. We’ve selected products in different categories to address different needs, including lightweight PFDs, plus size life jackets for women, and XL options, among other products.

(You can also read our article specially on Women Kayaking Life Jackets)

[Product table] 

The Best Womens Life Jacket Reviews (Editor’s Pick) 

What makes a PFD better than another? We selected the top seven women’s vests based on criteria like materials, floatation, and sizing options. 

1. O’Neill Women’s SuperLite USCG Life Vest 

This lightweight PFD is an option that makes sense for any activity where mobility is important. The vest features large openings for your arms and won’t restrict your movements. It’s a useful feature if you expect to swim while wearing the PFD, or need to retain mobility for a water sport like water skiing or parasailing. 

Opting for a lightweight PFD is also a great choice if you expect hot or humid weather. A bulky life jacket can increase your body temperature and increase your risks of heat stroke while boating in the heat. 

We like this PFD because it features a lightweight polyester shell. This reinforced exterior protects the integrity of the product and preserves its floatability, even if it sustains an impact. 

You will find a layer of polyethylene foam inside of the jacket. It’s a lightweight and breathable material that will keep you afloat in water. The foam feels soft and makes the jacket comfortable to wear. 

There are four sizes to choose from, and you can adjust the closure system to get a perfect fit. There are four buckles that you can adjust in the front of the PFD, and two of them provide back support. 

Pros 

  • Lightweight design 
  • Four sizes to choose from 
  • Comfortable foam layer 
  • Sturdy exterior shell 

Cons  

  • Lack of adjustable shoulder buckles 
  • No pockets 
  • Side panels can feel restrictive 

2. Stohlquist Women’s Escape PFD 

Choosing a PFD that fits properly will help keep you safe. Your life jacket should fit snuggly without feeling too tight or restrictive. We recommend measuring the widest part of your chest and using the manufacturer’s sizing chart to find the right fit. 

This PFD from Stohlquist is ideal for teens and petite women. The manufacturer offers an X-small or Small size that would be ideal for anyone with a chest that measures between 28 and 34.” 

The design of the vest is also ideal if you have a small frame. The short back panel won’t get in your way and won’t feel uncomfortable when you sit, and the adjustable shoulder straps will ensure a snug fit. 

You will find three adjustable buckles on each side of the jacket, and a waist belt that you can adjust with a front buckle. These buckles will help you get the right fit and keep the life vest in place, even if you’re active. 

There are pull adjusters that prevent the PFD from riding up, and the zipper makes the life vest easy to put on or remove. The PFD uses a layer of lightweight foam that delivers optimal buoyancy in the water without restricting your movements. 

Pros 

  • Adjustable shoulder straps 
  • Lightweight feel 
  • Ideal if you have a small frame 
  • Short back panel 

Cons 

  • Small back panel might be uncomfortable 
  • No pockets 
  • Design might not be ideal if you don’t have a small frame 

 3. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest 

This PFD is an ideal option if you need a life jacket in an XL size. We recommend this PFD because the design is versatile enough to match different body types. 

The vest features two panels with straps. It’s not a rigid shell, and you can play with the straps to find the right fit for your body type.  

The PFD uses neoprene pads to protect your shoulders and create a comfortable fit. The main material is nylon, which ensures durability and reduces wear and tear if you have to store the PFD for long periods. You will find a mesh layer in the back of the jacket for breathability. 

The vest features reflective elements that enhance visibility at night and in the water. The front and back panels of the life jacket feature a lightweight foam layer that provides floatation. 

You will find a pocket with mesh drainage, a tab to attach an accessory, and a zipper to close the jacket and prevent it from riding up. 

The open design of the jacket won’t restrict your movements in water. We think this jacket is an ideal choice if you need a PFD in an XL or 2XL size. It should fit anyone with a chest that measures 44 to 56.” 

Pros 

  • Open design 
  • Adjustable buckles 
  • Fits different body types 
  • Pocket and accessory tab 
  • Reflective elements 

Cons 

  • Fit can be bulky 
  • Neoprene shoulder pads might restrict movements 
  • Back panel seems rigid 

4. Stohliquist Oversize Fit Life Jacket 

This life jacket is very light and weighs a little over one pound. It has a buoyancy rating of 18 lbs and meets the official U.S. Coast Guard requirements for safety. 

It’s ideal if you need a plus-size option. You can wear this PFD comfortably if your chest measures between 48 and 60.” 

There are three buckles you can use to adjust the fit of the jacket. The front and back panels are two separate elements that wrap around your torso to provide a snug fit. 

The front and back panels of the PFD use a contoured design. This feature allows for a comfortable fit, and the large side openings won’t restrict your movements. 

We also like the thin design of the back panel. The thin and contoured back panel will embrace the shape of your body without feeling too rigid or restrictive. Wearing a PFD that feels too rigid can become uncomfortable, especially if you have to sit in a boat cabin for long hours. 

The front opening design of the best makes it easy to put on and remove, and you will find a loop you can use to hang the PFD when you store it. 

Pros 

  • Contoured front and back panels 
  • Three straps to adjust the PFD 
  • Thin back panel 
  • Large side openings 
  • Loop 

Cons 

  • Back panel might be too tall or too wide 
  • No pockets 
  • No zipper to prevent the vest from riding up 

5. Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility Life Jacket 

This durable life jacket meets the USCG requirements and uses universal sizing to ensure a comfortable fit. We like this product because you can use it for different family members. The manufacturer explains that the life jacket would be a good fit if you were T-shirts in S, M, or L sizes. Your chest measurement should fall between 30 and 52” to ensure a snug fit. 

Hardcore Water Sports has an interesting selection of sizes and colors. We like this product selection because you could wear matching life jackets to identify family members easily when you go boating or test a new sport together. 

We recommend the purple color because it’s bright enough to deliver optimal visibility and make you easy to spot if you were to fall in the water. 

The PFD features three buckles you can use to adjust the fit. There are large open sides that allow for a full range of movements. This feature is ideal if you need a vest you can wear while kayaking or jetskiing. 

The large front and back panels use closed-cell PE foam to keep you afloat. It’s a compact and lightweight material that delivers optimal buoyancy. 

We also like the wide design of the back panel because it will increase stability if you were to fall in the water and help you keep your head out of the water. The vest uses polyester fabric, which is a durable material that is easy to clean and dries quickly. 

Pros 

  • Durable materials 
  • Wide back panel improves stability 
  • Universal sizing 
  • Excellent selection of colors 
  • Strong seams 

Cons 

  • Universal sizing might not work for everyone 
  • No zipper 
  • Wide back panel can feel bulky 

6. Airhead Trend Life Vest  

We recommend this product if you want a PFD that delivers optimal visibility in low light conditions or in the water. The bright pink color is an original option, and it will help make you more visible. It’s an important consideration because visibility can make you safer. 

This life vest is an affordable and durable option that is suitable for a wide range of activities. The 200-denier polyester construction is an interesting feature because this material is very resistant to wear and tear. It also dries fast and can withstand exposure to UV rays. 

There is a layer of lightweight foam inside of the life jacket’s panels that form a protective shell. The foam delivers optimal buoyancy in the water, and the vest meets the USCG safety requirements. 

The side panels of the vest create a closed design. The closed design can feel more restrictive compared to other products, but it can also help with making you feel safer if you feel anxious about being out on the water. The closed design is also a good choice if you want a snug fit. 

The PFD features comfortable shoulder pads and four buckles you can use to adjust the fit.  

Pros 

  • Bright color enhances visibility 
  • Four adjustable buckles 
  • Closed design delivers a snug fit 
  • UV-resistant material 

Cons 

  • Closed design can feel restrictive 
  • No zipper closure 
  • Other products have more sizes available 

7. NRS Chinook Fishing PFD 

This roomy PFD is an excellent option if you need a life jacket that doesn’t feel restrictive or that delivers a comfortable fit if you have a large chest. The front-end design of the vest gives you some extra room, and the PFD is very easy to adjust to get a snug fit. 

The product is a unisex fishing PFD, but you can use it for a wide range of activities. The fit is a little loose compared to other life jackets, and you won’t get a rigid shell in the front of the PFD. 

The vest uses a layer of foam for floatation, and the contoured design of the foam will help the PFD follow the natural shape of our body instead of feeling restrictive.  

Instead of buckles, you will get eight different adjustment points. You can create a customized fit and prevent the PFD from feeling too tight in the chest area. 

The back panel uses mesh to deliver comfort and breathability. It’s an ideal feature for warm days. 

You will find seven front pockets to keep essentials and accessories organized, and the zipper front-closure will prevent the vest from riding up.  

Pros 

  • Roomy front-end design 
  • Eight unique adjustment points 
  • Zipper closure 
  • Mesh back panel 

Cons 

  • Pockets can feel bulky 
  • Lack of rigid shell 
  • Fit might be too loose for some activities 

Womens Life Jacket Buyers Guide – (Your Guide to Selecting the Best Product) 

The purpose of a life jacket is to provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat if you were to accidentally fall in the water or jump to help someone. It can also insulate you from cold water, and help you keep your head out of the water without using all your energy. 

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a personal floatation device. 

Different Types of PFDs 

You will come across different types of PFDs that meet different safety requirements. There are different categories of life jackets and floatation devices because risks and safety requirements vary from one situation to another. 

There are five different types of PFDs

  • Type I, or offshore life jackets. 
  • Type II, also known as near-short PFDs. 
  • Floatation aids or type III vests are a popular option for recreational activities. 
  • Throwable devices are known as type IV PFDs. 
  • Type V is a category where you will find special-use PFDs. 

Type I and II 

Offshore and near-shore life jackets are the kind of PFDs you will typically find on cruise ships and larger boats. You should use a type I or II floatation device if there are risks of ending up in the water far away from the shore since these vests will help you stay afloat for long hours. 

These PFDs typically feature bright colors and reflective bands. You can find type I and II floatation devices that use foam or air cushions. These vests can help you float even when you’re unconscious. 

The drawback of these two categories is that the design can be bulky and restrict your movements. Type I PFDs don’t meet USCG requirements, and even though these vests can keep you safe, they won’t help you meet federal and state legal requirements. 

You can find type II PFDs that meet USCG requirements, and these vests are an ideal option if you might have to wait several hours for a rescue. However, they’re not practical for a lot of activities because of their bulky design. 

Type III PFDs or Floatation Aids 

The products we reviewed above fall into the type III category. It’s the most versatile category, and you can use these vests to stay safe in a wide range of settings. 

You can easily find USCG-approved products in that category. You can meet federal and state legal requirements as you have a type III vest onboard for each passenger when boating or engaging in other water-related activities. 

These vests can deliver between 70 and 100 Newtons of floatation. This type of performance is sufficient to help an adult stay afloat as long as they’re conscious and can count on a fast rescue. 

These PFDs deliver a snug fit and allow for a wide range of movements. It’s an important feature for water sports and other activities. Another advantage of type III floatation devices is that you can find a wide range of materials, including lightweight and breathable materials that will help you stay comfortable on a warm day. 

Type IV and V 

The type IV category includes floatation cushions and buoy rings. You can keep one of these devices onboard instead of another type of PFD to meet federal and some state requirements, but it’s safer to use a type III or another type of vest. 

A type IV throwable device is something you can throw in the water to help a person who is in difficulty. The person can hold onto the device and stay afloat while waiting for rescue. 

We recommend keeping a type IV throwable device on board, even if people are wearing life jackets. However, relying on a type IV throwable device by itself isn’t enough. 

Type V refers to a category or PFDs designed for specific activities. You can find items like deck suits, kayaking vests, or sailing PFDs in this category. A type V floatation device can be an interesting alternative to a type III PFD, and you can find USCG-approved products in that category. 

The downside of using a type V device is that you have to use it for the activity it’s designed for. A type III vest can be a better investment since it’s a more versatile option that you can use anytime you’re near water or on the water. 

The Benefits of Wearing a Life Jacket 

Wearing a life jacket is a simple safety measure that you can take to reduce your risks of drowning. A PFD will help you stay afloat and keep your head out of the water if you were to fall or jump into the water. 

You should wear a PFD regardless of how good a swimmer you are. Falling into cold water can create a temperature shock that prevents you from swimming for a few minutes. It’s also a situation where you might panic and flail around instead of swimming. 

High winds and stormy seas can make this type of situation even more dangerous. A strong swimmer can end up in difficulty in bad weather conditions. A PFD will help you keep your head out of the water and prevent you from ending up in a face-down position, which increases your risks of drowning. 

A life jacket can help keep you stable in water and insulate your body from cold water. The buoyancy will help you stay afloat until rescue arrives and will help you preserve your energy. 

A vest will also keep you safe if you have to jump into the water to help someone. Another benefit of wearing a PFD is peace of mind. You will feel more confident about being out on the water and will be able to focus on trying a new water sport or enjoying your fishing trip if you wear a vest. 

Potential Drawbacks of PFDs 

You might encounter some drawbacks if you’re not wearing the right floatation device. You need to select the right PFD for your activities and ensure that it fits properly. 

Your life jacket shouldn’t restrict your movements or circulation. It shouldn’t be loose and shouldn’t ride up. Look for a product with buckles or other features you can use to adjust the fit. You should also check the manufacturer’s sizing chart to make sure you order the right size.
(If your height and weight is above average, you should rather try Big and Tall Life Jackets)

We recommend type III PFDs because these products are versatile and suitable for many different water-related activities. They provide enough buoyancy to keep you safe if you go boating offshore and allow for a full range of movements, which is an important feature when practicing water sports. 

If there is a possibility that you might have to wait for rescue and remain in the water for a few hours, it’s best to use a type I or II floatation device. These PFDs can be bulky and restrictive, but they’re designed to keep you afloat for long hours. 

You shouldn’t run into any major drawbacks when using a PFD. If you find that wearing your vest is difficult or uncomfortable, try a different size or invest in a different type of floatation device.  

Wearing a PFD can feel bulky and awkward at first, but it’s something you will quickly get used to. Keep in mind that the benefits of wearing a vest outweigh any kind of drawbacks you might encounter. 

How to Use Your Life Jacket 

Half of all recreational boating fatalities happen in calm water conditions. This fact should be a reminder to always wear your life jacket when you’re near water. 

You might feel that you don’t need to wear your PFD because the water is calm or shallow, or because you’re a strong swimmer. The truth is that accidents can happen in a wide range of conditions.  

The PFDs we reviewed above are lightweight and comfortable. You won’t even notice that you’re wearing a life jacket after a few minutes. We recommend investing in one of these products and wearing it at all times. 

Once you take your PFD off, store it with care, and make sure it’s easy to access. Proper storage will prevent damages to your vest, and having access to it can come in handy if you ever have to jump into the water to help someone. 

Check the label of your life jacket to make sure you pick the right size. You should measure the widest part of your chest to find the right fit. 

Most life jackets are adjustable and can fit two or three sizes. However, the size of the front and back panel might not be ideal for your body type. A back panel that is too wide or too low can be uncomfortable. 

There is a quick test you can use to make sure that your PFD fits properly: 

  • Fasten your life jacket. 
  • Raise your arms above your head. 
  • Have someone grab the shoulder pads and pull the vest up. 
  • The life jacket should stay in place, and you shouldn’t have any extra space between your arms and the shoulder pads. 
  • Adjust the buckles if the vest rides up when you perform this test. 

Let your vest dry completely before putting it away if it came in contact with the water. Most floatation devices use nylon and other synthetic materials that will dry fast, but the layer of foam that keeps you afloat can absorb water and take longer to dry. 

Additional Safety Tips 

In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that 84% of drowning victims didn’t wear a life jacket. This statistic illustrates how much of a difference wearing a PFD can make any time you’re near the water. 

If you want to find out more about drowning risks, we have interactive resources to help you explore U.S. and worldwide drowning statistics, as well as information about drowning prevention. 

Drowning risks exist, but they shouldn’t cause you to worry excessively. It’s important to recognize that these risks exist and to take the right measures to prevent drowning. It will be easier to relax and enjoy your day out on the water if you know that you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 

Here are the top strategies you can use to reduce drowning risks: 

  • Everyone should wear a life jacket, and the vests should fit properly. 
  • Keep a tool kit and first aid kit onboard. 
  • Leave an itinerary of your trip with someone. 
  • Wear protective clothing and sunscreen to reduce the risks of heatstroke. 
  • Learn to recognize the signs of drowning and heatstroke. 
  • If you want to try skiing, tubing, or wakeboarding, use signals to communicate with a spotter on the boat. 
  • If you use a towline, make sure it’s sturdy and check that it isn’t caught in the propeller before you get started. 
  • Stay away from the boat propeller at all times and turn it off when getting in and out of the water. 
  • Don’t drink when you’re out on the water. 
  • It’s safer to go boating during the day and to stay onshore if there are poor visibility conditions. 
  • Head back to the shore if the weather changes.  

Best Womens Life Jacket Comparison Chart 

Product NamePriceAvailable SizesSafetyUnique Features
O’Neill Women’s SuperLite USCG Life Vest$S, L, XLUS Coast Guard approvedLightweight vest with minimal bulk and polyethylene foam
Stohlquist Women’s Escape PFD$XS/SM;
MD/LG; PLUS
Protective fabric buckles prevent from sun raysStylish and visible purple color
Onyx MoveVest Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest$XL, XXLHigh construction quality makes it more secureHas pocket and accessory tab
Stohliquist Oversize Fit Life Jacket $$
L, XL, XXLUS Coast Guard approvedThree buckles help to adjust the fitting of jacket
Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility Life Jacket$
S, M, LRated III for kayakingStylish and visible purple color
Airhead Trend Life Vest$
X-SML to 3XLProtected by a polyester shell, covered by 200-Denier PolyesterFour adjustable straps and have hot pink color
NRS Chinook Fishig PFD$$L, XL, XXLSafety aid and personal tool kit all in oneEight unique adjustment points and Zipper closure

Wrap Up 

The seven women’s life jackets we reviewed above will help keep you safe on the water. Wearing a PFD is one of the most effective ways of reducing your drowning risks, and you will find that a life jacket can make you feel more confident about trying a new activity. 

Start by measuring your chest to determine the size you should look for. Opt for a life vest with adjustable buckles or similar features so that you can get a customized fit, and think about weight and materials when choosing your PFD. 

You should also ask yourself what kind of activities you will use the PFD for. An open side design is an excellent choice if you want to be more active and retain your full range of movement. 

All the products we selected fall in the type III category. These life jackets are durable investments that you can use in a wide range of settings, but you should also think about investing in a special-use floatation device if you are likely to engage in the same activity regularly. 

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