Have the Right Life Jacket?

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Today’s life jackets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and materials. No matter which life jacket you choose, it should be U.S. Coast Guard approved and right for you, the water activity, and the water conditions you expect to encounter.

“Life jackets are designed for a boater’s recreational water activity – from inflatable belt-packs for standup paddleboarders to form-fitting vests for PWC riders,” said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, the lead organization of the North American Safe Boating Campaign.

Life jackets may be inherently buoyant – using foam or other buoyant materials to stay afloat – or inflatable –providing buoyancy when inflated by relying on CO2 cylinders.

“Once you find the right U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for your activity, try it on! A snug fit is a proper fit,” continued Johnson. “Your life jacket is the most important piece of boating safety gear, so be sure to always Wear It!”

The North American Safe Boating Campaign offers these tips to keep life jackets in good and serviceable condition. Download the Have the Right Life Jacket infographic.


  • Read the label! On the inside of each life jacket is a printed label with important information about that particular life jacket.
  • Always use for its intended purpose and refer to the owner’s manual for specific maintenance requirements.
  • Choosing the right life jacket also means choosing the right size: remember, life jackets for adults do not work for children.
  • Inspect all life jackets periodically for rips, tears and holes, as well as damage to seams, zippers, buckles and straps.
  • Look for signs of waterlogging, mildew, and shrinkage or hardening of the materials on inherently buoyant life jackets.
  • Check that inflatable life jackets hold air for 16 hours by orally inflating to capacity. Also inspect the inflation mechanism to ensure the cartridge has not discharged, has no corrosion, and is properly installed.
  • Dry after use by hanging in a shaded, ventilated area, and hand wash in warm water using a mild laundry detergent if it is dirty.

The North American Safe Boating Campaign unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates and is produced under a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. Follow Wear It! at and Visit