We all have lifejackets on board, but do you know what yours is actually like to use? We test 15 of the best lifejackets under £300 to find out

With over 3.5 million people in the US alone participating in sailing each year, it’s more important than ever to understand the fundamentals when it comes to being in the open water. One of the most important things any sailors can own is a life jacket. Yes, all of the best lifejackets for boaters conform to a set of minimum ISO standards, but how do you know which one is actually the best for your personal use and body type?

How to choose the best lifejacket?

From their basic ISO rated start point, all lifejackets take on their own characteristics and design elements. The positioning of the CO2 inflation bottle, the shape of the bladder, the position of the crotch strap and the way it is attached, the location of the whistle, the position of the oral inflation tube and the location of the lifting strop. Some of our lifejackets on test also have sprayhoods and water activated strobe lights.

I comprehensively put these lifejackets through sea survival drills and shoreside scrutiny. To learn more about what the team tested and how we did it, go to the bottom of this buyers guide to see our crew doing their thing.

Each lifejacket has its own review page. If you want a more in-depth review, simply click through to read more.

A note from the Tech Editor: Fox Morgan

“I have a confession.
Until just 13 years ago (2009), I rarely wore a lifejacket. Throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s I casually went about never wearing one and never worrying about it.
Until one day I was about to row, in the dark, back to my mooring.
A friend and sailing instructor commented on my lack of lifejacket. “Ebb tide runs fast through here” he said.
I was belligerent and defensive with my reply. I’ve never fallen in. I’ll be careful.
The seed of doubt had been sown and I had a word with myself. For 28 years of regularly being on boats I had got lucky.
You only need to fall in once. Much like you only crash a car once if you’re not wearing a seatbelt.”

Ocean Safety Sport PRO 170 ADV

The best lifejacket is the one you wear. 

At a glance

Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket – Best women’s specific lifejacket Buy Now

Seago Seaguard 165N – Best budget friendly lifejacket – Buy Now

Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N pro – Best premium costal lifejacket– Buy Now

Coastal Lifejackets 150-180N

The best lifejackets for boaters and sailors

best lifejackets for boaters, baltic athena

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Baltic Athena

Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket

Score 83/100

“best women’s specific lifejacket”


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Colour: White

•  Inflate: Auto inflatable

Reasons to Buy: This lifejacket is cut for women and fits really well over foul weather clothes and light weight layers. It is comfortable and easy to move around in. It is easy to fasten in all conditions. It is easy to repack and easy to check the firing mechanism.

Reasons to Avoid: The bladder might be a bit tight around the neck when inflated wearing a large foul weather jacket collar and this can be uncomfortable.

Verdict: This is an excellent choice of lifejacket for women who do a host of boating activities. High praise from all who tried this lifejacket in the dry.

Read the full Baltic Athena review

Buy Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket from tradeinn.com

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

spinlock deckvest lite, best lifejackets for boaters

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Spinlock Deckvest Lite

Spinlock Deckvest Lite

Score 84/100

“Best coastal on test for everyday wear and general purpose water activity”


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Buoyancy: 170N

•  Material: Nylon

•  Colour: Black Graphite, Pacific Blue, Flow Green, New Bleach White, New Seagrass Green and New Mercury Red

Reasons to Buy: This is a smart looking lifejacket with a slimline feel. There are very few details to get caught or snag. The best feature are that it’s really easy to repack, fits smaller adult body types and has a high visibility bladder.

Reasons to Avoid: This might feel a little restrictive on some people with the over-the-head method of donning. It might not suit larger bodies.

Verdict: This no frills but stylish lifejacket performs well both off and on the water. It is great for everyday wear and is unobtrusive and easy to forget you’re wearing it.

Read the full Spinlock Deckvest review

Buy Spinlock Deckvest Lite from Amazon

best lifejackets for boaters, seago seaguard

Seago Seaguard 165N

Score 69/100

“best budget friendly lifejacket”


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Buoyancy: 165N

•  Material: Nylon

•  Colour: Navy/grey

Reasons to Buy: Excellent value for money. The cross over bladder design works well. There’s room in the casing to add a sprayhood and light. It also comes in a version with a harness loop.

Reasons to Avoid: There are a few little snaggy areas where the straps or toggles could be tucked away better.

Verdict: We were very pleased with the performance of this lifejacket. Some would argue that it doesn’t look super stylish, but it doesn’t offend either. Where it excels is as a lifejacket in the water, and that’s where it really counts.

Read the full Seago Seaguard review

Buy Seago Seaguard 165N from Amazon

Buy Seago Seaguard from Pirates Cave

best lifejackets for boaters, crewsaver crewfit pro

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Crewsaver Crewfit Pro

Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N pro

Score 81/100

“best premium coastal lifejacket”


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Buoyancy: 180N

•  Colour: Black

•  Features: Soft loop D-ring for attaching harness

Reasons to Buy: It’s a smart black lifejacket that will blend in with any outfit. If you’re all about minimal, understated style this is the lifejacket for you. Along with being fitted with sprayhood and light as standard, it also has a well designed wide bladder. It is very comfortable when worn day to day. Plus, it’s easy to adjust.

Reasons to Avoid: At the end of the day unpacking and repacking will take a longer as the rearming the firing mechanism is really fiddly. If you fly regularly with this lifejacket, the CO2 bottle seal will be an annoyance.

Verdict: This is an excellent lifejacket, leading the way with coastal lifejackets that will take you offshore and into the night with its well positioned strobe light and nicely designed sprayhood. The thoughtful design is apparent throughout, but perhaps was taken one step too far with the CO2 bottle anti-unscrew seal feature making it a poor choice for frequent flyers but an excellent choice for people who worry about their CO2 bottles coming unscrewed.

Read the full Crewsaver Crewfit+ review

Buy Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N Pro from Marinestore


best lifejackets for boaters, team-o micro

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – teamO Micro

TeamO Micro

Score 77/100


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Buoyancy: 170N

•  Colour: Black/Orange, Black/Yellow and Blue/Yellow

•  Features: Ultra light weight (approximately 900g), adjustable waist belt and 170 Newtons of Buoyancy

Reasons to Buy: Super skinny lightweight lifejacket, one of the lightest on test at 860grams.

Reasons to Avoid: A bit of a pig to repack. Very basic with no room for add-ons such as a light or sprayhood

Verdict: The target market for the stylish TeamO Micro is likely to be for those who use RIBs, go day boating and motorboating and for other inshore sheltered water activities. If you want a lifejacket with the smallest footprint, then this may well fit the bill. If you are looking for a lifejacket that you can add to later with additional safety gear, then you might look elsewhere.

Read the full TeamO Micro review

Buy TeamO Micro Ultra Light from sheridanmarine.com

best lifejackets for boaters, ocean safety sport ADV

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Ocean Safety ADV Sport

Ocean Safety Sport 170 ADV

Score 65/100


•  Colour: Navy, red and carbon

•  Buoyancy: 170N

•  Features: Single crotch strap, side adjustment for bespoke fit and soft loop harness point for safety harness (harness version only)

Reasons to Buy: One of the reasons to buy this option is that it’s a smart looking lifejacket. It’s also a ocean safety brand is well established and trusted with service centres readily available everywhere. Plus, it has a crossover bladder design.

Reasons to Avoid: As per a previous test conducted on this lifejacket, it has suboptimal positioning of the CO2 canister on the curve of the bladder which causes it to rotate on inflation and jab into the chest or ribs of the wearer.

Verdict: Whilst there’s no doubt this is a good quality ISO rated lifejacket, it is smart and fits well, adjusts well and functions well in all aspects, however there’s no escaping its shortcomings in respect to the bottle position and the underwhelmingly small sprayhood.

Read the full Ocean Safety Sport review

Buy Ocean Safety Sport ADV from Ocean Safety (UK)

best lifejackets for boaters, helly hansen lifejacket

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Helly Hansen Sailsafe

Helly Hansen Sail Safe

Score 56/100


•  Size: STD

•  Colour: Navy and alert red

• Fiber content: 100% Polyamide

•  Features: UML Water activated automatic inflation sensor

Reasons to Buy: This option is lightweight and easy to stow. It has a no frills design, neat stowage for the crotch strap on the back of the life jacket straps.

Reasons to Avoid: The performance was adequate in all areas but didn’t excel in any particular area.

Verdict: The Helly Hansen Sail Safe lifejacket is a lightweight coastal lifejacket with the ubiquitous HH branding. You get good performance all over but for the (relatively high) price it does feel that you are paying for a name and higher specified lifejackets are available at a lower price.

Read the full Helly Hansen Sailsafe review

Buy Helly Hansen SailSafe from hellyhansen.com

best lifejackets for boaters, waveline

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Waveline

Waveline lifejacket

Score 61/100


•  Size: Suitable for weights above 40kg

•  Buoyancy: 165N

• Material: 600D polyester outer shell and coarse polyester webbing

•  Features:Velcro closure cover and lifting loop

Reasons to Buy: This is the lightest on test and weighs just 800g fully armed. The flat profile is comfortable to wear. The velcro closure makes this life jacket really easy to check the arming mechanism and really easy to re-pack. It’s also very good value for money.

Reasons to Avoid: If style is something you want to consider, this is probably not the option for you. There’s also nowhere to stow excess webbing after adjustment.

Verdict: The Waveline 165N auto lifejacket is an excellent budget option that works well in the water when inflated and is a no frills option for getting out on the water boating safely. A lightweight and simple lifejacket that is tried and tested the world over.

Read the full Waveline review

Buy Waveline 165N from eBay

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Where indicated, items have been tested independently of manufacturers influence.

Offshore Lifejackets 190N

The best lifejackets for boaters and sailors

best lifejackets for boaters, spinlock deckvest 6d

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Spinlock Deckvest 6D

Spinlock Deckvest 6D

Score 84/100

“Highly Commended Best all round”


• Buoyancy: 170N or 275N

• Colour: Black, pacific blue, tropic white, citrus yellow, black with HRS, pacific blue with HRS, tropic white with HRS and citrus yellow with HRS

•  Features:170N autoinflation, harness release system, crotch strap, sprayhood, lumeon bladder illumination, automatic strobe light,  adjustable body height

Reasons to Buy: Its form-fitting sculpted design and bright colour of casing make this a stylish lifejacket. It has excellent elevated lighting and reflective visibility, good snug fit holding the user high in the water and good sprayhood. The harness release system is another good feature.

Reasons to Avoid: The bladder is a darker orange and may not be as visible as some of the brighter bladders available. The extra sculpting can make the lifejacket feel a bit stiff to wear and makes it heavy.

Verdict: This is an outstanding lifejacket with great performance across the score board. The standout features are the lighting, both elevated and lumeon, lighting the entire bladder. The essentials are labels and easy to find and this feels like a lifejacket that has really been designed with the user in mind. Every query has been answered. If we were challenged to find a way to improve this, we’re really not sure how we would.

Read the full Spinlock Deckvest 6D review

Buy Spinlock Deckvest 6D from marinesuperstore.com

best lifejackets for boaters, baltic force

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Baltic Force

Baltic Force 

Score 74/100


•  Size: Adult

• Colour: Black

•  Features:Integrated safety harness with twin loops for attaching the safety line and detachable crutch strap.

Reasons to Buy: The larger/longer bladder provides higher buoyancy and the smart outer casing looks stylish. It also comes in a range of specification levels to suit individual needs.

Reasons to Avoid: This test model version comes without a sprayhood or light which would be essential for any offshore or coastal use after dark. Make sure you opt for the higher spec model.

Verdict: This is without doubt a highly capable lifejacket. It fits well both shoreside and in the water. The extra buoyancy is noticeable in the longer bladder. We were unable to test the fully fledged offshore equipped lifejacket and if this lifejacket suits you, then make sure you opt for that extra specification.

Read the full Baltic Force review

Buy Baltic Force from tradeinn.com

best lifejackets for boaters, seago 3dynamic

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Seago 3Dynamic

Seago 3Dynamic

Score 62/100


•  Chest size: 55 to 140cm

•  Buoyancy: 300N

• Colour: Carbon/black

•  Features: Double crutch strap, pro sensor firing head, neoprene collar, harness included

Reasons to Buy: This lifejacket looks smart and generally well sculpted to form fit. The bladder has a crossover design to stop waves funneling into your face.

Reasons to Avoid: It is really difficult to re-pack after inflation/re-arming. It also has a poorly designed sprayhood, the light us poorly positioned and might be a bit snug on larger people.

Verdict: The Seago 3Dynamic looks to offer so much on paper but in practice we found it had one too many compromises for our tastes. It is comfortable, but repacking is a real faff. the buckle was fiddly and the sprayhood was subpar. A little more thought into the layout and practicalities of this lifejacket could turn it around though to be a solid contender.

Read the full Seago 3Dynamic review

Buy Seago 3Dynamic from eBay

best lifejackets for boaters, teamo backtow

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – TeamO backtow

TeamO Backtow

“Highest scoring on test”

Score 86/100

Reasons to Buy: This lifejacket has a smart sculpted design, excellent sprayhood and innovative design with backtow harness.

Reasons to Avoid: If you deploy the backtow, you’re going to need to know how to put that back together or take it to a service centre.

Verdict: A truly excellent lifejacket with innovation at its heart and the user practicality forefront.  The complexity of the backtow element means that rearming it in a hurry, unless you’re a dab hand already and have practiced shoreside, might leave you reaching for the spare lifejacket and sending this one off for someone else to do it for you.

Read the full TeamO Backtow review

Buy TeamO Backtow from promarinestore.co.uk

ocean safety sport pro adv best lifejackets for boaters

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Ocean Safety ADV Sport Pro

Ocean Safety Sport Pro 170 ADV

Score 78/100


• Colour: Carbon / Sky

•  Features: Pro sensor with indicator window, spray hood, storage pocket

Reasons to Buy: smart stylish design from a reputable brand, neat built in stowage pocket suitable for a PLB

Reasons to Avoid: small sprayhood feels claustrophobic and too tight around the head, the trigger toggle should have better stowage to avoid accidental trigger or to avoid unsafe tucking away by users.

Verdict: This is a comfortable, sturdy, good quality and relatively well specified lifejacket at a good price. It has some great features and comes as standard with the basic equipment for going out of sight of land at night. The crossover bladder is a good design to stop waves funneling into the face, but we would advise to upgrade the sprayhood and light position to have a better in-water performance should you ever need it.

Read the full Ocean Safety Sport Pro review

Buy Ocean Safety Sport Pro 170N ADV from marinestore.com

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Spinlock Vito Hammar

Spinlock Vito 170N Hammar

Full review coming soon…


• Buoyancy: 170N

•  Features: Pylon Lifejacket Light™, Lume-On™, Toggle attachment point for optional Chest Pack (DW-PCC)

Reasons to Buy: One of the best sprayhoods we’ve tested, low profile lifejacket casing, Hammar trigger means you can use this in wild sailing conditions without accidental triggering.

Reasons to Avoid: Hammar trigger means re-arming this is a faff. Quite rigid construction, might not fit smaller people as adjustment will go as small as a size 8 European female.

Verdict: This is used by a variety of professional teams, including Volvo ocean racers. The Hammar trigger mechanism is a matter for you to decide if it’s right for you. They do sell the Vito with the pro sensor trigger too. The over the head donning is a love it or loathe it style and whilst it can feel very secure and the harness loop is excellent, passing this over your head, large collar and other foulies in a rush can feel a bit claustrophobic. The back is low cut though and the sprayhood is stowed in a back panel keeping the bulk away from the collar area. It is an excellent lifejacket and has scored highly in our early test scores. The full test review is coming soon,

Buy Spinlock Vito 170N Hammar from thewetworks.co.uk

Ocean Lifejackets 270N +

The best lifejackets for boaters and sailors

Best lifejackets for boaters and sailors – Spinlock Deckvest 6d 275N

Spinlock Deckvest 6d 275N

Full review coming soon…


• Buoyancy: 170N

•  Features: Pro sensor automatic inflation, spinlock harness release system, structured spray hood

Reasons to Buy: It has a larger capacity bladder for superior righting and buoyancy. It can have HRS facility and is compatibility with other spinlock products.

Reasons to Avoid: It feels noticeably larger/bulkier than a 190N. It might impede access to liferaft if you are a smaller person.

Verdict: Our pool tester Phil noted how much confidence this lifejacket inspired in the water. The bladder is significantly larger and provides a much greater buoyancy and visibility. It is large though, so we don’t recommend this for day to day sailing. The weight of the lifejacket comes in at 1529grams, which is 200g more than the standard 170N deckvest. This might not seem a great deal but over the course of a day, wearing this might be quite fatiguing. Of course, if you are wearing a large immersion suit or other bulky clothes or dry suit for use in deep ocean conditions, you will be very glad of the extra this lifejacket offers.

 Buy Spinlock Deckvest 6D 275N from piratescave.co.uk

Our previously tested lifejackets from 2017 Group test

Baltic Race 150 best lifejackets

Baltic 150 Race SL lifejacket

Read the full review for the Baltic Race SL lifejacket


•  Size: ‎50-110 Kg

•  Features: Anti tangle back, padded shoulders, integrated safety harness, etro-reflective patches, whistle and detachable crutch strap

Reasons to Buy: It has good padding and a metal harness tether loop.

Reasons to Avoid: The lifejacket’s smaller buoyancy meant a slower roll over time.

Verdict: The padding was comfortable, although the inflation tube and light assembly inside the lifejacket sat over the collar bone, which could create a pressure point over time. Unlike the longer bladder of the other Baltic lifejackets, this had a shorter, higher bladder with more rounded lobes. The standard Baltic hood had a good support arch, but the elastic straps tended to slip off the bladder. It also let spray in.

Buy it now on Amazon

Crewsaver Egofit+ 190N best lifejackets

Crewsaver Ergofit+ 190N lifejacket

Read the full review of Crewsaver Ergofit 190


•  Buoyancy: ‎190N

•  Features: Three-layer cover, inflatable chin support, stainless steel buckle, AIS and MOB Lifesavers compatible

Reasons to Buy: Impressive buoyancy and has an excellent sprayhood.

Reasons to Avoid: It’s a little rigid and bulky.

Verdict: If performance in the water is the most important aspect of a lifejacket, the Ergofit+ 190N was streets ahead of the other lifejackets tested. It was one of the fastest to inflate, but more importantly it was a good second or two ahead on the rotation test. It was very difficult for the tester to get onto their front to begin the test at all, and they spun over in close to one second. The Crewsaver Ergofit+ 190N also produced the best freeboard figures with up to 4cm more than some of the other lifejackets.

Buy it now on eBay (marinesuperstore)

Buy it now from Gael Force Marine

Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race 170 Auto best lifejackets

Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race 170 Auto lifejacket

Read the full review of the Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race


•  Buoyancy: ‎170N

•  Features: Hammar Hydrostatic pressure automatic inflation sensor, SOLAS approved Reflective elements, 5000N reinforced grab loop

Reasons to Buy: The hammar has an auto activation function and is fast to inflate.

Reasons to Avoid: The thigh straps might not be for everyone and its buckles slip too easily.

Verdict: Hammar inflation and an inspection window make checking and maintaining the lifejacket simple. It sits flat against the body but includes space to add in an MOB beacon or PLB. The thigh straps are slightly more complex to fit, they need to be snug so they don’t slip down and limit movement. The lifejacket was the fastest to inflate on test (2017) The hood is well-made with a supporting arch and good ventilation at the sides and front, and well-located reflective strips.

Buy it now on Hellyhansen.com

PLastimo SL 180 best lifejackets

The back length is adjustable, one of only two lifejackets to offer this

Plastimo SL 180 lifejacket

Read the full review of the Plastimo SL 170


•  Buoyancy: ‎180N

•  Features: Double thigh support, retro-reflective tape, quick-closing zip

Reasons to Buy: The adjustable back, good maneuverability in the water and storage for MOB built-in make this a good lifejacket for your yacht.

Reasons to Avoid: It has a slightly disconcerting soft feel when inflated compared to other conventionally constructed lifejackets.

Verdict: With adjustable back length, (one of only a couple of lifejackets to offer this) and inspection windowvia dedicated zip opening and a separate stowage place for a personal beacon, this is a versatile lifejacket.

This jacket is designed to remain soft and flexible once inflated. We found this disconcerting initially as it felt like it had not fully inflated. The sewn-in sprayhood was easy to find with a string to pull forwards. The oral inflation tube was less simple to use.

Buy it now on tradeinn.com


Lifejackets group test – what we scored our lifejackets on

offshore lifejackets and liferaft

Adjust speed ease difficulty

Our testers checked how easy and quickly our lifejackets were able to change from full foulies, then down to a t-shirt then back again. The double adjuster was a popular method and was scored highly by our testers.

Fastening buckle ease with gloves

The ease with which we can fasten and unfasten the various buckles, including with gloves or cold hands. Seabelt style buckles were generally scored very highly.

Comfort men women body size

Baltic athena lifejacket fastening

Front cross-over design

The cut and design of lifejackets varies a lot. From high cut waistcoat styles that suited the men or wider shouldered and taller people and the longer in the body cut lifejackets tended to suit a slimmer person with a waist for the lifejacket to cinch into.

Practicality . bulk snagging

Waistband stowage

Some lifejackets have been well thought through. What do we do with the long surplus piece of webbing? what about all the flappy strappy bits? Are they neatly stowed? Lifejackets that had better stowage of surplus dangly bits were scored highly.

Manual inflated view and fitment

We tried all of the lifejackets shoreside, manually inflated and looked for the essential gear, whether it fell readily to hand and how the lifejacket fitted around the body in its fully inflated lifejaclet mode. A couple of the lifejackets had top up tubes that were a bit of a stretch to reach and some were difficult to locate the whistle or lifting strop.

Ease of checking and repacking

Crewsaver Crewfit 180 Pro repacking lifejacket

Repacking the lifejacket

Some of our lifejackets just slipped back into their casing without a fuss, others didn’t want to go back in without a bit of a wrestle. The velcro closure lifejackets are the easiest and the tightly packed ones with all the bells and whistles required a little more consideration to careful tucking and folding. Most had easy access to check the arming mechanism within a few brief seconds.


crewsaver lifejacket and sprayhood

Phil during the pool test with sprayhood deployed

Where a lifejacket was fitted with a sprayhood we scored it. Some sprayhood were considerably better designed than others. Of the coastal lifejackets on test the Crewsaver was outstanding.

Personal Beacon stowage

The offshore lifejackets should reasonably be expected to have adequate stowage provision for a personal locator beacon or AIS.  Some were much better equipped than others. The Ocean Safety Sport Pro ADV has a pocket built in, the Spinlock Deckvest 6D has an optional side pouch which is excellent.

In water testing

Plunge test

We tested every lifejacket in the pool and ran each one through basic personal sea survival drills, from manual inflation, auto inflation, swimming, rafting and climbing into a liferaft, we looked at the performance of all our best lifejackets for boaters in general use.

It is clear to see that all lifejackets are not made equal. Certainly not in how they feel from person to person.

Whilst all of our lifejackets on test performed well according to basic safety standards, they all have elements that could be tweeked and adjusted to be better functioning or designed and all of them have their unique selling points.

A final note from the Tech Editor : Fox Morgan

lifejacket familiarisation

My personal favourite lifejacket is the old Kru Sport, as it fits me so well. They no longer make this waistcoat style model, but the sprayhood and equipment storage capacity on this one is excellent. My AIS beacon fits on a webbing belt on the bladder. I familiarise myself with my lifejacket manually inflated once or twice a year or before every big offshore race. I inspect it on a regular basis and check the arming mechanism before every outing.

Once you have chosen the best lifejacket that suits your needs, make sure you get to know it well. Not just in it’s rolled away form, but as a lifejacket, inflated. Know where your essential safety kit is stowed. Where is the whistle and lifting strop? Put your lifejacket on and feel around for them. Store this in your memory. The least sensible time to be doing this for the first time is when you actually need them.

Our lifejacket testing team were:

Alex :  Professional Skipper of traditional sailing vessels (Charlestown Harbour)

Paula : Chief at Charlestown Harbour

Toni : Ex RNLI lifeaboatman, Ex Brixham fisherman, Professional skipper and owner of traditional sailing and fishing vessels

Phil : Ex Lifeboatman, Ex Brixham fisherman, Ex Navy Chief Engineer, Principle sea survival skills training officer, Professional Skipper and University HE lecturer.

Anna :  Clipper Sailing Crew and experienced offshore sailor/racer

James : Retired GP and experienced offshore sailor/racer

Mike : Outward bound sailing instructor, poolside safety and drills at Western Maritime Training

Senior staff writer Toby Heppel

Toby : Experienced sailor and dinghy racer, Senior writer at Future Marine Group

tech editor Fox Morgan

Fox : Professional sailing skipper, experienced offshore sailor/racer, Senior HE University lecturer, Tech Ed at Future Marine Group

Our lifejacket testing was held over several days.

lifejackets photographed in a wooden dinghy

Our dry testing day was hosted by Charlestown Harbour.

We tested all of our lifejackets for the ease of adjustment from wearing it over bulky clothes to t-shirts and then back to bulky clothes.

We looked at how easy or difficult our lifejackets were to fasten and unfasten and then try that again with cold hands or with gloves on.

We looked at the fitment of crotch straps and for any loose or dangling straps or toggles that might get snagged by accident when worn in a marine environment.

inflated lifejackets lined up on a beach at charlestown harbour

We manually inflated all of our lifejackets and assessed their onboard equipment and location. Some lifejackets have the minimum or lifting strop, whistle and top up tube, others have spray hoods fitted and lights. We assessed how easy those items were to find and use when wearing the lifejacket inflated.

Where suitable, we looked at where a personal locator beacon or personal ais beacon would fit on or within the lifejacket casing or bladder.

We packed away our lifejackets and assessed how easy or difficult they were to stow back into their casings. While we were doing this, we also looked at how easy it would be to rearm a lifejacket if it had been triggered.

pool test with liferaft and lifejackets

Our Pool testing day was held in Plymouth Life Centre Diving Pool and organised by Western Maritime Training.

In the pool we had a liferaft set in place for us to run through standard sea survival drills and practice. Western Maritime Training kindly set the pool up for us as per standard STCW personal survival techniques training days.

We highly recommend that anyone who spends time heading out of sight of land for leisure or pleasure should consider doing this course.

While we were in the pool area, we assessed the manual trigger mechanism and auto inflate mechanism of lifejackets. How hard is it to pull the trigger to activate the gas canister or when auto inflating, did the lifejacket turn us over quickly?

We assessed the comfort of the lifejacket when inflated and how easy or difficult they are to readjust whilst in the water. such as tightening crotch straps or cinching in waistbands.

Where lifejackets were fitted with a sprayhood, we looked at how easy it was to locate and pull over the bladder, checking its effectiveness/practicality.

lifejackets in survival ring

We formed a human safety circle and assessed what practical grab holds our lifejackets had, then we climbed into a liferaft, also checking for practical use and ability to physically handle a person giving them assistance to enter the liferaft.

After testing

We hung up our inflated lifejackets to dry and confirmed that all remained fully inflated for well over 48hours. In fact all of our test lifejackets remained inflated for two weeks, by which time only one of them had slightly started to soften.

What’s the scores?

Each lifejacket was independently scored by members of the testing team.

We took those scores and averaged them for each criteria.

We added up the individual element scores and converted this to a percentage rating.

Throughout the process all notes were taken from our testers and those comments can be seen in each review and within our buyers guide.


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Note: all of our lifejackets tested conform to either  ISO 12402-3 (coastal/non harness) or iSO 12401 (harness versions), and this means that they all meet the basic safety standards you would expect from a lifejacket.
In order to conduct unbiased testing, our test team were given full freedom to test and evaluate the lifejackets presented to them on the tests days. Their opinions are made in a professional capacity and skippers and end users of the products and are a result of direct hands on experience. This does not override any official safety rating or certification.
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