Best Life Jackets for Jet Skis

The first step in finding the best jet ski life jackets is to consider the material and size. We’ve looked at the most reviewed and highly rated life jackets on the market and selected the best ones—could one of them suit you? Let’s find out!

Best Life Jackets for Jet Skis Faetured Photo

Whether you’re out in the ocean waves, river canals, or serene lakes, jet skiing is one way to make the most out of your time in the open water. PWS like a jet ski allows you to jump on the waves, make a 360 turn, or go full power. It’s easily one of the most exciting aquatic sports you can enjoy with your family and friends.

But, even in the midst of fun, you should always consider your safety. It’s so easy for problems to arise while in the water, and next thing you know, you’re in big trouble. And that’s when vital safety gear like a life jacket comes in handy.

The best life jackets for jet skis should comply with the United States Coast Guard or USCG-approved. It needs to be light and comfy (unless you enjoy the inconvenience of wearing a bulky, heavy life jacket). And of course, it must be stylish.

You should probably prioritize functionality over looks but, hey, why not have both? We’ve picked a variety of styles to match a range of tastes. Some of the life jackets in our selection have lovely color combinations and patterns, while others offer simple designs that look great when worn.

Keeping these in mind, we’ve rounded some of the best jet ski life jackets you can check out. We’ll dive into them shortly!

Why Should You Wear a Life Jacket for Jet Skiing?

They are called life jackets for a reason. It’s just as important as wearing a seatbelt in a moving car. Riding a jet ski is inherently risky. You will encounter waves and chances are that you may clash against them. It gets particularly dangerous if it’s operated by an inexperienced boater.

A life jacket will keep you afloat in case you fall off. It’s especially helpful in case you become unconscious while on the water. In fact, wearing a lifejacket or a personal flotation device (PFD) can prevent 90 percent of boating-related drownings. Aside from safety, it’s required by law in most states.

Our Top Picks

Best OverallO'Neill Men's SuperliteO’Neill Men’s Superlite• Lightweight and comfy
• Made of Nylon
• 1.5-wide webbing belts
• Has quick release Delrin buckles
• USCG-approved
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Runner Up, Best OverallO'Neill Men's ReactorO’Neill Men’s Reactor• Minimal bulk design, comfy fit
• Made of Nylon and neoprene
• Has buckles, zipper closure
• USCG-approved
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Best for ChildrenO'Neill Child ReactorO’Neill Child Reactor• Fits kids between 30 and 50 lbs
• Made of Nylon and neoprene
• With adjustable leg strap
• Minimal bulk design
• Quick release safety buckles
• Has a zipper safety tab
• With a mesh for drainage
• USCG-approved
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Best for WomenO'Brien Women's ImpulseO’Brien Women’s Impulse• Soft, lightweight, breathable and eco-friendly
• Made of Neoprene
• With a zip closure and 2 belts
• USCG-approved
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Best for FlexibilityBody Glove Men's PhantomBody Glove Men’s Phantom• Flexible, lightweight, and comfy
• Made of Yamamoto Neoprene
• Advanced air foam technology
• Has a lumbar protection pad
• With front zip and 1.5-wide belts
• Has quick release buckles
• Concealed back side straps
• USCG-approved
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Best Universal SizeStearns Adult ClassicStearns Adult Classic• Comfy, universal size
• Made of Nylon
• Has three, simple buckles
• USCG-approved
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Great OptionAirhead Men's CAMO CoolAirhead Men’s CAMO Cool• Quick-drying and super soft
• Made of Kwik-Dry Neolite
• Side release buckles and zipper
• Less bulky design
• USCG-approved
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The Best Life Jackets for Jet Skis

When going on a jet ski, you’ll want a comfy life jacket. But, with so many alternatives available, choosing one might be challenging. We did the work for you and selected the best jet ski life jackets!

O’Neill Men’s Superlite – Best Overall

O'Neill Men's Superlite

The O’Neill Men’s Superlite is a popular choice among surfers. It’s not only stylish, but it’s also incredibly practical. This life jacket has four adjustable straps that adapt to your body and quick-release buckles for added convenience.

The O’Neill Superlite, as the name implies, is also lightweight and comfy. One of our favorite features is the eye hook on its bottom. It allows you to attach your jet ski engine kill cord to it. You can tell it’s designed with riders in mind!

We also appreciate its ability to repel water, which means that it doesn’t hold water and makes you feel drenched. The secret? It’s in the construction that helps effectively resist water splash.

It’s not flexible, however, if you need reliable wind protection and a life jacket that fits snugly, this could be the one. You might want to ask O’Neill a lot of questions though since their sizing tends to confuse wearers.

• Stylish and durable
• Not spongy, which means it doesn’t hold water
• Has lanyard for convenient hooking
• Fairly priced
• USCG approved
• Lacks flexibility
• Sizing can be tricky; some users say it runs smaller

O’Neill Men’s Reactor – Runner Up, Best Overall

O'Neill Men's Reactor

Another jet ski life jacket that bested other PFDs in the market is the O’Neill Men’s Reactor. In addition, this life jacket provides a great bang for the buck. It’s designed for high-speed water activities like jet skiing, water skiing, wake sports, and tubing.

The O’Neill Men’s Reactor is made of Nylon and designed with a segmented foam core and anatomical flex points. These features are worth the appreciation since they allow you to move freely. Its quick-release safety buckles and heavy-duty front zipper provide unmatched security.

Many PFDs are just too heavy. This life jacket still boasts a minimal bulk design that allows for maximum maneuverability. Its expansion panels also allow for a comfy, relaxed fit for thrill-seekers who like to move around.

It’s approved for use as a personal flotation device by the United States Coast Guard while still being non-restrictive to the wearer. It also lets you move about on the handlebars.

The catch with this PFD is that you might find the stomach area padding too thick. While the average adult with a few extra pounds around the belly would welcome the space, some wearers find it uncomfortable. It is also on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it’s an overall superb choice!

• Durable construction and clever design
• Allows for great mobility
• Heavy-duty security features
• Offers great value for money
• USCG-approved
• Some wearers find the padding too thick and uncomfortable
• Pricier than other life jackets on the market

O’Neill Child Reactor – Best for Children

O'Neill Child Reactor

Children love having fun in the open water just as much as we do. If you’re taking your little one out on a jet ski, make sure they’re wearing the proper safety gear. The O’Neill Child Reactor is one of our favorites because it’s nice and buoyant—all thanks to the closed-cell PVC marine foam!

This Nylon life vest is US Coast Guard approved and is designed to fit little ones between 30 and 50 lbs. It also features an adjustable leg strap for a snug and secure fit. With its minimal bulk design, it’s very comfy and allows for easy mobility.

One of the features that make this PFD one of the best life jackets for children is the level of security it offers. It boasts quick-release dual safety buckles for seamless harnessing as well as a zipper safety tab for added security. Many users appreciate and find the strap around their pelvic area to be really safe.

It also boasts a durable exterior. We appreciate the mesh drain that comes with it, making draining water a breeze. The material is of good quality and may be well worth the extra cost for comfort and peace of mind.

Some users find it running too small for their little ones, though. But keep in mind that weight doesn’t look the same for everyone. Others also find the vest a bit heavy, so there’s that.

Despite these slight fitting issues, we’re confident about the durability of the O’Neill Child Reactor.

• Durable construction
• Offers snug yet comfy fit
• Has mesh for easy drainage
• Comes with tough buckles and zipper for optimum security
• USCG approved
• Sizing inconsistencies
• Some users find the life jacket a but heavy

O’Brien Women’s Impulse – Best for Women

O'Brien Women's Impulse

Women can wear a life jacket designed for men, but a men’s PFD isn’t always all that stylish. And that’s where the O’Brien Women’s Impulse comes in handy.

It’s one of the best life jackets for women, featuring a zipper and adjustable straps to ensure a good fit. This life jacket can fit you snugly but comfortably so you don’t feel like you’re floating around. And you know you got a good, dependable life jacket when it’s USCG approved!

The O’Brien Women’s Impulse is made of Neoprene outer layer for a more comfy gear. What we love about this women’s vest is its BioLite construction—it’s soft, lightweight, breathable, and eco-friendly. Its bright purple color also contrasts well with black, which makes it a very stylish life jacket.

One thing to keep in mind is that this Neo-style life jacket may get too tight if not properly fitted. Many users also complain about the sizes running small even though they got the correct size. This life jacket comes in sizes ranging from small to XL.

• Durable and stylish design
• Zipper and adjustable straps for a good fit
• Form-fitting but comfy
• Eco-friendly
• Fair priced
• USCG approved
• Might fit too tightly if not worn correctly
• Some users claim it fits small even though they got the right size

Body Glove Men’s Phantom – Best for Flexibility

Body Glove Men's Phantom

This has to be one of the coolest-looking life jackets we’ve seen so far. The Body Glove Men’s Phantom is another stylish option that offers more than meets the eye. While it’s labeled as a men’s life jacket, we consider it a unisex vest.

The Phantom combines comfort, fashion, and functionality. It boasts a sturdy Yamamoto neoprene external layer and beveled soft PVC front foam flotation with innovative air foam technology for added comfort.

It also has a slew of features we appreciate, such as spandex linings, a lumbar protection pad, and larger armholes for extra movement. This Neo-style, bright orange life jacket provides you with overall safety with a zip front and two heavy-duty 1.5-inch belts.

It’s cleverly designed with back-side straps and strategically placed drain holes that allow you to remove water from the PFD. Plus, it’s USCG-approved.

According to the reviews we’ve read, it’s truly a body glove—it fits snugly while still allowing you to move freely. It’s also so light that one user thought they were receiving an empty package from Amazon.

On the flip side, incorrect sizing seems to be a common issue with many life jackets. Some people complain that it runs too small. If you are taller, it may be better to up the size, though it might result in a less hugging vest.

• Offers great flexibility
• Durable and stylish design
• Innovative air foam technology provides extra comfort
• Super lightweight
• Cleverly designed with concealed draining holes
• Body-hugging and comfy
• USCG approved
• Runs smaller to some users

Stearns Adult Classic – Best Universal Size

Stearns Adult Classic

If you’re looking for a universal size life jacket for your upcoming jet ski excursion, the Stearns Adult Classic may be a good option. It features a classic design that serves a function.

Rather than the more common wrap-around style, this vest is open on the sides, something that many users prefer. The lack of foam on the sides allows for unrestricted arm motions, which we appreciate. And since it doesn’t have a side foam, the life jacket is breathable.

It’s made of durable Nylon and has three straightforward buckles. This universal life jacket is designed to suit most adults weighing 90 pounds or more and having a chest size of 30 to 52 inches. And much like all the vests on our list, it’s USCG approved.

The catch with the Stearns is that its adjustable straps don’t tighten enough so it might be too loose on your body. Since you can’t tighten the straps, it might end up riding quite high when you sit down.

Despite the fact that it is a universal size life jacket, some users will not fit in it, which is to be expected. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation!

• Universal size
• Offers unrestricted mobility
• Durable and breathable design
• Affordable price
• USCG approved
• Straps don’t tighten enough
• Doesn’t fit all adult sizes despite being a universal PFD

Airhead Men’s CAMO Cool – Great Option

Airhead Men's CAMO Cool

Just because it’s the last on the list doesn’t mean it can’t compete with the other life jackets we’ve featured. In fact, the Airhead Men’s CAMO Cool is one of our favorites for its functionality and cool design.

We love its modern camo-inspired pattern with multi-dimensional blue, gray, and white tones. The black areas break up the pattern nicely, keeping it looking clean and stylish. And yes, we can’t get enough of the design!

On the functional side, this life jacket is made of durable Kwik-Dry Neolite and is lightweight. Its buoyancy aid from Airhead dries fast, making it ideal if you wish to use it and then carry it around without the mess of water that comes with other life jackets.

The front zippered fastening provides a typical vest style. With quick-release buckles, you can easily remove the life jacket, while the tag-free design ensures maximum comfort.

Another thing we appreciate about this life jacket is its less bulky design, which allows for a wider range of motion and a faster response. This personal flotation device complies with USCG standards.

The CAMO Cool may be too small or too tight for some users. If you are undecided or in between sizes, we recommend going up a size.

• Cool looking design
• Durable, lightweight, and comfy
• Less bulky design offers easier mobility
• Dries quickly
• Offers great value for money
• USCG-approved
• Runs too small or tight on some wearers

Choosing the Best Jet Ski Life Jackets

When shopping for a dependable life jacket, there are a few things you need to look at to make sure you’re getting the best. Things like materials and size are a good place to start. Let’s delve a little more into these.

Consider the material.

When it comes to the life jacket’s construction, you are essentially looking at two main materials: Nylon and Neoprene.

Neoprene vs. Nylon

Neoprene is far more popular since it is quite pleasant to wear and keeps you warm. When it gets wet, a neoprene vest becomes softer and comfier, and it gives slight flexibility. It does get heavy when wet, though, and they tend to cost more than Nylon life jackets

Neoprene life jackets usually have a front zipper as well as two front buckles for a custom, tight fit.

Nylon life jackets, on the other hand, offer no stretch qualities. These life jackets will fit the same whether you’re in or out of the water. A Nylon life jacket will be your option if you want simplicity and value for money.

Consider the life jacket’s size.

The best life jackets for jet skis should fit you as if it’s tailored to your size. We recommend that you take accurate measurements of yourself. And since you’ll be wearing your life jacket for hours, it should fit you snugly but not too tightly that it feels constricting.

Luckily, there are life jackets designed for both men and women, even children. Universal size life jackets, like the Stearns Adult Classic, often allow you to select the size you need. It also comes in an oversized variation for larger adults.

Types of jet ski life jackets

You can choose from inflatable life jackets, vest-style life jackets, as well as simple foam-filled life vests. PFDs are available in a range of styles. You should pick one that best suit your activity or boating situations:

Type I

These life jackets have the most buoyancy of over 20 lbs. They are particularly intended for offshore use. Often awkward to wear, however, they offer the unique benefit of flipping an unconscious person face-up in the water.

Type II

These life jackets are also designed to flip an unconscious person face-up. They typically have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lbs and are primarily used for nearshore boating.

Type II life jackets aren’t very stylish, though. But they have long been a staple among boaters wanting to comply with the US Coast Guard safety regulations.

Type III

These life jackets are called “ski vests.” They also provide 15.5 lbs of buoyancy. Their comfy, form-fitting design makes them an ideal option for watersports like jet skiing.

Type III jackets usually have a front entry with a buckle or perhaps a buckle-and-zipper closure. The caveat with such a type of jacket is that they’re intended for conscious riders who have a good probability of being rescued. It doesn’t guarantee to turn your face up in the water if you’re unconscious.

Type IV

These PFDs are known as “throwables.” They often come in the form of a ring or flat cushion that you can toss to a person who falls into the water suddenly. Instead of wearing them, you’re supposed to hold on to them. Type IV life jackets provide a minimum buoyancy of 16.5 pounds.

Make sure to not use a dedicated throwable as a seat cushion, even if it looks the part. This approach will damage the foam and lessen the amount of buoyancy with time.

Type V

Type V life jackets are multi-purpose PFDs. They’re often coupled with flotation coats, rafting vests, and sometimes even sailboard harnesses. You should only use them for their intended purpose.

What else?

You might also look into getting a safety whistle, a neoprene vest beneath to minimize chafing, or a nightlight if you plan to ride at night. We also recommend getting a few extra life jackets. So, if your family and friends want to go jet skiing with you, they can have safety gear too.

Best Life Jackets for Jet Skis FAQs

What is the difference between men’s and women’s life jackets?

Life jackets, like clothing, are designed differently for men and women. The main difference is a woman’s life jacket often has smaller armholes, and chest area, and is just overall smaller as you would expect.

There’s a great advantage of getting a man’s life jacket, though. If you’re a woman, you can wear men’s life jackets. However, only women can wear life jackets that are made for them—the colors should give you a clue!

What is the best life jacket for jet skiing?

Based on the ratings and reviews we’ve gathered from actual users, O’Neill’s Superlite and Reactor seem to be the best jet ski life jackets on the market. These life jackets offer unrivaled durability and performance that many other vests on the market can’t.

They’re both stylish. With clever designs, these life jackets let you do more while on the water. Although the Superlite sits at a more affordable price (which is why it’s on the top of our list), the Reactor offers security features that make it well worth the investment. Both jackets are USCG-approved.

What is the disadvantage of a Type 3 PFD?

Type III flotation aids’ disadvantage is that they’re not suitable for rough water. To prevent being face down in the water, you may have to tilt your head back.

How much buoyancy do I need in a life jacket?

Flotation or buoyancy is the force (measured in pounds) necessary to maintain a person’s head and chin above the water. Most individuals require only an additional 7 to 12 pounds to stay afloat.

What do you wear on a jet ski?

Gearing up for jet skiing is important in keeping you safe. You can wear wetsuits, board shorts, bathers, and a life jacket. A tight-fitting hat or helmet that won’t blow off when jet skiing is another thing to consider.

Can you use an inflatable life jacket on a jet ski?

The most vital feature of inflated life jackets is that they are comfy all day on the water. Keep in mind that inflatable life jackets are typically not recommended for use by children under 16 years old. In addition, you shouldn’t use inflatable life jackets on PWC or while water skiing.

What type of PFD is approved for PWC?

Each person riding a PWC and being towed behind a vessel must have a USCG-approved wearable Type I, II, or III PFD.

Let’s Get to the Bottom Line

If you want to have fun while staying safe on the water, you’ll need protective gear like a life jacket. It also keeps you on the good side with the law of most states.

But which is the best jet ski life jacket?

Truth is, you’ll need to decide depending on how frequently, how long, and how aggressively you ride a jet ski. While there’s a lifejacket for everyone, make sure that the one you pick is durable, easy to use, and the right size.

But, whichever brand and model you pick from our list, we can confidently say that each life vest will keep you safe. Good luck!

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