Best Life Vest for Non-Swimmers of 2021: Top 6 Picks

Last update: 2021-10-13

Everyone has to put on safety gear when they’re in the water, especially if you cannot swim. In case there’s an accident and you fall into the water, safety gear will save your life. One of the most basic, common safety items is the life vest.

Before going out there and have fun in the water, you need the best life vest for non-swimmers with you.

Here are the best life vests for non-swimmers (Oct 2021 Update):

  • Best for Tubing: STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.)
  • Best for Boating: Airhead Trend Life Vest
  • Best for Snorkeling: O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest
  • Best for Large-Framed People: Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest
  • Best for Kayaking: Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest
  • Best for Sailing: SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket
6 Best Life Vests for Non-Swimmers
Best for Tubing
STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.)
    Best for Boating
    Airhead Trend Life Vest
      Best for Snorkeling
      O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest
        Best for Large-Framed People
        Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest
          Best for Kayaking
          Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest
            Best for Sailing
            SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket

              Best for Tubing: STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.)

              STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.)
              STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.)
              Pros
              • Comfortable to wear – lightweight and skin-friendly materials
              • Not ride up to the user’s ears or neck – good fitting with three buckles and foam padding
              • Easy to move – open-sided design
              Cons
              • Need to be sized more correctly
              • Seem to run on the small size

              Bought this to test for tubing and it was unexpectedly good. Unlike other candidates, the materials of STEARNS Youth Boating Vest aren’t rough at all so it is very comfortable to wear and kids don’t ask to take it off.

              The three provided buckles come in handy for fitting. It didn’t ride up around the user’s neck, fitted finely, and kept his head above the water.

              It is also lightweight and allows for plenty of arm movement to go tubing with no difficulty.

              Take note that this life vest offers three sizes with different specific chest measurements, all are provided in the product’s description. Don’t forget to consult to find the most suitable for your kid.

              STEARNS Youth Boating Vest (50-90 lbs.) Specifications

              Weight

              10.9 ounces

              Material

              Nylon

              Accommodate

              50-90lbs

              Highlight Features

              lightweight and skin-friendly materials; three buckles and foam padding; open-sided design

              If you’re finding a good life vest – whether for kids, youth, or small adults – for tubing, then this is an excellent choice.

              Best for Boating: Airhead Trend Life Vest

              Airhead Trend Life Vest
              Airhead Trend Life Vest
              Pros
              • Ideal for boating - closed-sided construction
              • Good fit - a 4-belt design with various size options and quick-release buckles
              • Durable and comfortable – stain-resistant, UV-protected 200-Denier Polyester & lightweight Poly-E foam
              Cons
              • Will be hot to use in the summer - No mesh
              • No under-strap

              For boating, the required life vest, especially for non-swimmers, is a bit different. It must be closed-sided construction and body-wrapping fit because you’ll sit on a boat for hours.

              Under such consideration, we finally pick the Airhead Trend Life Vest as the most optimal selection. It boasts a 4-belt design with various size options and quick-release buckles to ensure the best fit.

              The material used is 200-Denier Polyester which can resist UV rays effectively as well as stains to last longer. It’s also soft and skin-friendly.

              Padded inside for extra comfort and souped-up fitting is lightweight Poly-E foam. No mesh side, which results in the lack of breathability in this life jacket. If you’re wondering about its safety, it is USCG Approved Type III.

              Airhead Trend Life Vest Specifications

              Weight

              1.3 Pounds

              Material

              Soft UV and stain-resistant 200-Denier Polyester

              Accommodate

              over 90 lbs.

              Highlight Features

              closed-sided construction; a 4-belt design with various size options and quick-release buckles; stain-resistant, UV-protected 200-Denier Polyester

              Testers found the Airhead Trend Life Vest to be the most suitable option for boating due to its excellently closed-sided design and body-wrapping fit with comfort.

              Best for Snorkeling: O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest

              O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest
              O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest
              Pros
              • Minimize bulk effectively yet still give a snug fit – compact design & built-in expansion panels
              • Provide full mobility - anatomical flex points and segmented foam core
              • Safe and reliable - USCG Approved
              Cons
              • Run big
              • Color difference
              • A bit hot

              Don’t worry if you feel this Neoprene vest a bit loose when trying it for the first time. Once it gets wet, the built-in expansion panels will be activated to hug you better.

              This special design is to minimize the bulk that most others usually have, therefore, giving the user full mobility.

              This is also the reason why we highly recommend it for people who want extra room to move while joining water sports, like snorkeling, waterskiing, wake sports, or swimming.

              The secret for such wonderful performance all lies in its anatomical flex points and segmented foam core. This brilliant combo allows for unrestricted movement under the water.

              Of course, it is USCG Approved already.

              O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest Specifications

              Weight

              2.5 pounds

              Material

              Nylon

              Accommodate

              200-250 pounds

              Highlight Features

              USCG Approved; anatomical flex points and segmented foam core; built-in expansion panels

              We approached the O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest with skepticism, but testers quickly became enamored with it for its full mobility given with no unrestricted movement under the water. So, for snorkeling or other water sports, this is unrivaled.

              Best for Large-Framed People: Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest

              Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest
              Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest
              Pros
              • Definitely suitable for large-framed people – wide size chart strategically placed drain holes and oversized armholes, & a 325-pound load weight
              • Comfortable fit - four anatomically cut 1.5” belts
              • Dependable to use - Meeting US Coast Guard standards
              Cons
              • No coverage in the front chest
              • Not for tall people – a bit short

              There are a lot of good reasons for making this life best the best choice for large-framed people. First off, it provides you with a huge size chart from XS to 6XL.

              Secondly, this model emphasizes strategically placed drain holes and oversized armholes for better mobility. There also comes with four 1.5” belts with anatomical cut and heavy-duty construction for better fit and secure.

              Last up, it is able to hold a 325-pound load weight (as a maximum) to float on the water easily, all thanks to the high-quality polyethylene foam flotation interior.

              Meeting US Coast Guard standards, it is even more reliable to use.

              Body Glove Method USCG Approved Nylon Life Vest Specifications

              Weight

              1 pound

              Material

              Super-duty nylon & 100-percent polyethylene foam

              Accommodate

              325 pounds

              Highlight Features

              Meeting US Coast Guard standards; four anatomically cut 1.5” belts; wide size chart strategically placed drain holes and oversized armholes, & a 325-pound load weight

              Don’t quickly disappoint if you still don’t find a suitable life vest for your large-framed torso, this is our proud recommendation.

              Best for Kayaking: Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest

              Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest
              Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest
              Pros
              • Ideal for kayaking – high foam back and mesh lower back
              • Adjustable and fit well – six adjustment straps
              • Lightweight and compact – low-profile design
              • Convenient - the handy pocket upfront
              Cons
              • A bit short
              • Wish it was a little bit thinner in the front

              The Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest is our top choice for kayaking.

              We love it for not only its compact and lightweight low-profile design but also the six adjustable straps and thoughtfully breathable mesh lower back added.

              Making it outstanding from other counterparts is the reasonable shoulder pads and high foam back to fit high back seats nicely. As providing plenty of room to spare, it is comfy enough for kayaking.

              Regardless, the pocket up front is great for stashing a phone on a leash.

              Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest Specifications

              Weight

              0.50 pounds

              Material

              foam

              Accommodate

              90lbs

              Highlight Features

              high foam back and mesh lower back; six adjustment straps; low-profile design

              The added high foam back and mesh lower back allows for a tremendous amount of airflow with no compromise of the fitting, making this life vest a great choice for kayaking.

              Best for Sailing: SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket

              SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket
              SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket
              Pros
              • Ideal for sailing - an open-sided design with 3 adjustment straps & quick release buckles
              • Durable and long-lasting – UV-protected, stain-resistant 200-Denier Polyester
              • Kids love wearing it – stylish design and attractive color
              Cons
              • It runs a little short in the torso

              This life jacket will not prevent your kids from easily sailing. It highlights an open-sided design with 3 adjustment straps and quick-release buckles on the sides.

              With such good fitting, it will definitely hold kids upright in the water without getting high on their necks.

              Regardless, it is made of 200-Denier Polyester for soft hand-feel, stain resistance, and UV protection to not just last longer but also make you feel more comfortable. Take note that this design is suitable for kids from 30 to 50 pounds.

              A big bonus is that It has a very stylish look so kids will not mind wearing it at all.

              SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket Specifications

              Weight

              11.84 Ounces

              Material

              Soft UV and stain-resistant 200-Denier Polyester

              Accommodate

              30-50 Pounds

              Highlight Features

              an open-sided design with 3 adjustment straps & quick release buckles; UV-protected, stain-resistant 200-Denier Polyester

              The SportStuff Stars and Stripes Life Jacket is the new winner of our Top Pick for Sailing, due to its good fit and comfortable adjustment.

              How To Choose The Best Life Vest for Non-Swimmers?

              Material

              Material is always one of the most important things to consider when buying any products. In this case, the material determines a life vest’s quality. There are a few common materials for life vests, including polyester, nylon, polyethylene, and neoprene.

              Polyester and nylon are lightweight, durable, and waterproof.

              On the other hand, Polyethylene (or PE) is often used as foam for its comfy, reliability, and the ability to stretch.

              Neoprene helps prevent punctures and tears when you’re swimming. And it’s considered the best material for a life vest.

              Fit

              Like any other clothing item, a life vest must fit your body properly.

              You should check if a life vest has an adjustable waist strap, leg strap, crotch strap, etc. The reason is that if you can adjust your life vest, it will fit your body better and won’t likely slip out. Hence, you will be safe.

              Size

              When you wear a life vest, its size plays a role in determining your experience in the water.

              If a life vest is too short, it can rub your body and hurt your skin. Meanwhile, if it’s too long, the life vest will prevent your mobility, restricting your arm movements and may poke your face.

              One way to choose the best size is based on your chest size and weight and make sure it’s not too tight or too loose. You should try on multiple life vests until you find the right size.

              Which Brands Make The Best Life Vest for Non-Swimmers?

              STEARNS

              This is a major brand in manufacturing outdoor products like life jackets, plastic boat interiors, and water ski belts. It has become the leading brand in the life vest business.

              Airhead Trend

              This brand offers a wide range of products for your outdoor activities, including towables, watermat, life jackets and PDFs, animal floats, airbends, and safety masks. If you are also looking at outdoor fun for your family, this is a go-to brand.

              O'Neill

              Founded in 1952, it’s initial products were surfboard and surfwear. This brand is a good place to start in case you want to buy products for the entire family since it offers items for women, men, and children.

              Body Glove Method

              From the first product, the “body glove,” in 1953, this brand has evolved over decades of innovating products and understanding customers’ needs. It’s specialized in a wetsuit but also offers life vests and PDFs, among other items.

              Onyx

              Onyx offers inflatable life jackets with the promise to offer you trustworthy, dependable, and reliable gear to optimized your experience outside. Its product portfolio includes jackets, bibs, parkas, boot insulators, pants, beanies, and gloves that feature ArcticShield heat retention, etc.

              FAQs

              Why are inflatable life jackets not recommended for non-swimmers?

              Inflatable life jackets are not safe for non-swimmers because it takes them some time to inflate when submerged in the water. They are also not suitable for children younger than 16 years old.

              Can you swim with a life vest?

              In fact, you are recommended to wear a life vest all the time when you’re in, on, or near the water.

              How much weight will a life jacket hold up?

              A life jacket should be able to hold up from 7 to 12 pounds so as to keep you afloat.

              Do I have to wear a life vest when kayaking?

              Most of the 50 states in the US have laws that effectively require you to wear a life vest when you’re on a kayak. So the answer is yes, you have to wear a life vest when kayaking.

              Can you drown with a life jacket on?

              It’s nearly impossible that you can drown when wearing a life jacket because they are made to keep your airway or mouth out of the water and must be verified before they can go on sale.

              However, if your life jacket is too loose, you may slip out of it when falling into the water.

              Conclusion

              To be able to choose the best life vest for non-swimmers, you need to bear in mind that material, fit, and size are the most important factors you have to take into account.

              These factors will determine the quality, safety level, and comfort of your experience.

              Therefore, don’t get into the water unless you have got the perfect choice for yourself.

              Bryan Listor
              Bryan Listor

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