How do I decide which life jacket to buy?
This question has been asked by various sailing magazines, all of which come to very different conclusions. In life jacket tests, the various models were evaluated based on various criteria. The following factors were included in the evaluation: buoyancy, activation, cartridge inspection window, lifebelt, harness, harness fastener, crotch strap, spray cap, signal light, weight, freeboard and wearing comfort.
In offshore and coastal areas, the use of an automatic life jacket is recommended. These models have much higher buoyancy than foam life jackets and are therefore more suitable for use at sea.
We compare our top sellers in the 275 N buoyancy class and 150 N buoyancy classes. We looked at what accessories come with the life jacket as standard, how well it fits and what is the cheapest automatic life jacket. The test winner is shown in our comparison table.
If you want to find out more about buoyancy class, be sure to check out our guide "How do I find the perfect life jacket?".
Our assessment categories
- Customer popularity (bought and recommended by customers the most)
- Best value for money (lowest price with best features)
- Top product (best features regardless of price)
150 N automatic life jackets in the test
Automatic life jackets with 150 N buoyancy are suitable for almost all areas of use. They’re a good choice in coastal waters, on yachts or motor boats. However, on high seas and in rougher conditions, you should opt for a life jacket with more buoyancy, as 150 N jackets are not able to flip the person over in the water if he or she is wearing heavy oilskins. We compare our bestsellers and TOP life jackets for you:
How are life jackets tested?
Since most manufacturers test their life jackets under very different conditions, any direct comparison is often difficult. In addition to its release system, probably the most important feature of a life jacket is its ability to turn an unconscious person in the water. If a person goes overboard, the life jacket should turn the person onto their back and prevent them from drowning. In the best case scenario, this should be possible even if the person is dressed from head to toe in sailing clothing.
But this is where the problem begins. Most life jackets are not tested under these "original" conditions, and although the manufacturers' specifications provide information on newtons, i.e., the buoyancy force, the "naked" body weight of the wearer should not be the main point of reference here. More important is the actual body weight. And this increases as soon as more clothes are worn. Water and air that has accumulated between the body and clothing can also impede the jacket's ability turn a person who has fallen overboard. So even the best life jackets will fail if they are not properly tested. Our comparison also shows that the best life jacket is not necessarily the most expensive.
We have compared various well-known manufacturers of automatic life jackets with 275 N, mid-range life jackets with 175 N buoyancy and test foam life jackets.
This also includes looking at both the features and fit of the life jackets. Regarding buoyancy, trigger mechanism etc., we based our analysis on the "Yacht" test for top-of-the-range life jackets from issue 23/2019 and the comparison of life jackets with 150 N from 01.10.2020. (Source: yacht.de)
275 N automatic life jackets in the test
275N life jackets are designed to have enough force to turn even those wearing heavy oilskins safely on their backs after they have gone overboard. In our comparison you will find the 275N Yacht test winner compared with our customer favourites and recommendations:
The foam life jackets in the test
Foam bouyancy aids are the classic life jacket. Classic life jackets usually have a buoyancy of 50 - 100 N. They are therefore not life jackets as such, but more buoyancy or flotation aids. They are usually not able to turn people who have gone overboard onto their backs. Nevertheless, these PFDs are popular and widely used. In our test, we have listed the best foam life jackets.
What does a good life jacket cost?
A basic distinction is usually made between life jackets, i.e., automatic and semi-automatic, and buoyancy aids, i.e., foam life jackets.
Prices of life jackets and buoyancy aids vary between 40€ and 400€. You should always first consider how you will be using your life jacket and what it should be able to do, rather than try to save money and buy something unsuitable. For this reason, the most expensive does not necessarily mean the best, and the cheapest the worst. There are pros and cons of all models, so it's worth doing some research before buying. You can find everything about life jackets in our Life jacket Guide.