The Best Life Jackets for Kids in 2019

 
Choosing the right life jacket allows you to introduce your kids to love being on the water and keep up with your favorite activities.   Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

Choosing the right life jacket allows you to introduce your kids to love being on the water and keep up with your favorite activities. Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

We aggregated outdoor media and customer reviews on the best kids’, youth, and infant life jackets. Here's our findings. 

We researched the best kids’ life jackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) available by reading hundreds of consumer and professional reviews, and narrowed the dozens of options for the unique gear requirements of different water sports — specifically for kids.

Whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, packrafting, or whitewater rafting with your young one, the one thing that all parenting boaters can agree on (gear-wise, at least) is that personal safety for their children is paramount.

No piece of equipment is more important to your child’s safety on the water than a PFD. We did the research for you, so you can spend less time pouring over websites, and more time out on the water with Junior. 

Looking for Adult Life Jackets? See the Best Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs).

Choosing a boat for your Life Jacket? See our story Should I Buy an Oru Folding Kayak? 


Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends Life Jacket

Read why→

Stohlquist Child Life Jacket

Read why→

Stearns Child Classic Life Jacket

Read why→


 

Jump ahead to . . .

 

BEST ALL-AROUND YOUTH LIFE JACKET (up to 90 lbs)

Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends 100 Flotation Vest (youth, child, youth)

We chose the Mustang Lil’ Legends as the Best All-Around out of its competitors based on the range of sizes for growing kids, the safety features, and bright color options, all of which are key to a jack-of-all-trades kids’ PFD.

As a Type II PFD, the Lil’ Legends is designed for coastal and off-shore boating adventures (aka, in situations where rescue may or may not be imminent). A true “life jacket,” the Lil’ Legends features a collar-pillow to keep your kiddo’s head above the surface. It also has safety precaution features such as a heavy-duty handle to pull your child up, bright colors for easy spotting, and a crotch-strap to keep your child from slipping out the bottom of their life jacket.

What consumers found most appealing was the range of sizes available — Infant, Child, and Youth.

As most kids’ PFDs that we reviewed came in only one specific weight range, 3 size options for one PFD was a welcome respite for one raft-guide mama from searching for different PFDs for 4 different kids: “I bought one of each size for my kids, and have been able to let them all grow up through the sizes.”

The Mustang Lil’ Legends earned these ratings: Bestmomproducts (B+), Amazon (4.6/5), Westmarine (4.5/5), Lifevesthub (5/5).

 
Coast Guard regulations require every child in a boat to have access to a flotation device.   Photo by    Mike Bowman    on    Unsplash

Coast Guard regulations require every child in a boat to have access to a flotation device. Photo by Mike Bowman on Unsplash

Reviews for the Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends

  • “Took out of box and for a baby that doesn't like coats he loves the life jacket. Glad I went with this one.” (Amazon Customer)
  • “ I think the baby might have stayed in the water all night if I let him he was just smiling away. Definitely impressed with the quality of the product.” (Taylor Vinson)
  • Bestmomproducts said:
    • Pros: cooling channels, comfy AirSoft foam, available in 3 sizes.
    • Cons: on the pricey side, not all sizes may come with crotch strap, seems to run small.
  • Lifevesthub said “It’s almost a mini boat for your kid.” They were impressed by the boating rating (rather than just designed for swimming), the crotch strap (didn’t have an issue with it on any size), and the adjustability.
  • Leisurepro customers said, “Purchased the life vest for our new born granddaughter. At two weeks old and less than 7 lbs., this fit her perfectly. We expect that this will fit her for at least two more years.”
 

Buy mustang survival lil’ legends youth life jacket

 

The Stohlquist Youth Escape is our pick for best life jacket for youth.

The Stohlquist Youth Escape is our pick for best life jacket for youth.

BEST LIFE JACKET FOR YOUTHS/ BEST LIFE JACKET FOR 50-90 LBS

Stohlquist Youth Escape

We chose the Stohlquist Youth Escape because of its low-profile design, size range, and price point. The Stohlquist Youth Escape features a front-zip entrance, with an adjustable belt-line buckle to ensure that the PFD won’t ride up their torso. A total of 3 adjustable straps on each side (including the belt-line buckle) make for easy adjustability, no matter the size. Wide shoulder straps add comfort with impeding mobility for paddling or rowing kids, and they also feature an adjustable strap on each shoulder pad. A large chest pocket allows for easy storage on the water, too.

The exterior of the Stohlquist is made of our 200-denier nylon for abrasion-resistance and hardiness, while the inside is made out of a softer 200-denier Oxford liner. Kids were comfortable in this lifejacket all day long.

The Stohlquist Youth Escape comes in two sizes — Youth (50-90 lbs), and Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs). For $60, you can find a hardy PFD for your child that won’t break the bank, and they (hopefully) won’t grow out of overnight. While not the cheapest option on the market, for the quality of construction and peace of mind that comes with it, $60 is a great investment for your child’s safety.

There are a few things to note - this PFD does not come with crotch-straps, which parents should take into account if their child is not comfortable on the water, or is smaller and prone to “swimming” in most PFDs. For smaller kids, this PFD may be uncomfortably bulky. (They may simply need a smaller size, or a more streamlined brand like O’Neill’s Superlite Youth Life Jacket or Body Glove’s Phantom Youth Life Jacket.)

The Stohlquist Youth Escape earned these ratings: Amazon (4.3/5), REI (1 review, 5/5), Backcountry (1 review, 5/5), Outdoorplay (4/5), Seakayaker Mag (#3/10).

 

Reviews for the Stohlquist Youth Escape

  • Seakayaker Magazine praised the Youth Escape as the perfect introductory PFD for kids getting into watersports, who can’t quite fit into an adult size.

    • This sleek fitting jacket also has a front zippered, pleated pocket where your child can store a few of their favorite snacks and a waist belt buckle that provides a more secure fit, so it doesn’t ride up. It has a very low-profile design that offers a more contoured and comfortable fit.”
The Stohlquist Youth Escape is for kids who want to be more active on the water.   Photo by    Nadim Merrikh    on    Unsplash

The Stohlquist Youth Escape is for kids who want to be more active on the water. Photo by Nadim Merrikh on Unsplash

  • A Backcountry.com consumer was thrilled to find an ergonomic and comfortable design for their growing child.
  • Outdoorplay.com buyer, James D., wrote, “Best part is, it bridges the gap between under 90lbs and over 90lbs jackets so she will get plenty of wear.” Other purchasers applauded the comfort, range of mobility, and sizing - skinny and husky kids alike used and loved this PFD.
  • Joel R on Amazon said, “We purchased these for our 8 year old, 50lb twins, and it worked great. Both boys are rather skinny, and so most lifejackets in this weight range have a tendency to ride-up. Not this life jacket, though. The strap below the waist helps to keep the jacket from riding up, and the wide neck means that even if it does ride up, it isn't squeezing their head and neck. The pocket is oversized and handy for storing goggles in. The material is also very durable, and I'm confident we'll be using it for several years to come.”
 

Compare prices for the Stohlquist youth escape

 

BEST INFANT JACKET: 8 - 30 LBS

Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket

We chose the Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket as our Best Life Jacket for Infants because of the double-collar construction, flotation design, and adjustability.

Originally known as the Nemo Life Jacket , Stohlquist renamed their designs to the Infant Life Jacket and the Toddler Life Jacket. They’re still the same design (they were simply two different designs under one name before), but now they’ve been renamed and separated into two differently designed life jackets.

Infants certainly aren’t going to be swimming on their own, but if the worst should happen, it’s crucial to find a design that will keep an infant on their back, rather than pushing them forward onto their face. Stohlquist took that key safety feature, and built a life jacket around it. The Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket is designed for infants from 8-30 lbs, and has a flotation weight of 7 lbs 6 oz.

Rated as a Type II, the Stohlquist Infant Life jacket have almost the same design as the Stohlquist Child Life Jacket, with more flotation around the head and neck. They both have most of their flotation foam on the front and around the neck, leaving the back with a triangular foam piece and wide arm holes for both adjustability and comfort. (Many children aren’t huge fans of life jackets, and this one takes away the irritation and restriction that many others can cause.)

The T-shaped straps go around the back and through the legs, with adjustable tabs on both sides and by the crotch-strap buckle. This way, an infant has fewer chances of slipping through the life jacket (thanks to the crotch-strap), and parents can make sure that it’s comfortably form-fitting. A front-zip entry and buckle over the zipper make for easy put-on/take-off flexibility. And a rescue strap, attached to the top of the collar, is a great peace-of-mind for parents — should they ever have to rescue their infant, this strap gives them an easy way to pull them out of the water.

The most lauded feature of the Stohlquist is the double-collar. A smaller, raised collar fits close to the back of the head, giving an infant the extra support their neck may need, if they’re not fully able to hold themselves up. The second, larger collar (or head pillow) is designed to keep their heads floating above water in case of emergency.

The Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket earned these ratings: Bestmomproducts (A), LJAdvisor (#1), Amazon (4.5/5), REI (4/5), and Gearweare (96.5/100).

 
An infant or child wearing a life jacket or PFD still requires adult supervision.   Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

An infant or child wearing a life jacket or PFD still requires adult supervision. Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

Reviews for the Stohlquist Infant and Child Life Jackets

  • Bestmomproducts had this to say:

    • Pros: available in 3 high-visibility colors, applauds the dual neck support, grab handle easy to use in and out of water.
    • Cons: pricey, zipper at the neck can chafe on small infants.
    • “This life jacket has many features that will suit both a newborn and a toddler. Overall, I give this life jacket high marks and think that the added expense for the safety of your child is well worth it."
  • Amazon reviewers were impressed by the double-collar (especially its help in holding up younger children’s heads), and the adjustability that allowed them to use this PFD for years. One reviewer was thrilled that she’s gotten two summers’ worth of use, and still going strong. Most reviews mentioned older kids (closer to the 30lb mark), but those with younger and smaller children were still very satisfied with the Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket’s performance. Small note - on younger children, the top of the zipper tends to chafe under the chin.

 

Compare prices on the Astral Greenjacket

 

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BEST CHILD LIFE JACKET

Stohlquist Child Life Jacket

We chose the Stohlquist Child Life Jacket as our Best Life Jacket for Toddlers because of the double-collar construction, design, comfort, and adjustability.

 

Originally known as the Nemo Life Jacket, Stohlquist renamed their designs to the Infant Life Jacket and the Toddler Life Jacket. They’re still the same design (they were simply two different designs under one name before), but now they’ve been renamed and separated into two differently designed life jackets.

 

stohlquistchild2

Toddlers most likely won’t be swimming on their own, but if the worst should happen, it’s crucial to find a design that will keep your child on their back, rather than pushing them forward onto their face. Of course, toddlers will have more control of their body than an infant, but you still don’t want them face-down in the water! Stohlquist took that key safety concept and built a life jacket around it. The Stohlquist Child Life Jacket is designed for toddlers from 30-50 lbs, and has a flotation weight of 8 lbs 6 oz.

Rated as a Type III, the Stohlquist Child Life Jacket has the same general design as the Infant Life Jacket, just made for differently weighted children. Just like the Infant Life Jacket, the Child Life Jacket has most of its flotation foam on the front and around the neck (but less bulk in the flotation cushion), leaving the back with a triangular foam piece and wide arm holes for both adjustability and comfort. (If your child isn’t a huge fan of life jackets, this one takes away the irritation and restriction that many other, more constricting life jackets can cause.)

The T-shaped straps go around the back and through the legs, with adjustable tabs on both sides and by the crotch-strap buckle. This way, a child has fewer chances of slipping through the life jacket (thanks to the crotch-strap), and parents can make sure that it’s comfortably form-fitting. A front-zip entry and buckle over the zipper make for easy put-on/take-off flexibility. And a rescue strap, attached to the top of the collar, is a great peace-of-mind for parents — should they ever have to rescue their child, this strap gives them an easy way to pull them out of the water.

The most lauded feature on the Child Life Jacket of these life jackets was the double-collar. A smaller, raised collar is raised towards the back of the head (but not as close as the Infant’s), giving a child extra support if they’re not fully able to hold themselves up. The second, larger collar (or head pillow) is designed to keep their heads floating above water in case of emergency.

The Stohlquist Child Life Jacket earned these ratings: LJAdvisor (#1), Amazon (4.5/5), REI (4.6/5), TripSavvy (Best Overall), Gearweare (98/100).

Reviews for the Stohlquist Child Life Jackets

  • Amazon reviewers were impressed by the double-collar (especially its help in holding up younger children’s heads), and the adjustability that allowed them to use this PFD for years. One reviewer was thrilled that she’s gotten two summers’ worth of use, and still going strong.
  • Lifejacketadvisor said, “The Stohlquist child PFD is a sleek, low profile vest that still packs in a lot of buoyancy. Its filling is well distributed to keep a child floating high in the water and the collar design is particularly impressive.”
sebastien-le-derout-iUFKBulMAO8-unsplash (1).jpg
  • REI buyer PhDMama said, “My daughter is 3yo, 32lbs (50%), and 36" (20%) and it fits her very well. It fits low in front (away from her face) and is minimal in the back so her movement isn't impaired. (In fact, she wore it for 30min running around our REI store, climbing on the benches and even the rock hill in the shoe section with no trouble.)”
  • TripSavvy said, "Receives excellent reviews for its comfortable, safe design."


Compare prices stohlquist child life jacket

 

The Stearns Adult Classic Life Jacket is our budget pick. Rafters on the Taiya River, Skagway, Alaska.

BEST BUDGET LIFE VEST

Stearns Youth Classic Vest

We chose the Stearns Youth Classic as our Best Budget Life Jacket because of the price and construction. This life jacket comes highly recommended by those who used it across a wide gamut of sports — from motorized water activities to calmer paddlesports. It’s hard to beat a life-saving flotation device that costs less than a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, and weighs less than a pound!

The Stearns Youth Classic is a Type III life jacket, which means that it is designed for a wide variety of activities. It has enough buoyancy to take on flatwater, whitewater, and offshore adventures — but, again, we stress that this does not have a head-pillow, and is a Personal Flotation Device, not a “life jacket.” Kids should be closely monitored while in the water.

The Stearns Youth Classic was lauded as a great Personal Floatation Device for canoeing, flatwater kayaking, tubing, and fishing for those who want to stay under budget. We also think it is a good choice for kids just getting into watersports, and great for families with lots of kiddos to suit up. The hardy nylon exterior is easy to clean, and the 1” webbing straps are study, withstanding years of rough wear and tear from kids (and adults, alike).

This Stearns is also the perfect, affordable back-up PFD; loan to friends, wear for swimming lessons in the lake, or pull from under your car seat when you left your primary PFD hanging on the drying line.

With a front buckle system, this life vest is easy to put on/take off, with adjustable side straps to fit most body types. This PFD tends to run small, so make sure to measure your child’s chest before committing.

The one drawback of the Youth Classic is that it is bulky and not designed for particularly active sports. Those who used it for paddling sports (especially kiddos trying to learn to kayak) complained that it could be cumbersome, but did not impede activity too greatly. The pros outweighed the cons on this one.

The overall reaction towards this life jacket placed it at the best value for a floatation device, especially for those who are just beginning to play with water sports, or who are looking for a little added security during lower-risk water activities (i.e., canoeing across a calm lake).

The Stearns Youth Classic Vest earned these ratings: Seakayaker Mag (#9/10), Bestmomproducts (B-), Amazon (3.5/5), Leisurepro (4/5), Home Depot (4.7/5), Walmart (3.7/5).

jordan-opel-3KyyQZTRyFk-unsplash.jpg

Reviews for the Stearns Youth Classic Life Jacket

  • Amazon customers called out the small sizing, but many were able to adjust to make it work. As one said, “It works well and fits perfectly as expected. Life jackets are supposed to be firm and tight on the chest and should not go above the child's ears because if the child is drowning, a loosely fitted life jacket that goes above their ears can keep their head underwater.” They were also satisfied with the bargain price compared to other options on the market - this was considered “the best of the cheap!”
  • Walmart shoppers called it a “Good deal for the price.”
  • Bestmomproducts said:
    • Pros: it’s affordable, has a closed-side design, and is made of hardy PE flotation foam and nylon.
    • Cons: Type III, which is more of an “aid” than a “life preserver,” runs small, neck is small and can become uncomfortable over time.
 

Buy the Stearns kids Classic Life Jacket

 

The Hyperlite Kids’ and Infant Life Jacket is an affordable option for many families.   Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

The Hyperlite Kids’ and Infant Life Jacket is an affordable option for many families. Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

The Full Throttle Youth life Jacket and Hyperlight Child Life Jacket

We don’t want to leave out some additional great Life Jackets on the market that didn’t quite make our cut. The Full Throttle Youth Life Jacket came with good reviews ( 4.6/5 on Amazon, and #2 from Lifejacketadvisor), but didn’t have the overwhelming praise and demand that the Stohlquist Youth Escape had.

On that note, the smaller version, the Full Throttle Water Buddies for Infants had such good ratings, it came almost neck-and-neck with the Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket that we recommend, except for multiple comments about the design forcing infants onto their faces.

Costco’s Hyperlite Child Life Vest also scored good reviews (4.7/5 on the Costco website) — especially calling out the affordability, comfort, and quality for the price — but as you have to be a Costco member to purchase, it didn’t make our list. However, it is recently also available at Amazon in select sizes. Since it's so affordable, it's worth checking to see if it's in stock.

 

Full Throttle Life Jacket

Hyperlite Child Life Vest

 

Is the Stohlquist Nemo Jacket the same as the Stohlquist Youth Life Jacket?

We contacted Stohlquist to get the real skinny on what happened to the Stohlquist Nemo, a highly rated and much beloved kids’ PFD.

Their customer service was quick to answer that the Nemo Life Jacket is the old name for the new Stohlquist Infant and Stohlquist Child Life Jackets. The only thing that has changed is the names. We found that the same features that people loved about the Nemo are still in the Infant and Child Stohlquist jackets.

 
 

Put your children in a life jacket and watch them near the water.     Photo by    Simon Hajducki    on    Unsplash

Put your children in a life jacket and watch them near the water. Photo by Simon Hajducki on Unsplash

life jacket or pfds (personal floatation device jackets): What’s the difference for kids?

There are dozens of ways to get your kids out on the water, but they all require one essential piece of safety equipment - a flotation device.

 

There are too many stories of injury, tragedy, and catastrophe around water sports and participants not wearing PFDs — especially kids. I cannot stress this enough — put your children in a life jacket, and watch them like a hawk. 


Growing up in a whitewater boating town, I heard too many first-hand stories from my father (a member of the volunteer fire department who assists Search and Rescue on river emergencies) about victims who weren’t wearing life jackets when they flipped in a rapid, or weren’t cinched in properly and slipped out of their flotation devices once they hit the water. 

I’ve seen parents and grandparents at the takeout, waiting for rescuers to deliver unspeakable news. The accidents involving children were the hardest to swallow, but that’s what motivated my conservatism in guiding. “Let them have fun, but stay safe” became my professional motto.

Growing up in a whitewater boating town, I am well aware of how important it is to keep your kids in life jackets and PFDs.     Photo by    Cynthia Andres    on    Unsplash

Growing up in a whitewater boating town, I am well aware of how important it is to keep your kids in life jackets and PFDs. Photo by Cynthia Andres on Unsplash

A PFD has saved my life more than once, and I’ve seen clients go into the water who may not have come back out if they hadn’t been wearing a PFD. From guiding Boy Scouts on Class III rapids in British Columbia to taking 8 elementary school children down a Class II stretch of water to floating my younger brothers down the Arkansas River, I’m no stranger to children in life jackets. I make it a point of pride to teach every single one how to put on their life jacket properly. 

It is up to you to make sure your kid has the appropriate life jacket for their activity and for their body shape and size. This guide is a recommendation based on what we have observed and researched. Treeline Review and its authors, editors, or staff are not liable for any results. Your kids’ safety is your responsibility. 

Lastly, federal and state regulations may require children under 18 to wear life jackets. Check your local jurisdiction.

 

Type I (right) and Type V (left) PFDs on the Klehini River, Haines, Alaska.   Photo courtesy Aaron Henry.

Type I (right) and Type V (left) PFDs on the Klehini River, Haines, Alaska. Photo courtesy Aaron Henry.

What are the 5 different types of Coast Guard Approved PFDs and Life Jackets? how does this change with Federal and State Child Life Jacket Requirements?

Coast Guard regulations state a minimum inherent buoyancy for different classifications of flotation devices.  Coast Guard approved life jackets are rated I to V. We did a hard dive into the buoyancy classes and classifications of PFDs in our section on How to Choose a Life Jacket and PFD. The Coast Guard classifications are the same for adults and kids. 

Regulations require every person in a boat to wear (if a child) or have access to (if an adult) a flotation device. Individual states also have their own regulations on life jackets, too. While motorized boats have a different set of rules, for this guide we focused on the human-powered water sports.

 

The author guides trips in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon.   Photo courtesy Aaron Henry.

The author guides trips in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon. Photo courtesy Aaron Henry.

Author’s Expertise

Since the blistering-hot Colorado summer of 2014, I’ve been obsessed with water. I started on the rapids of the Arkansas River, then moved up to Alaska to raft glacially-braided rivers in 2016. After two years, I managed our hiking and rafting program based out of Skagway, Alaska, and guided the rivers surrounding Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon. We paddled with Boy Scouts through high-walled canyons, and rowed through heavy headwinds through braided, silty channels.

Personally, I’ve paddle-guided Class IV sections with clients who had never seen a rapid (much less boated through one) and rowed a raft of twelve cruise ship passengers alongside the historic Chilkoot Trail (including kiddos as young as 7!).

I’ve also trained guides who had never held an oar before how to navigate rivers, rescue swimmers, set up boats, and row through tricky and potentially hazardous situations — including Stellar sea lions blocking our channel, and 100+ foot spruce trees gliding down the river alongside the boat.

As a volunteer with local fire departments in both Alaska and Maine, I’ve trained and participated in swiftwater and lake-based rescues. I have maintained a Swiftwater Rescue Level IV certification throughout my river-guiding career, building haul systems to rescue boats, and plucking swimmers out of numerous rapids.

This spring, I bought my own boat (with the help of two other water nerds), and have continued to teach others the joys of water navigation throughout the West while I heal from a shoulder surgery. Even a busted wing can’t keep me off the water!

 

Photo by  Brooke Willson  on  Unsplash

How we Researched

To ensure that we were reviewing only the best for our water-loving kiddos, we researched the most popular Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and Life Jackets, and sorted the top contenders into our four groups (Best for All-Around, Best Budget Life Jacket, Best for Infants & Toddlers, and Best for Youths). The four winners were popular and well-reviewed across different platforms, from third parties such as Seakayaker Magazine, Paddling Magazine, Bestmomproducts, and Lifejacket Advisor.


In addition, each of these PFDs were thoroughly reviewed and highly recommended by everyday users on platforms such as REI, Backcountry.com, Outdoor Play, and Amazon. From these latter sites, we verified reviews against FakeSpot, a site which flags falsified or tampered reviews, to verify authenticity.

After review of outdoor media, real-life customer feedback, our own expertise, and comments from professional boaters who make their living on the water (and teaching it to their kids), we narrowed a list of 13 promising PFDs down to our top four winners.

 

Photo by  Heberti Almeida  on  Unsplash

To be considered for each of these categories, we measured each PFD against standardized criteria. The PFDs had to be:


  • Kid-specific affordable

  • Durable

  • Comfortable

  • Adjustable

  • Coast Guard approved

 

From there, we narrowed our criteria to our specific categories — for example, with our all-around pick, we were looking for an option that gave Mom and Dad a break from searching. Three sizes, adjustability, comfort, and color options were key, and our pick ticked all four of these necessities.


Every PFD we reviewed had to be Coast Guard approved.   Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

Every PFD we reviewed had to be Coast Guard approved. Photo courtesy Seamus Daniels.

How to choose the best life youth life jackets

From the plethora of Kids’ PFDs on the market, it was a challenge to whittle our selections down to these five winners. We were looking for PFDs that could address the challenge of growing youngsters, while still providing the utmost in safety and protection, without breaking the bank.

As we researched, we narrowed our criteria to meet five main themes: all-around, budget, infant, toddler, and youth.

Our winners met all of our basic criteria. Then, we judged each PFD relative to its own specific criteria. For example, for the Best Youth PFD, it needed to meet the weight ranges of a larger child, without sacrificing adjustability and smaller-body features by moving directly into an adults’ PFD. For the Best Infant PFD, we looked for safety and flotation features necessary for a young child unable to swim or save themselves.

To see our full list of criteria, read our How to Choose a Kids’ Life Jacket.

 

We liked life jackets and PFDs for kids that were available in multiple sizes. That makes it easy for parents and guardians to not have to familiarize themselves with different models every time the kid gets better. Simply get the same model in multiple sizes.   Photo by    Jude Beck    on    Unsplash

We liked life jackets and PFDs for kids that were available in multiple sizes. That makes it easy for parents and guardians to not have to familiarize themselves with different models every time the kid gets better. Simply get the same model in multiple sizes. Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

How we Picked the best child life jacket

From the plethora of Kids’ PFDs on the market, it was a challenge to whittle our selections down to these five winners. We were looking for PFDs that could address the challenge of growing youngsters, while still providing the utmost in safety and protection, without breaking the bank.

As we researched, we narrowed our criteria to meet five main themes: all-around, budget, infant, toddler, and youth.

Our winners met all of our basic criteria. Then, we judged each PFD relative to its own specific criteria. For example, for the Best Youth PFD, it needed to meet the weight ranges of a larger child, without sacrificing adjustability and smaller-body features by moving directly into an adults’ PFD. For the Best Infant PFD, we looked for safety and flotation features necessary for a young child unable to swim or save themselves.

 
 

To prolong the life of your PFD, inspect it annually and wash it at the end of each season.  Photo by  McKayla Crump  on  Unsplash

To prolong the life of your PFD, inspect it annually and wash it at the end of each season. Photo by McKayla Crump on Unsplash

Care and Maintenance

Whether your life jackets or PFDs are for big people or little people, care for them the same way. Here’s our comprehensive guide on cleaning your PFD.


Also, before each season (and for kids, before each use!), we’d recommend checking your PFD to make sure it is free of holes, tears, rips, etc. To see what to check for, read our Adult Life Jackets and PFDs story.


 

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