There are several makes of lifejacket, with different styles and fittings and firing mechanisms.
Which one you chooses comes down largely to personal preference, but do make sure it has the approved CE mark and that you choose the correct buoyancy for your weight. Don’t just get the biggest you can find – a small person in a huge lifejacket may find themselves swamped by the inflated bladders and struggle to breathe and equally a child’s lifejacket won’t keep an adult afloat.
Each lifejacket should have a crotch strap which, once inflated, holds the lifejacket down and stops it bobbing up under your chin – which is uncomfortable as anyone who has completed an RYA Sea Survival course will know first hand.
A splash hood is also highly recommended – if you’re floating in the sea in high winds, it will prevent spray and waves from splashing onto you, so you’re not regularly inhaling water.
You should carry enough for all crew members on board regardless of shapes and size including children and pets. Plus a couple of spares, just in case one gets damaged, fails to go off, or is hidden under a bunk and you can’t find it when you need it. If you don’t always have the same crew on board make sure you have
You should also carry spare gas canisters, just in case you accidentally inflate yourself on a guardwire or from a rogue wave.
Coded or commercial vessels are required to have their lifejackets professionally serviced annually, but even pleasure sailors should regularly check their lifejackets;
For times when you aren’t wearing your lifejacket (whilst below decks for example), make sure you know where it is so you can grab it quickly if needed.
With modern designs, lifejackets are comfortable and unobtrusive, so don’t just take them – wear them. It can’t save your life if you aren’t wearing it.
For more guidance on lifejackets – visit the RNLI website.