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How to choose the right life jacket


How to choose your life jacket for sailing


1-Understanding the different types of life jackets

Don't confuse a safety jacket with a buoyancy aid. Bouyancy aids only help buoyancy—you can only use them if you know how to swim—while life jackets turn you onto your back so you can still breathe if you're unconscious.

There are two types of life jackets: inflatable and foam.

Both are equally effective, but inflatable models are recommended for regular use as they give greater freedom of movement.

For your life jacket to be of any use, it has to be worn, of course. It won't save your life lying in the bottom of the boat!

For safety, you need to wear it above your sailing jacket and harness.


2- EC safety standards for life jackets

Each life jacket sold in Europe must comply with current standards and carry the CE label, showing that it has been tested and approved.

The standards validate minimum buoyancy, given in newtons (N), and must be able to right an unconscious person and turn them on their back (open airways).

These jackets are designed according to ISO Standard 12402, with the following buoyancies:

- 12402-4 for 100 N

- 12402-3 for 150 N

- 12402-2 for 275 N


Note: 10 newtons correspond to 1.01 kg of buoyancy force.

Types of approved jackets

How to choose your life jacket for sailing How to choose your life jacket for sailing How to choose your life jacket for sailing
Foam life jacket 100 Newtons Foam life jacket 100 Newtons Self-inflating life jacket 150 Newtons

Special features of life jackets:

Life jackets are asymmetric in shape and volume so as to turn an unconscious person face-up. There's more foam (or air) on one side than the other.


How to choose your life jacket for sailing

3- How to choose the right life jacket

Choose the jacket according to your weight. Wearing a wrong-sized jacket can reduce its effectiveness.


Weight in kg

100 Newton buoyancy

150 Newton buoyancy







> 70




4- Foam life jackets

Foam life jackets are as effective as inflatable models. There are many brands and they all have different fastening systems.

"Budget" models, resembling rectangular foam blocks, meet the standard, but aren't shaped to facilitate wearer movements.

TRIBORD life jackets offer ergonomics designed for boating from entry level up (see our innovation page on SECUFIT).

5- Inflatable life jackets

Inflatable life jackets contain CO2 cartridges that inflate the jacket in less than 10 seconds, either manually or automatically, on impact.

We don't recommend using manual life jackets as we feel they're unsafe when a person who has already lost consciousness falls into the water.

The major advantage of self-inflating jackets is that they're small and give you great freedom of movement.

The various models:

How to choose your life jacket for sailing

Note: a mouth blowpipe is used on all jackets to inflate the air chamber and also allow deflation after use.

6. Certain safety equipment is obligatory on life jackets to aid identification

- A whistle placed so that it can be used easily

- Reflective tape

7. Additional safety equipment

In addition you can add the following:

- An electrical and (or) chemical (cyalume) light source. Permanently attached to your life jacket; it has to be capable of providing twelve hours of light

- A harness and safety strap, particularly useful in difficult conditions such as night sailing and/or solo. On some models the harness is included. This set can be permanently attached to the boat. Caution: do not use this equipment as a harness to mount the masthead!

8. Tips on upkeep for your life jacket

Life jackets have a limited lifespan. They take plenty of punishment: ultraviolet radiation, sea salt, abrasion, compression, etc.

To increase their lifespan you should rinse them after each use and then dry them quickly.

On inflatable models, you'll need to remove the inflation system, rinse, dry the jacket and reassemble.

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