So your kid is grown up, and their old toddler life jackets are outworn? Then you probably need a youth life jacket.
Kids love being in the water, be it pool, beach, bathtub, etc. they always want to splash in there. While it’s fun and enthusiastic for kids, it’s equally scary for parents.
Even though your kid is little grown, it doesn’t mean they are fully secure in the water. Remember, water spares no one. And being a parent, keeping our kids safe is our topmost priority, and a youth vest helps you in that.
A Youth life jacket is designed to keep 50-90 lbs kids safe in the water. It not only keeps them afloat but also gives them the confidence they need in the water.
Now, the question arises – Which one to buy?
Well, with hundreds of youth vests in the market proclaiming to be the best, its pretty difficult to get your hands on the right product. And without proper knowledge, you may end up buying the wrong life jacket.
But why waste your time and money getting the wrong product when you have the list of best life jackets right on the table. Even though it took me 90+ hours to do the research, buy, review, and write about it, it will barely take you few minutes to choose the best one for your kid.
So without further ado, let’s look at 11 best Youth vests you can get right now.
11. Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket
Want a vest your kid can wear for hours without any discomfort? Then this vest from Onyx is something you will love.
Its low profile design makes it lightweight while the mesh sides make it breathable. The mesh drains excess water and ventilates out the heat, thus keeping your kid cool even on a hot day. Also, it has a lower mesh back that makes it good for high back seats.
Made from 200D nylon Oxford, it has a strong exterior that withstands huge impacts while the lightweight foam inside makes it comfortable to wear. It has neoprene shoulder pads that prevent chafe and provide additional comfort.
The six adjustment straps make it fully adjustable and let you customize the fit based on your child’s body. So, even if they are a little thin or healthy, then also this jacket will fit them perfectly.
If your baby is too healthy like around 95 lbs, then you may have a hard time fitting them in here, but there is a solution. From personal experience, I found that the side mesh prohibits the vest from expanding it to the full extent.
So, if you cut the side mesh, then you will have enough space to fit big youth. Remember, do not cut the mesh if not required.
The handy little pocket provides little storage area to store some essentials like a whistle. This pocket has mesh drainage that drains the water.
Approved by USCG its available in one size(50-90 lbs) and two colors.
10. O’Brien Youth Neoprene Jacket/Vest
When it comes to life jackets, O’Brien is a well-known name. With a combination of safety and good design, its something your kid will love to wear.
Made from breathable BioLite material, its extremely lightweight yet durable enough to last for seasons. For unknown, BioLite is a neoprene alternative that’s softer, lighter, breathable, and, more importantly, eco-friendly.
The zipper closure and 2 adjustable waist straps on-front give your baby a secure fit, so you don’t have to worry every then and now. When in water, its design doesn’t bunch up too much like other vests.
From personal experience, I found that if the vest isn’t properly fit then, it can float up and rub against the face and side. So, make sure to tie it properly.
Overall this is a great vest, but there is one problem that got it down to number 10. You can’t probably notice from the picture, but the area where the straps come out is open.
Which means the water or anything in the water (especially sand and small rocks) can get inside the jacket. Once the water gets inside, it becomes heavy, and if you are going on a beach, then be ready to get sand as well.
Remember, it can take you days to clean the sand properly before the next use. Now, if you are going in clean water, then its great, but I would not recommend it for sandy water.
Approved by USCG as Type III PFD its available in Youth size and a high visibility color. This color will help you easily spot your kid even on a crowded beach.
9. CWB Connelly Youth Nylon Vest
With pretty colors and great design, this vest from CWB is specially made for baby girls. Not only beautiful, but its optimum safety keeps your princess afloat in the water.
With a 26-29 inch chest, it has three adjustable straps on-front that lets you customize the fit. These straps can be easily pulled/released to get a perfect fit, which makes it fit your baby as she grows.
The bottom buckle has a stretch cord that cinches around the waist to give a good fit. It keeps the vest in place and resists it from riding up on the face, which prevents chafe.
Large armholes and neck give plenty of space to move without any restriction, which means safety doesn’t hinder your baby’s enjoyment.
Overall, its a great vest and deserves a better position, but there came one problem that brought it down. Recently, few peoples have complained of getting two holes in the bottom of the vest.
These holes allow water to enter the vest that eventually makes it heavy. Like, 20 minutes in water, and it’s heavy enough to weigh your princess down. Now, if that does happen to you, then you must contact the company directly, and they will send you a replacement.
Approved by USCG, it’s available in one size (50-90 lbs) and one color (that you see above).
8. Youth Neoprene Vest
Planning to go on a trip to the beach? Well, even if NO, then also its design will give you the feel. Available in a 24-29 inch chest size, its made of great quality material that is soft to touch.
Even though it feels soft, its durable enough to withstand huge impacts thanks to its sturdy material.
It has a zipper closure along with two quick-release buckles on front that keeps your baby securely fit inside. These buckles are attached with adjustable straps that let you customize the fit, which means it can fit your baby for seasons to come.
There are mesh drain holes that drain the excess water and also ventilates out the excess heat, thus maintaining the temperature on a hot day.
This jacket is available for 50-90 lbs kids, but if your kid falls in the lower end like 55 lbs and they are thin, then this vest can fit loose, which risks the safety.
Now, you can use the adjustable straps, but it may not give the desired results. Also, it may feel quite heavy to your kid.
Approved by USCG, it’s available in Youth size and two colors.
7. O’Neill Wetsuits Youth SuperLite
This vest from O’Neill is a smaller version of their Men’s SuperLite vest specially designed for youth. It has the same top-notch safety and sturdiness fit in a smaller size.
Made from durable coated polyester shell, it has a sturdy exterior to tackle high pressure while the lightweight polyethylene (PE) foam inside gives a soft and comfortable interior.
The minimal bulk design makes it extremely lightweight and allows full mobility, which means no constraint in your baby’s movement.
Approved by USCG, it keeps your kid afloat in the water, so even if they are a non-swimmer then also they can easily float and build confidence (which is crucial).
There are three quick-release Delrin buckles at the front that give a good fit. The first buckle wraps around the chest while the other two go around the stomach area. Now, the last two buckles are good, but the first one (chest strap) is small.
From personal experience, I found that the chest strap fits a chest of up to 27 inches. Anything above that will not fit in comfortably, and the strap will barely fasten.
Also, there is no mesh, so it can be a bit hot on a sunny day.
6. Stearns Antimicrobial Nylon Youth Vest
With safety in mind, this vest not only keeps your kid afloat but also inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria (thanks to its Antimicrobial material). So, you can focus more on enjoying and less on worrying about smell.
Being a durable nylon construction, it has a sturdy exterior to withstand heavy pressure while the Polyethylene (PE) foam inside makes it soft and comfy and keeps the kid afloat. Being lightweight and durable, its good for a day on a beach, boat, pool, or for tow sports.
While your kid is enjoying in the water, the three adjustable chest belts ensure safety and give your child a good fit. Well, even with a good fit, it does ride up a little, but not to the extent that it becomes uncomfortable.
Available in two highly visible colors, it has a dry ring on the back that makes it easy to dry and store the jacket.
Approved by USCG as type III PFD, its available in a Youth size (50-90 lbs), but personally, I found if your kid falls in the lower end (of weight), then it may fit loose, and that can risk the safety.
Now, you can try to fully tighten the adjustable straps, but if that doesn’t work, then you can add a crotch strap to maintain the safety.
5. AIRHEAD Wicked Neolite Vest
With a wicked design and highly visible colors, this jacket from Airhead will definitely get your attention. Not only does it looks good, but it also helps to quickly spot your baby in the crowd.
Made from neolite kwik dry material, its sturdy exterior can withstand huge impact and dries quickly. Unlike other vests, it has two foams – a closed-cell PVC on the front, and a lightweight polyester foam on the back.
Both these foams combined provide great comfort and safety, but also make it a little tight to fit. It gives a snug fit to your child.
Approved by USCG and Transport Canada, it has a zipper closure along with two quick-release buckles on-front that keep your kid safe inside.
Its available for 50-90 lbs, but if your kid falls in the lower end, then it may ride up and rub underarms, and for the upper end, it can be tight. From personal experience, I found that it fits best in between the range and not on ends.
4. Stearns Youth Hydroprene Life Jacket (3.9/106)
With large armholes and neck, this extremely mobile life jacket from Stearns gives a snug fit and doesn’t constrain your child’s movement. Its contemporary ergonomic design allows mobility so your kid can enjoy their hearts out while being safe.
The flexible hydroplane shell makes it durable, while the lightweight cross tech Polyethylene flotation foam provides unparalleled comfort to your kid. Also, the foam keeps your kid afloat in the water.
It has a zipper and two quick-release buckles on the front that provides a secure fit. Both the buckles are attached to 1.5-inch web straps that ensure reliability and safety.
It has hidden straps, which is great since you don’t have to worry about untangling, but there is a downside. The place where the strap comes out is open, which lets sand or water to get in there. And that makes it difficult to clean.
Overall, its a great vest, but there is one problem, i.e., sizing. Even though it claims to fit 50-90 lbs, I personally found that it barely fits anyone over 60 lbs. So, if your kid is above 60 lbs, move to some other vest.
Being USCG approved, its available in two pretty colors.
3. Full Throttle Youth Hinged Life Jacket
With a stretchable flex-back, this vest from Full Throttle is as great as it looks. Made from neoprene type material, it offers a snug fit and provides extra comfort. For the unknown, neoprene has natural stretch, which makes it naturally comfortable.
It has a strong exterior that withstands the heavy use and prevents it from ripping apart while the lightweight flotation foam inside keeps the baby comfortable. Also, this flotation foam keeps the babyface above water and maintain safety.
There are five segmented hinge points using which you can get a customized fit. It allows you to adjust the vest and get the perfect fit for your baby. So, no more worries if the jacket is little big or small, simply use the hinge points, and your baby is good to go.
At the front, two quick-release buckles and a zipper is present to keep the baby safe inside while they enjoy frolicking with the water. Unlike other vests, it doesn’t come up on the face, so no rub on the neck.
But from personal experience, I found that if worn for long, it can rash on shoulders and tummy, which can be irritating for the baby. So, I will suggest you use a rash guard for prolonged fun.
Due to its great design and safety, it builds confidence and provides the baby with needed independence in the water. Even if your child hates/fear water, they will enjoy being in there after wearing this vest.
After an active day on the beach, you don’t have to do much as the quick-dry material dries it quickly. And even if you wash, its color won’t fade, which makes it look as new as ever.
Approved by USCG as a Type III life jacket, its available in a Youth size(50-90 lbs) and purple color.
2. Stohlquist Youth Fit Life Jacket
Want a great PFD but don’t want to spend a fortune? Then this jacket from Stohlquist is all you need. With a low price and good features, it’s what’s called a value-for-money vest.
Made from 200D nylon outer shell with 200D Oxford liner, it possesses a sturdy exterior that prevents rip off even on a rough surface. The lightweight Polyethylene foam inside makes it soft and lightweight, and provides comfort to your baby.
Approved by USCG as Type III PFD its wide armholes provide mobility and don’t constrain your baby’s movement. And that makes it great for water sports like boating, kayaking, swimming, etc.
Even though its of great quality, I would personally suggest you use it only in calm (and if possible shallow) water as that would maximize your child’s safety. Of course, you can use it in rough water, but that, however, is not recommended.
There are three adjustable buckles at-front to keep your baby securely fit inside. These buckles fasten at the neck, sternum, and waist to give the perfect fit to your child.
Also, these straps hold the vest firmly and don’t let it ride up around the chin, which prevents chafe. Well, it may ride up a little when your kid jumps in the water (of course, due to force), but that will automatically settle down.
Currently, it’s available in two sizes and red color.
1. Stearns Youth Vest (50-90 lbs)
When it comes to a life jacket, Stearns is always around the top, and here it’s again. With an open design, it provides good ventilation to maintain the temperature inside, which is a savior during hot days.
Being durable nylon construction, its sturdy exterior resists easy rip off while the Polyethylene flotation foam keeps it soft inside and provides comfort to your child. So, you can rest assured of quality and comfort.
The 3 adjustable buckles (1 inch each) on-front keeps the child secure inside while they are enjoying in the water. Also, being adjustable, these buckles gives a customized fit. So, even if the baby is a little healthy or skinny, they can get a good fit using the buckles.
Two large armholes give plenty of space for arm movements and don’t rub under-arms like other vests. Now, it doesn’t chafe underarms, but it surely scratches the baby’s neck.
Since the V shape near the neck is small, it touches the neck and consistently rubs it, and when worn for long, it can scratch the neck area. Now, you can cover the neck area (by some cloth) to protect it from damage.
Being USCG Approved, its great for water activities like boating, tubing, swimming, etc. Currently, it’s available in a Youth size (50-90 lbs), and three colors.
How to Choose a Life Jacket for your Kid
With so many Youth Life jackets on the market, choosing the right vest can be tedious, and without proper knowledge, you may end up buying the wrong one.
While getting a vest, you must check several things to ensure that you are getting a good life jacket. Now, there are a lot of factors to look up to, but all of them sum up under five main factors that I would talk about in a second.
So without further ado, let’s look at these important factors.
While getting a youth vest, its crucial to check whether the jacket is USCG Approved or not. USCG or United States Coast Guard Approved means that the jacket is tested by coast guard and is approved for use in the water.
These approved vests provide good buoyancy and keep your baby afloat in the water. Getting such vest ensures your baby’s safety even in the worst case.
Moreover, if you are in the United States, then its mandatory to have a USCG Approved vest; therefore, it’s a good idea to get an approved vest.
Taking any wearable in the world and tell what’s the first thing you check before getting one? Well, its the size and fit.
Even before trying any wearable, we tend to check whether the sizing is correct or not, and the same rule applies to the life jacket as well. While getting a Youth life jacket, it’s important that you check whether the vest fits your child well or not.
All the Youth vest on this list says that they fit 50-90 lbs kids perfectly, but do they really fit all the children of this range? Well, NO! because of one reason or the other. And I know that because I have tested them.
So, before getting one, you must ensure that it fits your kid perfectly. For that, you can check whether the straps are adjustable or not, as getting adjustable straps lets you customize the fit. Also, check whether it gives a snug fit or not as some vests with a snug fit can fit short. And finally, read some comments and see if there is frequent complaints of size or not.
Now, for all the jackets on this list, I talked about the fit, so it will quickly help you determine what’s best and what’s not.
Kids love playing in the water and will remain there forever if given a chance. Now, people having a pool in their backyard knows how much kids love playing in there every day.
But with everyday use, the vest remains wet most of the time and doesn’t properly dry, which eventually makes it smell really bad. To solve this problem, you have to clean the vest frequently, and that can be frustrating.
So, that’s why it’s crucial to ensure that the jacket has a quick-dry material that lets it dry quickly and make it ready for the next use.
Now, you might say – “Well, this one I know, of course, we need to get a color that suits the best,” but that’s not the case here.
For other wearables, color is choosed based on which one suits, but for a life vest, the color is a lifesaving thing, so you have to choose it carefully.
You see, when a person gets inside the water, it’s difficult to spot them quickly. You may spot them if the water is clean, and they are moving rapidly enough to get your attention.
But what if the water is not crystal clear and that person is your tiny little kid who may not be able to move that rapid. Well, in that case, it would be much harder to spot them, and if help is delayed, then it can be risky.
So, that’s why we need something that could help us identify the person needing help, and what could be better than a good color life jacket.
When I say good color, I didn’t mean a fancy one, but a color that’s highly visible, and easily stand out like neon, neon pink, neon yellow, etc. Getting a neon isn’t compulsory, but make sure that whatever you are getting is highly visible.
On a sunny day, kids love being in the water and enjoy with their family and fellow friends. But being in the sun quickly warms the vest (that leads to sweat), which forces your kid to either stop playing or remove it. And neither of them seems a good option.
If you look carefully, the life jacket which was meant to provide safety now hinders your kid from enjoying in the water, which I think should not happen. And that’s why ventilation is so important.
Many vests on this list have a mesh to provide ventilation. This mesh not only makes the jacket breathable but also drains excess water, thus making it lightweight. So always look for some ventilation to ensure your kid can play as long as they want.
Also, on a sunny day, make your kid wear a sun hat to get adequate UV protection. And don’t worry, even the sun hat has ventilation.
What is the best Youth life jacket?
There is no specific “Best” vest as every child is different, and so their demand. Generally, if the vest has sturdy exterior and a soft interior, some safety straps to hold the child, provides mobility, and keep your child afloat then its a good vest. Additionally, if its lightweight, has good ventilation, an additional zipper, and is USCG Approved, then its the best one.
What age does a child need to wear a life jacket?
There is no specific age your child needs to wear a life jacket. Even a newborn can wear a life jacket; however, its recommended to wait until your baby is atleast 17 pounds (around 4-7 months old) to ensure that the vest fits properly.
Should kids wear life jackets at beach?
Yes, they should! Whenever you are taking your kids to the beach, lake, pool, etc. its crucial that they wear a life jacket to ensure their safety. You never know when a wave might flow them into deep water, so be safe and wear your kid a life jacket.
Even though your child is little grown, it doesn’t mean they are fully safe around water, and that’s why you need a life jacket. In this article, I talked about the best youth life jackets that ensure your child’s safety in and around water. It took me a considerable amount of time to do the research, review the vests, ask the professionals, and write about them, so I would really appreciate it if you take a minute and share it with your friends and family.