A Life jacket isn’t meant to make you look beautiful (though they have come a long way from the orange summer-camp specials). That’s not the point. Your life is the point – and your family’s lives.



Many boaters, new and experienced alike, have a laundry list of why they don’t wear a life jacket: “It’s uncomfortable,” “I look stupid,” “I know how to swim” and “I’ll put it on If I need it.” The last one always gets our hackles up. Try putting on your life jacket while treading water, or worse … drowning. It’s not easy at best, and at worst – too late. 

Imagine your whole family getting thrown overboard without their life jackets. Who’s going to save whom? And if you’re the only one wearing a life jacket, which one are you going to save first? 

The organization, Stop Drowning Now, reminds us:

  • 10 people drown every day.
  • Drowning is fast and SILENT! It’s not like you see in the movies.
  • Drowning can happen in less than 1 minute.  


Life jacket, boating safety, family on boat

Give them a fighting chance! Give the Skipper some peace of mind. Make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket, right-sized for them. 

You wear a life jacket for the same reason you wear your seat belt in a car – because you cannot predict the unpredictable: a log hidden below the surface of the water, a reckless boater, a rogue wave or wake. You cannot control how you will get thrown out of your boat, and if you’re knocked unconscious, then what? But none of this will be your concern because you wear your life jacket. Right?

The U.S. Coast Guard labels life jackets according to the boating activity for its intended use. There are five types described as Offshore Life Jackets, Near-Shore Buoyant Vests, Flotation Aids, Throwable Devices and Special Use flotation aids.

Not only does the jacket need to be serviceable, but it’s extremely important to wear the right U.S. Coast Guard approved jacket for the job. The life jacket label states the impact speed rating. You don’t want to be wearing a jacket that’s rated for canoeing when you’re water skiing; it hasn’t been tested to stay on the user when impacting the water at high speed. That can be tragic.

Life jackets are meant to keep your head above water and be visible to rescuers. For example, offshore jackets are large, can lift in excess of 22 pounds and are designed to roll an unconscious person face-up. While near- and in-shore life jackets are designed for calmer waters and are not capable of rolling the wearer face-up.

We cannot stress enough the importance of wearing the right life jacket at all times. Make sure you check each jacket’s buckles, straps and seams before every day on the water so you can live to tell about it.


Life Jacket Types

Off-Shore Life Jackets

Best for open ocean, rough seas or remote water, where rescue may be slow coming.

Near-Shore Buoyant Vests

For general boating activities. Good for calm inland waters, or where there is a good chance for fast rescue.

Flotation Aids

For general boating or the specialized activity such as water skiing, hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and others.

Throwable Device

Designed to be thrown to a person overboard or to supplement the buoyancy of a person overboard. It is not to be worn.

Special Use

Only for special uses or conditions such as canoe/kayak vest, boardsailing vest, deck suit, etc.


Water wave


Just boating for the weekend with the family? BoatUS has a Life Jacket Loaner Program for kids so parents can get the right life jacket for the day or weekend. To find a loaner site check out their convenient locator map.

life jacket fit guide

You can find several resources on proper fit and care from the Wear It campaign, a program of the National Safe Boating Council.





lighthouse graphicBoating is serious fun. We’ve provided a variety of advocate tools and outreach methods, choose what works best for you and your community.

  • Visit spread the word for easy outreach through personal social media outlets and boating forums.
  • Provide year-round education on all boating safety topics – download pamphlets, flyers, banners, and posters. Great event materials. Search by topic in the resource section.
  • Download our marketing playbook, an advocates dream resource for creating change. Find it under the Boat Live 365 topic in our resource section.
  • Don’t know where to start?  Contact us. We’re happy to help.


*U.S. Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics, 2021

wear it logo feature

Take the life jacket pledge and share it with your friends and family!

download icon, orange shaped like documentVisit our resource library for downloads, event materials, tips and ideas on how to create a safe boating culture 365 days a year.

Coronavirus icon, social distancing, boating TIPS

The National Safe Boating Council has provided tips on how to navigate social distancing while boating. Here’s a great resource to help you in these uncharted waters. Stay safe everyone!

download icon, orange shaped like documentLearn what the Wear It safe boating campaign has to offer and download this free resource kit.

Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. Coast Guard.