Life Jackets


Family boating wearing life jackets

Accidents on the water happen fast. U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in 79% of recreational boating fatalities in 2019, and that 86% of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. That’s why boating safety advocates continue to push for increased and consistent life jacket wear on the water. Worry less when you Wear It!

How to Choose the Right Life Jacket

Today’s life jackets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. No matter which life jacket you choose, be sure it’s right for YOU, your planned activities, and the water conditions you expect to encounter.

Try It On

  • Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight to get started.
  • Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
  • Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and grab the shoulder material, gently pulling up.  
  • If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.

Fit Facts

  • It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
  • Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
  • Life jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your body afloat.

Important Reminders 

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
  • Double-check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite boating activities.
  • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

Texas Life Jacket Laws

  • It's Texas state law on recreational vessels under 26ft. in length when underway (including drifting or not at anchor), all children under 13 years old must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Adults must have a properly fitting life jacket that is easily accessible.
  • The Outdoor Annual provides information about types of life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFDs).
  • For more regulations on life jacket requirements when boating, see required safety equipment by vessel type in the Outdoor Annual.

Understand new life jacket labels

• The traditional “Types” categories are going away.

Types of life jackets comparison chart
• New labeling system relies more on icons and less on
• Older jackets and flotation aids labeled by “type” still meet regulatory requirements until no longer serviceable.
• Wearable life jackets will be divided into five buoyancy
categories: 50, 70, 100, 150, and 275 Newtons (metric to
harmonize with Canadian standards. Level 50 is not approved for carriage in US. If you wear a level 50 you need a level 70 or above on board to meet the required safety equipment.

Choose the level of buoyancy for the type of activity.
• The curved arrow indicates that it is likely to turn an unconscious wearer face up in the water.Life Jackets have new labels with information on intended use and buoyancy