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Dreamstimer 03-08-2011 07:17 AM

Life jackets for kids: rigid or inflatable?
What's your experience, is an inflatable suitable for 3-4 years yo kids? My local dealer sells them only from 20kg up. I find the rigid ones to be uncomfortable, especially when is very hot outside. Am I wrong?

cormeum 03-08-2011 09:17 AM

We like the Mustang foam ones with the collar and strap. Only our older kids get inflatables.

I'd rqather not trust the life on a little kid to depending on an inflatable working- or a little panicked kid remembering to pull the cord.

JohnRPollard 03-08-2011 10:11 AM

Unless there's something new on the market, I'm not aware of any inflatable PFDs that are approved by the USCG for use with children. If there's something new, let us know with a link, please. [Previously, there was a hybrid system that combined foam with an inflatable bladder, but those did not remain on the market for very long and I haven't seen them available for 5+ years now, I think.]

Even if there were, I would stick with closed cell foam for kids. With kids, PFDs need to work flawlessly, without any worry about maintenance or whether the system will self-active or get punctured, etc.

I will echo the suggestion of the Mustang L'il Legends PFDs for kids. These are really the best out there. Very young kids will fuss at first, but get used to them after a while if parents remain firm. They need to be worn at all times when on dock or deck, whether underway or not. If you are consistent with the kids, they soon grasp how it works and it becomes second nature.

jackdale 03-08-2011 10:23 AM

In Canada

Inflatable PFDs are not made to
be worn:
• by anyone under 16 years old;
• by anyone who weighs less than 36.3
kg (80 lbs);
• on a personal watercraft; or
• for white-water paddling activities.
Inflatable PFDs come in the following
two styles:
They have good site for selecting child PFDs

Information about Lifejackets and PFDs from the Safe Boating Guide - Transport Canada

ottos 03-08-2011 10:34 AM

From the USCG Aux.Vessel Examiner's Manual:


Inflatable PFDs that have NO INSTALLED BUOYANCY have been
approved by the Coast Guard as an alternate recreational
I'm sure it's in a CFR somewhere :rolleyes:

I see that Landfall had a Sospenders hybrid for kids, but they are no longer available.

pdqaltair 03-08-2011 12:10 PM


Originally Posted by Dreamstimer (Post 706487)
What's your experience, is an inflatable suitable for 3-4 years yo kids? My local dealer sells them only from 20kg up. I find the rigid ones to be uncomfortable, especially when is very hot outside. Am I wrong?

It always helps if you give more information on the header; location and boat type. Something to add for future posts.


Don't listen to anything I say. I break safety rules when I percieve it is safe to and don't really care too much what some of the group thinks about this.

If you live somewhere really hot (Chesapeake Bay, Florida), then if you are going to put the kids in PFDs on a flat clam 100F day you should probably just stay home. It's cruel. We used PFDs some when my daugther was little, but we used a hybrid aproach: harness when conditions were calm to reasonable; in the cabin when rough; PFD when rough or cooler, with a harness too; PFD in small boats or in the water; LOTs of parental attention when small.

Sail Delmarva: Climbing Gear for Sailors; or Jacklines and Harnesses for the Unemployed There is a picture of my girl when she was tiny on a hot calm day, in a harness, playing in a bucket.

But if you listen to any of this, you're on your own. It isn't legal. I don't know you, your boat, the weather, or the waters. I'm just giving some options.
Sail Delmarva: Are You "Captain Safety?"

I've been climbing and sailing for 30 years. I am very attentive. I have also witnessed "safe" people with all of the right gear get dead because they lacked skills. Never a moments inattention, particularly with kids.

Dreamstimer 03-08-2011 03:05 PM

Sorry for not mentioning, I made a few other posts today. I'm in Romania, my trip will be in the Aegean, Cyclades. The temperature is supposed to be quite high (close to 100F at shore), so a rigid vest will be unpleasant for the kid. I don't want to make any compromise on safety either.
Lalizas (Welcome to LALIZAS S.A., Immersion suit manufacturer) have mentioned inflatable are possible for kids above 20kg in weight. Considering it's a Greek company, I suppose standards are different but still, this should be EU compliant.
Cormeum, aren't the inflatables supposed to self-inflate at water contact? I realize you can't rely solely on these, but then the parent should be near.
I will take a look at the Mustangs, but am really concerned about the discomfort in such heat. If you visited Greece you know what I'm talking about.

hellosailor 03-08-2011 03:16 PM

I would suggest there are no inflateable PFDs suitable for very young children. Children,by their nature, run into all kinds of things and don't think twice about it. Inflateable PFDs are easily damaged or punctured or triggered, and then they are worthless.

Better to put them in "waterski" type vests that are more comfy, and available in bright colors with their favorite heros or cartoon characters on them. At least you KNOW that will still work, no matter what the kids get into.

Dreamstimer 03-08-2011 03:26 PM

@pdqaltair, read your blog, very impressive setup (and explanation) for the harness. You raise a few very good points. Will keep them in mind but considering I'll be chartering, installing such equipment will be impossible or very time consuming. And being new to this, I'd rather trust the life jacket, at least until I will make my own educated guess.

Dreamstimer 03-08-2011 03:30 PM

At what age do you all think an inflatable would be Ok? My older one is 8 years, I assume she will be ok with that.
Don't tell me you all wear rigid jackets. Btw, Pdqaltair aside, do you all wear your lifejackets all the time? Honestly... ;)

Thanks, I'm glad to be here (first day)!

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