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I have been renting a sunfish and Hobie Cat off and on while I decide what I want to buy. I have been using the life vest provided buy the rental locations. But I would like to buy my own. What brand / type would you recomend? I am on the larger side
 

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Hi Mark,

Welcome to SailNet!

I have been using the life vest provided buy the rental locations. But I would like to buy my own. What brand / type would you recomend?
West Marine has a nice article to help one select a life vest. Here it is and their section about choosing a life vest for day sailing:

HOW TO SELECT A LIFE VEST​
How to Choose the Right Life Jacket​
Day Sailing
Sailing small boats requires PFDs that fit snug to the body and that maximize freedom of movement. The preferred style has a zippered closure and is made from soft, pliable foam. Day sailing vests often feature an articulating design, with strips of foam inserted into channels that enables the vest to flex and wrap comfortably around your torso. Large armholes offer additional freedom of movement, but may allow the vest to ride up when in the water, so a snug fit is important. If you sail a dinghy or beach catamaran, your PFD may have to be worn with a trapeze harness, so take the harness with you when you shop for a new life jacket. Day Sailing vests are a good choice for a variety of boating styles except for high-speed water sports.​

Naturally ;) they have a selection of PFD's they categorize as Day Sailing Life Jackets:

Day Sailing Life Jackets​

That might help you find what you are looking for.

~~ Red
 

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If you want USCG approved, I've noticed lots of dinghy sailors (including me) using the Stohlquist Edge (Edge Life Jacket (PFD) | Whitewater Lifejacket - Stohlquist WaterWare). If you don't care about the Coasties and just want something to help you not sink, lots of dinghy sailors like the Zhik P3 (https://www.zhik.com/mens/equipment/pfd-s.html). I wouldn't recommend an inflatable, the automatic ones will go off too much, and the manual ones won't inflate when you need them to, and will rust quickly.
 

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I'd encourage you to try them on and simulate the positions you will need to adopt on the boat. My wife and I sailed a Hobie Wave for a few years and tried on quite a few PFDs to find one that seemed comfortable in all situations - we'd pretend to be sitting on the tramp, hiking out, or moving around on the boat. It was strange how different PFDs fit in each circumstance.

I also liked having easy access pockets for things like my knife and whistle. I lost one knife that was clipped to my PFD (as kayakers do), so liked it being more secure.

Stores like REI or Cabelas had a good selection in our area. I ended up with one from Cabelas that I think was for fishing and my wife got a paddling model from REI.

I don't think the brand is super important as long as it's USCG listed for the appropriate use.
 
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