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Buoyancy Aids vs. Life Jackets – Get 100% Up to Speed!

So you’ve bought a SUP, Kayak, Canoe, or any watersports equipment for that matter, it is key that you stay safe on the water with a Buoyancy Aid or a Life Jacket.

This handy guide should help you get there by explaining the key differences in PFDs (or Personal Floatation Devices) to help you stay more informed and grab yourself exactly the device you need to have a great season on the water!

The main two types of PFDs you will see are Buoyancy Aids (BAs) and Life Jackets. We sell both of these here at West End Outdoors – with Buoyancy Aids being the more popular of the two.

The easiest way to differentiate BAs from Life Jackets is that BAs are only there to help you swim, whereas Life Jackets will keep you afloat in more challenging situations. BAs differ from Life Jackets due to their lack of ability to turn you over if you fall into the water while unconscious. A Life Jacket will usually have a collar that goes around the back of the neck that will turn the user face up in the water and make sure they don’t drown. This is not the case on buoyancy aids, which is why you will often find that any PFDs you see for younger children will almost always be classed as Life Jackets.

BAs have the advantage of being far less bulky on the user, which in turn makes them far easier to use for active sports such as SUPing, Kayaking, Canoeing etc. But bear in mind that a BA will not save your life in a big accident in the same way as a Life Jacket would.

Telling the difference between a BA and a Life Jacket is easy – as they all have an identifying mark on them to tell you how many Newtons of force they can excerpt against gravity in the water. Anything Below 100N is considered a Buoyancy Aid – this includes our most popular range, the Jobe Unify Vests, which are rated for 50N. BAs like this are great for people who are already swimmers and want that extra protection and peace of mind that comes with wearing a vest. Life Jackets can vary in Newton rating and go all the way up to 275N, which is suitable for use far offshore.

We also stock Palm Inflatable PFDs which are rated for 100N of Buoyancy – these can be sold as Life Jackets as, once inflated, they feature a neck ring to keep your head above water and provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat without your assistance. Another great benefit of the Palm Inflatable PFD is that it can provide this level of protection while being even less bulky than your standard BA, folding down into a bum bag form factor when not in use.

Overall there is no right or wrong answer to which type of PFD is right for you, but hopefully this post has given you the tools to make an informed decision.

If you have any questions about buoyancy aids, or any of our stock, get in touch either by phone or email at 0330 133 4040 or – or visit us at Unit 12C2, Anniesland Business Park, Glasgow, G13 1EU.

West End Outdoors