A lifejacket that suits and fits your child is vital. Pip Hare put some of the latest kit to the test with the help of ten young volunteers

Kids lifejackets tested

Spinlock Cento

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The Cento has a ‘grown-up’ style similar to Spinlock’s Deckvest LITE. It is available in pink and blue and has a high-quality finish. The jacket was easy for children to slip over their heads but they struggled with the off-centre push-through buckle.

The jacket received consistent high scores for comfort in and out of the water and was the lightest of our sample at just 700g. It is one of the more expensive jackets, at £117, but it covers a wide weight range of 20-50kg and comes with a five-year warranty, if registered.

Overall: Great for regular sailors and a clear favourite with our older girls.

Sizes available: 20-50kg
Weight: 850g
Price: £139.94
YW rating: 5/5 – Editor’s choice

Ocean Safety Kru XF Junior

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The XF junior is a no-nonsense jacket covering a weight range from 15-40kg. Though the waist strap and crotch strap could be tightened to fit a five-year-old, the bladder still rode up around their ears in the pool. This being so, we wouldn’t recommend this jacket for very small children. However, the bigger children among our testers reported that it was comfortable.

Overall: This is the entry level for auto-inflation at £44.95. It performed well in wet tests, but it did rub on a few of the children’s necks. In the hands of an active child the Velcro bladder fastening may not last as well as the zipper alternative. That said, this could be a good first step to a ‘grown-up’ lifejacket.

Sizes available: 15-40kg
Weight: 800g
Price: £44.95
YW rating: 3.5/5

Seago Waveguard Junior

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The Waveguard Junior scored highly with our children on fit and comfort. Good features included a window to check the firing head, a soft insert around the neck and extra wide Velcro securing the bladder edges.

Seago uses a back plate inside the bladder with a strong rubber band to stop the gas bottles from moving and unscrewing during dry wear. This does make one side of the jacket more rigid than the other, but it didn’t seem to bother our testers.

Overall: With a recommended retail price of £59.99, I felt the Waveguard Junior represented the best value of all the jackets we reviewed.

Sizes available: 20-50kg
Weight: 875g
Price: £59.50
YW rating: 5/5 – best value

Crewsaver Crewfit Junior

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A well-fitting and comfortable jacket with a shaped bladder fastened by zip, padded waist straps and reinforced firing head window. Crewsaver has placed the waist strap adjustment on the side of the jacket, which made it a lot easier for adults to adjust. The jacket achieved good scores on comfort both in and out of the water.

Overall: A good mid-range jacket, which the adults found easiest to adjust while being worn by the child. This makes it good for those who sail regularly through the seasons as the jacket goes on and off along with clothing layers, or for those who have children who make frequent trips below decks.

Sizes available: 20-50kg
Weight: 809g
Price: £80
YW rating: 4/5

Secumar Duo Protect Mini and Junior

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The Secumar Mini covers the 15-30kg weight range, while the Junior does 20-50kg. These jackets have a huge level of detail, including fleece inserts, padding on straps and extra security fastenings on the Mini. Secumar also offers a dual-layering system to protect the bladder from chafe damage, which may be incurred through rough usage.

Both jackets are shorter in the body than others tested making bending and sitting more comfortable. At £199 these are top quality but expensive jackets. They are well designed and comfortable, but the extra detailing does make them heavy, which may become more noticeable over time.

Mini: The Mini was a great fit for our five- and six-year-olds – they loved it but parents will need to gauge if children of this age have the maturity to wear an inflatable lifejacket. The pirate design motif may age-limit the jacket, making it less popular with older children despite still being a good fit.

Sizes available: 15-30kg
Weight: 910g
Price: £203
YW rating: 3.5/5

Junior: This jacket scored well on comfort and was the only jacket that children could easily fasten unaided, so it would be great for independent children.

Weight: 910g
Sizes available: 20-50kg
Weight: 1,000g
Price: £203
YW rating: 4.5/5

kids-lifejackets-group-test-pip-hare-credit-paul-wyethConclusion

Due to the range of shapes and weights of children, choosing an inflatable kids lifejacket is not a case of one size fits all. A snug-fitting lifejacket was vital to performance in the water.

Let your child tell you what feels good while you assess how easy it is to do up and how individual features will stand up to your child’s level of activity on a boat.

Swapping to an inflatable kids lifejacket could certainly give your child a greater level of comfort and mobility while moving around a yacht as well as the ability to clip on.

Don’t forget that when making this change you will take on the responsibility of checking and maintaining the lifejacket, as well as ensuring your child knows how it works. Perhaps this could lead to a better understanding of your own lifejacket as well.

First published in the March 2018 edition of Yachting World.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Kids lifejackets tested
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