Growing children love adventurous sports, but they’re experts at getting themselves into situations that terrify parents. Whether you’re scrambling around rock pools or boating as a family, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed if your kids are properly kitted out with effective flotation vests. The best life jackets for youth in the 50-90 pound range won’t interfere with their fun but can be relied on to keep them afloat when needed.
They also need to be adjustable to cope with their growth. Luckily there are some excellent models available, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Once your child outgrows their kids life vest (up to 50 lbs) and can’t quite fit into adult size models, you’ll want to move them to Youth size life jackets. Here’s what we recommend:
Stohlquist has a great reputation for safety gear and their Nemo vest is among the leading options as a toddler life jacket and then the 30-50lbs kids range. When your kids get a bit bigger, the Child Escape is the perfect next step. As a USCG approved Type III PFD, it has a sea level buoyancy of almost 13 lbs. It’s a high performance but affordable life vest that’s ideal for children from 50-90 lbs, and it’s been carefully designed (and recently updated) to let them enjoy themselves freely without compromising protection.
The Child Escape is a low profile vest covered in durable 200 denier oxford nylon, with soft buoyancy foam on both front and back flotation panels. Because it’s meant for older kids, it’s less bulky and lower profile than other Stohlquist kids vests.
It does share the Nemo’s comfortable design, with plenty of space for the arms to move. That makes it ideal for kayaking and sailing, where you need to be able to move freely. There’s also a deep V at the neck. The vest secures with a heavy duty zip and there’s a waist belt for security, complete with quick release buckle.
It’s always nice to see attention to detail, and this vest shows plenty. There’s a flat pocket on the lower right, which is perfect for holding a safety whistle, snack, or other small items. The padded shoulders allow additional comfort and reflective accents add safety. The Child Escape comes in two colors, both of which are quite visible. There is also a hi-vis reflective strip on the chest, and the logo on the upper back is reflective too. Overall this is a great vest.
As one of the most comfortable life vests for your child, the Full Throttle “hinged rapid-dry” jacket has five segmented hinge points for extra flexibility which allows easier movement than many other brands. Also, the back of the vest has a stretchable insert for even more maneuverability. This US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD is also fast drying so your kiddo can get back in the water after a quick break. Great for the beach, boating, or water sports, it’s sleek enough where they won’t complain when wearing it extended periods. Available in high visibility blue or purple.
The Phantom is an extremely neat neoprene-covered life vest that’s ideal for kids weighing between 50 and 90 lbs. It’s also US Coast Guard approved and very affordable. If your kids are too slim for the Child Escape this could be a great solution. A front zip and two quick-release belts hold it secure and allow easy adjustment at the same time.
This vest gives plenty of buoyancy and because it’s so thin it’s ideal for wear in a small boat – it doesn’t get in the way at all. It does have one drawback compared to the Stohlquist – it’s a little bit more restrictive, and might rub under the arms. Apart from that it’s excellent. Available in 3 colors.
This budget vest from Stearns is USCG-approved and will support any child from 50 to 90 pounds. It’s a simple, classic design with foam panels inside a tough nylon shell. If you’re having trouble finding a vest to fit your child the Stearns is probably just what you’re looking for; three straps, two of them running right round the body, make it both easily adjustable and incredibly secure. It is slightly bulkier than some of the others but it’s effective, sturdy and the red version is highly visible.