Summer means fun on the water with kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and canoes. It also means the temperatures are climbing and with the exertion of paddling or pedaling, people will want to cool off. A temptation for many is to shed that bulky life jacket to cool off and while legally you can in most states, it can be dangerous.
The easiest way to stay cool while still wearing your life jacket is to find one that is better suited for paddling and warmer temperatures. This will allow you to stay cool and safe at the same time.
Several different models of life vests exist that can meet these criteria. The following selections of personal flotation devices are designed with summer in mind and usually are minimalist or have built in vents to help you stay cooler.
Inflatable Life Jackets
One of the easiest ways to stay cool and safe in the summer is with an inflatable life jacket. The inflatables come in three different varieties: automatic, manual, auto/manual.
|Mustang M.I.T. 100 Auto Inflatable Life Vest|
An automatic life jacket will deploy flotation when it senses a significant amount of water. This usually occurs when a person falls overboard. Rain very rarely sets these off. Once the flotation has been deployed you will have to buy a recharge kit for the life jacket for it to work again. If you are planning on swimming with your life jacket on, this is not the right choice for that. You will want a standard flotation life jacket that does require deployment to work.
A manual is like the automatic but it requires for you to pull on a tab to activate inflation. These type work great unless for some reason you are unconscious when you hit the water or extremely disoriented.
An auto/manual has both options built into the vest.
The inflatable I use almost exclusively in the summer is the Mustang M.I.T. 100 Auto Inflatable life vest. I haven’t had it deploy yet but the window gauge shows me it is charged and ready should it need to deploy.
|Ascend Paddling Fishing Life Jacket|
Standard Flotation Life Jackets
For summer life jackets with standard flotation, you need to look at design. These don’t deploy and have to have enough buoyant material to float a person but try to minimize bulk to reduce heat. I often look for mesh back, mesh shoulders, and thinner material to avoid some of the inevitable heat.
|Bass Pro Shops M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack|
The Ascend vest has suspender style straps for the shoulders which limits material against your skin, large arm holes for paddling and casting motions, and a thin, vented back that allows for air flow.
The front of the life jacket is designed with pockets that can hold a wallet, keys, or phone so you can keep them safely on your person. If you are fishing with this vest you can store extra hooks, lures, or line in the pockets.
Inflatable Belt Packs
The final option for those who really get hot and don’t want anything on their chest or back is the inflatable belt pack. The belt packs are usually manual inflation so you’d have to pull the tab to inflate it but it’s a really good option for stand up paddle-boarders who need a much larger range of motion than your typical kayaker. One of the most popular on the market is the Bass Pro Shops M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack.
Regardless of what you’re doing on the water, do it safely. These life jacket choices will allow you to do that and stay cooler in the process. We all have different clothes for the seasons of the year, why shouldn’t we have different life jackets too?