Impact Vest / Buoyancy Aid / Life Jacket

Impact, Buoyancy Vest Buying Guide


Whether you require a buoyancy aid, life jacket or an impact vest will depend on the type of watersports activity you take part in. A buoyancy aid or an impact vest are mainly used for surface watersports including water skiing, wakeboarding, kite surfing, dinghy sailing, kayaking and jet skiing.

Buoyancy and Impact Vests are generally less bulky and are much easier to swim in than a life jacket. They are designed to allow the user to continually enter and exit the water. Life Jackets have more buoyancy on the front chest and back of the neck to make sure the wearer, if rendered unconscious, will float face up in the water.

An Impact Vest is perfect for protecting you when you're out on the water going at speed. Worn by Wakeboarders, Waterskiers, Jet Skiers etc., the foam in the vest means that the jacket will absorb the impact when you hit the water and stay afloat when in it, but it is not a life jacket. Check out our Vests


Buoyancy is measured in Newtons (N). 

  • Level 50 Buoyancy Aid: Not recommended for weak or non-swimmers. No self-turning ability.
  • Level 70 Buoyancy Aid: Equivalent to the old system’s Type III PFDs. They are the most common PFDs worn by recreational boaters. No self-turning ability.
  • Level 100 Life Jacket: High flotation PFD. Some self-turning ability.
  • Level 150: High flotation PFD. Offshore waters, self-turning ability.

Combined British and European Standards (BS ENs) exist for buoyancy equipment. Each Standard is intended to be suitable for different activities in various risk situations.

BS EN 393:1994 Buoyancy aids: 50 N. These have a buoyancy of no less than 50 Newtons for the average adult and are intended for use in sheltered waters when help is close at hand and the user is a swimmer, and in circumstances where more bulky or buoyant devices would impair the user’s activity or actually endanger them.

BS EN 395:1994  Lifejackets: 100 N. These have a buoyancy of no less than 100 Newtons for the average adult and are intended for relatively sheltered waters when normal clothing is being worn and the wearers remain capable of helping themselves.

BS EN 396:1994  Lifejackets: 150 N. These have a buoyancy of no less than 150 Newtons for the average adult and are intended for use in tidal waters or when foul weather clothing is being used; and where the wearers may not be capable of helping themselves due to injury or exhaustion (or where there may be a delay in rescue).