Is a Life Jacket or a Buoyancy Aid Required?


When should a buoyancy aid be used instead of a life jacket?

A buoyancy aid is designed to assist you in swimming, whereas a life jacket is designed to keep you floating without the need for swimming. It is crucial to realise, however, that not all life jackets are the same, and some are not guaranteed to keep you safe in rough sea circumstances. The buoyancy of a life jacket is measured in Newtons (N), with ratings based on the weight of the intended user. Because ten Newtons equal one kilogramme of flotation, human buoyancy means that all adults, no matter how light or heavy they are, will have a net weight of only 5KG. As a result, you don’t require any more buoyancy than any other adult.

When should you not wear a buoyancy aid?
Buoyancy aids should be worn only if you are a skilled swimmer, in protected waters, or when there is adequate safety protection. Children and those who are unable to swim should wear a life jacket.

Newton Ratings *In decreasing order of buoyancy.

Buoyancy Assists


Sailing Kayak & Canoeing Paddle Kiteboarding Kitesurfing

Only for experienced swimmers.

Life vests


Powerboat Dinghy Sailing Sportsboat

Non-swimmers in coastal and inshore waters


Powerboat Dinghy Sailing Sportsboat



Powerboat Dinghy Sailing Sportsboat


Newton Scores

50N: Foam buoyancy aids are rated 50N and should only be used by capable swimmers in sheltered water where support is nearby. 50N life jackets can only help cognizant persons who can help themselves.
Life jackets rated 100N are appropriate for swimmers and non-swimmers in inshore and coastal waters. In reasonably calm waters, they provide a decent assurance of safety from drowning. This grade does not guarantee that an unconscious user will be self-righted and should not be anticipated to protect the airway in turbulent waters.
150N: Life jackets rated 150N are suitable for both swimmers and non-swimmers and can be used in any but the most extreme conditions. For persons who are unable to aid themselves, these life jackets provide reasonable certainty of drowning protection.
275N: Life jackets rated 275N are the most buoyant and are suitable for both swimmers and non-swimmers. This is a high-performance jacket designed for offshore and extreme circumstances where maximum protection is required. While it cannot be assured that an unconscious user will be self-righted, this life jacket will give excellent buoyancy in the vast majority of circumstances.

What should you check for while purchasing a life jacket?

Buoyancy Aids or Foam Life Jackets: Buoyancy aids or foam life jackets do not inflate. However, the buoyancy is provided by the foam and can be used in sheltered seas; this variety is commonly used by children.
Manual Life Jackets: When entering the water, pull a tag to inflate the life jacket. This causes a firing pin to be pushed into the CO2 canister, assuring inflation. If the wearer is knocked unconscious, manual life jackets are ineffective.
Automatic Life Jackets: When the firing system gets wet, the automatic life jackets inflate. This type of life jacket works by employing small pellets and bobbins. When the pellets come into contact with water, they rapidly dissolve, releasing a spring that propels a firing pin into the gas canister.
Hammar Life Jacket: A hammer life jacket will automatically inflate. The hammer life jacket, like automatic life jackets, is activated by water pressure. The pellet is protected by a casing that only allows water to enter after it is below the surface and fully submerged. This implies that the hammer life jacket is less likely to be activated by accident in inclement weather.

Life vests

Buoyancy Assists

Features That Are Required & Recommended

  • Your life jacket must be CE-marked. – The buoyancy rating must be appropriate for the activity. To prevent the life jacket from rising over your head when it inflates, it must contain one or two crotch straps. Reflective tape should be included since it permits you to remain visible when hit by a searchlight. Spray hoods are a useful feature since they protect your face and airway. Some life jackets include attachable lights for drawing attention in low-light situations – Some life jackets include built-in harnesses for securing yourself to the boat.

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