Lifejackets - take them, wear them!

Modern inflatable and foam lifejackets are now more comfortable and fit for purpose than ever, so there’s no reason not to wear one.

Lifejackets provide more than just flotation, they allow you to keep still and conserve energy in the water, delaying the onset of hypothermia.

What should I look for in a lifejacket?
Which lifejacket best suits my boating? 
Laws regarding lifejackets 
Lifejacket care and servicing 
Hire lifejackets from Coastguard 

What should I look for in a lifejacket?

Quality is key! We can’t stress that enough – from the stitching to the fabric to the fastenings on the lifejacket. If you're buying an inflatable lifejacket, we recommend choosing one with an additional protective outer cover to the buoyancy bladder, that will help protect it from accidental damage.
It’s important that any lifejacket, whether it’s foam or inflatable, meets New Zealand safety standards, indicated by an “S” mark.  

Which lifejacket best suits my boating?
There are lifejackets to suit all types of boating, from fishing to water-skiing and centreboard sailing. Your local marine retailer will stock a range of lifejackets and have the best advice.
Coastguard volunteers proudly wear and recommend Hutchwilco quality lifejackets.
Foam Lifejackets
  • Ideal for all types of general boating.
  • Engineered to provide the ultimate in protection.
  • Buoyancy collar helps to support your head in the water.
  • Keeps you warm and provides excellent protection from hypothermia.
For kids, we recommend the use of crotch straps (these can be added to any lifejacket if you feel the need).
Inflatable Lifejackets

This modern-style lifejacket is designed to be bladder inflated by CO2 gas when required. The deployment of an inflatable lifejacket occurs in two ways: through the manual release of a firing mechanism to inflate the bladder; or where the bladder is automatically inflated by water saturation or pressure.

  • One size fits all, easily adjustable, non-bulky slim-line fit.
  • Twice the buoyancy of a foam lifejacket. 
  • Rapidly turns you onto your back when inflated.
  • Rearming kits are readily available from marine retailers.
  • Easy storage when not worn.

Choosing the right lifejacket for your child

Check out this handy video for tips on getting the right fit for your child.

While automatic inflatable lifejackets are available for children (and adults), we recommend the use of foam lifejackets for children up to the age of 13.

Regular checking and self-servicing for all recreational lifejackets is recommended, at least annually. 
Take the time to get to know the features of your inflatable lifejacket, how it operates and how to use the oral inflator if required. Include this in your safety briefing before you head out.

What are the laws around lifejackets?
As the skipper, you’re responsible for everyone on board, and for getting them home safely at the end of the day. That means having a correctly fitted lifejacket to suit your type of boating for everyone on board, making sure they know how these work, and adhering to your local bylaws, which differ depending on your location. 
In the Auckland region, all people on board vessels 6m or less must wear a lifejacket, unless the skipper deems it safe not to. For specific legislation specific to your favourite boating area, please visit the Maritime NZ website.
Make putting on lifejackets for everyone on board an important part of your safety briefing before you head out. 

How long will my lifejacket keep me afloat?
Look after them and they’ll look after you. When the unexpected happens out on the water, it often happens really quickly. That’s why wearing your lifejacket, especially in boats less that 6m, can make all the difference.
Quality foam lifejackets are manufactured from closed-cell foam, which will not absorb water. Provided your lifejacket is kept in good condition, its buoyancy will keep you afloat as long as required. 
Inflatable lifejackets provide twice the buoyancy of a normal foam lifejacket, and again if properly looked after (by self-servicing annually and storing flat in a dry location when not in use), they will not let you down. If top-up is required or you find the lifejacket too full, the manual inflation tube can be used.

What's the best way to look after my lifejacket?
Salt spray can be wiped off the lifejacket using a cloth dampened with fresh water. If the lifejacket is wet through, we recommend washing it down with a hose and taking the time to dry it out thoroughly to avoid mould, which can easily set in if left in the often moist conditions of your boat.
Lifejackets are best stored dry and flat. A great way to store them is on a coat hanger in your garage or a well-ventilated space out of the sunlight. Just don’t forget to grab them before you head out!
Inflatable lifejackets
Inflatable lifejackets must be checked regularly. Those used in a recreational environment are self-serviceable to check for wear, ensure the gas cylinder is tightly screwed in, corrosion free and unused, and that the bladder has no leaks.
Self-servicing your inflatable lifejacket can be done easily, check out the video courtesy of our friends at Hutchwilco, or check out your manufacturers guidelines.


Can I rent lifejackets from Coastguard?
Absolutely. You can hire a range of foam lifejackets from Coastguard Northern Region, thanks to our friends at Hutchwilco. The service is run out of our Northern Region headquarters so if you’re in the Auckland area you’re in luck and can just pop in.
As a member you get a discount off the cost of lifejacket hire, with prices starting from $10 a day.

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