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September 01, 2021 17 min read

Trojan’s Life Jacket Buying Guide - 2021/2022

Introduction

Water sports and leisure activities such as wakeboarding, wakesurfing, waterskiing, tubing and jetskiing are great ways to spend a summer's day. However, being around water poses a risk to you and your loved one's safety. That's why it's essential to get a correctly fitting life jacket. Below, we will discuss the Australian life jacket classification system, life jackets typically used in watersports and preview some of the top life jackets from Follow and Jetpilot. Finally, we will answer some common questions about life jackets.

Life Jacket Classification and Usage

When spending your day on the water, your first priority should be the safety of yourself and those around you. Even if you're a strong swimmer, the unpredictability of water sports means you can quickly find yourself in trouble. Therefore, you should always follow the rules and regulations in your local area, including having (and wearing) the appropriate level life jacket in the correct size for every member of your group.

In Australia, each state and territory has its own set of rules regulating the use of life jackets. So before your next day on the water, you should check the local requirements. While each state and territory has slightly different laws covering life jackets, they all refer to the Australian Standard AS 4758. This 3 part national code covers the general requirements, materials, components and testing methods for life jackets used in Australia. To help you understand the different levels of life jacket, we will briefly summarise the different levels and give some guidance on their use.

Australian Lifejacket Classification System

If you have been enjoying the water for some time now, you will probably remember the old system of classifying life jackets. Before 2010 lifejackets (or personal floatation devices (PFD's)) categories included Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 PFD's. However, since 2010, these jackets have been phased out and replaced by a newer classification system based on AS 4758. After a transition period, most states and territories require lifejackets comply with the new system. As it has been over 11 years, you should be replacing any lifejackets with the old classifications anyway (time flies when you're having fun on the water).

In the current system, lifejackets are classified by application and performance level. The level relates to the amount of buoyancy provided by the lifejacket. The table below shows the four most common lifejacket levels you are likely to encounter in Australia.

Level

Performace

150

  • Intended for general and offshore use.
  • Designed to assist in turning an unconscious person face-up.

100

  • Minimum requirement for general coastal use.
  • Intended for use where the shore is in view.
  • Designed to assist in turning an unconscious person face-up.

50

  • Intended for use by able swimmers.
  • Intended for users who are close to the bank or shore and/or who have rescue and help close by.
  • They are NOT designed to assist turning the user face-up.
  • Require active participation by the wearer.

50S

  • The same as Level 50, but can be of any colour.


Level 150 and Level 100

Level 150 or 100 life jackets complying with AS 4758 will be marked; they replace the old Type 1 PDF's. These are highly visible, offer head support and the best buoyancy. Designed for offshore and coastal use, they help turn the user into a face-up position. However, whilst levels 100 and 150 offer high buoyancy and head support, they don't offer the maneuverability and comfort required for water sports like waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. Also, they are often not designed for the high-speed impacts you are likely to experience during these activities.

At Trojan WSS, we specialise in lifejackets for waterskiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing, tubing and jet skiing which are typically performed on enclosed waters. These activities usually require level 50 and level 50S, so we focus our discussion on these levels. Note If you need a lifejacket for the coast or offshore use, please consult with local authorities to ensure you have the correct gear for your activity and conditions.

Level 50S and Level 50

Level 50 and 50S life jackets replace the old type 2 and type 3 PFD's. They are ideal for activities on enclosed waters when a sudden fall into water is expected. They are lighter and less bulky than a lifejacket you would use offshore. The reduced bulk makes them less restrictive and suitable for continuous wear - ideal for activities where movement and flexibility are required.
Level 50S and level 50 lifejackets share many similarities. The critical difference is Level 50 lifejackets are required to have highly visible colours (helpful if searching is required), whereas level 50S can be any colour. However, these should only be used by competent swimmers near the bank/shore or near help. They are not designed to assist in turning the wearer face-up and require active participation. You might ask the question, "won't a level 100 or 150 level jacket offer better protection when water skiing or wakeboarding". The short answer is not necessarily, higher-level lifejackets do provide increased buoyancy; however, they may not be appropriate for the high-speed impacts associated with skiing and wakeboarding.

Which level of lifejacket do I need?

Whilst the rules and regulations for each state differ, there are a few common recommendations we can make for particular sports. If you plan on waterskiing, wakeboarding or wakesurfing on enclosed waters (rivers, lakes etc.), then a Level 50S life jacket is usually the minimum recommended. If you're planning to ski or wakeboard on the coast, please check with your state's requirements.
The rules vary from state to state for Personal Watercraft (PWC; e.g. jet skis), including tow-in surfing. However, if you are unsure, we recommend getting a Level 50 lifejacket. The additional high-visibility colours make it easy to spot if you've had an accident. They usually come with other jetski friendly features like lanyard safety clips for securing your safety kill switch, handles for passengers to grip onto and storage pockets.

Care and Maintenance

Like many things, life jackets will deteriorate with time. However, you can get many years out of one by looking after it appropriately. For more information, please refer to our question and answer section below.

Our Top Brands

Follow life jackets

Follow began in 2010 with a line of accessories, including tow handles. Their approach was to focus on quality with "no gimmicks". Since then, they have expanded their range to include life jackets and other wearables with an iconic team of riders to match. They make some of the most stylish life jackets available on the Australian market and offer a range of fits to suit various body shapes. For 2021/2022, follow will be introducing their season 10.5 range. So strap in as we introduce you to some of our favourites this summer.

Men's Follow Life Jackets

Follow TBA Men's Jacket

With Design input from team rider Alex Aulbach, the TBA was sure to be one stylish jacket. Whether on or off the water, Alex's style always speaks for itself. The limited silver colourway uses reflective neoprene, so your outfit will 'pop' as much as your ollies. The TBA is cut shorter, ideal for those finding their vest sits a little low around their waist. TrueFit internal liner, stretchy & soft neoprene, dual-layer neoprene construction and featherweight foam offer an incredibly comfortable fit for all-day use. If it weren't for the shiny-ness, you'd probably forget you're wearing this vest. Level 50S Australian/ISO dual approval and disco dancefloor approved.

Follow B.P. Pro Men's Jacket and B.P. Pro Plus Men's Jacket

Keep the style on point with Follow's Duraprene neoprene denim outer, giving the vest the durability of your favourite jeans without compromising flexibility. Featherweight foam, a longer pull-down hem, elasticised edging, and the tapered Pro-Fit keep this vest snug on your body without restricting body movement. Level 50S Australian and ISO dual approval.

The Follow B.P. Pro Men's Jacket also comes in a "Plus" version, giving you all the standard version features with a bit of extra room around the midsection.

Follow RD Men's Jacket ($229.99)

Raph Derome is a true Wakeboard legend. As if it wasn't hard enough to master one style of wakeboarding, Raph has gone on to set an impossibly high standard of riding at the cable park, behind the boat and at the winch spot. To keep up with his demands on the water, Raph has used the best materials to design a jacket with minimalistic styling. With dual-layer neoprene construction, featherweight foam and Reduced individual foam panel segments, comfort and mobility are achieved. Finally, a TrueFit liner ensures no unnecessary movement of the neoprene for a consistent ride all day long. Level 50S Australian and ISO dual approval.

Follow Unity Men's Jacket ($219.99)

Can't decide if you want a dark or light colourway? Then the Unity life jacket is for you. Apart from the unique contrasting colours, the Unity is packed full of high-performance features meeting the high demands of team rider Sam Brown. Ninja flex panels in the chest and back combine with super stretchy & soft neoprene for maximum mobility and unrestricted movement. Featherweight foam, the softest and lightest follow can find, further enhances the feel of this ultra-lightweight, highly-reliable vest. Level 50S Australian and ISO dual approval.

Follow Division Men's Jacket ($199.99)

In contrast to the tapered Pro fit found on the P.B., the Division vest utilises Follows Happy Fit. This generous shape is ideal for those not wanting a tight fit or for those who indulge in an extra sausage roll on the way to the river (the exact jacket I need right now). Dual-layer construction, Featherweight foam and fully segmented foam flex panels keep this vest fitting as intended with plenty of flexibility. Used and abused by Mitch Langfield at his black spot 2.0 setup, this jacket will take any punishment you throw at it. Level 50S Australian approved.

Follow Primary Men's Jacket ($179.99)

The Men's Primary life jacket features premium quality and style without the high price tag. This vest has a fully tapered Pro-Fit for those with a flawless Physique to match their perfect riding. Elsewhere, dual-layer construction, Fully segmented foam flex panels and Featherweight foam mean you're getting all the quality and functionality you'd expect from Follow. Level 50S Australian approved.

Women's Follow Life Jackets

Follow Pharaoh Ladies Jacket ($239.99)

Wakeboarding is as much about style as it is technical tricks. But, style doesn't need to end with your riding; a life vest can enhance your style and keep the vibes high on the water. Designed by Anna Nikstad, the Pharaoh is one seriously stylish life vest. This timeless style has a slim fit and Featherweight foam for riders looking to send it behind the boat or at the cable park. Custom detailing and a TrueFit liner keep the style high with a consistent fit handle after handle. Level 50S Australian approved.

Follow Atlantis Ladies Jacket ($229.99)

Revised for this season, the Atlantis women's life jacket utilises super soft stretchy neoprene and a new TrueFit liner providing a comfy fit all day long. Back stretch panels, Featherweight foam and segmented stitch through construction keep the fit precise and the mobility high - perfect for long summers on the water. Level 50S Australian approved.

Follow Surf Edition Ladies Jacket ($209.99)

The Surf Edition focuses on maximal flexibility, quality and lightweight materials – the perfect combination for wake surfers. Surf flex panels combined with Marle super-stretch neoprene in the chest and back allow for a wide range of movement in any situation. Lightweight Featherweight foam enhances the experience for a responsive ride. Finally, the Surf Edition comes in various colours with refined trim to keep the style on point. Level 50S Australian approved.

Follow Primary Ladies Jacket ($179.99)

Offering excellent value, you might think the Primary women's vest from follow would lack style. However, for the budget-conscious, you'll be looking sharp with details like corduroy skirt panel and distressed leather zipper pulls – perfect for long days at the lake. Featherweight foam, the new TrueFit liner and Full segment foam flex panels mean you can focus on your riding and forget you're even wearing a vest. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot life jackets

Jetpilot began in 1986 as a manufacture of technically advanced wetsuits, vests and apparel for personal watercraft racing. Since then, they have evolved to become leaders in designing life jackets for other water sports, including wakeboarding, waterskiing and wakesurfing. They produce some of the best and most stylish life jackets with meticulous design, attention to user safety, and an eye on sustainability.

Men's Jetpilot life jackets

Jetpilot RX Men's Vest ($229.99)

Available in both L50 and L50S colourways, the RX life jacket offers the superior comfort of an Anatomical Fit and Jetpilot's 100% Flex Lite Ultra Neoprene. Keep the jetski safety kill switch secure with the Lanyard Safety Clip. Level 50S or Level 50 Australian approved, depending on colour.

Jetpilot Addict Reversible Men's Neo Vest - Black/Red Level 50 ($209.99)

Get the best of both worlds with this reversible life jacket from Jetpilot. Wear with the bright colours outwards to meet your states Level 50 requirements, or turn it inside out for a toned-down and stylish all-black Level 50S. Jet skiers or water skiers alike will be able to spend more time on the water with the comfortable Flexlite Ultra Neoprene and anatomical fit. Level 50 Australian approved.

Jetpilot Venture Men's Neo Vest ($199.99)

Perfect for a day out on the jetski! If you're looking for a life jacket for days on your jetski, then the Jetpilot Venture is an ideal choice. With three External Storage Pockets and Multiple D Rings, you can secure and store everything except the kitchen sink. Plus, for extended trips, the Venture comes with a hydration pack pocket. For added safety, the Venture has Reflective Safety Print and comes with Patented Hidden Super Grip Handles for secure doubling. Finally, you can capture all the action with the built-in GoPro mount. Level 50S or Level 50 Australian approved, depending on colour.

Jetpilot Hyperflex Men's Neo Vest ($199.99)

Available in both L50 and L50S colourways, the Hyperflex life jacket includes Jetpilot's hyperflex expansion panel for maximal movement. Combined with an anatomical fit, bevelled edge buoyancy foam and Flexlite Neoprene, this is one seriously comfy vest. Level 50S or Level 50 Australian approved, depending on colour.

Jetpilot Cause Men's S-Grip Neo Vest Level 50 ($169.99)

With L50 approval, dual buckles and a lanyard safety clip, the Jetpilot Cause Men's S-Grip Neo Vest is perfect for jet skis and other personal watercraft (always check the local regulations). When you want to double friends or family, the hidden handles can be deployed, so your passenger has a secure grip. Level 50 Australian approved.

Jetpilot Cause Men's Neo Vest ($169.99)

With hidden handles, the Cause L50S vest by Jetpilot is perfect for taking passengers on joy rides on your watercraft (just make sure you know the regulations in your state or territory before entering the water). Flexlite Ultra Neoprene and a new single buckle allow for all-day comfort, and a lanyard safety clip is ideal for securing your safety kill switch key. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot Quantum X Neo Vest / Quantum X Cory Neo Vest ($239.99)

Incorporating a new hidden buckle design, the Quantum X is the life jacket of choice for team rider Cory Tuenissen. 100% 360 Stretch Neoprene, Body Lock Panel and an anatomical fit gives you the perfect amount of flexibility when sending it behind the boat or at the cable park. Level 50S Australian approved.
Jetpilot X1 Alex Graydon Neo Vest / X1 Felix Neo Vest ($229.99)
Do you want to take your riding to the next level? Then the Jetpilot X1 is perfect for you. The life jacket of choice for iconic riders Alex Graydon and Felix Georgii, the 100% 360 Stretch Neoprene, Anatomical Fit, Bevelled Edge Buoyancy Foam Custom External Quilt Stitch will keep you stylish and agile on the water. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot C4 Lewy Neo Vest & Jetpilot C4 Neo Vest ($209.99/219.99)

Approved by Lewy Watt, the Jetpilot C4 life jacket comes in a standard version and the Lewy signature series. The classic C4 has all the comfort you've come to expect from Jetpilot, including an anatomical fit and Flexlite Ultra neoprene. It also comes with an Internal Licence pocket for safe storage. The Lewy signature series steps up the styling, available in several colourways. The C4 is Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot Nighthawk Men's Neo Vest ($189.99)

Sharing many features with the C4, the Nighthawk Men's life jacket has different foam segments providing a slightly different feel. In addition, the Nighthawk includes an Internal Licence Pocket and offers excellent style at a reasonable price. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot Freeride Mens Neo Vest ($179.99)

Add a touch of style with the unique patterns and colourways of the Freeride Men's Neo life jacket. This ultra-light vest is the panicle of performance. The anatomical fit, bevelled edge buoyancy foam and Flexlite Ultra Neoprene allow for maximum flexibility and conforms to a wide range of body shapes. Level 50S Australian approved.

Women's Jetpilot life jackets

Jetpilot Cause Ladies Neo Vest

With several colourways to choose from, you'll look the part in the Cause Ladies life jacket from Jetpilot. Freelite buoyancy foam and soft neoprene fabric are ideal for all-day comfort behind the boat or the jetski. The included lanyard safety clip is perfect for securing your safety kill switch key. Level 50S or Level 50 Australian approved, depending on colour.

 

Jetpilot Quantum Bec Ladies Neo Vest ($229.99)

Bec Gange Signature Series life jacket from Jetpilot. Available in a range of stylish prints, you'll Standout on the water this summer. However, it's not all about the looks; this is one seriously high-performance life jacket. With New Hidden Buckle Design, 360 Stretch Neoprene, Body Loc Panel and Freelite bevelled edge buoyancy foam, you'll hardly notice you're wearing this vest. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot X1 Zahra Ladies Neo Vest ($219.99)

With three colourways to choose from, you will look the part this summer in the durable Zahra Kell Signature Series Tie Dye life jacket from Jetpilot. To keep you on the water longer, Jetpilot has included their fire fur liner for increate warmth. Elsewhere, 360 Stretch Neoprene, Freelite Bevelled Edge Buoyancy Foam and an anatomical fit combine for all-day comfort. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot X1 Ladies Neo Vest Sina ($229.99)

The creative mind behind copcatsclub, Sina Fuchs (@sinafux), puts her spin on the Jetpilot X1 life jacket. Custom Quilt Stitching combines with all the usual comfort features you expect from Jetpilot to offer one stylish and comfortable day at the cable park or behind the boat. The rapid dry liner means you can start every ride with a dry vest. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot Pacer Ladies Neo Vest ($209.99)

The Pacer life jacket by Jetpilot is perfect for long days behind the boat or at the cable park. Flexlite Ultra Neoprene and Bevelled Edge Buoyancy Foam are sculpted Into an Anatomical Fit, so you'll probably forget you're wearing this vest. Available in a range of colours, even the most discerning stylist will be happy in the Pacer. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot Allure Ladies Neo Vest ($169.99)

Flexlite Ultra Neoprene, Bevelled Edge Buoyancy Foam, an anatomical fit and stylish colourways provided flexibility and style whilst keeping you safe on the water this summer. The Allure offers all these (and more) high-end features at excellent value. Level 50S Australian approved.

Jetpilot RX Ladies Vest ($159.99)

Keep safe and stylish on a budget with the Jetpilot RX Ladies life jacket. The RX offers many features you'd expect on an expensive vest at a lower price point. Flexlite Ultra Neoprene, Freelite bevelled edge buoyancy foam and an anatomical fit will keep you comfortable. Dual waist buckles keep you secure and allow for an adjustable fit. Level 50S Australian approved.

Kids, Dogs and Accessories

Dog Life Jacket - Follow Dog Floating Aid and Jetpilot Dog PFD

Don't For your furry companions. Ensure the safety of your best friend with a Dog Floating Aid or dog life jacket by Follow or Jetpilot. Durable dual layer fabric provides extra strength whilst expander panels/webbing in the back offer an adjustable fit. Available in a range of sizes pawfect for all the good boys and good girls out there.

Kids Life jackets

Kids should always be under adult supervision whilst around water. To help keep the little ones safe, they must have a correctly fitting life jacket. At Trojan WSS, we stock a full range of life jackets for kids of all ages. With so many options, it was too hard to fit all the kids' life jacket information into this blog, so please refer to our Kids life jacket buyers guide for information and advice.

Questions and Answers

What is the difference between a life jacket and a PFD?

In Australia, life jacket requirements and specifications are defined by the Australian Standard AS4758: Lifejackets. This standard sets out the minimum requirements for life jackets suitable for use in various conditions on or near water. The latest version of AS4758 favours the term 'lifejacket'. However, the term 'personal floatation device' (PFD) can be used interchangeably. Also, it is common to refer to a lifejacket as 'life jacket' or 'life vest'.

Why is it called a life jacket?

Life jackets are designed to provide a specific amount of buoyancy. When worn correctly and used in the appropriate conditions, a life jacket will increase the likelihood of survival when in water. However, a 'life jacket' should not be thought of as a device that will save the wearer's life in all situations. In Australia, life jackets are classified by their performance level and application. For example, a water skier on the local river has different requirements than someone fishing offshore, and you should wear a life jacket suitable for the activity and conditions. If you are not sure which is best for you, please refer to our section on life jacket classifications.

What is a level 50S life jacket?

Level 50S life jackets are ideal for activities on enclosed waters such as waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing, where a sudden fall into water is expected. They are lighter and less bulky than a life jacket you would use offshore. The reduced bulk makes them less restrictive and suitable for continuous wear - ideal for activities where movement and flexibility are required (I can happily wear my Level 50S life jacket for six-plus hours a day).

Level 50S life jackets share many similarities with level 50 life jackets. The critical difference is Level 50 life jackets are required to have highly visible colours (helpful if searching is required), whereas level 50S can be any colour. However, these should only be used by competent swimmers near the bank/shore or near help. In addition, they are not designed to assist in turning the wearer face-up and require active participation.

You might ask the question, "won't a level 100 or 150 level jacket offer better protection when waterskiing or wakeboarding". The short answer is not necessarily, higher-level life jackets do provide increased buoyancy. However, they may not be appropriate for the high-speed impacts associated with skiing and wakeboarding.

What is the lifespan of a life jacket?

Many factors contribute to the lifespan of a life jacket. Factors such as material, construction, usage, maintenance and storage can all affect the lifespan of your life jacket. Therefore, it is difficult to give a precise estimation of a life jacket's lifespan. Like many things, life jackets will deteriorate with time. However, you can get many years out of yours by looking after it appropriately. Although life jackets are required in Australia to have simple instructions for storage, care, cleaning and maintenance permanently attached to them, it is recommended that the manufacturer's advice be followed. As a general guide, we recommend that you:

  • do not place heavy objects (or kneel on) the life jacket (this can cush the buoyancy foam, making the jacket ineffective),
  • wash by hand (do not dry clean or put in a washing machine)
  • drip-dry in the shade
  • only store when completely dry
  • store in a dry, well-ventilated space away from direct sunlight or a direct heat source. And finally,
  • avoid your life jacket coming into contact with harsh chemicals and oils etc.

Can you wear a life jacket under a jacket?

Caution should be exercised when wearing a life jacket with clothing as performance can be affected. Ensuring the clothing does not restrict movement is vital and allows the wearer to float, swim, and assist others. This is particularly important for dry suits and other types of waterproof clothing as air bubbles inside the suit can affect the buoyancy and prevent the wearer from floating head up.

Is it OK to buy a used life jacket?

If you are on or around water, a life jacket is an essential item. When used correctly, a life jacket will increase the likelihood of survival. As a vital piece of safety equipment, you rely on the life jacket to perform as intended. Therefore, knowing the history of your jacket is essential. Unfortunately, when buying a used or second-hand life jacket, you can never really be sure of the jacket's history. Has the previous owner crushed the buoyancy foam? Has the jacket been left out in the sun or stored away wet? Has the jacket been exposed to harsh chemicals? How old is the jacket? These are just some of the factors that can affect performance.
Whilst we understand the temptation to buy a used life jacket, many unknowns may impact the performance of the vest. Thankfully, life jackets are relatively affordable these days, and manufacturers make styles and models to suit a range of budgets. In addition, buying a new jacket comes with warranties to cover you against manufacturer's defects.

How much weight will a life jacket hold up?

In Australia, life jackets are required to permanently display the size, chest circumference, person's body mass and minimum buoyancy provided. Therefore, it is recommended you refer to the specific information provided by the manufacturer and displayed on the jacket to ensure the life jacket is appropriate for the wearer's weight. As a general guide, the minimum buoyancy provided by the life jacket determines the weight range of the wearer, the table below is a guide.

Level

Minimum buoyancy, N

Child weight, kg

Adult weight, kg

5 to 10

10 to 15

12 to 25

22 to 40

40 to 50

50 to 60

60 to 70

>70

150

45

45

60

75

90

110

130

150

100

30

35

40

50

70

70

87

100

50

-

20

22

35

40

40

45

50

50S

-

20

22

35

40

40

45

50


Are dogs required to wear life jackets on boats?

If you plan to take the family pet out on a boat, you must invest in a properly fitting life jacket for the animal. Whilst we think of dogs as naturally good swimmers, things can quickly change away from the shore and in adverse conditions. Also, whilst we all think our pets are well behaved, conditions on the water can result in unpredictable behaviour. Therefore, you should keep the life jacket fitted to your dog at all times.



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