Whether you’re out swimming alone or you’re with your kids or grandkids, the extra peace of mind you get from anti drowning emergency flotation devices can make your experience a thousand-fold better.
To find out which of these items are actually worth splashing the money for, and to see which ones are truly dependable when it comes to emergency situations, we subjected many of these devices to a comprehensive review.
For our review, we tested each of these devices for a minimum of 10 swimming sessions, and apart from the budget, build quality, and the overall ease of use, special consideration was placed on the overall reliability we found these emergency flotation devices to have.
Here’s how we did:
4- SH Anti Drowning Swim Bracelet
At number 5, we had our favorite pick for our ease of use category; the SH Anti Drowning Swim Bracelet. This emergency flotation device came in two variants; adult and kids’ size. We reviewed the adult variant and here’s what we found upon use:
Easily our most favorite thing about this emergency flotation device was how convenient it was to use. We found it very easy to carry on our wrist, and even more impressively – how easy it was to inflate it. We were consistently able to inflate it by pulling on the trigger wrench, prompting the bracelet to turn into an airbag. We also found it to be lightweight, and easy to maneuver with on the water.
The other things we liked about this device were its weight support, its compactness, the value for money, and the overall reliability.
We found that it gave up to 10 Kg of buoyancy which is reasonable support for an average adult.
The device was compact and portable, easy to carry on the wrist especially for people who are used to wearing watches.
The overall reliability was impressive too, throughout our 12 swimming sessions in both deep and shallow ocean water, we did not run into any accidental leaks or malfunctions.
The overall package was very impressive especially considering the low price that this emergency flotation device came with.
What we did not like about this anti drowning bracelet, however, were mainly the instruction manual it came with, and the build quality.
Though the device was simple to use once experimented with or seen in a video online, the instruction manual the company gave was unclear, poorly written, and hardly sparked any confidence about the product.
Thankfully, the product itself did much better than what the instruction manual portrayed. We also did not like the cheap feel of the plastic build.
It is also worth mentioning that some users might find it a nuisance to carry it on their wrist.
Overall, aside from the sloppy instruction manual, we felt that this emergency flotation device was extremely easy to use and highly dependable in all situations.
3- STEARNS Utility Flotation Cushion
This US Coast Guard-approved Type IV emergency flotation device was designed to be thrown to adults for extra flotation during an emergency until the arrival of rescue crews.
We tried this cushion out for a total of 10 swimming sessions and here’s what we found:
Our most favorite thing about this emergency flotation device was its functionality. There were no triggers to pull, no maneuvers to make; we simply had to toss it in the water and use the straps for handling. The handles were well designed, and we thought that they served the purpose pretty well, especially for the lighter life jackets we wore while testing this cushion out.
We were also impressed by the strength of the material, and the overall comfort while using it. Overall, we felt that this was a reliable emergency flotation device that met all the standards the US Coast Guard has in place for a rescue device.
What we did not like, however, about this emergency flotation device were mainly the stitching of the straps with the main body of the cushion.
Though throughout our use the straps did not exactly rip off, we felt that the laxity of the stitches did not inspire much confidence.
Another thing worth mentioning is that if you pair this emergency flotation device with a bulky life jacket, you find handling and maneuvering this cushion to be challenging to say the least.
Overall, these design flaws could well be ignored when considering the price this cushion was available for.
If you’re in the market looking for an emergency flotation device that carries the US Coast Guard seal of approval on a budget, we recommend the STEARNS Utility Flotation Cushion.
2- Seachoice Emergency Marine Foam Flotation Cushion
This was another US Coast Guard-approved Type IV emergency flotation device and combined the same functionality as our pick for number 4 spot with some clever design elements and slightly better quality; earning it a place in our top 3.
Being another throwable cushion meant that there were no complicated steps to set it up to float. We tested it out for a total of 14 outings on the sea, and we found that this cushion too lived up to the US Coast Guard standards. It was reliable at all times, with no evidence of leakage, easy to handle, and had good sturdy straps.
What set it apart from our option at number 4 were its higher quality overall, including the quality of stitches that we weren’t fond of in the previous cushion. Though priced only slightly higher, we felt that the material of the cushion had a more premium feel and the foam was softer as compared to the previous cushion. We even found that it was easier to handle when tested with a heavier life jacket, thanks to its longer and more functional straps.
What we did not like about this emergency flotation device however, was the thickness of the cushion.
We essentially felt that there were two separate pieces of thin foam inside the cushion, and we found that they were very easy to displace. Though we did not run into any issues with this in our testing, it could potentially offset the user’s balance if the foam pieces get displaced while swimming.
Despite its thin foam, when we compared what this emergency flotation device offered and the price it was available for, the overall package seemed like a steal to us. Its exceptional value for money is why we ranked it at our 2nd place.
1- Wook Buoyancy Aid Device
At number 2 on our list, we had this impressive product by Wook that incorporated a reliable functioning with a clever design. We tested this one out for 15 swimming sessions and even tried it for a couple of jet ski sessions, just because the manufacturer advertised it as being usable for water sports, and here’s what we found.
What we liked about this emergency flotation device the most were its portability, and the overall comfort while wearing it. Most of similar strap based flotation devices often have an irritative fabric that can annoy the user. We did not run into any such complaints with this one and we found it to be very comfortable and flexible, hardly noticeable on our wrists. We also liked the fact that an emergency whistle was built into this emergency flotation device.
Though we didn’t get into any scenario where we might have to use it, but the clever inclusion is something we appreciate and could be useful in emergency situations.
We found this wearable device to be highly reliable, and quick to inflate. In our jet ski sessions, we consistently got an air tight inflated bag, with no evidence of leakage or tears, even after multiple sessions of use. The durability of this emergency flotation device was another thing we appreciated.
What we did not like about this product was the fact that it did was not available in multiple sizes. Judging by the precedent set by other similar products on the market, we would have liked this one to have both adult and kid variants, but this one was a simple ‘One size fits all’ product. We also did not like the fact that additional CO2 cylinders have to be purchased, as the product itself came with only 4 CO2 cylinders.
Overall, we found this product to be very functional and reliable especially when it came to water sports; earning it the top spot on this list.
FAQs and Conclusion:
What are the types of personal flotation devices?
There are 5 types of personal flotation devices or PFDS.
Type I devices are used in all kinds of waters, especially open, remote, or rough waters where rescue may be delayed.
Type II devices are used in calmer inland waters.
Type III devices are used in inland waters where there is a good chance of rescue.
Type IV devices are used in all kinds of waters where help is present. And finally, type V devices are designed for specific activities like providing protection against hypothermia.
What does Level 100 PFD mean?
Level 100 Plus personal flotation devices provide a high level of buoyancy and are designed to turn the wearer onto their back and keep them in a safe floating position.
They usually have a collar to support the back of the head.
They are highly visible, with bright coloring along with retro-reflective patches
Do lifejackets expire?
No, from the technical point of view the life jacket will not expire, however, since the material within the life jacket itself loses its ability to keep buoyancy in water over time, constant wear and tear cause the material in a foam life jacket to get damaged and lose its buoyancy.
How often should a lifejacket be replaced?
All of the care that you give to your PFD will prolong its use.
There is no expiry date for a personal floatation device and/or a life jacket, but it becomes void if it has been repaired or altered; therefore, it is no longer usable and must be replaced and discarded for recycling.
Emergency flotation devices can come in handy in many situations for veteran and novice swimmers alike. When you’re out in the pool or the sea, you can never be too safe, and the additional safety you get when you bring one of these emergency flotation devices along with you can take your swimming experience to the next level.
To sum it up, the best emergency flotation device for those on a budget, from our experience of use, is the STEARNS Utility Flotation Cushion. For those who desire a high level of ease of use in their flotation device, we recommend the SH Anti Drowning Swim Bracelet. For those who seek the best value for money, we think the Seachoice Emergency Marine Foam Flotation Cushion is worth a try. Finally, for those looking for the most reliable and the best overall emergency flotation device, from our experience of use, we can recommend the Wook Lightweight Wearable Portable Water Buoyancy Aid Device.