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9 Best Youth Life Jackets And Vests (50-90 lbs)

Updated December 8, 2021

Growing children love adventurous sports, but they’re experts at getting themselves into situations that terrify parents. Whether you’re scrambling around rock pools or boating as a family, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed if your kids are properly kitted out with effective flotation vests.  The youth life jackets in the 50-90 pound range won’t interfere with their fun but can be relied on to keep them afloat when needed.

These PFDs also need to be adjustable to cope with their growth. Luckily there are some excellent models available, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Once your child outgrows their kid’s life vest (up to 50 lbs) and can’t quite fit into adult size models, you’ll want to move them to “youth” size life jackets. Typically, kids between 6 and 12 years old will fit into this size if you don’t know their weight but they may be younger or older depending on their build.

See Also: 19 Best Online Stores to Buy a Life Jacket

Our 9 Favorite Life Vests for Youth

best-youth-life-jacketsOnyx All AdventureNylonZipper + Buckles2
stearns-youth-life-vest-reviewStearns AntimicrobialNylonZipper + Buckles2
top-youth-girls-life-jacketBody Glove PhantomNeopreneZipper + Buckles3
best-youth-neoprene-life-vestFull Throttle Rapid DryNeopreneZipper + Buckles3
youth-kayak-life-jacketOnyx Paddle SportsNylonZipper2
youth-boys-life-jacketO'Neill SuperLiteNylonBuckles3
stohlquist-youth-pfd-reviewStohlquist EscapeNylonZipper1
50-90-lbs-pfdStohlquist FitNylonBuckles2
cheap-youth-life-jacketStearns BoatingNylonBuckles3

Youth Life Jacket And Vests Reviews

#1 – Onyx All Adventure Youth Life Vest

best-youth-life-jacketsLike all other personal floatation devices in this list, the Onyx All Adventure youth vest is made for kids weighing 50 to 90 pounds. With its overall comfort and well-designed features, it is arguably the best youth life jacket you’ll find.

This US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD has bright-colored shoulders and reflective piping for improved visibility. It’s made with durable, lightweight floatation foam and a high-quality nylon outer shell to stand up to rough use.

When it comes to youth life jackets, comfort is essential, or they just won’t wear them. With that in mind, Onyx has designed this vest with seven segmented hinge joints so never feels restrictive.

It also has a zip-up front closure for easy on and off. Two adjustable waist straps are also included for a secure fit and to prevent the jacket from riding up.

Parents love this youth life jacket for older kids who are in between little kids and teen/adult sizing. It dries quickly and doesn’t rub or chafe under the arms or around the neck.

It’s suitable for boating and other water activities, but it also works at the lake, ocean, or pool for kids who aren’t strong swimmers.

Like many nylon life jackets, some users say it does tend to ride up slightly in the water, but the issue is kept to a minimum by the adjustable waist traps.

The Onyx All Adventure Youth vest comes in two colors: blue and purple. If you’re looking for a reliable, comfortable youth life vest at a reasonable price, this one is definitely worth considering.

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#2 – Stearns Youth Swim Vest

stearns-youth-life-vest-reviewThe Stearns antimicrobial youth life jacket is a US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD that can be used for a variety of water-related activities. The outer shell of this youth life jacket is treated with antimicrobial protection to prevent the growth of bacteria, mildew, and mold to save time cleaning the vest.

Parents love this Stearns vest for a day on the boat or jet ski, as well as swimming in the lake or ocean. The vest is easy to put on with an adjustable fit, thanks to three tough nylon belts that go around your child’s torso along with a front zipper.

It does a great job of keeping young ones afloat with their heads out of the water.

The design also includes a hanging ring on the collar for convenient drying (we wish other PFDs had this feature!). Thanks to the closed sides and the three adjustable chest belts with squeeze style quick-release buckles, the jacket has a tight and secure fit. Children will feel safe and confident in the water wearing this life vest.

Some felt that this jacket was a little too big on kids at the lower end of the weight range. They also wish it had a between-the-legs strap to keep the jacket from slipping off or riding up in the water but that feature is not typical for this size of a life jacket.

The Stearns antimicrobial nylon youth life vest comes in two bright colors: blue and yellow.

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#3 – Body Glove Phantom Neoprene Youth Life Jacket

top-youth-girls-life-jacketThe Phantom is an extremely neat neoprene-covered life vest that’s ideal for kids weighing between 50 and 90 lbs. It’s also US Coast Guard type 3 approved and one of the most comfortable youth life vests around.

If your kids are too slim for some of the other options, this could be a great solution. Front zip and two quick-release belts hold it secure and allow easy adjustment at the same time.

Versus their nylon counterparts, neoprene vests are less bulky and offer a snugger fit and even a bit of warmth in cold water. Their main downsides are their higher price and the fact they are much heavier when wet since they absorb water.

This vest provides plenty of buoyancy and because it’s so thin, it’s ideal for wear in a small boat – it doesn’t get in the way at all.

While it’s perfect for most water activities, paddlers should be aware that it’s a little bit more restrictive and might rub under the arms. Apart from that, it’s excellent. Available in 3 colors.

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#4 – Full Throttle Rapid Dry Neoprene Youth Life Jacket

best-youth-neoprene-life-vestAs one of the most comfortable life vests for your child, the Full Throttle “rapid-dry” jacket has five segmented hinge points for extra flexibility which allows easier movement than many other brands.

Also, the back of the vest has a stretchable insert for even more maneuverability.

This US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD is also fast drying so your kiddo can get back in the water after a quick break. Great for the beach, boating, or water sports, it’s sleek enough where they won’t complain when wearing it for extended periods.

This neoprene vest with its front zipper and two buckles won’t ride up as some nylon vests do. Available in high visibility green/blue, lime/black, or purple/blue so whether you have a boy or girl, they’ll love the color combos.

Fitment is good by most accounts although a few users have noted that the vest seemed too tight on their child in the upper end of the weight range. Since neoprene offers a tighter fit due to its stretchier material, whether it’s too tight is debatable.

Also, a few users have recommended using a rash guard under the vest. This may be due to the sensitivity to the neoprene of the youth.

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#5 – Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket

youth-kayak-life-jacketThe USCG approved type 3 youth paddle sports life jacket by Onyx has a low profile, lightweight, compact design that’s more comfortable for your child than bulkier vests. Like all other youth-size life vests, it’s intended for kids in the 50 to 90-pound range.

Because of its large armhole openings and high foam back (to accommodate seatbacks in kayaks or canoes), it is probably the best youth kayaking life jacket currently available. to accommodate the seatback in a kayak or canoe. 

The sides and lower back of this life jacket provide excellent breathability to keep your child cool on hot days. Six adjustable straps allow you to cinch the vest up snuggly for a secure fit.

The large armholes and side adjustments allow for an excellent range of motion when paddling. It has many of the same features as one of the best kayaking life vests for adults, the Onyx MoveVent line.

While this life jacket is specifically designed to be comfortable when paddling, it’s can also be used for general swimming, floating, or even jumping on a water trampoline. Kids will love the handy little pocket on the front of the jacket. 

When ordering a life jacket for your child, it’s important to note that this youth life vest does not have a strap between the legs like jackets for little kids do. The Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket comes in red and yellow for improved visibility on the water.

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#6 – O’Neill SuperLite Kids Life Vest

youth-boys-life-jacketO’Neill is known for its quality vests, and the Youth SuperLite is an excellent addition to their line of Coast Guard-approved type 3 PFDs.

This model has a relaxed fit to accommodate a wide range of body types without compromising security.

Larger armholes and a design based around minimal bulk allow for full mobility, making the vest suitable for numerous watersports including boat tubing, or wakeboarding.

A highly durable coated polyester shell ensures the Youth SuperLite will last for many outings, while the lightweight polyethylene foam allows the vest to be both soft and comfortable.

Finding the right fit seems to be an issue with this vest, and many have discovered their child was too big for the vest they bought.

Getting precise measurements before ordering will help with this issue, but if you are purchasing online, it is best to order one size larger if you aren’t sure of the fit.

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#7 – Stohlquist Youth Escape PFD

stohlquist-youth-pfd-reviewStohlquist has a great reputation for safety gear and their life jackets are usually near the top of every best toddler life jacket and best 30-50 pound kids life jacket lists.

When your kids get a bit bigger, the Child Escape is the perfect next step. As a USCG approved Type III PFD, it has a sea-level buoyancy of almost 13 lbs.

It’s a high-quality but affordable life vest that’s ideal for children from 50-90 lbs, and it’s been carefully designed (and recently updated) to let them enjoy themselves freely without compromising protection.

The Youth Escape is a low-profile vest covered in durable 200 denier oxford nylon, with soft buoyancy foam on both front and back flotation panels. Because it’s meant for older kids, it’s less bulky and lower profile than other Stohlquist kids vests.

This PFD has a comfortable design with plenty of space for the arms to move. That makes it ideal for kayaking and sailing, where you need to be able to move freely. There’s also a deep V at the neck.

The vest secures with a heavy-duty zip and there’s a waist belt for security, complete with a quick-release buckle.

It’s always nice to see the attention to detail, and this vest shows plenty. There’s a flat pocket on the lower right, which is perfect for holding a safety whistle, snack, or other small items. The padded shoulders allow additional comfort and reflective accents add safety.

There is also a hi-vis reflective strip on the chest, and the logo on the upper back is reflective too. 

Some parents feel the size runs a bit too big which makes it ride up in the water on their child even with the waist belt. For that reason, you may want to consider a different option if your child is on the smaller end of the weight range.

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#8 – Stohlquist Youth Fit Life Jacket

50-90-lbs-pfdThe Stohlquist Youth Fit life jacket comes in two sizes for kids from 50 to 90 pounds and 75 to 125 pounds. This is a US Coast Guard approved Type III personal flotation device that’s suitable for boating, kayaking, swimming, and other water-related activities.

It has open sides and large armholes for good mobility and three adjustable straps for a secure, custom fit.

This youth life jacket is perfect for kids who love being on the water but aren’t quite big enough for an adult-sized jacket. The torso of this vest isn’t so long that it rides up around the chin when your child sits down. It’s also very lightweight so kids won’t mind wearing it.

We love the clean design and contoured fit of this jacket. It’s a simple, no-frills design that does exactly what you need it to. Since durability is so important for active kids, this jacket is made with a 200-denier nylon outer shell and a 200-denier oxford liner.

While it’s not as comfortable or snug-fitting as some of the more expensive jackets, this Stohlquist is a good budget-friendly USCG approved life jacket for infrequent use. Available in two colors: blue or red.

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#9 – Stearns Youth Nylon Boating Vest

budget-child-life-vestThis popular, inexpensive vest from Stearns is USCG-approved and will support most kids from 50 to 90 pounds. It’s a simple, classic design with foam panels inside a tough nylon shell.

If you’re having trouble finding a vest to fit your child, the Stearns is probably just what you’re looking for.

With its three straps, two of them running right round the body, make it both easily adjustable and incredibly secure. It is slightly bulkier than some of the others but it’s effective, sturdy, and a good cheap youth vest that will keep them safe.

The Stears youth boating vest is good enough for all-around use whether jet skiing or fishing with Dad. We recommend the highly visible red or yellow colors over the blue.

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26 thoughts on “9 Best Youth Life Jackets And Vests (50-90 lbs)”

    • I personally like the Full Throttle for any active water sports since it’s just so comfortable to wear. The Stohlquist, Body Glove, and O’Neill on this page will also work fine but the Stohlquist’s best quality is how well it works for paddling activities.

  1. Hi there. I have a 4.5 year old that is overweight (working on it). She has a belly that makes vests hard to fit. 44” tall, but more like an 8/10 in tummy. Best option for most roomy in the tummy?

  2. Why are there no crotch straps on these jackets are grandson is 60 lb and the jacket Rises up on him when he wears it there’s nothing to hold it down

    • Crotch straps are generally only found on vests up to 50 lbs. If the life jacket is riding up, the straps on it might not be adjusted tight enough or the jacket simply has a poor design for his body type. Some are better than others. The Stohlquist for instance has a strap that sits just below the waist. If you’ve tightened the straps enough and the riding up is too severe, I would recommend trying another brand.

  3. I understand there are now life vests that are self righting to floating on the back. Who makes them & where are they?

    • As far as we know, there are no life jackets currently on the market that will guarantee to turn the wearer face up (floating on back) every single time. Even the bulky type 1 PFDs will turn an unconscious wearer face up “almost” all of the time. There’s simply too many variables involved for a life jacket to do that 100% of the time. But if you find a link to something otherwise, please share.

  4. I am looking for a jacket for my special needs 6 year old, 50 pounds. I am concerned because a friend has a younger child who had on a flotation device that flipped him head down, feet up several times in the water. Clearly, this is not ideal. How do I find a vest or jacket that will keep my child head up in the pool, and preferably not too bulky? This is a sensitive topic because her disability is purely physical and not mental or developmental and she would like something that she wont be embarrassed to wear around her friends who may think floats are for babies…

    • Any USCG approved PFD should NEVER do that. Usually the issue is that the life jacket won’t turn the wearer face-up, but even when face down, they’re body is still right side up in the water (feet down). I have a feeling your friend’s child was wearing some type of floatation ring (not life jacket) that goes all the way around their body. These are horribly designed and many have been taken off the market for the very reason you described.

      All of the life jackets on this page are good but they’re also all type 3 PFDs which are not made to turn a wearer automatically face up in the water (although they’ll of course be right side up). A simple type 2 (such as this one) would do a better job of turning a wearer face up if falling in the water but of course won’t be as stylish.

  5. Hello!
    My family is going snorkeling in Maui we need life jackets for 6 year old boy and 9 year old girl. What do you recommend?
    Appreciate it!

    • Thanks Tazz. We’re actually working on a refresh of our recommendations so we’ll be sure to fix any obsolete products. Also sometimes (especially in the summer), some models simply go out of stock for a few days at a time due to demand. But we’ll get things straightened out no matter what.

  6. I understand that crotch straps are for 50lbs and under life vest but are there any that are 50 to 90lbs with it? My almost 5yr old is 47in 47lbs (that was in April) and I want to get her a bigger vest but so far all the styles I’ve tried rise up on her no matter how tight I pull the straps.

    • I don’t know of any life jackets in the 50-90 lbs range that have the crotch strap but you should be able to add a crotch strap (like this one) if the life jacket has some type of attachment point (like the bottom horizontal strap).

  7. I have an almost 6 year old who is high functioning on the autism spectrum. He is over 50 lbs. We are working on getting him swim lessons, but want a life vest for him in the pool in the meantime. I’d appreciate your recommendation.

  8. Hello, I have a 7 year old who in height is on the smaller side but weights 62 pounds. I am needing a recommendation for a life jacket for primarily just for the swimming pool. She does not know how to swim and we wont be participating in any water sports. Can you make an recommendation please?

  9. I have a 10 year old daughter with cerebral palsy. She currently uses a puddle jumper that works great as she loves putting her face under water and can hold her head up fine. Im looking for something in the 50lb and up range. that is small, and short so she has more control. I think a regular length might flip her forward or backward. was thinking of the evo wakeboard vest paired with arm cuffs at http://www.aglasshalffull.org/disabilities/hf101-401-902-903-186.html . what do you think? In summery id like a small/short vest that will be a comfortable material. Thank you!

    • I’d be hesitant to use the arm cuffs/floaties in your link since their main purpose is resistance for water aerobics but they may be worth trying for extra floatation. Instead of the wakeboard vest, I would recommend something sleeker for more comfort… some sort of swim jacket/vest. Here are a couple options that should fit her correctly.
      Konfidence Youth Swim Jacket
      Sundwsports Float Vest

    • In most cases where the child is just under the limit, you’ll usually be best off going to the next size up so in your case, the youth size (50-90 pounds).

  10. I have 14 year that weights at 84 pounds. He not strong swimmer. They are going to River for tubing. What life jacket do we get for him?

    • Any of the life jackets on this page will do (they are all typical type 3 PFDs). If you want to be EXTRA cautious, Stearns makes one of the few Type 2 PFDs in the 50-90 lbs size but it’s going to be a tad more bulky than Type 3 life jackets.


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