This summer my wife and I started paddle boarding. We wanted to take our kids out with us, so we needed buoyancy aids for all the family. Check out this review of Helly Hansen life jackets to find out how we got on.
First up I want to clear up a little terminology. And to explain the difference between life jackets, buoyancy aids, personal flotation devices and life vests.
A life jacket keeps you afloat without having to swim. It has a collar that keeps your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious. They are for children and non-swimmers, plus situations where if you fall in you need to float for a long time – eg on boats.
A buoyancy aid on the other hand is there to help you float, usually while swimming. They don’t normally have a collar and are often more like a jacket in appearance than life jackets. They give a helping hand should you end up in the drink.
A personal flotation device (PFD) and a life vest are two other similar versions of the above. A PFD keeps you afloat without swimming in normal water conditions but does not have a collar. A life vest is a compact buoyancy aid designed for more active sports.
With the plan of coastal paddle boarding we needed buoyancy aids for all the family. We decided that our boys – who were seven and five at the time and can both swim but not that well – needed full on life jackets.
For my wife and I we went for buoyancy aids. This is because a full life jacket would impede paddle boarding. Furthermore we can both swim fairly well and when paddle boarding you are attached by a bungee to the board, so you can use it to float if you get in trouble.
I have used this unisex life vest with 50N buoyancy for both paddle boarding and kayaking. It is lightweight with minimum bulk and short design so it does not get in the way doing either.
Weighing around 77kg I went for large and find it gives very good buoyancy. In fact combined with a wetsuit I couldn’t sink if I wanted to! Worn against bare skin it is soft and comfy, plus the material wicks moisture away.
The side zip makes it easy to put on and take off and the elasticated neoprene ensures a snug fit. I really like the large zippered pocket on the front. I have a waterproof phone so I can take it with me for photos – and safety. The pocket is also good to stash cash and keys.
My wife also got out on an SUP and a kayak this summer – although not as often as me due to a bad back. During this review of Helly Hansen life jackets she went for the Rider Stealth buoyancy aid.
It is another life vest that is designed with minimal bulk and ergonomic cut to offer the maximum freedom of movement. She said she hardly noticed wearing it and found it easy to swim in.
Weighting just over 50kg she went for the medium size which is rated for 50-70kg. The 50N buoyancy on this was excellent, and like me when combined with her versatile wetsuit by Helly Hansen she floated exceptionally well.
The elasticated pocked is a nice touch. But my wife worried about losing anything valuable she put in there if she fell in the water.
As discussed we wanted buoyancy aids for all the family so we could all get out on the water together. Neither of the boys are hugely confident swimmers so for this review of Helly Hansen life jackets we got them the Jr Safe.
When falling into the water this innovatively designed life jacket, turns the child into a safe floating position. The unique asymmetrical design turns them over keeping the mouth and nose out of the water.
My kids loved them. Our youngest enjoyed wearing it in the shallows with small waves breaking. He liked to be knocked over by the waves but to always end up face out of the water.
The straps are all super adjustable so you can tailor the fit to be perfect for any child from 20 to 35kg. The life jackets gave us the confidence to get out on the water in a kayak and a paddle board with the kids.
Fortunately we didn’t have any incidents of accidental falling in, but they loved jumping into the water from the SUP wearing them. They also loved the whistles – the adults didn’t!
It has been a great experience giving our boys their first taste of water sports this summer. We didn’t get out as much as I hoped, but still had a few great days together on the water. It would not have been possible without the buoyancy aids for all the family.
I personally have been out paddle boarding quite a bit. I wear the Rider+ life vest whenever I am heading out into deeper water as it is comfortable, unobtrusive and doesn’t hinder my movements.
To conclude this review of Helly Hansen life jackets I certainly recommend them. The Helly Hansen website has a huge range of buoyancy options for all sorts of activities. And as always the quality of HH gear is exceptionally.
So I hope you found this review useful? Head to www.hellyhansen.com to see the full range of lifejackets, buoyancy aids and life vests.