Essential Guide to Buoyancy Aids

Buoyancy aids are essential safety gear for a number of sports, which is why it makes sense to have an *essential* guide for them. For dinghy sailing, kayaking and canoeing they’re an absolute must, and for windsurfing, kitesurfing and swimming they can be really helpful for additional flotation. They can also help withgenerally helping you feel safer on the water too, especially when trying new manoeuvres, such as learning to waterstart on a windsurfer.

The key thing to know about buoyancy aids is that, as the name suggest, they will aid your buoyancy in the water and keep you afloat. Unlike a life jacket, they won’t roll over the wearer if they’re face down in the water, or ensure the airway is clear of the water. This means it’s essential that you only wear a buoyancy aid if you are a confident swimmer and heading out in sheltered waters.

This guide will cover:

Key Features of a Buoyancy Aid

  • Offers at least 50N of buoyancy
  • Compact, foam design – don’t rely on inflation
  • Won’t necessarily have crotch straps
  • May include convenient pockets for storage

Benefits of a Buoyancy Aid vs. a Life Jacket

  • More compact: The design of a buoyancy aid makes it much less inhibiting than a life jacket – perfect for sports which require a lot of upper body movement, or where it’s necessary to be agile in a confined space.
  • Doesn’t inflate: The flotation from a buoyancy aid doesn’t rely on the device inflating, meaning for sports where the wearer may find themselves in the water a lot (like kayaking and dinghy sailing), it’s much more convenient to use a buoyancy aid.
  • Pockets: You’re much more likely to find storage pockets on a buoyancy aid, which is great for taking snacks on the water as well as essentials like safety knives, as long as they are stored correctly.
  • No re-arming required: Due to its foam construction, a buoyancy aid is always ready to go. You can get it wet as much as you like and it will still be able to do its job.

Buoyancy Aids for Dinghy Sailing

Wetsuit Outlet has a great selection of dinghy sailing buoyancy aids, suitable for those just getting into the sport as well as serious racers aiming for peak performance on the water. Take a look at our top picks for all budgets…

Entry level: Helly Hansen 50N Rider Vest

The HH Rider Vest is one of our bestsellers, and for good reason. It’s a simple, low bulk buoyancy aid with a zip front, meaning it’s easy to get on and offers all the support you need for your first time sailing.

Premium: Zhik P2 Buoyancy Aid

If you only want the best, the Zhik P2 is the way to go. This BA is ultra-light and slim and is designed to sit close the body, giving you maximum freedom of movement and comfort on the water.


Buoyancy Aids for Kayaking

For kayaking, the key difference is that these buoyancy aids will have less foam around the shoulders, to enable better upper body movement for paddling.

Entry level: Yak Kallista Kayak 50N Buoyancy Aid

A great option for recreational paddling, including a low bulk design, convenient pockets and adjustable shoulders.

Premium: Palm Extrem 50N Buoyancy Aid

The brilliantly designed Extrem from Palm is a leader in its category. The Flex Fit design enables it to contain a large amount of foam floatation without it obstructing the upper body. In the latest upgrade, it’s seen improved pocket configuration, a new adjustable harness and aluminium hardware.


Shop all our buoyancy aids here.

Updated on 25th March 2022

Originally published on 25th March 2020 in Guides

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