The Importance of Wearing a Lifejacket

Summer is OUR season in Madison. The sparkling lakes. A cold beverage on the Memorial Union Terrace. A boat ride with friends, or a canoe trip with your kiddos. There are SO many ways to get outside and enjoy the insanely beautiful Madison summer, but it’s hard to beat being out on the water, whether you love a peaceful kayak trip, floating on a tube, taking a pontoon ride or hopping on water skis. 


No discussion of water or boating would be complete without talking about lifejackets.

Did you know that in Wisconsin it’s required by law for kids 13 years old and younger to wear lifejackets on moving boats? 

Did you know that Recreational boats must carry one U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket for each person aboard?

Listen, I know it would be more comfortable not to wear one. I know you probably swim well. I know you don’t want the weird lifejacket tan from swimming in one. But if you’re going out on a boat, you need to have a lifejacket available and easily accessible. It’s not my rule – it’s actually officially a rule from the US Coast Guard

Beyond having a life jacket on board, you should wear one if you go into the water. Unfortunately, people drown in Madison waters, even when they know how to swim. Lifejackets will help prevent an accident or an emergency, both of which can happen to anyone.

So, we’ve talked about the rules and the “why” of lifejackets, but let’s talk about how to pick one that is best for you and your family members.

According to the US Coast Guard, the best lifejacket is one you’ll actually wear. Lifejackets come in different shapes, sizes, textures and designs. Choose one that feels comfortable! Kids should have an appropriate jacket for their size – you can check out the local Kohl’s Safety Center to have someone help make sure you pick the right fit.

Here are other things to know about life jackets from the US Coast Guard:

  • Certain lifejackets are designed to keep your head above water and help you remain in a position that permits proper breathing.
  • Some styles of lifejackets are not intended for weak or non-swimmers (read the label and be honest).
  • To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a recreational vessel must have a U.S. Coast Guard Approved lifejacket for each person aboard.
  • Lifejacket wear regulations for children may vary by state.
  • Adult-sized lifejackets may not work for children. Child size lifejackets are available.
  • When worn correctly a foam filled lifejacket will fit snugly, and will not allow the lifejacket to rise above the wearer’s chin or ears.
  • Foam filled lifejackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once a year. Waterlogged, faded, or otherwise damaged lifejackets should be discarded.
  • Inflatable lifejackets should be maintained per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Most adults only need 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy (31 to 53 Newton) to keep their heads above water.

We hope these life-jacket tips help as you plan your next trip to the water! Enjoy!