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Buoyancy Aid or Life Jacket?

What's the difference between a life jacket and a buoyancy aid? Both are PFD's (Personal Flotation Devices), but a life jacket will turn an unconscious swimmer on their back to keep their mouth and nose out of the water. The downside is that a life jacket makes it much harder for a  conscious swimmer to swim on their front. A buoyancy aid will not turn the wearer face up, but its primary purpose is to support a conscious swimmer and make it easy for the wearer to swim in a normal and powerful fashion when required (like when you've really got to make that eddy!). They also provide some welcome body armour on certain trips!

Which Buoyancy Aid?

This is answered by the type of paddling that you are doing, features you are looking for, and budget.

Some buoyancy aids come with a zip down the front, while others are pulled on over the head. Features to look for include pockets, knife-lash tabs, and adjustment straps for a perfect fit. More advanced paddlers will also want to consider chest harnesses.

Whitewater paddlers tend to be split between competition and whitewater BA's, with the competition vests being streamlined and having a high degree of freedom of movement, but with little in the way of frills such as pockets and harnesses, freestyle kayakers will appreciate this unrestricted freedom, but there's no space for chocolate; while whitewater PFDs tend to be thicker to protect the user, and pockets to store rescue paraphernalia such as slings and carabiners. All these tend to be Vest style over the head entry, meaning less can go wrong in an emergency. Having said that, you can find front opening river BA's, generally designed with no Zips, and which can be easier to put on with rear entry drysuits.

There are several styles of buoyancy aid on offer that are suitable for sea and touring use. They all tend to be front opening, jacket style, and as you pay more you get more pockets, pockets within pockets, hand warming areas, reflective detailing; and hydration pouch capabilities.

If you are looking for buoyancy aids for outdoor centre or group work we have a range of Centre Buoyancy Aids. Centre Spec buoyancy aids need to be durable and easy to adjust. They all have clean simple lines, do not offer options of pockets and also come in bright colours for easy recognition and safety.

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Crewsaver Petfloat

From £53.11 inc. VAT

Crewsaver Pro 50N EX

From £84.62 inc. VAT

Crewsaver Spiral B/Aid

From £43.35 inc. VAT

Crewsaver Spiral Lifejacket

Spiral Lifejacket

From £43.35 inc. VAT

Jobe Pet Vest

From £34.99 inc. VAT

Palm Ace PFD

From £82.31 inc. VAT

Palm Dragon PFD

Dragon PFD

From £45.72 inc. VAT

Palm Extrem PFD

Extrem PFD

From £190.88 inc. VAT

Palm Extrem Women's PFD

Extrem Women's PFD

From £190.88 inc. VAT



From £105.17 inc. VAT

Palm FXr PFD


From £160.04 inc. VAT

Palm Glide PFD

Glide PFD

From £109.74 inc. VAT

Palm Hydration Bladder


A hydration bladder to fit the Palm Hydration Pouch or any of their hydration system ready PFDs.

£18.00 inc. VAT £16.46 inc. VAT

Palm Hydro PFD

Hydro PFD

From £86.88 inc. VAT

Palm Kaikoura PFD

Kaikoura PFD

From £164.62 inc. VAT

Palm Kola Angler PFD

Kola Angler PFD

From £128.03 inc. VAT