Nothing is more important than the safety of the sailor, the skippr or the navigator when sailing. Picksea's experts offer you to discover all the requirements to choose the inflatable and foam life jackets best adapted to the sailing conditions and the sailing practice.

    1. Standards in force
    2. How to choose your lifejacket
        1. By activity
        2. Depending on weight and height
        3. Depending on the characteristics
            1. Automatic vests (offshore and professional navigation)
            2. Hydrostatic jackets (Offshore and inshore navigation)
            3. Buoyancy vests (sport + coastal activity)
    3. Additional equipment for life jackets
    4. Our advice

Current standards

As far as standards are concerned, it should be noted that all lifejackets must be CE (or ISO) approved, and this indication must be affixed to the label of conformity on the jacket. This guarantees that the lifejacket has been designed and manufactured according to the European and/or international standards in force and that it has been approved by the competent authorities.

There are 4 levels of approval to measure the effectiveness of a lifejacket in Europe:

Standard ISO 12402-5 / 50 NStandard ISO 12402-4 / 100 NStandard ISO 12402-3 / 150 NStandard ISO 12402-5 / 275 N
100 N


One of the main requirements for this certification is the effectiveness of the buoyancy of the vests. For example, a vest stamped 50 N means that it aids buoyancy up to 50 Newton.

The higher the buoyancy index of a vest, the more effective it is!

Below 100 N = Buoyancy aid vest.

Above or equal to 100 N = Life vest.

StandardEN ISO 12402-5
(ex EN393)
EN ISO 12402-4
(ex EN395)
EN ISO 12402-3
(ex EN396)
EN ISO 12402-2
(ex EN399)
Buoyancy Index 50 newtons 100 newtons 150 newtons 275 newtons
Use In still water or near an aid station In protected waters or coastal navigation Deep-sea navigation Offshore navigation + navigation in extreme conditions.
Features Does not overturn. Keeps airway clear of water for a conscious person. Provides a 10-second turnaround on the back. Suitable for people without bulky clothing Provides a 5-second turnaround on the back. Suitable for people with no more than one oilskin. Provides a 5-second turnaround on the back. Also suitable for people with very heavy clothing.
    The vest must be able to hold the head sideways and backwards, even when the wearer is unconscious.

It should also be noted that jackets marked SOLAS ("steering wheel" logo), which are normally intended for professional navigation, are valid for recreational boating.

How to choose your lifejacket?

By activity

Whether it is for kayaking, offshore navigation or professional fishing, the standards are different and the safety of the user requires a lifejacket adapted to the activity. The further you are from the coast, the more important it is to choose an appropriate lifejacket that will allow you to be seen in case you fall into the water.

  • Sailing, sports and water activities less than 2 miles from a shelter : Vest helps buoyancy, i.e. 50 N minimum.
  • Coastal navigation (up to 6 miles from a shelter) : 100 N minimum or 50 N if the vests are actually worn and are each equipped with a means of luminous marking.
  • Pleasure boating more than 6 miles from a shelter or professional boating with medium-heavy clothing : 150 N minimum.
  • Pleasure boating more than 6 miles from a shelter or professional navigation with heavy clothing and/or tools : 275 N minimum.

Depending on weight and height

The European standards for assessing the buoyancy of a vest apply by default for persons weighing 70 kg. However, the effectiveness of a vest changes according to the weight and height of the person. The table opposite shows the buoyancy equivalencies according to your weight compared to the standard (left column).

Buoyancy Index (newton) / Adult weight (kg) 40-50 kg 50-60 kg 60-70 kg >70 kg
50 N 40 40 45 50
100 N 60 70 85 100
150 N 90 110 130 150
275 N 170 200 230 275


For example, a person weighing 55 kg who wears 110 N to a buoyancy equivalent of 150N. Also note that the size or waist circumference is an important point to look at on the compliance label on the bra as it can vary on the same model.

For children of less than 30 kg, models must be of category 100 N. It protects them by putting them on their backs even if they are unconscious or cannot swim.

Depending on the characteristics

To protect yourself once at sea, life jackets must be practical and comfortable. There are 3 very different types of lifejackets to choose from before jumping into the water! Each of them are characterized by special features such as automatic inflation or freedom of movement for the user.

Automatic lifejacket (coastal, offshore and professional navigation)

The automatic inflatable vests known as salt pads inflate as soon as the person falls into the water. The device with the salt pad in the vest melts instantly on contact with water, releasing the cartridge firing pin for immediate inflation. The salt pad is only sensitive to total immersion and will not trigger any unexpected inflation during your manoeuvres in sea spray or rain or when washing the equipment (as long as no water is allowed to enter the mechanism). However, dry storage is strongly recommended.

Hydrostatic lifejacket (coastal, deep-sea and professional navigation)

The hydrostatic inflatable lifejackets called Hammar inflate as soon as the person falls into the water. The Hammar device sensitive to water pressure during immersion releases the cartridge striker for immediate inflation. The Hammar system is only sensitive to a certain water pressure and does not risk any unwanted inflation when the user is exposed to spray or rain or when the equipment is washed. This lifejacket can be stored in any humidity conditions.

Foam lifejacket (water sports + coastal sailing)

In this category are lifejackets (generally 100 N) that have buoyancy on the head and belly to allow the person to turn over. There are also buoyancy aid jackets (generally 50 N) which do not have buoyancy on the head and do not provide roll-over: these lifejackets are more suitable for water activities such as jet-skiing, kite-surfing, dinghy sailing, windsurfing ...

Additional equipment for life jackets

Life jackets can be supplemented with other safety equipment to ensure better visibility in the water. For example, several items are highly recommended and others are mandatory for the best performing jackets.

  • Standard 100 N and +: Whistle mandatory / Inguinal strap recommended.
  • Standard 150 N and +: Towing handle mandatory

There are, however, other useful objects that can save your life when the sea is a little rough or to help you be spotted. For example, there are lights that allow you to be seen even in the dark, life jackets to keep you on the surface, and even distress GPSs that allow you to be detected (to be used as a last resort).

Reminder on the characteristics of personal flotation devices (Section 240-2.16 of Division 240) :

I. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board ships, boats and recreational craft shall be adapted to the morphology of the persons on board. When not being worn, they are stored so that they can be accessed quickly and easily.
II. Only the following may be taken on board, depending on their buoyancy characteristics :
- life jackets approved in accordance with Division 311 of these Regulations and marked "steering wheel" ;
- individual buoyancy equipment complying with the relevant provisions of the sporting code and marked "CE".

Source LegiFrance : Order of 6 May 2019 replacing the Order of 23 November 1987 on the safety of ships (Division 240)

Our advice

  • The life jackets have a limited lifespan, store them preferably in a dry place and away from light.
  • Just like the offshore jackets or the wetsuits, if you do not use the product, always rinse with fresh water after use. The life jacket will last longer and will not lose its qualities.
  • Always check your life jacket before use, as on a motorcycle helmet, the slightest damage can be fatal. Do not hesitate to have it checked by another person.

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