How Long is a Life Jacket Good For Kayaking? – 2022

When it comes to kayaks, most people think about the excitement and adventure that comes with being on the open water. What many people don’t think about is safety. And, one of the most important aspects of kayaking safety is wearing a life jacket.

How long is a life jacket good for? The simple answer is that life jackets should be replaced every three years. A proper life jacket inspection can last anywhere from one minute to half an hour and is often dependent on what kind of jacket it is and what kind of wear and tear it has received.

So, if you’re curious about how often should a life jacket be used for kayaking or want to know if you can re-use it, keep reading!

How Long is a Life Jacket Good For Kayaking?

A life jacket is usually good for around five years. After that, you should probably get a new one because they tend to get worn out over time due to use and exposure to the elements.

This isn’t bad news, though! You can extend the lifespan of your vest by cleaning it after each use, taking care not to damage it while you’re using it, and keeping it away from sharp objects.

For example, if you leave your life jacket in the back of your kayak when paddling to shore from a distance, make sure it’s not near anything that could damage it.

There are a few factors that directly affect how long a life jacket will last:

  • The type of life jacket you own
  • The type of water you’ll be in
  • Whether or not it’s inflatable or solid

What Should You Keep in Mind?

Just like you won’t be able to reuse a life jacket after it’s been in the water, there are other things that factor into how long a life jacket is good for. Generally speaking, most life jackets last between three and five years. However, there are some exceptions to this rule too:

  • If you use a life jacket inflatable kayak, it is typically good for only one season or up to three years.
  • If you have a model that’s been around for more than five years, then the life jackets might not be safe anymore and may even be illegal in some areas.
  • If you’re using an extremely old life jacket, then wear and tear may have reduced the effectiveness of the life jacket itself.
  • If you notice that your inflatable model seems to be deflating or leaking air over time, it is likely past its prime.

Do Life Jackets Expire?

Some life jackets are designed to be used only once or for a single season.

However, even if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, this type of life jacket will still work – it’s just that it won’t provide the same level of protection as a five-year-life jacket.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are using an older life jacket model that’s been in production for more than five years, then deterioration may have occurred. While the older life jackets may still hold air well enough to help support your head and neck in the event of a capsizing or unexpected spill, they’re no longer considered safe to wear.

How to Test Life Jackets

If you have an old life jacket, but you’re not sure if it still works, you can test it to see if it’s functional. There are a couple of tests you can do:

Inflating Test

To do this test, blow into one of the inflation tubes until the vests have enough air for 3-4 inches of lift. If there is no movement, the vest is no good.

Deflating Test

First, inflate your life jacket and pinch a section between your thumb and index finger so it stays inflated. Then, use a small piece of string or cord to tie a knot in one of the inflation tubes.

As you let go of the air from the tube, the knot should stop it from deflating. This is an easy method to test if your vest still works as it should.

Float Test

In order to do this test, pick a calm day and take your life jacket into a pool or lake so you can do the float test in deep water. Once you’re ready, inflate the jacket, put it on and let go of your grip. You should stay afloat for at least 10 minutes in calm waters.

Keep in mind that these tests should only be done if you have a life jacket that is losing its function or has been stored properly.

Types of Life Jacket

There are many factors to consider when choosing a life jacket, but two of the more important things are comfort and safety. If you want to keep your kayaking adventures safe, you need a life jacket that fits well and keeps you afloat.

Types of life jackets range from inflatable floatation devices with CO2 cartridges to fully automated life jackets that use sensors to detect water and fasten themselves securely around the user.

Inflatable Life Jacket

One of the most common types, this life jacket is equipped with a CO2 cartridge that inflates the vest when you pull on an inflation cord. 

This type of life jacket can be worn over other clothing and comes in different styles depending on the wearer’s need. If you want to buy one that is designed for kayaking, look for one with an extra pocket so you can store your cell phone and other essentials in it.

Automated Life Jacket

This type of life jacket will automatically inflate when it comes into contact with liquid or if it detects water. It uses sensors to determine when your head is submerged.

Throwable Life Jacket

These life jackets are great for people who are in the water with their vessel, such as swimmers or sailors. They come in different styles so you can choose one that will work best for your needs, but they all have a buoyant inner core that can be thrown to someone who needs help.


Just because your life jacket has been with you for five years doesn’t mean it can’t help keep you safe in an emergency.

However, by doing the tests listed above, you’ll be able to determine if your life jacket is still suitable to use or if it will need to be replaced. If not, make sure you are well prepared for your next kayaking adventure.

In the end, we hope that now you are well aware of how long is a life jacket good for kayaking and what are the types of life jackets.


How do I know when it’s time for a new life jacket?

If an outdated life jacket doesn’t hold air or if it no longer fits properly, then it’s probably time to buy a new one.

How do I know if my existing life jacket still works?

There are three different ways to test your life jacket: the inflating test, the deflating test, and the float test. Try each of these tests in a pool or other calm area until you determine that your life jacket is still good.

How long does a life jacket last?

The shelf life of a life jacket can range from five years to 10 years depending on the material used in the construction and whether or not it has been stored properly.

What type of life jacket is best for kayaking?

Inflatable and automated jackets often work better than throwable ones because they provide a secure fit and keep you afloat in the water.

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