The development of lifejackets and safety equipment

james-hallSpinlock’s James Hall looks at the evolution of lifejackets and associated safety equipment in recent years.

There is no doubt that modern lifejacket design has changed considerably and one of the biggest drivers of this change has been due to personal ownership.

Rather than crew relying on lifejackets being on board a boat, they want to own their own lifejacket as part of their kit bag. Customers are now happy to spend what is required to get the features they want in a lifejacket and as result there are some great new lifejackets on the market to choose from.

One the best changes in modern lifejackets is the fit and adjustment. This includes being more comfortable to wear for long periods and being something that you might put on sooner and keep on for longer. Lifejackets now look like a piece of sports equipment rather than safety equipment, with better fabrics, colour choices and design. This makes them more appealing to wear.


When Spinlock first took a look at the lifejacket sector in 2000, we found most were being made to be as cheap as possible and resulted in something that sailors did not really want to wear. At the same time kit such as foul weather gear was getting more and more technical.

We knew that the market was ready for a new technical lifejacket that was appealing to put on. Firstly we made them comfortable to wear, borrowing technology and design from the backpack industry, and secondly we made them more appealing to wear thanks to the design and detailing.

One of the big choices facing the customer is buoyancy, with lifejackets approved to either 150N or 275N certificates. 275N is generally worn more in commercial marine with 150N more suited to leisure and racing, even offshore.

For leisure customers we recommend 150N as the lifejackets are lighter, more compact and comfortable to wear for long periods and will, of course, perform as expected should you end up in the water.


On the inside, if you are looking for a coastal or offshore lifejacket then look for a fitted light and sprayhood, as both are proven essentials to aid location and prolong survival.

If you already have a lifejacket but would like to add a light to it, Spinlock’s LumeOn light can be retrofitted to any lifejacket bladder. The tiny lights have the effect of illuminating the whole bladder when activated, so should you fall overboard you instantly become a larger body to identify in the water.

If you do end up in the water, other considerations to add to your lifejacket include electronic devices to aid location, such as PLB and MOB AIS. Equipment has come down a lot in price, but most importantly so has size. Recent MOB AIS devices fit neatly inside the cover of lifejackets and can be automatically activated to help crews and rescuers, should they need to find you.