The title pretty much gives it away.  We chose to buy the Mustang Survival Lil Legends 100 infant life jacket (model MV3250) for our son, Connor.

Here is the link to the manufacturer’s listing.

Lil Legend Infant Life Jacket

NOTE: I did find a fairly significant issue on Mustang Survival’s website regarding the Lil Legend.  The tag on our life jacket clearly reads infants up to 30lbs. The same model number (MV3250) on the website indicates the jacket is for infants up to 20 lbs.  I would hang my hat on the jacket tag over the website.  Yet again another reason I prefer to try things on before buying (see item #1 below).

Why did we choose the Lil Legends life jacket?

A quick Google search reveals many life jacket options for children.  There is a ton of information about life jackets out there…but luckily, we’ve compiled a guide for life jackets for new recreational boaters here:

Summary of Wearable Personal Flotation Devices and Life Jackets

Connor was about 12 months old and 18 lbs when we bought his first PFD.  It is important to remember that infant and child PFDs are rated based on the child’s weight, not age.  At 18 lbs, this placed Connor in a market with fairly limited options, especially at our local retailers.  From my research, it appears nearly all infant life jackets are type II and I found 1 Type 1 PFD, the Stearns Ocean Mate.  This makes obvious sense when considering many infants cannot swim and it is imperative to keep the infant’s face out of the water.  Type III PFDs would not work in this situation.

We chose this jacket for a few simple reasons.

  1. Probably the biggest factor was limited choices at our local West Marine and other retailers.  There are some things that we feel require one to put their hands on the product before purchasing.  Life jackets are definitely one of those things.  Since we didn’t have any other boating family friends with infants to try out their jackets, we were limited to what was available at our local shops.
  2. It has a strap sewn into the head pillow (the portion of the jacket that cradles the head) that can be used to pull the child out of the water with one hand.  Many of the infant PFDs have this feature, so this did not really eliminate many options.
  3. The Lil Legends life jacket head pillow has 3 separate foam partitions, which cradles the head very well. The West Marine-branded jackets had a two piece head pillow that did not seem to cradle his head as well.
  4. Price and quality.  I think we paid around $60 for this jacket.  There are cheaper options and there are more expensive options.  I am a big proponent of the mantra “you get what you pay for”, and I generally can eliminate options on the cheap end for simple things like construction quality and materials, while eliminating the most expensive options because the features are overkill or the product is just plain expensive for the sake of being expensive.  The Lil Legends is constructed with durable materials and the stitching appears to be very good.
  5. Fit.  Yes, the foam sections around the chest are quite bulky.  But in order to achieve the minimum buoyancy required by the USCG, this is largely applicable to all infant PFDs.  But this jacket fits snugly and has decent adjustability.  The chest adjustment strap keep the life jacket snug against the child’s chest while the crotch strap keeps the jacket from riding up over the child’s face.  The jacket is secured around the chest with a zipper and there is a little notch in the foam to provide some clearance between the jacket and Connor’s chin and throat.  The zippered joint makes the jacket feel more secure.  The chest foam sections on jackets with the single chest buckle did not feel as secure as the zippered joint.

Connor Wearing his Lil Legends Life Jacket

Below is a picture of Connor wearing th Lil Legends life jacket.  He’s around 20 lbs in this photo, so he still has another 10 lbs to go before he graduates to the next size jacket.

Connor at ~20 lbs wearing his Lil Legends life jacket

Now, we are not married to the Lil Legends.  I think the chest floatation is a bit on the bulky side and limits Connor’s movement and comfort maybe a little too much.  I’ve seen some photos of other options like the Stohlquist Nemo and L.L. Bean Discovery that also look like great options.  I’d love to try them with Connor.  Unfortunately, they weren’t readily available locally. The links below are to the Nemo and Discovery manufacturers’ websites.

Stohlquist Nemo

L.L. Bean Discovery

Perhaps I can get my hands on these other options and test them in the pool with Connor once the weather warms up a bit.