It used to be that there was really just one kind of life jacket out there, and now it seems like there are so many different kinds. It can be hard to choose which one you like the most, which is why I’m reviewing them on this website. However, sometimes instead of sifting through all the lifejacket options out there, you just want to get a classic lifejacket that you’re used to. You know what worked for you as a kid and you want to just get the basic model. If this sounds like you, then you could look into the Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest. This lifejacket has all the features you want, and none of the gimmicks. Here’s the scoop on this life vest.
One thing that is an absolute safety must when it comes to life jackets for infants is safety handles. Now, hopefully, you won’t ever find yourself in the situation where your baby will need to be hoisted out of the water, but life jackets aren’t exactly made for the best possible scenarios. If you do find yourself in the kind of emergency that your baby is in the water and you need to get them out quickly, you can do so with the handle on the back of the head cushion.
Grabbing them with this handle from outside the water on a dock or on a boat is a total cinch. You can easily and quickly get your child out of harm’s way.
Honestly, it is a great way to get your baby out of the water quickly, but it isn’t completely comfortable for the kid. When at all possible, if you aren’t in an emergency situation, try and pass your child from adult in the water to an adult out of the water or help them up a ladder. This is much more comfortable for the child.
I mentioned how much I dislike crotch straps before in my last review of the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper you can find here. If you have ever spent time in a life jacket during your childhood, you likely know exactly what I’m talking about. There is typically one strap that goes between your legs and hangs there to keep the life jacket from slipping up and off of you when you’re in the water. It also helps the life jacket stay on if anyone should need to hoist you out from the safety handle.
However, it is basically the most uncomfortable thing ever. Think of the worst wedgie you ever had and multiply it by 100, and then you know the intensity of the wedgie that this strap gives you. Also, don’t forget that usually, you get the wedgie when someone is pulling you out of the water, so include the fact that everyone is probably looking at you.
As mentioned before, the Airhead Infant’s general Purpose Life Vest is a basic model, so it has the one crotch strap that I really, really dislike. The Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper has two straps to go around the upper thighs, which makes it a huge win in my book.
Another great feature of the Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest is the head cushion. This is really a necessary feature because it is what keeps your baby’s head above water and keeps it from tipping forward when your infant is very small. If your child falls into the water or is supervised in the water with an adult, they will likely tip back and be in a backstroke position because of the head cushion, which keeps your baby’s face out of the water.
This head cushion also has another purpose. If you are spending all day on a boat in the sun, your child will most likely get very tired. Children under 30 pounds are usually in the age range where they take naps and playing in the sunshine seems to make children very tired very quickly. The head cushion provides a little extra support and comfort for a child who takes an impromptu nap on the boat while the adults still play.
When you are looking into life jackets, it is very important to make sure that they are US Coast Guard Approved. If you are doing any water sports and taking your child onto a boat, it is required by law that you have a USCG-approved life vest. You might assume that all floatation devices out there are approved by the USCG, but they actually aren’t. For example, water wings are not considered an approved personal floatation device (PFD).
It is important that you know your child can use their life jacket before you get into a boat or have the potential to need to use it. According to the US Coast Guard, “A PFD will keep a child afloat, but may not keep a struggling child face-up. That’s why it’s so important to teach children how to put on a PFD and to help them get used to wearing one in the water.”
Many people complain that their child goes face forward while in their life jacket, and this may be true. The life jacket will keep them floating on the surface, but depending on the movements of your child, they may not keep their face out of the water. This is why it is so important to have them try our life jacket in the water first so you can calmly help them learn how to maneuver their bodies in the water.
Very young babies should be placed on their back with their life jackets because they lake the muscle control to keep themselves upright without falling forward. Life jackets can be a bit tricky even in good conditions, so it is important to never leave your child unsupervised in the water even with a life jacket.
Check The Fit
Even if your child fits into the weight category of the life jacket, everybody is different and it is important to make sure the life jacket fits well before your child gets into the water. The US Coast Guard says, “To work right, a PFD must fit snugly on a child. To check for a good fit, pick the child up by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child’s chin and ears will not slip through.”
In the event that your child slips through, then adjust the buckles until it fits snugly. If your child is uncomfortable when the buckles are at the loosest setting, then consider getting a life jacket that is the next size up.
Airhead has a few different sizes of the same kind of general-purpose life vest. They have a child-size that is for 30 to 50 pounds and youth size for 50 to 90 pounds. Depending on your child’s body, they might need to move up to the child-size sooner than later.
Airhead also makes this other floatation device in the video below that is suitable for older children:
Another feature that you might not think about when you are buying your life vest is that the colors are bright. So what? Well, Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest has bright colors so that you can easily spot the vest in the water in case of an emergency. Hopefully, you will never find yourself in the position where you need to spot your child in the water from a distance. But if you ever are in this position, you know that you are slightly more prepared because your life jacket has bright colors.
The Airhead Infant life vest is filled with foam and encased in durable polyester. Polyester is a manufactured textile and it is perfect for things like life jackets that will get wet regularly and are not able to be washed. It is lightweight and stain-resistant. It also dries very quickly, making it an ideal fabric for life jackets. This material will help the life jacket stay as clean as possible even with regular use.
Life Jacket Care
Though many times you might just leave your life jackets out in the sun to dry out completely, sometimes they need a little extra care. If you want to give your life vest some extra cleaning here’s how to do it:
- Lay out a tarp
- Fill a bucket with cool water and a few tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent
- Wet the life jackets and scrub with a soft bristle brush
- Rinse with a hose
- Hang to dry thoroughly before storing
If you are using your life jackets every day on the water, you might be able to get away with doing this every week or so. Life Jackets don’t typically get too dirty, but they can get a bit smelly especially if the wearer is sweating in them all day. It is especially important to clean them thoroughly after getting them out of storage and before putting them back in.
Mold and Mildew
If you forget to dry your life jackets completely before storing them for the winter months, it is more than likely that they will have mold and mildew on them when you pull them out. But don’t throw them out just yet! You can clean mold and mildew off of your life jackets and make them look almost brand new.
All you need to do is mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and soak the mildew spots for half an hour in the sun. Then follow the directions above for the regular cleaning. Just make sure that you give the spots an extra scrub with a soft bristle brush.
If you can visibly see mold spores, then wipe those off before soaking in the peroxide. The sun’s UV rays do wonders for sanitizing life jackets, so use the blazing sun whenever possible for your drying.
The Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest may be a basic model, but it has an excellent fit that most parents are really pleased with. It has closed sides, but you can still adjust it to fit snugly with the buckles on the front. There are three buckles that attach to the chest and one buckle that attaches to the crotch strap.
The Airhead Infant Life Vest is made for children who are 30 pounds and under. Even though it is only about a 20-pound weight range, the size change is pretty extreme. This means that the vest can hold a newborn baby up until toddler years. The vest can be adjusted with the buckles and it typically is comfortable enough for your child to spend several hours in.
This life vest is not inflatable, so it will keep its full size at all times. Even though it does not compact down any further, it is very easy to tote around. It may take up some space in your arms, but you can easily buckle it onto a beach bag strap and take it with you without it taking up any of your precious storage space. It is also very lightweight at just over 1 pound, which is a great thing for you and for your little one who will be wearing it.
Many children feel absolutely comfortable in the Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest. However, because of the wide weight range and the difference in body types that it accommodates, it could be more comfortable for some than for others.
The Coast Guard approved this life vest. This means that if you will need to use a life jacket like this one if you are going on a motorboat or any other kind of boat. Your child may love wearing the life jacket, and that is great, but there are other options for child play if your child hates it.
I recently wrote reviews on the 5 Best Baby Floats, which your child will likely love. The Coast Guard only approves life-saving devices so these ones are not approved as a personal floatation device. These floats are more a recreational tool that your baby can use with adult supervision. The life jackets are more of a life-saving device in case of emergencies.
You can, of course, have your child use the life jackets during normal play, but I have found that my own babies prefer to have the baby floats until they are old enough to want to try swimming independently.
The law requires that you have every child in a life jacket if they are on a boat. And every adult should have a life jacket available to them in case of emergency as well. So if you are buying a life jacket for your baby to use on a boat, this is a perfect option for you. If, however, you are buying one for everyday pool play, you might want to try one of the other options.
Overall, the Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest is one of the most popular basic life jackets on the market. It has all the features that you need in a life jacket and it is easy to use because it is the same classic design that you likely used as a child yourself.
The United States Coast Guard approved this life jacket and it fulfills all the requirements of a safe personal floatation device. Life jackets can be tricky for children, especially infants, to know how to use. This floatation device is not intended for use without supervision. However, if your child falls from a boat, you know that this floatation device will keep your child afloat until you can get to him or her. If you are looking for more fun time pool floats for your child to play in this summer, check out my reviews of the best pool floats here!