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Foam vs. Inflatable Life Jackets

Posted By Gail Kulp, Thursday, October 15, 2020
Updated: Monday, October 12, 2020

Foam vs. Inflatable Life Jackets


No matter what you are doing to enjoy your time on the water: boating, paddle sports, fishing, personal watercraft and more, there is a life jacket to best fit the situation, your body type and your age.


While there are hundreds of different styles and types of life jackets, there are essentially two versions to choose from: foam and inflatables. But do you really know what would work best for you? For some insight into the topic of foam v. inflatable life jackets, the Sea Tow Foundation spoke to its partners at Absolute Outdoor and its affiliate brand Onyx, who have supplied more than 65,000 life jackets for the Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program. A chart is included below with an easy side-by side breakdown of the differences between foam and inflatable life jackets.


No matter what life jacket you buy and wear, storing it properly can make all the difference in terms of how long it will last. Absolute Outdoor recommends storing life jackets in a shaded, indoor location to prevent fading and weakening of material. In addition, life jackets should be thoroughly dried before being stored to prevent mold and mildew. If treated well, a life jacket can last 7-10 years.


The U.S. Coast Guard requires at least one life jacket for each person be readily available on a recreational boat. And the life jacket must be the proper sizes for the people on the boat. Through our Life Jacket Loaner Stations, we work to provide boaters with easy access to life jackets that can be borrowed and returned free of charge.


“We are incredibly pleased to partner with the Sea Tow Foundation in providing life jackets for their nationwide life jacket loaner stations,” said Len Nelson, Director of Sales – Commercial & Industrial at Absolute Outdoor. “Our goal is to see people wearing life jackets – not just having them on board, and the Foundation has done a wonderful job providing quality jackets for people to use and enjoy on their day on the water in their nationwide life jacket loaner program.”


No one ever thinks that they will be in a situation where a life jacket is necessary. Being a strong swimmer will not make a difference if you unexpectedly are forced into the water. Rarely will a boating accident allow you the time to put on a life jacket if you were not already wearing one.


Ultimately, the best life jacket is the one that you are going to wear the moment you get on or near the water. Wearing a life jacket can give you and your family the peace of mind for a safe and fun day on the water.


Share with us which life jacket you prefer to use and why. Feel free to include a photo of you in your life jacket on our Facebook page and tag @SeaTowFoundation and include #VestFriends.


In the chart below, you’ll find an easy side-by-side breakdown of the differences between foam and inflatable life jackets.






Good for all ages, sizes, swimming ability. Ideal for most water activities.

Lightweight, and not bulky.

Very buoyant.


Not always comfortable.

Can restrict movement.

Can get hot in the summer.

Not recommended for those under 16 or under 80 lbs.

Not approved for personal watercraft use or sports such as tubing, skiing, wakeboarding, etc.

Wearer must be a confident swimmer.

Must be worn to count for carriage requirements.


Will float without any additional steps.

Must inflate manually to activate flotation.

Some have automatic mechanism that cause inflation as soon as the life jacket comes in contact with the water.

Once the CO2 cartridge has been used, it must be replaced before wearing the life jacket again.


Minimum requirement: 15.5 lbs.

Minimum requirement: 22.5 lbs.


Visual inspection before each use.

Manually inflate to check all components at least once each year and visually inspect before each use.


Cost varies, but is relatively inexpensive. Can range from $15-100 depending on the style and size.

Cost varies depending on style, but is generally more expensive than a foam life jacket. Costs can range from $50-200

Absolute Outdoor Best Seller

Adult General Purpose Vest (Blue)

A/M 24 – Suspender-style inflatable life jacket

M16 – Belt pack-style inflatable life jacket

Types of Life Jacket Styles

Offshore or Rough Waters
Near Shore or Inland Waters

See more information:

Inflatable life jackets can be Manually or Automatically inflated. (See Activation section above.)


Tags:  Absolute Outdoor  best life jacket  foam vs. inflatable  Life Jacket  Onyx Outdoor  types of life jackets 

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Exercise at Home with a Life Jacket to Get Ready for Boating Season

Posted By Gail Kulp, Thursday, April 16, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 16, 2020

Exercise at Home with a Life Jacket to Get Ready for Boating Season

As many states are under stay-at-home orders at this time, exercise is taking on many forms. Some people are taking walks around their neighborhoods or running up and down the stairs in their apartment buildings. Other people are taking advantage of treadmills and stationary bikes that they already owned while others are turning to exercise videos for inspiration. With that in mind, the Sea Tow Foundation has created a unique full-body workout that utilizes a life jacket to help you get ready for boating season.

The life jacket exercise workout video features the Sea Tow Foundation’s Executive Director, Gail Kulp, in her living room. No special equipment is needed other than a pair of athletic shoes and a life jacket. The Sea Tow Foundation has partnered with Onyx life jackets for the nationwide Life Jacket Loaner Program which features over 650 life jacket loaner stations at marinas, fuel docks and boat ramps.  Kulp explains that the life jacket exercise workout involves six different moves – two that are focused on strength, two that are focused on cardio and the final two that are focused on the abdominal muscles (also known as the abs).  Each move is completed for one minute and then at the end of the six moves, there is a one-minute rest before completing the circuit three more times. When including a warm-up and cool-down of a couple of minutes, the entire life jacket exercise routine will take exactly 30 minutes to complete.

A variety of free timers are available to be downloaded to a phone or tablet and can be programmed for the 1-minute intervals for the life jacket exercise workout. Music of your choice can also be played while working out. The full exercise routine is listed at the bottom and Kulp demonstrates all of the moves in the video. She also includes some default moves if jumping or running in place is too difficult for the cardio portion of the life jacket exercise workout.

The life jacket workout exercise video is just one of many tools being debuted by the Sea Tow Foundation to help groups and individuals participate in National Safe Boating Week which takes place from May 16-22, 2020. The Sea Tow Foundation has developed a media kit, images sized for social media and we have recorded a webinar explaining how to use these tools and many others in your local area.

We’d love to hear from you after trying this life jacket exercise workout with your comments below. Was the workout easy or hard? And, we hope that you’ll connect with us on Facebook and Instagram before National Safe Boating Week to join in all the fun!

Direct Link to Life Jacket Exercise Workout Video 

Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Exercise Routine:

Warm-up (2 minutes)

                Jog in Place

Circuit (1 minute each – repeat for total of 4 times)

1.       Squat while taking life jacket on and off

2.       Lunge life jacket pass

3.       Jumping Jacks while wearing life jacket

4.       High Knees while wearing life jacket

5.       Abdominal Twists passing the life jacket

6.       Dynamic Plank while wearing life jacket

7.       Rest

Cool-Down (2 minutes)

                Stretch as needed


Disclaimer: Before starting this or any exercise routine, the Sea Tow Foundation strongly recommends that you consult with your medical team. The Sea Tow Foundation staff are not experts in exercise techniques nor medical conditions. By voluntarily participating in this exercise routine, you understand that there is a possibility of injury and you assume all risk of injury to yourself and agree to release and hold harmless the Sea Tow Foundation from any and all claims or course of action.


Tags:  2019-20  Exercise  Life Jacket  Life Jacket Exercise  Life Jacket Loaner Program  National Safe Boating Week  Onyx Outdoor  Workout video 

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5 New Year’s Boating Resolutions for a Safe and Fun 2020

Posted By Michael Wesolowski, Thursday, December 26, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

5 New Year’s Boating Resolutions for a Safe and Fun 2020

With the holidays behind us, it’s officially time to turn over a new leaf in the new year. That’s right, 2020 is finally here.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but now is your chance to give 2020 some foresight, too. If you’re looking for some boating-related New Year’s resolutions, look no further than the list below:

Spend more time on the water – This is one New Year’s resolution that should be on every boaters’ list. If you’re anything like us, there’s no such thing as too much time spent at the helm of your vessel. So, for 2020, pledge to take more time out on your favorite waterways. Trust us, your mental health will thank you!

Wear your life jacket while underway–It’s the law to have enough wearable life jackets for everyone on board your boat in the correct sizes for each person and the U.S .Coast Guard requires that children under age 13 wear their life jackets at all times when underway. This year, we challenge you to have everyone on board WEAR their life jackets Not only does this set a good example for the kids by having the adults wear their life jackets, but it things go south and you find yourself in a boating emergency, it could be the difference between a slight inconvenience and disaster. And with the new inflatable life jacket models available from our friends at Onyx, you can have a life jacket on and never feel like it gets in your way. If you don’t happen to have a life jacket for all your passengers, you can always stop by one of our 550+ Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Loaner Stations and borrow one for the day for free! Click here to find the location nearest you.

Check your VHF radio before every trip – This is another easy resolution to check off the list. Having a working VHF radio is an essential piece to the boating safety puzzle, so make sure yours is working properly before you leave the dock.

Designate a Sober Skipper – Did you know that alcohol is the leading cause of boating accidents? Just like driving a car, alcohol can impair your ability to operate your vessel, and the sun, waves and other boating-specific attributes can lead to impairment much faster than you think. That’s why it’s vital that you and your loved ones designate a Sober Skipper each and every time you leave the dock. You can even join us by taking the Sober Skipper pledge by clicking here.

Take a boating safety course – Want to learn something new and expand your boating horizons in 2020? Then why not take a boating safety course? Boating safety courses aren’t just for novice or beginner boaters, either. Whether you’re heading out to the dock for the first time or have been boating for years, there’s always something new to learn. Our friends at America’s Boating Club have all sorts of great courses to help enhance your boating knowledge and completing a course will often provide you with a discount on your boat owner’s insurance. Click here to check out all of their educational offerings.

Do you have any other boating resolutions you’re planning on achieving in 2020? Share yours in the comments below

Tags:  2019-20  Americas Boating Club  Automated Radio Check  Life Jacket Loaner Station Grant  Onyx Outdoor  Sober Skipper  VHF Radio 

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Sea Tow Foundation Holiday Gift Ideas for the Boater in Your Life

Posted By Gail Kulp, Friday, December 13, 2019
Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

Sea Tow Foundation Holiday Gift Ideas for the Boater in Your Life


Tis the season to be jolly! That means it’s time to wrap up your holiday shopping and grab some last-minute gifts for friends and family.


Many people have the thought that boaters are difficult to shop for, but we have a whole boat load of partners that make the perfect gifts for your favorite boater this holiday season. Just a few can be found below:.

  • A brand-new life jacket from Onyx Outdoor – There’s no better gift than safety this holiday season! And whether the boater in your life is a lifelong boater or is just getting started, a life jacket makes a great gift. For your favorite boater, check out Onyx’s line of awesome inflatable life jackets, which allow wearers full mobility without sacrificing safety!.

  • A boating safety course from America’s Boating Club – Keeping with the theme of safety, a boating safety class is a great idea for a holiday gift for those looking to cut down on stuff! There are classes for all types of boaters, so whether your gift recipient is an experienced boater looking to learn a new skill or someone who just started boating this year, there’s no shortage of seminars to take!.

  • A handheld VHF Radio from Cobra – A working emergency radio is so important when you need help, and cell phones often don’t get service when out boating on many waterways. Make sure your loved one can call for help whenever and wherever they boat with a new VHF radio..

  • An Overboard Wireless emergency cutoff device from FELL Marine – Engine cutoff devices can be a crucial piece to the boating safety puzzle, but there are countless boaters out there who don’t use theirs because the typical lanyard designs can limit movement. A wireless cutoff device allows full movement around the vessel while still providing the safety needed if someone unexpectedly ends up in the water so that the engine and propeller can be automatically shut off..

  • Sunglasses from Fishgillz – Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for the boater or angler in your life? Look no further than a set of Fishgillz sunglasses! These sunglasses pair polarized lenses with a special floating technology to combine comfort, style, and function all into one package!.

  • Sea Tow membership –There’s no better gift for your favorite boater than Peace of Mind on the Water. Whether your boating buddies are on lakes, rivers or the open ocean, a Sea Tow membership can be the perfect gift. Memberships come complete with tows, fuel deliveries, jump starts, covered ungroundings and so much more. You can even buy the membership instantly online, making it the perfect last-minute holiday gift in the days, hours and even minutes leading up to whenever your friends and family open their presents!

Tags:  2019-20  Americas Boating Club  Cobra  Engine Cutoff Device  Fell Marine  Fishgillz  Life Jacket  Onyx Outdoor  Sea Tow  US Coast Guard  VHF Radio  Winter 

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Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Use Hits Records at NMMA Boat Shows

Posted By Gail Kulp, Friday, November 1, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sea Tow Foundation Life Jacket Use Hits Records at NMMA Boat Shows

Thanks to Life Jacket Loaner Stations set up by the Sea Tow Foundation, more than 34,000 attendees at the NMMA-hosted 2019 Tampa and Norwalk Boat Shows left with a better understanding of the importance of life jacket use.

Through partnerships with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Onyx, the Sea Tow Foundation set up two Life Jacket Loaner Stations at each of the boat shows and loaned out more than 400 life jackets across the two events, which were held in late September and late October.

The stations are part of the Sea Tow Foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program – which features more than 575 locations nationwide where boaters can borrow life jackets for free and return them at the end of their boating trip.

The Life Jacket Loaner Stations at the Norwalk and Tampa Boat Shows helped to ensure that life jackets were made available for children and adults visiting the shows as they perused the docks and toured the various boats and other exhibits on display at the shows.

Each Life Jacket Loaner Station was staffed by volunteers from several local organizations, as well as local Sea Tow members and other community volunteers. By the time the shows concluded, more than 54 volunteers offered up their time to help spread awareness on the importance of life jackets.

“It’s so great to see so many different people using our life jackets at these shows,” said Gail R. Kulp, executive director of the Sea Tow Foundation. “With each person who borrows a life jacket or sees our life jacket loaner stations, we’re able to help spread a vital message on the importance of life jackets and always having them any time you are in or around the water. These shows are such a great opportunity to help further our cause to ensure boating is safe and fun for everyone involved.”

Kulp added that the Foundation’s presence at the shows was especially beneficial to children and their families, as it provided a valuable learning experience for boaters of all ages.

“Children are required by law to always wear life jackets, so getting them familiar with them at these shows is a great service to boaters,” Kulp said. “Having the opportunity to show these young children, in particular, that life jacket use can be simple, easy and, most of all, fun has a profound impact on the boating community as a whole. We’re so thankful to be able to team up with our friends at NMMA to help spread these important messages at their shows.”

To learn more about the Sea Tow Foundation and its programs, or to find a Life Jacket Loaner Station near you, visit

Tags:  2019-20  Boating Safety  Life Jacket  Life Jacket Loaner Partnership  Life Jacket Loaner Station Grant  National Marine Manufacturers Association  News  Onyx Outdoor  Partner  Press Release  Vest Friends. Volunteers 

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A Visit to Sea Tow Southcentral Alaska

Posted By Gail Kulp, Friday, October 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Visit to Sea Tow Southcentral Alaska

In early October, Sea Tow Foundation Executive Director, Gail Kulp, had the opportunity to visit Alaska for the first time to attend a conference. While there, Gail stopped in to see Captain Trey Hill, owner of Sea Tow Southcentral Alaska. Trey owns three Sea Tow locations in Southcentral Alaska: Homer, Seward and Whittier.

Homer is the southernmost location for Capt. Trey. Located roughly 4 hours south of Anchorage, Homer is  home to many shops and restaurants as well as a bustling port for container ships, commercial fishing vessels and thousands of recreational boaters. Sea Tow’s Southcentral Alaskan office is located in town, with a boat docked in port providing boaters peace-of-mind 24/7/365. The Sea Tow Foundation’s life jacket loaner station is also available 24/7/365 for anyone who needs to borrow a life jacket to help ensure a safe day on the water.

Whittier is the easternmost location for Capt. Trey, a glacier-viewing paradise on Prince William Sound, about an hour southeast of Anchorage. Access to Whittier is controlled by the longest combined-use tunnel in North America. The tunnel is one lane and controlled on a tight schedule in 15 minute increments. This allows for vehicle traffic to flow in both directions as well as allow for a train to pass through the tunnel. There is always a full-time captain on Trey’s staff in Whittier to ensure prompt service for boaters; and eliminating any wait for tunnel traffic before Sea Tow help arrives.

Seward, one of the oldest communities in Alaska, is located on Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula about 2 ½ hours south of Anchorage. As a popular cruise port, Seward offers many activities to entertain cruise passengers including kayaking, fishing, whale watching cruises, shopping, or taking a ride on the Alaska Railroad (which begins in Seward). Seward is also very popular among recreational boaters. Gail was lucky enough to get a personal tour from Capt. Trey on a Sea Tow boat. They took in the amazing views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains and were lucky enough to see a few otters playing around in the crystal blue waters, which was a highlight for Makena, the dog, who wanted to join in on their fun.

Note from Gail: I fell in love with Alaska and, knowing that the state is 2 ½ times the size of Texas and that I’d only managed to see a small segment of it during my visit, I know that another trip will be in my future and I'm going to bring my family along! Who knows, maybe I’ll be one of the cruise ship passengers coming into port on my next trip! Why don't you plan a trip of your own?



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Tags:  2019-20  Life Jacket  Life Jacket Loaner Partnership  Life Jacket Loaner Station Grant  Life Jacket Program  News  Onyx Outdoor  Partner  Press Release  US Coast Guard  Vest Friends  Website. 

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