It is important to get the correct floatation category for the sport you are doing. As a rule buoyancy aids are rated either 50N (N being for Newtons) or 70N with 50N being the most popular. These are best used for dinghy sailing, kayaking, kitesurfing, waterskiing etc. Life Jackets (see separate section) are rated 100N, 150N and 275N and are aimed at power boating and yachting or people who struggle to swim.
These are designed to assist in keeping you afloat but this means that you have to help yourself by treading water. A good fit is more important than weight ratio in a buoyancy aid as you do not want it to ride up over your ears when you hit the water. With children, it is best to have a crotch strap and use it for the same reason as well as preventing your small child from slipping out from the bottom!
If you are waterskiing, using a ski biscuit or jet skiing, etc, it is best to look for a buoyancy aid that has at least two buckles but preferably four buckles as a fastening. Zips on their own do not do the job when falling into the water at speed as they tend to ‘pop’ open!
If you are sailing, kayaking, kitesurfing, etc look for a buoyancy aid that is cut short in the body so that you can either use a harness hook or that it does not ride up around your ears when you sit down. If waterskiing etc, the buoyancy aids tend to be cut longer to help protect your kidneys should you get hit by a loose ski!