Lifejackets With Waterproof Pockets

Still, even in lifejackets with pockets, they’re never waterproof. But the technology is evolving so you should expect one to hit the market soon. 
By Kelvin Wamalwa Written by Kelvin Wamalwa
Updated on March 29, 2022

I recently found desirous of a lifejacket with waterproof pockets. I needed pockets that could hold my keys so they wouldn’t rust from overexposure to water. Waterproof pockets would also have come in handy for my cellphone. But after a long search on all corners of the internet, I turned up empty. Even after I continually refined my search filters and followed every link to dodgy e-commerce websites, my efforts were still fruitless. I found tons of lifejackets with pockets alright but none with waterproof pockets. It was incredibly frustrating. Maybe you have encountered a similar problem. 

Pockets can come in handy on a lifejacket if you’re floating around 100 miles from shore waiting for a rescue vessel. You can carry a handheld VHF to radio for help, keys, your cellphone, a snack, or something else to pass the time while you wait. Still, even in lifejackets with pockets, they’re never waterproof. But the technology is evolving so you should expect one to hit the market soon. 

Are there any life jackets with waterproof pockets?

Currently no. While there are lifejackets with waterproof pockets in various stages of development, none are being mass-produced. Many existing lifejackets focus on pockets that can be drained easily rather than being impervious to water. Draining is usually accomplished by meshes.

A lifejacket with pockets

Personal flotation devices with waterproof pockets are currently in development and should hit the market any time now. Hydration Life Jacket is the most prominent developer. The company’s founder, Jason Hansbro, was issued the first US patent for a lifejacket with waterproof pockets. The prototype looks good but the company hasn’t disclosed a launch date or pricing details. It’s still in the fundraising stage and there is no indication as to when mass production might begin.

Why aren’t there any lifejackets with waterproof pockets?

The first lifejackets didn’t have pockets and a good number of modern ones still don’t. This is a hangover from the days when the US Coast Guard didn’t approve personal flotation devices with pockets. It was believed that those pockets could be filled with ballast sunk, undermining the floatation ability of the life vests. Other sailing enthusiasts blame insurance companies. 

Over the years, pockets have become increasingly common on lifejackets. They’re just not waterproof yet. Manufacturers are adding all sorts of cool features like quick-draining mesh pockets and water bladders but the pockets remain woefully inadequate.

Another one of the reasons why waterproof pockets are rare is because of how lifejackets work. They don’t always need to be waterproof to do their job of keeping you afloat until help comes. This is especially true of more “primitive” lifejackets which rely on blocks of foam inside a nylon or vinyl covering. It’s the low density of the foam that enables you to float despite your weight. It doesn’t matter if the foam comes in contact with the water. In such jackets, waterproofing is simply never considered as a factor in the design phase.

Inflatable lifejacket

The more advanced life vests rely on carbon dioxide for flotation. They can either come pre-inflated or have the gas in a pressurized canister inside the life vest. The canister can be triggered open and rapidly inflate the life vest once you hit the water. This is often done automatically by a water sensor or by manually pulling a lever.

Inflatable life vests don’t often have any pockets at all. This is because they’re often smaller, leaving little space for pockets. Also, once inflated, the pockets would become squished and inaccessible anyway.

Best alternatives to waterproofing your lifejackets pockets

The lack of waterproof pockets shouldn’t put a damper on your spirits. There are various methods to protect your keys, electronics, snacks, and everything else you might carry with you from getting soaked if you fall into the water:

Waterproof electronics

Nearly all electronics intended for marine use are waterproofed as a matter of fact. So you need not worry much about your handheld VHF as long as you didn’t cheap out when buying it. Waterproofing has also become a standard for high-end smartphones. If your electronics aren’t waterproof there are still other options.

Waterproof pouches

Inflatable lifejacket

Waterproof pouches are a great option if your electronics aren’t waterproof. These pouches are often made of clear tear-resistant plastic with waterproof seals. You can put your valuables inside and seal them before putting them in the pockets of your life vest and they’ll keep everything thankfully water-free.

They’re large enough to fit a cell phone. They’re also extremely cheap, with prices on Amazon hovering around a dollar apiece. They come in six-packs and dozens. 

Ziploc bags

Ziploc bags are smaller and less tough compared to waterproof pouches. They make up for this with versatility and cheaper prices. A pack of 100 Ziploc bags can cost less than $10. You can use these to protect your keys and carry snacks.