Why life jackets are a must for children when camping with water activities

The writer’s son, Ibad Al Matin, 10, playing with other kids in a beach in Port Dickson, wearing his life jacket.

When camping with children, life jackets are must-bring items when activities in water are part of the trip.

They are top priority gear, especially for me, as a single mother.

I do most of the camp chores. I cook the meals; I pitch the tent.

And because my two sons are super active, I won’t be able to get the chores done if I have to also watch them like a hawk.

So my rule is: whenever my sons want to play in the river, outdoor pool or seaside while camping or picnicking, they must wear their life jackets.

Joanna's son, Jihad Zaquan, eight, in a life jacket and having fun in an outdoor pool at a campsite in Pekan Nenas, Johor, while his older brother, Ibad Al Matin, 10, lazes face up in the background.Joanna's son, Jihad Zaquan, eight, in a life jacket and having fun in an outdoor pool at a campsite in Pekan Nenas, Johor, while his older brother, Ibad Al Matin, 10, lazes face up in the background.I have two sons, aged eight and 10, and a daughter, 14.

On every camping trip, all four of us have life jackets of a reputable brand, bought online for about RM50 each.

Even when the river looks shallow, we’ll never know. There might suddenly be a deep drop-off downriver. So when our children wear life jackets, we know they’ll always be able to float.

This safety rule has brought extra benefits.

Wearing life jackets, the kids can relax in the water and float face up lazily.

Compared to bulky tyre tubes as floats, they enjoy greater mobility wearing life jackets.

The need for life jackets became evident when I brought my children picnicking in Port Dickson earlier this year.

During low tide, the sea there recedes by almost 200m from the beach. While I was cooking, my sons ventured far out along the tidal flats until I could not see them.

In beaches where the tide recedes far out, there is a good chance that when the high tide returns, it can do so quickly, especially during spring tide seasons.

When our children are too busily playing in the sand, collecting seashells and suchlike, they can get caught in the returning tide while we are not watching.

It might not be deep for adults but for children, it can be dangerous, so as parents, we must plan for possible risks when bringing our children outdoors.

Every school holiday and public holidays, I take my children on outdoor adventures to the max.

As an online English teacher, I bring my laptop to camp and get work done while the kids play.

I choose established campsites with good reviews that cost RM30 to RM50 a night. My sons love to play with water, so we usually pick sites with rivers, outdoor pools or by the sea.

Our camping trips are usually two-night events and we go at least once a month.

There is just one drawback to life jackets that bugs me: they are bulky.

Though I use a Toyota Hilux, the bulk of four life jackets still takes up space in the pickup truck.

I know there are slimmer designs made with better material, but affordability is a factor I must consider since I am raising kids.

So we try our best to plan our camping equipment and make them fit in the truck.

Remember never to crush life jackets under heavy gear during travel, or use them as cushions or pillows at camp because that might damage the foam inside and reduce their buoyancy.

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