Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
How to choose the right life jacket

We all know how important it is to wear a PFD when we go out on the water, but do we all know how to choose the right size?

Here’s how to select a life jacket that properly fits you and your family.

Comfortable like a bug on a rug

For children, make sure the PFD fits your child’s weight. Also, make sure the PFD is comfortable and lightweight for your child to wear.

A staff member and visitor look into a water network during a pond study program.

Make sure your child tries on the PFD before purchasing it.

It should fit snugly and not go over your child’s chin or ears. If there is more than 7.6 cm (3”) between your child’s shoulders and the device, it is too big and could do more harm than good.

child with PFD

When purchasing a children’s life jacket, look for these safety features:

  • a large collar to support the head
  • ties at the waist or elastic gatherings at the front and back
  • a safety strap that goes between the legs to prevent the device from sliding on your child’s head
  • buckles on safety straps and reflective tape

Consider attaching a non-metallic pea-free whistle to the device.

Fit for your PFD

For adults, your chest size (not your weight) will determine the appropriate size. Sizes vary by PFD brand and model, so check the sizing information listed.

Group of paddlers standing next to a canoe

A PFD should be tight and fit like a glove, but allow you to move freely and not chafe.

See also  Eddie Ramsay's remarkable 61-year career

Women should consider women’s-specific PFDs versus unisex styles as they may offer a better fit. Each PFD will have a different design and foam placement to fit the contours of the body.

Stand up paddler in the water resting on board smiling

It doesn’t matter where the foam is located in terms of safety, but in terms of comfort you want it to fit, you guessed it, comfortably. The more straps you have, the more adjustments can be made to customize the fit.

Once you have selected the correct PFD size, follow these fitting steps:

Staff member assisting visitor with life jacket

  • Loosen all straps, put on the life jacket and close the zipper.
  • Start at the waist and tighten all the straps. If you have straps, tighten them at the end. You should feel comfortable, but not uncomfortable.
  • Next, have someone lift the shoulders of the PFD. If it goes up past your nose or head, try tightening the straps. If it still rises, the PFD is too big
  • The right size may seem “chunky,” but monitor your movements to make sure it is comfortable and doesn’t rub anywhere as you move or turn.
  • If possible, test your PFD in a pool or shallow water to see how it works. It should not rise or slide on your chin while floating.

Don’t have your own PFD? We can help!

Thanks to our partners, campers can borrow a PFD at participating provincial parks, Free.

Our PFD Loan Program is a water safety program taking place in 70 parks across the province.