How to Fit a PFD Life Jacket

Nothing beats an afternoon on the lake. Whether you are fishing, wakeboarding, kayaking, canoeing or any other water sport, you'll want everyone in your group to be properly fitted with a PFD (personal flotation device). Accidents happen so it's best to be prepared for anything that can happen on the water. You've probably visited friends on the lake and grabbed whatever life jacket looked closest to your size. If you wear a life jacket that is the wrong size, you may be putting yourself at risk plus you'll be very uncomfortable. Keep reading to learn the basics of how to fit a life jacket.

You can shop PFDs by first measuring the widest part of your chest. If you plan to kayak with a jacket on, measure your chest with that jacket on to be sure you get a proper fit. After you know your chest size, find the PFD that best fits your size.

fit a life jacket

A PFD should fit snuggly, but not be so tight that it is uncomfortable or constricting. To get a good fit, loosen all straps and put on the PFD. Zip the front or side zipper (depending on the style) and buckle all of the straps. If the life vest has shoulder straps, adjust them so that the bulk of the front panels rests squarely in front of your chest. Finally, tighten each torso strap until the vest feels snug from top to bottom.

Now, place your thumbs underneath the shoulder straps and tug upward. The life jacket should stay in place and not slide upward if it fits correctly. A small amount of movement is okay but try to adjust so that the give is minimal. Make sure that your arms have a full range of motion for the activity you'll be doing. If your arms cannot move freely, you may need to adjust the PFD again or try a different size.

This is just the basics of how to fit a life jacket. For more information on PFD features and different styles, visit our PFD buying guide.

You can find life jackets from Kokatat, Extrasport, Hyperlite and more at Sierra Trading Post.
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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