The Right Fit

July 30, 2014

Adorable little girl in a life jacket traveling on boat

From shoes to clothing to jobs and relationships, we are always looking to ensure the ‘right fit.’ That same mentality should be carried over into water safety, making sure you are well prepared for anything that being on the water throws your way this summer.

Life jackets and personal floatation devices (PFD’s) are critical in keeping you safe this season. If you haven’t been wearing yours because of the way it makes you look or feel, there’s good news. Life jacket technology has come a long way—the bulky, ugly, old orange life jacket is a thing of the past. Radical changes in life jacket design—extra large armholes, shaped fit, flexible panels, pockets, inflatables and more comfortable materials—make today’s life jackets easy to wear. Here are a few tips to help make sure you find the right fit.

1. The right life jacket for the water conditions

Different activities may require different needs from your life jacket so make sure you know what kind of life jacket you need. Off-shore life jackets are best for open, rough or remote waters, where rescue might not be immediate. Near-shore buoyant vests are great for calm or inland waters, where fast rescue is more likely. Flotation aids are good for those on or close to shore where rescue is close at hand. And throwable flotation devices should always be available on land or in a boat to provide a back up to wearable PFDs.

2. The Right Size

Life jackets are labeled with guidelines for your size and weight to ensure it functions properly in case of emergency. Be sure that children wear child life jackets and adults wear appropriately sized PFDs. How much “extra lift” you need in the water is determined by body weight and fat, lung size, clothing and water conditions (rough or calm). In general, the more physically fit you are, the more “lift” you need. A general rule of thumb is that your life jacket is too big if you can pull it over your ears, and too small if you can’t fasten all the buckles and straps.

3. Test it Out

While there may not be a dock and water in the store when buying your life jacket, you can still preform some basic tests to make sure it fits well. Try holding your arms straight up over your head and gently pull on the top of the arm openings. If the jacket rides up it’s probably too big. You should also sit down wearing your PFD to make sure its comfortable. Lastly, try doing a few front crawl strokes to make sure you can move without significant restriction.

Life jackets are designed to keep you afloat in the water and give you extra time in times of rescue but they only work if you wear them. Make sure you and your loved ones stay safe this season, and wear your life jacket whether on the water, in a boat or on a dock.


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