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How to Fit a Life Jacket

Choosing a life jacket, or personal flotation device (PFD), that fits well for all-day wearing comfort is one of the most important water safety decisions you make. In this video we show you how to fit a life jacket and tighten the straps to ensure it won’t ride up when you’re in the water. When deciding on a life jacket, wear it around the shop for a while to be sure it’s all-day comfortable. There’s a wide variety of life jackets available to boaters today, so you’re sure to find the right one for you. Then, be sure to always wear it when you’re on the water!

When choosing a life jacket, follow the manufacturer’s sizing recommendations; life jackets are sized by chest circumference. In most jacket models, the only difference in the sizes is the length of the adjustment straps.

When trying on a jacket, start by loosening all the straps. Put it on and zip or snap the closures shut. First, tighten the bottom adjustment strap below the rib cage. This is important to prevent the jacket from riding up once you’re in the water. Then move up the torso, snugly tightening the adjustment straps. Finish by cinching the shoulder straps. Tightening the shoulder straps first will make the jacket ride up too high. You’ll want to have some extra adjustment room on the straps, in case you want to wear extra layers in cold weather. If you don’t have that extra room, try on a larger size.

Now, test the fit by raising your arms and having someone lift up on the shoulder straps. If the jacket slides up your torso, try retightening the bottom adjustment strap. If it still rides up, select a different jacket model or size.

Move your arms and imitate your paddling and rowing motions. Wear the jacket for a few minutes to make sure it will be all-day comfortable. Now, always wear it when you’re boating!