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How to Properly Adjust and Fit your Life Jacket (PFD)

Forrest Wells // August 12, 2019

Forrest Wells

General Manager, Guide & ACA Instructor
Forrest is a BCU 4 star paddler, ACA open water advanced instructor, ACA SUP instructor, Alaska Kayak Guide and has his 200 ton Master's ship license. In addition to keeping the OOC ship headed in the right direction and running efficiently, he is an avid outdoorsman and kayak/SUP racer. He also helps coach water polo, plays a mean guitar and can cook up a tasty oyster on the half-shell.


Start of by ensuring that all of the straps are nice an loose before putting the vest on. Next zip up the vest in the front or on the side. Start from the bottom of the vest and work your way up as you tighten the straps. Most Vests will have a buckle that will need to be snapped at the buttom. Once snapped take a moment to tighten this bottom strap. This is the strap that should rest just under your rib cage to keep the vest seated. 

Most vests will have two adjustments on eash side of the vest. Cinch these straps evenly as you don't want the life jacket to be off center. These side straps should be snug without resticting your ability to take a deep breath. It can be nice to have a paddle buddy get the straps started.

Last tighten the shoulder straps. Once the shoulder straps are snug take a moment and pull up on the starps with a moderate amount of force. Your vest should remain snug. If you are able to pull up on the vest drastically then you will need to adjust the fit or try a different Life Jacket. I will usually do this again when I am seated in the kayak since my vest fits differently when I am standing vs. siting.

A properly sized PFD should be snug and fit like a glove, yet allow you to move freely and not chafe while paddling and playing.

PFD fit tips:

  • To get the best feel and fit when trying on a PFD, wear the clothes you would while paddling.
  • Check your movements to make sure it’s comfortable and won’t chafe you while paddling. If you’re a stand up paddle boarder, grab a paddle and mimic the motion of paddling. If you’re a kayaker or canoer, do this in your own boat at home, or in a floor model if you’re in our store. This will simulate how it feels while actually paddling.
  • If you’re a kayaker, take note of how the PFD works with the seat. The PFD shouldn’t ride up or feel uncomfortable. Most kayakers find that a short PFD works best.
  • If possible, test your PFD in a pool or shallow water to see how it works. It should not ride up or slip over your chin while floating.
  • The more straps a PFD has, the more adjustments can be made to customize its fit.
  • Women-specific PFDs typically offer a better fit than unisex ones for females thanks to contoured cups for bust lines and styles made for women’s torso lengths.

how-to   kayaking   life-jackets   safety  




Forrest Wells

Author

General Manager, Guide & ACA Instructor
Forrest is a BCU 4 star paddler, ACA open water advanced instructor, ACA SUP instructor, Alaska Kayak Guide and has his 200 ton Master's ship license. In addition to keeping the OOC ship headed in the right direction and running efficiently, he is an avid outdoorsman and kayak/SUP racer. He also helps coach water polo, plays a mean guitar and can cook up a tasty oyster on the half-shell.



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