How to Fit a Life Jacket Correctly

life jacket fitWe may have said this before but having a life jacket is not enough to keep you safe, you have to actually wear it. However, we need to go one step further and say it is not actually enough to just wear it. You have to wear a life jacket that actually fits you correctly. If a life jacket fits you correctly it will keep your head above water and therefore keep you safe. If it is too big it will ride up around your face and not keep your head above the water. If the lifejacket is too small then it will not keep your body afloat.

How to Get the Right Size Life Jacket?

Make sure the label on the life jacket is appropriate to your size and weight. Verify that it is United States Coast Guard Approved (USCG) as that will ensure it is has been made to the correct standard.

This next part is easy. Children’s life jackets are sized based on weight and broken into 3 categories, infant/toddler (8-30 lbs), child (30-50 lbs) and youth (50-90 lbs).

For adults simply measure your chest and then compare this to the sizing guide of the life jacket manufacturer. Here are the general sizing of adult life jackets but each manufacturer can differ from this.

Extra Small 28-32” chest
Small 32-36” chest
Medium 36-40” chest
Large 40-44” chest
Extra Large 44-48” chest
2X Large 48-52” chest
3X Large 52-56” chest

You can also get also get oversized life jackets which go up to 5XL but these are less common and can be harder to find. If you are tall then you may need to buy a life jacket which is designed for a tall person as these will be 3 inches longer and will give a better, more comfortable fit.

Make Sure the Life Jacket is Fastened Properly

You will find that different types of life jackets will have different entry methods and slightly different methods of adjustments. The most common types of entry are over the head and side entry. Fastenings will be either zips, buckles or straps and quite often you will find it is has a combination of these.

Start by undoing all the straps, zips, buckles and then slide the life vest onto your body. Next you should tighten all the straps, buckles and zips. Starting at your waist and working your way up your body. If any of them do not close properly then the vest is probably too small. You need to make sure it is quite a snug fit while still being comfortable for you. If it is not comfortable it may put you, or others, off wearing it.

Once you have it is all fastened and feeling snug you need to simulate the type of movement/position that you will be in when you are using the lifevest. Think about what movements you make and ensure that, while doing this, you have the freedom you need while still being comfortable enough for you. Especially ensuring that there is no chafing.

Perform this Simple Test

Hold your arms above your head and ask a friend to gently pull the jacket up by the top of the arm openings. If the jacket rides up above your ears then it is too big. Make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin/face.

Try the Life Jacket in Shallow Water

Performing a test in shallow waters is a great way of making sure it will perform as it should do, and keep you safe, when needed (even a pool can be used for this). Just make sure it is tested in safe and secure conditions. While floating, it shouldn’t ride up much or go over your chin. If it does, it may be too big.

Check the buoyancy by relaxing your body and tilting your head back. Your chin should be comfortably above water to make breathing easy. You can always adjust the straps etc. but just remember that you still want to achieve a snug fit while being comfortable.

Real World Reviews

One of the best ways we have found to really help you when buying a life jacket is to look at customer reviews as these are people who have bought, and are using, the life jacket out in the real world. Life jacket reviews are also a great way to see how it performs when being used in your chosen activity over a longer period of time, generally letting you know how it holds up for comfort and durability.