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How to Choose a life jacket (PFD)

How to Choose a life jacket (PFD).

How To Choose A Life Jacket — also called a PFD– offers you more buoyancy to aid you in staying afloat in water. A PFD is a crucial piece of equipment for every kayak, canoe, and stand-up paddle board . (Note that one life jacket or life vest means a particular kind of PFD, though many individuals use the terms mutually.).

There are five various kinds of UNITED STATE Coastline Guard-approved PFDs that have a range of end usages. This write-up focuses on ones utilized primarily for kayaking, canoeing as well as stand-up paddleboarding. To assist you in picking the appropriate PFD for you, this article covers:

How To Choose A Life Jacket: Standard PFDs vs. Inflatable PFDs

You can’t go wrong with a reliable standard PFD. However, you might find that an inflatable one suits your demands better.

PFD sizing and also fitting

Sizing for grownups is based upon your chest dimension, and also, you’re looking for a snug-but-comfortable fit.

PFD functions and also specifications

Features such as pockets, color, tabs, and requirements like flotation protection and UNITED STATE Shore Guard Type are points you may want to look for when buying.

As you consider what PFD is suitable for you, keep in mind that one of the most vital guidance about PFDs is just this: Make sure to put on one.

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How To Choose A Life Jacket

How To Choose A Life Jacket

Most of PFDs on the market are basic, non-inflatable ones; however, an inflatable PFD may be appropriate for you depending on your requirements.

Standard PFDs

Those are PFDs that you’ll notice most recreational kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddleboarders using. They appear like a vest and count on flotation material, often foam, to develop buoyancy. These are identified as Type III USCG-approved PFDs.

Pros of typical PFDs


Apart from keeping it clean, dry and shady when not in use, an essential PFD requires extremely little care.

Naturally buoyant

Aside from putting it on properly, you don’t require to turn on a conventional PFD by any means for it to give flotation.

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Choose a standard life jacket because it can be used for various water sports, such as kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, waterskiing, and fishing.


Many conventional PFDs offer pockets for tucking away snacks, tools, sunscreen, emergency gear, and fishing tools, something you will not find on inflatable PFDs.

Cons of typical PFDs


Some locate these PFDs to be cumbersome and also limiting while paddling, especially when stand-up paddleboarding.


On a warm summer day, a standard PFD can be rather cozy.

Inflatable PFDs

This more recent subcategory of PFDs consists of vests and waist packs. These are identified as Type III or Type V USCG-approved PFDs, depending on their layout.

These PFDs inflate one of 2 methods: by hand or automatically. The mechanical design inflates when submerged in water.

Pros of inflatable PFDs


This slim form is very comfortable and is much less likely to obstruct your range of motion while paddling.


They cover much less of your body than a standard PFD, which can help maintain you comfy on a warm day.

Cons of inflatable PFDs

Inflation required

Keep in mind that inflatable PFDs are not inherently buoyant, so you require to inflate the PFD before giving any flotation. If you’re wounded or subconscious and using a manual-style inflatable PFD, this postures a noticeable issue.

Maintenance called for

Routine maintenance is called to make sure appropriate operation, and you require to replace the CO2 cartridge after each inflation.

Not for everyone

Inflatable PFDs are used throughout high-impact activities, such as whitewater kayaking, whitewater canoeing, river rafting, or other sports like waterskiing. Also, they are not advised for youngsters under the age of 16 or nonswimmers.

Crossbreed PFDs

You’ll sometimes discover a PFD for kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding that’s a combination of a conventional PFD as well as an inflatable one. These are a specialized best-of-both-worlds remedy that provides inherent buoyancy in a portable, comfortable-to-wear bundle, but they commonly cost significantly extra.

PFD Sizing and also Suitable

How To Choose A Life Jacket for Adults

Obtain the ideal dimension

For adults, your chest size– not your weight– will identify what dimension PFD you need. Utilize this number along with the PFD maker’s dimension recommendations to find the appropriate size for you.

To get the appropriate fit for your PFD, comply with these steps:

With an essential PFD, loosen all the straps, placed the PFD on as well as whiz it up. With an inflatable, set it on over your head (if it’s a vest style) or clip it around your waistline (if it’s a waist pack style).

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Start at the waist and also tighten up all the straps. If it has shoulder bands, tighten them last. It should feel snug but not uneasy.

With a standard PFD, have someone bring it upon the PFD shoulders. If it goes up past your nose or head, tighten up the bands. If it still goes up, the PFD is as well huge.

A properly sized PFD needs to be tight and fit like a handwear cover yet permit you to relocate freely and not chafe while paddling and having fun.

PFD fit tips:

To obtain the very best feeling and fit when trying out a PFD, use your clothing while paddling.

Examine your activities to make sure it’s comfortable and will not chafe you while paddling. If you’re a stand-up paddleboarder, get a paddle and also resemble the act of paddling. If you’re a kayaker or canoer, do this in your very own boat in your home or a flooring version. This will mimic how it feels while paddling.

If you’re a kayaker, remember precisely how the PFD deals with the seat. The PFD shouldn’t ride up or feel awkward. A lot of kayakers discover that a brief PFD functions ideal.

If possible, examine your PFD in a pool or shallow water to see exactly how it works. That should not ride up or slip over your chin while floating.

The more straps a PFD has, the more modifications can be made to customize its fit.

Women-specific PFDs commonly offer a better fit than unisex ones for women thanks to contoured mugs for bust lines as well as styles created by ladies’ upper body sizes.

How To Choose a Life Jacket for Children

There are essential sizing and fit differences between a grownup PFD and also a kid’s PFD. Most significantly, you utilize the child’s weight to determine the correct size instead of using a breast dimension as you do for a grownup.

Kid’s life jackets are identified as being for a baby, child, or young people. To find out which life jacket to purchase for your child, you utilize their weight as a guide:

  • Baby PFDs: 8– 30 extra pounds.
  • Youngster PFDs: 30– 50 pounds.
  • Young people PFDs: 50– 90 extra pounds.

How To Choose a Life Jacket for Dogs

While several dogs are good swimmers, others do not have confidence in the water, or they might tire or panic far from shore. Dog life jackets are not USCG accredited. They can, however, be a lifesaver and assist your pet dog to delight in the water.

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How to choose the best life jacket for your dog.

It needs to fit well so your dog can not twist, tip, or swim out of it.

Look for an inconspicuous style that will undoubtedly have much less potential of capturing a snag.

Look for one with easy-release fastenings.

Select one that has a take care of for lifting your puppy out of the water.

PFD Characteristics and also Specs

Right here are a handful of specifications and functions you’ll want to understand when looking for a PFD.

PFD Characteristics


A lot of standards, non-inflatable PFDs have pockets on the front. Consider their size as well as placement as well as the gear you want to store in them.


A brilliant color improves exposure.


Tabs allow you to affix a knife, whistle, strobes, or other accessories. Look at the variety of accounts and their location on the front and also back on the PFD.

Reflective tape: 

This adds visibility in low-light problems.


If you’re consistently paddling in hot locations, search for a PFD with built-in vents that enable temperature to escape.

Fishing features: Some PFDs have several tool wall mounts, loopholes for a rod, and a drop-down pocket table for dealing with lures and flies.

PDF Specs

Any top-quality PFD will supply even more than this amount, so you don’t require to invest much time evaluating this number. Knowing flotation protection does provide you a reliable method to compare one PFD to another.

When contrasting buoyancy numbers, an individual’s weight, body fat, lung size and apparel, and whether the water is rough or calm are all variables that affect flotation protection.

Suppose you possess a PFD or have the opportunity to try one before buying, as well as wish to examine the effectiveness of its buoyancy. Right here’s how:

Place your PFD on and also get in water deep enough that you can drive without touching an all-time low.

Tilt your head back and unwind your body.

Your chin needs to be above water, and also your breathing needs to be easy. If your mouth is not over the water, you require a PFD with even more buoyancy.

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