When the PFD Fits... Wear It!
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: When you’re on the water, wear your life jacket - also known as a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Year after year, dozens of people lose their lives while boating. And year after year, statistics show that many of these tragedies could have been prevented by wearing a well-fitted, properly-adjusted life jacket. Sadly, as we reported in a recent issue of the NRS e-News, the statistics this season are no different.
Having a life jacket is not enough. Wearing a life jacket is not enough. Only a good-quality PFD that is worn properly can be counted on to keep you afloat in the event of an emergency. We’ve shown you how manufacturers make sure your PFD is safe, according to standards developed by the US Coast Guard. We’ve taught you the ABCs of PFDs, explaining the different types of life jackets and the features and benefits to look for when selecting PFDs for you and your children. Now we’ll show you how to find the right size PFD and how to adjust it to comfortably and securely fit your body.
Your life jacket should fit snugly without being too tight. The term the Coast Guard uses is “comfortably snug”. If you can’t make your life jacket fit snugly, then it’s too big. If you can’t comfortably put it on and fasten it, it’s too small.
Here’s NRS Customer Service Representative Emily demonstrating the “Goldilocks” test.
Okay, go finish your porridge, Emily.
Every PFD manufacturer has its own sizing system, and it’s important to confirm sizing before purchasing any brand of life jacket. And of course, always try on a vest to be sure it fits before you hit the water.
We’ll talk about fitting kids in a future article, but let’s start with the grown-ups. Within the NRS “Adult” sizing category there are several different sizes, and size options vary from model to model.
Seem complicated? It’s not. It’s a little-known fact that, unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, the size of the flotation panels for a S/M vest are the same as for a L/XL vest of the same model. So the main difference between the S/M and the L/XL is that the larger size has longer straps that allow the PFD to open wider in order to accommodate larger bodies. The L/XL will fit a smaller person (albeit with excess strap length), but a S/M won’t fit someone who needs an XL. A Universal size PFD has long straps that will adjust to fit a broad range of paddlers. Finding your size is simple: Measure your chest with a sewing tape and compare the measurement to the PFD manufacturer’s sizing recommendations.
Still, some styles of PFDs may fit your body type and boating style better than others. The best way to know you’re getting the right PFD is to buy it from a reputable company with a knowledgeable sales staff. At NRS, we’re always here to take your call or answer your email. We can also recommend local dealers (or you can find them by using our Dealer Locator feature) where you can compare PFDs, try them on and get great advice.
Customizing the Fit
Let’s recap. Wearing a PFD when you’re on the water is the single best thing you can do to ensure your safety. Selecting a model that’s comfortable for all-day wear helps ensure that you’ll want to keep it on… all day. Either contact us, or your local dealer, for recommendations on the jackets that are best for your type of boating.
When you can, try on different models to find one that’s comfortable for you. If you’re ordering directly from us, please give us a call (877.677.4327) and we’ll help walk you through the selection process. Use the chest sizing guide to pick the right size PFD. And remember, if you’ll be wearing it over cold water/weather apparel; take that extra bulk into account.
Finally, adjust your PFD for that comfortably snug fit. Loosen the straps, then tighten them snugly, starting at the bottom and working up.
Now you’re good to go!
Boat Often & Boat Safe