Regardless of whether you’ve never bought a life jacket before or if you’ve been around the water for years, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp how to measure life jacket fit, and determine if your life jacket is the size you should have.
Here are a few tips to measure life jacket fit, as recommended by the US Coast Guard.
Testing Life Vests in the Water
The Coast Guard’s primary recommendation for trying on life jackets is to do an in water test, as it is the easiest and most effective way to ensure that a life jacket is functioning properly for the individual.
When in the water, the life jacket is too big if the vest rises above your head or around your face.
The vest is too small if you are unable to float while wearing the vest.
The USCG recommends testing all life jackets in shallow water before proceeding out in a vessel.
Tips for Dry Fitting Life Jackets
Unfortunately, it’s not always practical to test out your life jacket while in the water. If you’re on land, try the following tips:
- Before you try the vest on, check the manufacturer statement about the intended size and weight of the wearer. This number will usually be a modest range, so it’s an important first step.
- When trying on the life jacket, zip all zippers and clasp all straps. You want the jacket to hug your chest tightly.
- Raise your hands and arms above your head and have another person pull up on both sides of the life jacket’s arm openings simultaneously.
- If the life vest rises up over your head, or even as high as your chin, this is an indications that the vest is too large.
Fortunately, most life jackets are sized according to a range of sizes, so it isn’t always essential to try the vest on individually. If purchasing a life vest online, your best clue to measure life jacket fit is to consider the size and weight recommendations provided by the manufacturer.
Once you receive your life jacket, be sure to try it on before heading out on the water with it. In the event that the life vest does not fit well, most online suppliers have excellent return policies, so you can exchange it for a better size.