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Tips For Buying The Right PFDs (Life Jackets)

Personal floatation devices (PFD) are crucial and a requirement when you are doing water sports. This will give you enough buoyancy to keep you afloat in the water once you hit it. A PFD is required for all kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddleboarders. A life jacket or life vest is a specific form of PFD, though the names are often used interchangeably.

Standard  vs Inflatable

Standard PFDs account for the vast majority of PFDs on the market these days. However, if it is required, an inflatable PFD can be a better option. It is best that you know a little bit more about these two before you decide.

  • Most recreational kayakers, canoers, and stand-up paddleboarders mostly use one of these standard pfd life jacket. They resemble a vest and use flotation material, such as foam, to keep you afloat.
  • PFD vests and waist packs are newer subcategories. These can be used for kayaking, canoeing, or SUP. Uninflated, their small profile makes them comfortable. Depending on the design, most of them are classified Type III or Type V. These PFDs can be inflated manually or mechanically. All you need is to pull a cord, activate the CO2 gas cartridge, and inflate the vest. Then it automatically inflates when submerged.
  • If you want to go kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboarding, you might find a PFD that has both the standard and inflatable features. This is most preferred by many as it gives you the much-needed buoyancy in a small, easy-to-wear package.

Finding the Right Size (Adults)

The size of your PFD will be determined by your chest size, not your weight, for adults. On the other hand, the size of a childs’ pfd is determined by their weight. To determine your chest size, take a measurement around the widest part of your chest. Compare this number with the sizing guidelines provided by the PFD manufacturer. This can help you get the proper fit.

PFD Sizing For Kids

PFDs for adults and children are very different in terms of sizing and fit. The most notable difference is that for children, the correct size is determined by weight rather than the chest measurement, as it is for adults. Depending on their age, children’s life jackets are classified as infant, child, or teen-sized.

Buying personal floatation devices for the first time can be confusing. But if you know the basics, the rest of what you need to consider with pfds will just follow. So make sure that you start with determining whether you need a standard, inflatable, or hybrid pfd, then find the right size or fit for you. Once you have both, then you can start looking into some features that you might want to have in your pfd.