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How to choose the right life jacket

  • 6/26/2019 1:41:00 PM
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Life jackets are a must for water safety, but finding the right fit can be tricky. Here’s some helpful tips in finding the right life jacket for you and your family: 

Life jackets for kids

Under Iowa law, any child under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times while on a vessel, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. The right-sized life jacket for kids is determined by their weight. An infant-sized life jacket will fit little ones from eight to 30 pounds. Child-size serves kids from 30 to 50 pounds, and the youth size works for those who weigh 50 to 90 pounds. 

Life jackets are a must for water safety, but finding the right fit can be tricky. Here’s some helpful tips in finding the right life jacket for you and your family  |  Iowa DNRLife jackets for adults

Adult life jacket sizes aren’t determined by weight, but instead by the chest size of the wearer. To find your fit, measure your chest at the broadest point, and use those measurements and the life jacket manufacturer’s size recommendations to figure out which size would suit you best. Women may look into gender-specific life jackets for a better fit. 

Once you think you’ve found the right size, loosen all of the straps on the life jacket and put it on, zipping or buckling it. Starting at the waist, tighten all of the straps, saving shoulder straps (if the life jacket has them) for last. The more straps a life jacket has, the more you can adjust it. It should feel snug, like a glove, but not uncomfortable. 

Have someone pull up on the shoulders of the life jacket. If it comes up past your nose and head, try tightening it further. If it still moves, it’s too big. 

Other tips

Wear your paddling, fishing or boating clothing while shopping for a life jacket. This way, you can get the best fit. When trying it on, make sure you can move without the jacket chafing you. 

If you have a four-legged friend joining you on your paddling adventures, look into life jackets made just for them. This is an extra step you can take to ensure safety for everyone aboard. 

Remember — all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, must have at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket per person on board. However, life jackets not worn on a boat won’t be there when you need it. Always wear it to keep yourself safe.

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