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Life Jacket Sizing

Life Jacket Sizing

A Sea-Doo is an investment in fun for years to come. With this brand’s focus on speed and power, it’s no wonder more and more consumers are enjoying time on the water with their own personal watercraft. While having fun is the goal, safety is a top priority for any rider. When you are doing any type of water related activity, a life jacket is key. Let’s take a look at life jacket sizing and other matters to make sure you get the right personal flotation device (PFD) for your needs.

Do I Need a Life Jacket?

The first thing in choosing the right size is understanding whether you need a jacket in the first place. If you are riding on a jet ski or boat of any size or type, you need a life jacket. If you are the driver or the passenger, you need a life jacket. If anyone is riding with you, including other adults, children, or dogs, they also need a life jacket. The bottom line is that there is no excuse for not wearing proper PFD gear on the water!

Many people think that a personal flotation device is only used by non-swimmers, but just because you think of yourself as a decent swimmer, you are not exempt from wearing a life jacket. In the event of an accident where you break an arm, leg, or experience a head injury leading to a loss of consciousness, a life jacket is the only thing standing between you and death from accidental drowning. In many states, it is also the law to wear a life jacket while operating a jet ski.

Inflatable or Standard?

There are two main types of personal floatation devices on the market. A standard PFD is the more common option most people think of and comes in a life jacket vest you wear for the entirety of your ride. An inflatable PFD is typically worn around the waist such as a waist flotation device but can also be a vest worn like a standard PFD. An inflatable option isn’t inflated the entire time you wear it and you would activate the floatation device by pulling a cord when you need it. While this might be ideal for paddle boarding or kayaking, it isn’t well suited to jet skiing or boating where high speeds are a factor. If you are thrown from your jet ski in a wake, you won’t have enough reaction time to pull the cord, especially if you are incapacitated from a head injury upon impact. For jet skiing and boating, you are better off with a standard life jacket over an inflatable option.

When considering the matter of life jacket sizing, the first step is to determine if you are buying a PFD for an adult, child, or dog. Let’s take a look at each category separately to ensure you get the right one for the individual.


When shopping for an adult size either for yourself or someone else riding with you, there are a few tips and tricks for getting the right life jacket sizing. When choosing a life jacket for an adult, the matter of chest size is the deciding factor and not body weight. The chest size is the deciding factor because your life jacket needs to fit snug and secure around the widest part of your body for optimal protection.

To get the proper measurement of your chest, you can take a measuring tape and measure the broadest part of the chest and then use that to choose general sizing in terms of small, medium, large, or extra larger. However, there are also a few things to keep in mind regarding a proper fit. For example, you want to try on the PFD while wearing whatever type of clothing you will wear during the water activity so if you are wearing a wet suit or a shirt, you should try on the jacket with that type of clothing on to make sure the fit is right. What is the right fit? The right fit for an adult PFD should feel tight but not restrictive in terms of movement. It should fit in a way where there is no issue of chaffing such as the jacket being too loose against the skin that it rubs during movement.

Many adults choose the wrong size life jacket simply because of the straps and movement being misunderstood. When trying on the jacket, you should start by tightening the straps at the bottom first and then work your way up to the shoulder straps. The straps should be tight but not uncomfortable. While sitting down, have someone pull up on the PFD shoulders. If the jacket moves up towards your head, then tighten the straps even more and repeat the pulling act. If after the straps are tightened, the vest still raises up to your head, then you are in the wrong sized life jacket and need to try a smaller size. A life jacket shouldn’t ride up over your chin since this can cause safety concerns when you are in the water.

When shopping for an adult life jacket, you also want to consider the gender in addition to the size. While there are unisex options, an option made specifically for a woman’s bust and torso may provide a closer fit than a unisex option for most women. Regardless of whether a woman chooses a women’s PFD or a unisex one, the same guidelines of fit and snugness matter since that is what makes the life jacket safe.


When it comes to life jacket sizing for children, the focus is on weight. With most life jackets being labeled as either infant, child, or youth sizes, a common misconception is to simply go with the age, but this can be dangerous and lead to an improper fit. The sizes based on weight are as follows:

  • Infant: 8-30 pounds
  • Child: 30-50 pounds
  • Youth: 50-90 pounds

The same rules of fit apply to children as adults such as making sure the straps are tight but not too tight to reduce the ability to move properly, as well as making sure the jacket doesn’t lift up over the chin when pulled on.

You should also keep in mind that an adult small sized life jacket isn’t designed with the same considerations needed for your child. A life jacket designed for younger swimmers will take into consideration that they are usually less skilled at swimming and has such features as padded head support to keep their head above water, handles for grabbing the child from the water with more ease, and padded crotch pads which help prevent the jacket riding up and causing irritation.


While dogs are usually good swimmers, they still need their own life jacket when going out on a boat or jet ski with their owner. Dogs can easily become tired or panic when in the water and a life jacket ensures your furry friend comes home safe after enjoying a day on the water with you. When shopping for the right fit for your pooch, you want a life jacket that will fit snug around the body yet leave free movement of their legs for swimming. The life jacket should be tight enough that the dog can’t twist or swim out of it. You also want to look for one with easy release buttons and a handle for lifting the dog safely out of the water as needed.