How to Choose Between These Standard Life Jacket Sizes

Two person wearing a Standard Life Jacket

If you love being around the water, you're not alone. Lots of people love water sports, fishing, and even just spending time in the water doing nothing. If you're one of these people, you should definitely know about life jackets, including life jacket sizes.

Many people might think of life jackets as a hindrance, but the truth is that you need to wear one. Having a life jacket can literally be the difference between life and death in some cases. The time it takes to put on a life jacket is nothing compared to what you can lose if you don't have one when you need one.

You should familiarize yourself with life jacket sizes in particular. If your life jacket doesn't fit properly, it can't do its job properly. But don't just wear life jackets, understand relevant information about them as well.

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Why Are Life Jackets Important?

Many people know the obvious benefit of a life jacket. It helps you stay afloat on water and prevents you from drowning. However, other benefits come with wearing a life jacket and being familiar with life jacket sizes.

A lot of people might think that a life jacket is only necessary for people who can't swim very well. After all, people who are good swimmers won't drown anyway, right?

No. Even great swimmers can potentially drown, which a life jacket would prevent.

In addition to keeping you above the water, life jackets can keep you warm because of their material. If you have an issue while you're out on your boat, you can end up in cold water. The life jacket could help maintain your body temperature, keep you warm, and prevent hypothermia.

Even if you lose consciousness, life jackets are designed so that you would turn over and be in an upright position. You'd keep breathing, even if you're not awake.

Why should you wear one?

There are many excuses that prompt people to refuse to understand life jacket sizes or even to wear a life jacket. However, if you're going to be around water, it's always important to wear a life jacket. There are a few reasons to keep in mind for this.

Life is valuable!

Even on a sunny day

Warm and cozy is great

Setting an example!

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How to Fit a Life Jacket

Not only is it important to wear a life jacket in the right situations, but you should also be mindful of life jacket sizes. It's not enough just to wear a life jacket. You need to wear it properly, and it needs to be the right size to be able to keep you afloat in the event of an emergency.

If your life jacket is too small, it won't be able to keep your body float. If it's too big, the flotation device can actually push up around your face, and that can be really dangerous.

How should your life jacket fit?

Your life jacket should fit you snugly, but it shouldn't be too tight. If you can't make it fit you in this way, it's one of the life jacket sizes that isn't right for you.

Every life jacket manufacturer has its own sizing system. That's why it's important to confirm life jacket sizes before making a purchase. You should always try it on to make sure it fits before trying it out over the water.

In some cases, the main difference between life jacket sizes is strap length. Bigger life jacket sizes have longer straps so that the life jacket can accommodate a larger body. Because of this, in many cases, larger life jacket sizes will fit smaller people (with excess strap length), but the opposite isn't true.

It's always a good idea to try on your life jacket before buying it. You should buy it from a reputable company that has a knowledgeable sales staff that can help you determine the life jacket sizes that could be the right fit for you.

Wearing the life jacket properly

It's not enough that you wear the right life jacket size. You also need to wear the device properly. Different life jackets work in different ways, which is why it helps to ask the sales staff for assistance.

As we already mentioned, you want a snug and secure fit for your life jacket. It's usually good to start with adjustment points on the life jacket loose. Then, you can sequentially tighten them, to make sure that you have the best fit possible.

It's often a good idea to start from the bottom, around the waist. It can help anchor the jacket, so it doesn't ride up on your body. From there, work your way up and tighten any adjustment straps that are there.

After this, test the fit by pulling on the shoulder straps of the life jacket. If the device slides up around your head, you'll need to fit the jacket all over again. If not, and it's snug on your body, you're ready to go.

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Standard vs. Inflatable Life Jackets

Most of the life jackets that you'll find our standard and not inflatable. However, you might prefer an inflatable life jacket, depending on your specific set of needs. There are pros and cons to both of these types of life jackets.

Standard life jackets

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Typically, recreational canoers, kayakers, and people standing up on paddle boards are going to be wearing standard life jackets. They look like vests and rely on a type of flotation material to create buoyancy.

Standard life jackets are low maintenance and don't require a lot of care. You just need to keep it clean and dry and keep it out of the sun when you're not using it.

You don't need to activate it in order for it to provide flotation, because it's buoyant by nature.

These life jackets are also versatile. You can use them for all sorts of water sports. They often have pockets as well, so you can carry around tools, snacks, sunscreen, an emergency gear; you won't find these on inflatable life jackets.

However, it isn't all positive. A lot of people find these life jackets to be restrictive and bulky while they're paddling, particularly if they're stand up paddleboarding. They can also be too hot, especially if the weather is hot.

Inflatable life jackets

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Typically, you can inflate inflatable life jackets either manually or automatically. If it's a manual type, you'll pull a cord that activates a carbon dioxide gas cartridge, which will inflate the vest.

If you have the automatic kind, it'll inflate when you submerge it in water.

Often, these are very comfortable. They have a slim profile and won't be as likely to get in the way when you're paddling. And they also cover less of your body than a standard life jacket, which can help keep you cool and comfortable on a hot day.

There are disadvantages as well; you need to inflate them because they're not inherently buoyant, and they're not a good idea for people who are going to be doing high-impact activities.

That can be a problem if you're injured or unconscious when you're wearing your manual inflatable life jacket. You also need to maintain them, including replacing carbon dioxide cartridges after each use.

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How to Choose Between These 3 Standard Life Jacket Sizes

You might want to know exactly how you're supposed to choose between the life jacket sizes that are available.

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1. Adult sizes

For adults, it's going to be your chest size that determines the size of the life jacket you need. You need to measure the circumference of your chest at its broadest point.


Keep track of this number, and then use it to navigate size recommendations from the life jacket manufacturer.


If it's a standard life jacket, loosen all the straps, put it on, and zip it up. If it's inflatable, clip it around your waist or put it on over your head, depending on the style.


It's a good idea to try your life jacket on over the clothes that you're going to be wearing while you're on the water; simulating the movements you're going to be making is also a good idea, so you can make sure it's going to be comfortable during these movements.

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2. Child sizes

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Unlike adult life jackets, you use a child's weight to determine their correct size. Typically, children's life jackets come in three categories: infant, child, and youth life jackets.


The best Infant life jacket options are for children between 8 and 30 pounds, child life jackets are for children between 30 and 50 pounds, and youth life jackets are for children between 50 and 90 pounds.

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3. Dog sizes

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Even though a lot of dogs are good swimmers, it's a good idea for them to have life jackets anyway. Some can get tired in the water or end up panicking when they're in.


To make sure that you have the right size life jacket for your dog, you should make sure that it fits snugly on your dog's body. He shouldn't be able to step, swim, or twist out of it.


You should find one that has easy release buckles and less chance of catching a snag. It's also a good idea to find a dog life jacket with a handle so that you can lift your dog out of the water.

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Life Jackets Aren't Just for the Look

It's pretty much common knowledge that it's important to wear a life jacket when you're on the water. However, most people probably don't know the importance of life jacket sizes and fits. You not only need to wear a life jacket, but you need to make sure it's the right size and that you're wearing it properly.

You might think of a life jacket as a hindrance, but the truth is personal flotation devices have saved lives. If you're wearing one, you have a lot less to worry about in the way of safety when you're out on the water.

It's worth your time to learn about life jacket sizes and how to wear one properly. If you're wearing a life jacket incorrectly, it almost defeats the entire purpose. So learn about the topic, put on your life jacket, and enjoy the water!

What do you think about everything you've just learned about life jacket sizes? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Icon photos via Flaticon

Featured Photo by Felix Serre on Unsplash

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