Fitting Your Life Vest

While a life jacket is extremely important when you are on the water, choosing one doesn’t need to be difficult. Fitting your life jacket can actually be a straightforward and painless process when you know what to look for. Manufacturers provide great advice and guidance about how to choose your vest. And we at Sun Sports+ are here to help you make the process fast, simple, and easy.

The first question you should ask yourself is whether or not you want a Coast Guard Approved Vest. CGA vests typically are more buoyant and offer greater floatation. Your second option is what we call a Competition / Impact Vest. Competition vests are not Coast Guard approved, and are not designed with the same life saving standards as CGA vests. However, they are lightweight, comfortable and flexible, and recommended for use by people with extensive water sports experience. If you are looking for a life-saving vest, make sure you look at CGA vests. They are easy to identify, as they are labeled with a fairly large safety booklet. Understanding these differences will greatly impact how you go about fitting your life vest.

Nylon vs. Neoprene

Next, most vests are made of either nylon or neoprene. Nylon vests are very affordable and are great for recreational boaters. Water sports enthusiasts may opt for softer, more form-fitting neoprene vests. Typically CGA vests are made from nylon. Impact Jackets are often neoprene.  

Sizing your vest is the most critical part of your purchase. Properly fitting your life vest ensures your head stays above water. Children’s vests sizes range by weight range and adult vests range by chest size. Too big and it will ride up around your face. Too small and it will not be able to keep your body afloat. To help with fitting your life vest, there’s a simple test you can perform. If you’re vest has a zipper, pull the sides of the vest together. If the zipper overlaps easily, it is too big. You want the sides to just barely meet, but still zip up easily. Also make sure your vest is properly fastened. 

To test the fit of your child’s life jacket, have your child hold their arms straight up over their head, grab the life jacket by the shoulders, and gently pull up. Also, make sure there isn’t excess room above the openings. Additionally, make sure the life jacket doesn’t ride up over his or her chin, ears, or face. If the vest doesn’t ride up, then it is properly fitted. 

USCG Guidelines

The USCG guideline is that children under 13 years old must wear a life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin, when a vessel is underway. However, states differ with regard to life jacket laws. Therefore, make sure you check the laws that apply to you. Remember, it is always important that you wear a vest, no matter how old you are, or what water sports activity you are involved in. Note also that you cannot operate a PWC (i.e. jet ski) while wearing a NCGA vest, and that if you wear one during water sports, you still must have a CGA vest onboard the boat.

Still Confused? We can help fitting your life vest. 

At Sun Sports+, we carry vests from several manufacturers and not all brands fit exactly the same way. We are happy to help you find the vest that works best for you. Stop in, put a few vests on and have our staff help you get your true fit anytime. You can also shop vests online! And as always, follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook for the latest and greatest in the water sports world! 

Have fun and stay safe on the water!