Choosing the right PFD

Choosing the right PFD

“Choosing the right PFD”
Boating Ontario Magazine
Summer/Fall 2008

The PFDs stuffed in the storage cubby in the console on your boat are not doing anyone any good. It is only worthwhile having them on board if you’re wearing them on board.

Come on, we all know the drill. More often than not, powerboaters offer up the excuse that PFDs are bulky, uncomfortable and, well, just plain ugly. But that just doesn’t jive anymore. Manufacturers have developed a variety of styles, fits and finishes that will match every on-the-water use. You just need to know how to choose one that’s right for you.


Consider if your PFD is for use on the water or in the water.

If you are looking for something to add to your safety gear or are involved in watersports that don’t involve several dips in the drink, then you have plenty of options. Paddlers would want a PFD that allows for lots of arm movement without chaffing. A looser fit also means more airflow to help keep you cool, but could mean you encounter some ride-up once in the water.

On the other hand, if you are engaging in activities where you are likely to land in the water (such as white water kayaking or wakeboarding) you will need a vest that can be adjusted for a secure fit. This will help to prevent the vest from riding up once you are submerged. To get a secure fit, you can also opt for leg harnesses or straps up high under the arms, but they can be uncomfortable, and just don’t look stylish.


Finding the right fit does not need to be a chore, but you should work more than colour, size and price into the equation. A good local outfitter will be able to help you with the features and benefits of various vests  to help equip you with one that feels like it was made just for you.

Don’t be afraid to make a bit of a spectable of yourself in the store. You should stand, sit and mock the motions of the activities you will be partaking in the make sure the fit is comfortable in all scenarios.

It’s a good idea to also try on a PFD with some clothes on underneath , so you can choose one that can also be used from spring through fall and on nights when it gets cool.


Buying a good PFD for you, your family and your pets extends beyond getting one that fits and floats – for the bargain basement price. One size fits all does not work in the world of PFDs. When choosing the best PFD, do your research and take the time to find the one that is right for you. After all, if the PFDs you choose are comfortable and practical, everyone on-board is more likely wear them.