How to Fit a PFD

When you try on a pair of shoes in the store, you add a pair of socks, lace up the shoes, stand, walk around and maybe even jump and move in funny motions to simulate your activity or sport. Trying on a PFD is no different. Wearing a comfortable PFD, like wearing a comfortable pair of shoes, can make your sport more enjoyable. A well-fitting vest is barely noticeable, and allows you to move freely and comfortably.

Start by considering chest size as written on the inside of the PFD, but use this only as a guide. Keep in mind that different genders and body shapes will also influence fit. Second, consider the time of year that you will be traveling and the clothes and gear underneath your vest. Heavier clothing, dry tops or foul-weather gear will often mean that you need to move up at least one vest size. The better vests, with multiple adjustments, will allow you to adjust the fit to accommodate different types of clothing.

Sure, the vest is comfortable standing in the store, but this is clearly not how you’ll be wearing it while on the water. Once you have a vest that fits you, consider how you will be positioned and how you are going to move in your vest. Sit in a canoe or kayak. Check the out-of-water ride-up. Does the vest fit well with your dry top? Is it still comfortable? Practice your paddle stroke. Better yet, get out on the water and try it out in the real environment.

If you still like the vest, consider other details that may affect fit or convenience. Pockets are great, but consider something stuffed into this pocket. Is it now in your way? Sometimes the best pocket is one that is centralized in the belly area that – even full – is clear of your paddle stroke. Is the pocket large enough for what you want to carry?

The options can seem limitless. In spite of this, finding the right vest does not need to be complicated, but you do need to consider more than just colour, size and price. With a solid understanding of features and benefits and the help of a good local outfitter, you can find the best vest for you – a vest that, like a good shoe, feels like it was made just for you.