Life Vest Instructions

Life Vest Instructions
Life vests are no longer the ultra-bulky, uncomfortable, ugly orange, smelly devices they used to be. Well, some might still stink if they are not maintained properly, but they are now available in a wide range of styles, sizes and types for water-related activities. A few tips will help you pick the right one.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tape measure
Step 1
Pick a vest specifically geared toward the activity for which you are going to use it. Vests made for kayakers and water skiers, for example, are less bulky and allow more freedom of movement than those geared toward boaters or anglers.
Step 2
Choose the right type. Life vests are available in two basic types: those that provide flotation all the time and those that lie flat and inflate when necessary, also known as personal flotation devices (PFD). The latter type either inflate automatically or manually when needed and are not the right type for anyone under age 16 or those who cannot swim. PFDs are also not ideal for water sports that involve immersion, such as river rafting, water skiing and the like.
Step 3
Get the right size and species. Pick a vest for men, women, children or pets as applicable. Check proper size by chest measurement or weight. Test the jacket's fit by fastening all the straps and making sure the vest is snug but still allows room to breathe.
Step 4
Test the fit. Hold your arms up and have someone pull upward on top of the arm openings to make sure the vest does not ride up over your face, chin or ears. Walk, bend, stretch, making swimming motions and twist. If possible, try the vest out in shallow water to fully ensure it's the right size.
Step 5
Examine the extras. Look for any additional features you want, such as an attached whistle, the most visible color, easy-release straps or other extras.
Step 6
Maintain the vest properly. Quality life vests will come with instructions on how to keep them in the best shape possible, which includes proper cleaning and storage when not in use. Follow those guidelines so your vest is in its optimum state. Also immediately replace or repair vests that are damaged by sticks, rocks or any other outside forces of nature.

Tips & Warnings

Make sure the vest is U.S. Coast Guard approved and you are following the state laws and regulations regarding its use. All states have laws regarding children wearing life vests and many other regulations.
Manually or automatically inflatable life vests are much higher maintenance than others because of their use of a CO2 cartridge to inflate them.
Never use a vest that is ripped, leaking or lacking straps.

Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski

Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.

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