How to Don a Life Jacket

How to Don a Life Jacket
Properly putting on and fitting your life jacket can mean the difference not only between comfort and discomfort but also between safety and hazard in the case of an actual emergency. When trying on different life jacket designs, the most important consideration is proper fit; safety should always take precedence over all other factors.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device)
  • Life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device)
Step 1
Loosen all buckles and straps so that you can pull the life jacket on. Some designs have a zipper down the front that allows you to slip it on like a regular vest, while many, especially for sea or whitewater kayaking, may be designed to be pulled over your head.
Step 2
Adjust the waist straps first. Buckling and tightening the straps from the bottom up gives it a nice snug fit around your waist and will prevent it from riding up as you paddle or swim. Straps should not be as tight around the chest as they are around the waist.
Step 3
Adjust the shoulder straps so that they are snug but not so tight that they restrict your shoulder and arm movements.
Step 4
Check all straps to make sure there aren't any straps hanging loose. If there are any straps that are too long once adjusted, make a few over hand knots in them to shorten them and get them out of the way.
Step 5
Check that the vest will not ride up higher than your shoulders if you need to swim. This happens if the PFD is simply too big even when adjusted, or if you haven't tightened the waist and shoulder straps enough. Lift your arms up all the way and if there is a big gap between your shoulders and the PFD shoulder pieces, the vest is too large. You can also check by having a friend yank upward on your shoulder straps. If the PFD is snug and does not ride up then the vest fits well and will support you well in the water.


Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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