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Ocean Kayak Kia Child's KayakProperly Fitting A Child To A PFD or Life Vest
by Tom Holtey, photos provided by JOI

Life Vests for kids are sized based on the weight of the child. Each life vest is printed with a weight range. There are three basic sizes:

0-30 pounds - 30-50 pounds - 50-90 pounds

From there kids move up to "adult" sizes such as "youth", extra small, and so forth, based on fit and chest size.

Link to Infant PFD - Life Jacket at Tom's TopKayaker ShopThe weight range is printed on the inside of the back panel of the PFD. You will have to look carefully to find it among all the other "legal warnings" and notices. It is not printed in bold letters, so once purchased, you may wish to take a marker and write the weight range in a more readable way to avoid the mistake of use once your child has grown out of it.

Ocean Kayak Malibu IIMany kid size life vests are quite affordable, so there is no need to purchase a size too large and let the child "grow into it". In fact loose fitting, wrongly sized PFD's for children are not only dangerous, but could be considered "no PFD" by the marine patrol and could get you a ticket.

Link to Youth PFD - Life Jacket at Tom's TopKayaker ShopBe aware of the weight of the children who will be kayaking and have PFDs checked for size and ready before you get to the water. You may want to consider having a few extra, in assorted sizes, for your kid's friends and for your growing children. This way you will always be prepared with the right size for the right child.

The 0-30 pound size will feature a large collar that will support a child's head out of the water. This collar will also turn the wearer over face up. A crotch strap to keep the child from slipping out of the vest is a common feature. Many of these "infant" PFDs will also have a grab loop, handy for grabbing and pulling a "child over board" back on board.

Ocean Kayak Malibu IIThe 30-50 pound size will look and feel like a normal adult Type III PFD. It will likely have a crotch strap to keep the child from slipping out of the vest. It will not float the wearer face up, and neither will most adult Type III vests.

The 50-90 pound size is very much like the adult versions, just smaller.

FYI: Kids may not care for those old fashion Type II orange vests. Adults don't either for that matter. In their defense they are very good at floating a swimmer face up.

The Humble "Boat Cushion", throwable Type IV PFD can have good use as a child's seat in the tankwell of your kayak, wet cockpits, soggy canoe bottoms and on rocky beaches. Use only as an "extra" PFD for this as sitting on a life vest as a practice can wear it out.

More articles:

Ocean Kayak PeekabooFor more on Kayaking with your children or pets and life vest care with important facts about their use, please continue reading these excellent articles:

Infant PFD - Life JacketYouth PFD - Life Jacket

LIFE JACKETS, PFDs can be found at:

Tom's TopKayaker Shop: Quality PFDs for Children & Infants

BOOKS: PADDLING WITH KIDS By Bruce Lessels and Karen Blom
See also "SIT-ON-TOP KAYAKING, A BEGINNER'S GUIDE" & "TANDEM SIT-ON-TOP KAYAKING" by Tom Holtey

© 2002-9 Tom Holtey

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