The Personal Flotation Device, or PFD, is an essential piece of equipment for any paddler. With the variety of styles and options available to paddlers, it can be difficult to decide which one best suits your needs. Next Adventure staffer, Mitch, goes over the different types of PFD's, their uses, and how to properly fit one so that you can make the right choice the first time.

Hey guys, Mitch here for the Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center. I’ll be talking to you today about PFD’s, their different categories, and how to get those fitted properly.

To start, you have general use & recreational PFDs or lifejackets. These are vests that are designed to work well in boats with high backrest. These offer lots of functionality and space for the general everyday recreational kayaker.

On a price point vest, the back foam will cover your entire back in a full-length jacket. Whereas on potentially more expensive vests the back will feature a mesh that covers from mid back down to your lower back. The foam on these is situated high above your shoulders to prevent any conflict between the back of the jacket and the backrest of the boat.

PFD Categories
Sea Kayaking:
Another design type for vests are vests that are outfitted to suit the needs of sea kayakers. Accommodating things like pouches for VHF radios and other on water equipment.

There are also vests designed with fishermen in mind, providing plenty of pockets for all your tackle. Camo options are available for people who might hunt out of kayaks.

Moving along, we have type 5 rescue PFD’s for the whitewater rescue, whitewater kayaking, and also sea kayaking disciplines.

Women’s Specific:
We also carry women's specific PFD's which due to the foam arrangement generally fit women better.

And finally, we have vests for the little guys. From infant, youth, and maybe the teenagers that are in-between sizes.

Ultimately, selecting the vest is a personal decision with a lot of personal preference.

Fitting A PFD
Now I'll go over with you how to properly fit a PFD for your size. First thing, loosen up all the straps completely so that you're at the end of the strap. The bottom of the vest should sit roughly at the location of your belly button.

Start on the lowest strap and tighten them evenly on both sides. Next, working your way up, do the straps under your arms. Or, as many of us call them, the chicken wing straps, due to the chicken wing shape your arm makes.

Always remember to click the buckle under the zipper. And finally, tighten down the shoulder straps to make the best fit snug against your chest.

On a properly fitted vest, you should be able to hook your thumbs under your shoulder straps and lift and not have that vest come up over your ears.

Fitting PFD’s is roughly the same across the board no matter which jacket you have. Your particular vest might have a variety of straps in a variety of locations.

You can find all our jackets at the Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center or online at In order to see which vest is best for you, stop by and try a few on.