October 12, 2021 10 min read
Temperatures are rising, and (for many) life beyond lockdowns is beginning - it's a great time to buy a new life jacket. Maybe your old life vest has seen better days, or you're new to water sports or just looking for a fresh new look this season; either way, a correctly fitted life jacket allows you to get the most out of your day on the water. With so many great colourways and styles, your choices are endless. However, sometimes getting a comfortable fit can be challenging, so we have done some hard work for you and tried on a few of our favourite life jackets. But first, let's discuss some general fit and sizing advice.
If you're a wakeboarder, water skier, wake surfer, jet skier or enjoy tubing behind the boat, a life jacket is vital for your safety and is often required by law. However, if the vest doesn't fit correctly, it can be uncomfortable and dangerous in some situations. Read on for some tips on finding the right fit.
If you are confused about life jacket 'levels' and want some general advice about classification, usage and care. Would you please read our 2022 Life Jacket Buying Guide.
On our product pages, you can usually find the manufactures recommended size charts. This is a great starting point, but different styles will have a cut and shape suiting different body types. However, we recommend you always stick to the weight ranges indicated on the product, as this ensures the vest will provide adequate buoyancy.
A great place to start when sizing up a new vest is when you zip it up. Our model in the video below is zipping up a correctly fitting life jacket. It would help if you aimed for a firm fit (but not too tight). Suppose you can zip up the vest with little to no resistance. In that case, it is probably too large. As a result, the vest may be uncomfortable and, in extreme cases, dangerous, as a loose vest can invert or ride up over your head and become a hazard in the water.
Conversely, if you are working hard to zip up the vest or the neoprene panelling around the zipper is distorting too much, it might be best to try the next size up or a different style vest altogether. In addition, the vests we stock are usually made from stretchy neoprene, meaning the vest will stretch a little when wet and after some use. Finally, always fasten the webbing and buckle around the waist, as this prevents the vest from inverting after big falls.
When discussing the 'length' of a life jacket, we refer to the torso's length. The ideal length is a matter of personal preference, with some riders preferring a shorter fit and others a little extra length. As a general rule, aim for a life jacket that sits on or around the draw-sting of your shorts. If a vest is too long, the buoyancy foam will sit too low and restrict movement when bending at the waist.
The waist/midsection of your life jacket should be a firm but comfortable fit to allow for a bit of stretch when wet. Too tight, and it will restrict movement (and possibly mean your vest is too small and not providing you with enough buoyancy), too loose, and the vest will move around and perhaps ride up, becoming a danger when in the water. If you're after a form-fitting waist, the Follow Pharaoh Ladies Jacket or the Jetpilot Quantum Bec Ladies Neo Vest is a great starting option. The Follow Atlantis Ladies Jacket would be a better starting option for a little extra room around the waist.
Like the waistline, a firm but comfortable fit around the chest is ideal; this allows for unrestricted movement on the water and keeps the vest in place when submerged. Different styles and brands will have different shapes around the chest. For example, our model fund the Follow Pharaoh Ladies Jacket to be form-fitting around the chest and the and the Follow Primary Ladies Jacket has a spacious fit around the chest. The Jetpilot X1 Ladies Neo Vest comes in several styles and has an average fit.
Armholes in a life jacket vary considerably from one style to the next. There is no best fit. Go for the armhole cut that feels best on you. Armholes range from a smaller size (great for your average body shape and a secure/snug feel) to a large cut, ideal for bigger shoulders. If you're the type of rider with larger shoulders, a larger and low cut armhole might be less restrictive. In the figure below, the vest on the right has a larger armhole cut around the shoulder blades allowing for more freedom.
Finally, it is worth considering the neckline and collar shape of the vest. In our testing, our model found most necks to be comfortable. However, the shape and sizing of neck openings can vary between styles, so make sure the life jacket feels comfortable and unrestricted around the neck.
Often, the sum is greater than the parts, so whilst we have outlined a few key things to consider above, always look in the mirror and make sure the overall fit looks appropriate and feels comfortable. Also, it would be best to move around in the vest and make sure the vest remains comfortable within the range of body positions you'll be performing. Finally, stop and ask yourself questions like the following:
Finally, we will reiterate a comment we made earlier: the vest's size determines the amount of buoyancy provided. Therefore, always check your life jacket is the correct size for your weight. Also, check the inside of the life jacket for buoyancy and weight ranges. For more information on vest buoyancy and life jacket classification in Australia, refer to our 2022 Life Jacket Buying Guide.
The Pharaoh Ladies Life Jacket is a form-fitting vest. It is tighter around the waistline with a comfortable chest. However, it has roomy armholes and room around the neck for comfort and suits various body shapes. As worn by our model, the mid-length is just right. Alternatively, check out the Follow Primary for a roomier and longer fit or the Follow Atlantis if you have a shorter torso.
The Atlantis Ladies Life Jacket has a shorter length than the Pharaoh and Primary life jackets, making it suitable for shorter torsos. Further, the waistline of the Atlantis offers a looser and roomier fit. The smaller armholes and neckline offer a secure fit, providing less flexibility for riders with larger shoulders. Alternatively, check out the Follow Pharaoh for a more extended form-fitting vest or the Follow Primary for a long vest with more space around the chest.
The Primary Ladies Life Jacket has a more relaxed fit around the chest and is more form-fitting around the waist and skirt area. Compared to the Follow Pharaoh and Atlantis vests, our model said this Jacket is Roomier. The more extended cut is ideal for longer torsos, and the vest has comfortable armholes and neckline. So if you're looking for a more relaxed fit with a roomy chest, this might be an excellent option for you. Alternatively, check out the Follow Pharaoh for a tighter, less spacious fit. Or the Follow Atlantis if you have a shorter torso.
The Follow Surf Edition Life Jacket has a more relaxed fit and stretchy feel, accommodating a wide range of body shapes. Further, the spacious armholes allow for a wide range of movement and comfort. Alternatively, for a more form-fitting vest, have a look at the Follow Pharaoh.
The RX women's Life Jacket includes handles that can be hidden – ideal for doubles on your PWC. It is form-fitting around the waist but spacious around the shoulders and chest. Compared to other styles in the Jetpilot range, the lack of panelling in the foam makes this feel rigid. However, this helps the vest feel more supportive for long sessions on your PWC.
The Pacer Life Jacket has an average to tight fit around the chest and waistline. Our model wears a size 10 (usually wears a size 8), the length to be average, and the neck and armholes to be roomy.
The Quantum Bec Ladies Life Jacket has a slim fit around the waistline, while the narrow segment across the shoulders blades and roomy armholes allow unrestricted movement. Our model is wearing a size 10 (usually wears a size 8), found the length to be average and the neck and armholes to be spacious. On the inside, you will find rubber lining to prevent the vest from riding up and a quick-dry liner, so you don't have to put on a soggy vest. If you are looking for a form fit around the chest and shoulders, the Jetpilot X1 is a great alternative.
The women's X1 life Jacket comes in two pro versions, the X1 Zahra and X1 Sina. To help keep you warm on those longer sets, the Zahra has a fire-fur liner. The Sina has a quick-dry liner, so you don't have to put on a wet vest for your second set. The fit around the chest and waist is average, but the broader panelling across the back/shoulders and smaller armholes will offer a secure feel. If you are looking for extra room around the upper back/shoulders, the Jetpilot Quantum Bec Ladies vest is a great alternative.
The Nova Ladies Life Jacket has an average to firm fit around the chest and waist with comfortable arms and a big neck. However, our model commented that the "material feels stretchy". Compared to the Ivy Palm, the Ivy Nova is a little looser around the chest and waist. Whereas the Ivy Lotus offers a more spacious chest.
The Nova Ladies Life Jacket has a slim fit around the chest and waist with comfortable arms and a spacious neck. However, our model commented that the "material feels stretchy". Compared to the Ivy Nova, the Ivy Palm is a little tighter around the chest and waist. Whereas the Ivy Lotus offers a more spacious chest.
The Lotus Ladies Life Jacket has a slim fit around the waistline and spacious chest. Our model commented that the vest "felt on the shorter side", ideal for shorter torsos. So, if you're looking for a slim fit around the chest and shoulders, the Ivy Palm is an option. Or, if you're looking for an average fit around the chest and waist, the Ivy Nova is worth a look.
The X1 Girls Youth Life Jacket has a shorter length, ideal for kids. The average fit around the waist and chest is ideal for a wide range of users. Whist the roomy neck and armholes allow for manoeuvrability. Extra buoyancy foam around the chest will keep them protected.
Trojan WSS is a leading provider of life jackets in Australia, and we specialise in life jackets for towed water sports (including wakeboarding, waterskiing, wake surfing and tubing) and PWC's. We stock all the leading brands, including Follow, Jetpilot, KGB, Ronix, Radar, Ivy, Rip Curl and more. The full range of Men's Life Jackets, Women's Life Jackets, Kids Life Jackets and Life Jackets for Dogs can be found on our website.
With so many styles and colours available, it can be unclear, so we hope our information above helps you narrow down the search for the perfect vest. If you'd like more help, the friendly team at Trojan are always available to discuss your requirements in detail, so pick up the phone and get in touch. And hopefully (restrictions permitting), we will be able to see you in-store soon.
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