Smaller is Better in Personal Flotation Devices

Brad Wiegmann
Written by Brad Wiegmann July 28, 2017

We have all done it, but we shouldn’t. That’s right.  We used an adult or too big of Personal Flotation Device (PFD) on a youth or child. 

United States Coast Guard-approved PFDs come in several different shapes, colors and materials. However, bigger is not always better when it comes to picking out the right one, especially when it comes to youth or children. Offshore life jacket (Type I) comes in sizes to fit most children, near shore buoyant vest (Type II) comes in sizes to fit infants, child-small or child-medium, flotation aid (Type III) from child-small to adult and Type V inflatable devices generally used with chest sizes starting at 30-inches. 

Sizing charts make selecting the right PFD easier for infants, children and youth. Infants sizes PFDs have a chest 18- to 20-inches for an infant up to 30 pounds. Children sizes PFDs have a chest 21- to 24-inches for children 30- to 50-pounds. Youth sizes PFDs have a chest 24- to 29-inches for youth 50- to 90-pounds.  

Basically there are four different types to select from, however, each one has its own strengths and limitations. Type I have the greatest ability to turn a child face-up, Type II will turn only some children to a face-up position, Type III are not designed to turn a child face-up in the water, but do support a child with some swimming skills. Although Type III PFDs do provide good support to children with some swimming skills. Type V are not designed to turn a child face-up in the water, but provide enhanced wearability for children with some swimming skills. 

A face-up position is one where a child can float calmly on their back with arms and legs in the water and head back while keeping the face out of the water. The ability of a PFD to turn a child face-up is affected by the child’s height and weight distribution, type of PFD you select, ability of your child to remain calm in the water and ability of your conscious child to turn themselves face-up.   

Mustang Survival has several different styles of PFDs to select from when it comes to best-in-class performance and all-day comfort for infants, children and youth. Lil’ Legends 100 model feature ventilated mesh back, heavy duty grab strap, crotch strap, mobility-shaped panels, shaped and segmented head pillow, AirSoft™ flotation foam and textured abrasion panels on shoulders. Lil’ Legends 70 have several of the features of the Lil’ Legends 100, but are more comfortable and cooler with cooling channel interior back panel plus ventilated mesh back. 

PFD should fit snugly, but not over tight. Never buy a PFD that your child with grow into. A properly fitting PFD with the leg strap attached correctly will not slip up over the child’s chin or ears when the PFD is lifted up by the shoulders. If it goes over the child’s chin or ears it’s a size too big. 

Besides having a correct sized PFD, a child should be taught how to float with a PFD in the water. Begin by teaching them to be calm in the water and not panic. After learning that teach them to flat on their back with arms and legs in the water head back and face out of the water. Finish by teaching them to turn to a face-up position from a face-down position consistently. 

It is obvious, but to prevent drowning an infant, child, youth or an adult has to be wearing the right PFD. PFDs should not be used as a substitute for adult supervision. 

About The Author

Outdoor Writer

Brad Wiegmann just wants to fish, but his wife told him to get a job so he works as a freelance outdoor writer and photographer when not fishing. Brad has written for countless magazines and websites. Besides being a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, Brad also has his own award winning website


Brad is well-known for his photographic skills. His photographs have appeared in numerous product catalogs, magazines and websites. He specializes in nature and fish above or below the surface.

Brad Wiegmann Outdoors

Brad Wiegmann Outdoors can produce content for your company’s website. We specialize in outdoors or fishing content and photography. All content and photos are original designed especially for your company.

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