PFD size question

Hello paddlers!

I am looking at the Stohlquist Trekker Life Jacket or the Drifter. I am 5’ 11", 165 lbs with a 41" chest. It appears that I need a large although the drifter indicates that that one would be a medium. There is also a “Universal” size for chests from 30" - 50". I’m thinking I probably need a large. What say any of you?


more info needed

– Last Updated: Aug-03-14 4:54 PM EST –

What type of hulls will you be paddling? WW or flat? Advanced or beginner? WW or flat goes to the question of the amount of floatation, rather than size. That is one feature to look for. Of course the best answer is to try both on although that is often impractical.

Re: PDF Size Question
I am a beginner. I have an Advanced Elements Frame kayak.

Try On
Unless the PFD you are looking has different buoyancy values for the different sizes the panels are probably identical between the different sizes – the difference is just how long the straps are. So someone who is just a bit smaller than the next larger size can wear that PFD (probably with an identical fit) they are just going to have extra straps hanging down.

You really have to try on PFDs in person. To get the right fit, you need to try different PFDs and not different sizes in a single PFDs.

If you are right on the edge of a size range, you probably want to get the larger size. The reality is usually you will get bigger as life goes on and handle wearing heavy clothes. If you are worried that you are on the low end of a size don’t. But don’t buy a PFD without trying it on and knowing what a good fit feels like.

I have the same chest measurement (41") and own 5 PFDs that all fit me. They are an old Lotus Lola size XL, an Astral Camino and Astral V8 both Medium-Large, an MTI Small- Medium and aa Extrasport Large. None of them feels substantially too big or too small. So, as you can see, there is no standardization. You pretty much have to try them on if you want a really good fit, but most are adjustable enough that you can fit any but a really too small one to any normal person.

same here
IME PFD brands are like shoe brands, lot of size variation between them all. I have a 44" chest and wear a medium PFD. It keeps me from developing a 44" waist.

Alternative to trying on . . .
. . ., which is good advice for sized PFD’s, is a universal size. They are usually just front and back slabs with long side straps that can be adjusted. Many fit quite well, are eminently serviceable, and are far less expensive than the unnecessarily fancy-dan and tricked-out brand names, many of which are mainly faddish hype in my opinion.

Your analysis of new PFD design is probably very accurate. Last time I went “pfd shopping” I started to get vertigo.

Got the Trekker
Thanks for all the replies. I went and tried on about half a dozen PFD’s. The Trekker was really the only one that seemed to fit well. Ended up getting L/XL size.