Do I Need a Life Jacket Crotch Strap?

Life jackets save lives. Even if you’re a good swimmer, accidents can happen and, if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, wearing a life jacket could make all the difference and using a life jacket crotch strap takes that safety up another notch.

According to statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, over 80% of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets. Donning a life jacket is a simple safety precaution that helps keep you afloat should you fall into the water, but simply strapping one on may not be enough. Proper sizing is essential and you may want to take the extra step of using a life jacket crotch strap.

We’re taking a deep dive into these life-saving products to teach you what they are and how to use them properly. 

Types of Life Jackets

There are several different types of life jackets for various water activities. Also known as personal flotation devices or PFDs, life jackets are designed to help you maintain buoyancy in the water. Some of them are also designed to turn you face-up in the water. 

Here’s a quick overview of the five most common types of PFD:

Offshore Life Jacket

These life jackets provide the highest degree of buoyancy because they are designed for rough or remote waters. 

Near-Shore Vest

Appropriate for calm waters, these life jackets are very buoyant but they may not be designed to turn an unconscious person face-up. 

Flotation Aid

Commonly used by surfers and wakeboarders, this type of life jacket is designed for calm waters where rescue would be quick. 

Throwable Device

This device is not intended to be worn but can be thrown to a person in the water to provide flotation. 

Special-Use Device

These life jackets are customized to specific sports like windsurfing or kayaking. 

Choosing the right type of life jacket is important, whether you’re boating, canoeing, or enjoying other water activities. For an added degree of protection, consider choosing a life jacket with a crotch strap. 

What Is a Life Jacket Crotch Strap? 

life jacket crotch strap

Now that you’re familiar with the five different types of life jackets, let’s take a moment to talk about some of the optional features available. While you can certainly buy a life jacket without a crotch strap, they are highly recommended. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard crew wear them.

A life jacket crotch strap is exactly what it sounds like – a strap that connects to the life jacket on the front and back, running between your legs. In addition to making the life jacket fit a little more snugly, these straps keep the life jacket from riding up over your head and potentially slipping off when you are in the water. 

Life jackets are an essential element of water safety, especially for children. If you’re planning an outing on the water with your family, make sure to bring along a properly fitted youth life jacket with a crotch strap. 

Where to Find a Life Jacket Crotch Strap 

Before you even step foot in the boat, make sure everyone in your party has a life jacket that fits properly. If you’re renting equipment, take the time to double-check it yourself to make sure it fits snugly and the straps are in good condition. 

If you’re purchasing your own equipment, there are plenty of places you can shop. Your local sporting goods store is a great place to start, especially because you’ll be able to try the life jackets on to determine the right size. If you already know what size you need, you may be able to find a larger selection online. 

When shopping for life jackets, be sure to determine whether it comes with a crotch strap or not. While some models do, many do not but you can purchase a crotch strap separately. Retrofitted crotch straps are designed to be added to an existing life jacket. You may be able to find them in sporting good stores or you can shop online. 

Tips for Using a Life Jacket Properly 

Whether you’re boating, windsurfing, or water skiing, it’s important to choose the right type of life jacket for the activity. If you’re not sure which type you need, talk to someone at your local sporting goods store or do a little research online. Once you have the right life jacket in hand, the only thing left to do is to wear it. 

Here are some tips for using a life jacket properly: 

  • Check the manufacturer’s label on the life jacket for sizing details – it should list the size and weight the life jacket is intended to fit. 
  • After putting the life jacket on, fasten all closures including buckles and zippers.
  • Check the fit on the life jacket by raising your arms over your head and have someone pull upward from the top of the life jacket.
  • If the life jacket rises higher than your chin, it’s too large and you should switch to a smaller size. 
  • If you’re using a life jacket crotch strap, make sure it fits snugly and is securely attached to the front and back of the life jacket. 

The most common mistake involving life jackets is forgetting to wear it. Accidents can happen quickly and you can’t count on having enough time to grab a life jacket. The best life jacket is one you’re willing to wear each and every time you’re out on the water. 

Bottom Line

Even if you’re a strong swimmer, an unexpected fall into the water could result in injury or might even leave you unconscious. Having a well-fitted life jacket keeps you above water until help arrives. For an added degree of protection, select a life jacket that has a crotch strap or purchase one separately and add it yourself. 

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