Weekly Hack: Testing lifejackets

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Still using a classic, inherently buoyant lifejacket at the cottage? Before you hit the water this summer, make sure it’s shipshape after the winter off.

Inspect it: Look for rips, tears, holes, and broken zippers or buckles. If you find any, your best bet is to—sorry—discard the lifejacket. “During a vessel inspection, these would render it unacceptable for use, and you may be subject to a fine,” says Ian Gilson of the Canadian Safe Boating Council.

Test it (part one): The flotation material in lifejackets can degrade over time. Wearing your jacket, wade into chest-deep water and lift your legs. If you can’t stay afloat, ditch it.

Test it (part two): Does it still fit? Everyone knows that kids will outgrow their lifejackets, but year to year, “adults too can change in size,” says Gilson. Your lifejacket should fit snugly but still feel comfortable. With all the straps tightened, have someone pull up on the jacket. It shouldn’t move higher than your nose.

Clean it: But only with a brush and mild detergent. Let it air-dry out of direct sunlight.

Store it: Between use, keep your jacket somewhere dry, with good air circulation, and away from heat sources (eg. the boat’s engine).

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