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Stohlquist Child Review

An easy entry PFD that has an open back for seat comfort and offers extra neck and head support for your floating child
Stohlquist Child
Credit: Stohlquist
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $70 List | $69.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Rescue handle, padded head support, open back for seat comfort
Cons:  Hard to swim in, doesn't turn a child onto their back
Manufacturer:   Stohlquist
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 8, 2022
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 15
  • Flotation - 25% 8.0
  • Fit - 25% 7.0
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 6.0
  • Quality of Construction - 15% 7.0
  • Features and Versatility - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Stohlquist Child is an easy-entry lift jacket designed to float little ones between 30 and 50 pounds. Engineered with extra flotation around the neck collar, this PFD will help your child keep their head above the water. The open back makes sitting in a kayak more comfortable, and the crotch strap helps to keep it in place if your kiddo does take a dunk in the water. The wrap-around style and buoyancy distribution make it comfortable to sit, paddle, or float in, but this jacket is not the most comfortable for swimming on your front.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Stohlquist Child
This Product
Stohlquist Child
Awards Top Pick Award   Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $70 List
$69.99 at Amazon
$75.00 at Backcountry$45 List
$44.95 at Amazon
$94.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$45 List
$44.99 at Amazon
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Pros Rescue handle, padded head support, open back for seat comfortGood floatation, torso protection, large handle, available in 5 sizesVery breathable, comfortable, large pocketGreat mobility, stays put, durableAccommodating sizing, large armholes, great price, lightweight
Cons Hard to swim in, doesn't turn a child onto their backBulky, not cheapLess secure, takes time to adjust, less flotation than someNo pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathableNo pockets, top strap hard to tighten, torso length too big for smaller paddlers
Bottom Line An easy entry PFD that has an open back for seat comfort and offers extra neck and head support for your floating childThis full torso wrap design provides high flotation and added protection from rocksA very comfortable and breathable jacket for laidback dogs and confident swimmers in calmer watersA simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great valueA super adjustable, surprisingly comfortable option that's simple and easy to wear
Rating Categories Stohlquist Child Astral Bird Dog NRS CFD NRS Vapor Stohlquist Fit
Flotation (25%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Fit (25%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort and Mobility (20%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Quality of Construction (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Features and Versatility (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Stohlquist Child Astral Bird Dog NRS CFD NRS Vapor Stohlquist Fit
Intended User Infant ( <30 lbs)
Child (30-50 lbs)
Dog Dog Unisex Unisex
Intended Use Canoeing, kayaking, sailing Dog safety Dog safety Paddling Paddling, general boating
Entry Style Front zip, 1 chest strap, between the leg strap 1 neck, 2 chest buckle 1 neck and 2 bottom clips Side entry, side clip Front clip
Wear Type Vest Vest Top flotation only Vest Vest
Sizes Available Youth (30-50 lbs) XS (5-15 lbs)
S (15-25 lbs)
M (25-45 lbs)
L (45-75 lbs)
XL (75+ lbs)
XS (18-24" chest, < 20 lbs)
S (22-28", 20-40 lbs)
M (26-30", 40-60 lbs)
L (30-37", 60-80 lbs)
XL (36-41", > 80 lbs)
XS/M (30-42")
L/XL (42-52")
XL/XXL (50-56")
Youth (50-90 lbs)
Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs, 27-33" chest)
Universal (30-52")
Adult XL (48-60")
Size We Tested Youth (30-50 lbs) L (45-75 lbs) Large (32-36") XS/M (30-42") Universal (30-52")
Measured Weight 13 oz 14 oz 15 oz 28 oz 14 oz
Foam Type PVC & PE foam PE foam Not specified Soft foam PE foam
Main Material 200D nylon 50D cordura nylon 1000D cordura shell 400D urethane-coated ripstop nylon shell, 200D nylon liner 200D nylon shell, 200D oxford liner
Claimed Designed Buoyancy 8.38 lbs No rating provided 6.4 lbs 16.3 lbs 16 to 18 lbs
USCG Classification Type III N/A N/A Type III Type III

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Stohlquist Child is a Type III PFD that is Coast Guard approved and designed to float a child between 30 and 50 pounds. It allows ample range of movement and is suitable for kayaking, sailing, canoeing, and general water-based frolicking. It has a wrap-around design that leaves the back open and free of bulk. Secured by a zipper with a backup buckle, this jacket also has one strap between the legs to prevent it from riding up.

Performance Comparison


simple yet well-designed, this child jacket is one we recommend.
Simple yet well-designed, this child jacket is one we recommend.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Flotation


The Stohlquist Child is designed to provide 8 pounds 6 ounces of flotation. The majority of the buoyancy is distributed behind the head and around the front of the body. When children are in the water on their back, this helps support a comfortable floating position with the extra collar cradling the neck and head.


This jacket is not designed to turn an unconscious swimmer if they are faced down, but it will help those with some swimming skills to float on their back. A life jacket is not a replacement for parental supervision.

Stohlquist Child life jacket - for smaller paddlers, the length of the torso may be much at first.
For smaller paddlers, the length of the torso may be much at first.
Credit: Jennifer Addington

Fit


The adjustable side straps wrap this life jacket around a child's trunk, helping to get a good fit. These straps are easy to adjust from the sides as needed. As the wearer grows between 30-50 pounds, this PFD should continue to fit them. For those below 30 pounds, the Stohlquist Infant is an identical jacket style but designed for even smaller adventurers.


The crotch strap helps to ensure that the Stohlquist Child stays in place if your kiddo hits the water. Without this strap, it is easy for a PFD to float up above the waist, making it less comfortable and less effective.

Stohlquist Child life jacket - the stohlquist child has large arm holes allowing for good freedom...
The Stohlquist Child has large arm holes allowing for good freedom of movement.
Credit: Sara James

Comfort and Mobility


Having a secure fit is the first step in ensuring PFD comfort and the adjustability on the Stohlquist Child provides just this. The soft foam contours well around a child's torso, and the cut of the vest offers full arm mobility so that they are not limited in their aquatic play. The open back helps to keep children comfortable when sitting, particularly useful if you intend to be in a kayak or on a boat.


Due to the distribution of the buoyancy, this PFD is comfortable for children floating on their back, but it is not the easiest or most comfortable for floating or swimming on the front.

Stohlquist Child life jacket - a buckle securely attaches over the top of the zip as a backup...
A buckle securely attaches over the top of the zip as a backup measure.
Credit: Jim Addington

Quality of Construction


The straps on this jacket, including the rescue handle, have reinforced stitching where they attach, ensuring they will not rip off the jacket if put under tension. We had expected the rescue handle to sport a more integrated stitching system as we have seen on some other child PFDs, but given the weight that we are dealing with, this stitching should be ample to do its job, and we have not come across any users who said this strap failed on them.


The 200-denier nylon shell is more durable than the soft fabric that many other child life vests are made out of. Overall, the Stolquist Child is designed to withstand the wear and tear that your adventuresome toddler may put it through.

Stohlquist Child life jacket - there are no pockets on this pfd, so hopefully someone else can...
There are no pockets on this PFD, so hopefully someone else can carry the snacks.
Credit: Sara James

Features and Versatility


The Stohlquist Child features a rescue handle on the top of the back panel of the jacket. This can be used to retrieve young ones from the water, particularly useful as they struggle to get back in a boat or on a pontoon. The position of the rescue handle and the fit of the jacket may result in a moment of discomfort as a child is hoisted out of the water, particularly if they are at the heavier end of the weight range. Regardless, this rescue handle provides useful support if needed. This loop can also be used for storage or when hanging out to dry.


The double flotation that is provided around the neck is designed to help keep a floating child's airway above the waterline. Keeping the head up also provides greater comfort for your aquatic adventurer. However, if your child is face down, this jacket will not automatically turn them.

Another safety feature incorporated into this design is the backup buckle over the entry zipper. This redundant detail provides extra peace of mind; if this zipper was to break or accidentally come un-done, the crotch strap and waist buckle would keep this life jacket on.

Stohlquist Child life jacket - the handle on the back pillow of this pfd is perfectly situated to...
The handle on the back pillow of this PFD is perfectly situated to help you grab onto a swimming child if needed.
Credit: Sara James

Value


This is not the cheapest child jacket on the market, but it does offer more design features to help keep your small one comfortable and safe on the river. For this reason, we feel the Stohlquist Child is well worth its cost as a reliable and durable option.

Conclusion


The Stohlquist Child delivers great freedom of arm movement and is comfortable to sit, paddle, and play in. This was our favorite jacket for 30-50-pound children. The double padded collar supports a safe floating position if your child is on their back. That said, it's not the best for swimming on the belly, so if you are looking for a comfortable jacket to swim in, check out some of the other options we tested.

the stohlquist child life jacket has been around for a while with...
The Stohlquist Child life jacket has been around for a while with the same design and slightly different colorways (pictured here in red).
Credit: Jennifer Addington

Sara James
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