Stohlquist Child Review
Cons: Hard to swim in, doesn't turn a child onto their back
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|Pros||Rescue handle, padded head support, open back for seat comfort||Good floatation, torso protection, large handle, available in 5 sizes||Very breathable, comfortable, large pocket||Great mobility, stays put, durable||Accommodating sizing, large armholes, great price, lightweight|
|Cons||Hard to swim in, doesn't turn a child onto their back||Bulky, not cheap||Less secure, takes time to adjust, less flotation than some||No pockets, a bit long, full coverage is less breathable||No 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 child||This full torso wrap design provides high flotation and added protection from rocks||A very comfortable and breathable jacket for laidback dogs and confident swimmers in calmer waters||A simple, comfortable paddle vest that stays in place and provides a great value||A 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|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Quality of Construction (15%)|
|Features and Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Stohlquist Child||Astral Bird Dog||NRS CFD||NRS Vapor||Stohlquist Fit|
|Intended User||Infant ( <30 lbs)
Child (30-50 lbs)
|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)
|Youth (50-90 lbs)
Youth L/Adult XS (75-125 lbs, 27-33" chest)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Sara James
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