Water sports can be a lot of fun. Some people do it for recreational purposes while others enjoy it as a sport, kayaking for example.
It is common knowledge (as evidenced by multiple studies across the globe) that the majority of the fatalities concerning water sports are related to incidents where individuals were not wearing a life jacket. To state the obvious, buy the best life jacket before you plan a kayaking trip, it could be a lifesaver!
What is a Kayak Life Vest?
A kayak life vest or a jacket which is also commonly referred to as a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is a piece of attire that you would expect to have on every kayaking boat. This is, perhaps, the most important piece of equipment whilst you are on a kayak. Your safety is paramount and it is important that you ensure you have your own vest that fits you perfectly and is in a serviceable condition.
There are many kinds of kayak life vest ranging from the traditional flotation foam devices to a trendy and newly designed inflatable life jacket. They are meant to cater to different forms of boating activities with corresponding buoyancy, functionality and performance levels.
Best Kayak Life Vests
Here are some of the best pieces of equipment that we recommend:
NRS Chinook Fishing PFD
This fishing PFD is ideal for anglers and has ample storage with seven pockets in the front which allows you to store your personal accessories. These are perfect for those planning any kind of fishing expedition such as kayak or fly. Mesh lower back provides excellent ventilation if the weather is warm, given its great design on high-back seats. The spacious front entry design has eight adjustment points which give you maximum range of motion, best comfort levels, and security. It also comes standard with Soft PlushFIT foam which adapts to your body when you put it on for great padding and comfort. It also provides you with a coil tool retractor for clipping various fishing-related items or tools, including a D-ring on its back to attach your net. Not to forget, a strobe holder loop too in case of overcast/low light weather conditions.
- Available Colors: Black, Orange, Green, and Charcoal
- Comfortable fishing lifejacket provided to make your fishing experience better, while keeping you safe out on the water
- Designed to be roomy in the front with a great fit in the back
- Soft, PlushFIT foam fits to your body type
- Comes with multiple adjustment points so you can tailor it to fit your body each time …
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic
The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is one of the most renowned life vests among anglers and fishermen. People who go out fishing on kayaks usually prefer this product rather than any other model.
It features a carved, flexible foam design, unlike any other brand. The vest conforms to your body and stays in contact even if you are paddling or fishing. The vest is designed in such a way that it feels very comfortable in all instances.
Don’t be mistaken by its flimsy outlook as this vest features a heavy-duty nylon fabric. The nylon not only provides strength but also resists tears and punctures. As a result, you can assure that this product can last long even in the roughest conditions.
The good thing about this model is that it’s available in dual sizes. You can opt for either size to easily accommodate your body type. Moreover, the unit features mesh ventilation panels located on the front and lower back. These panels allow adequate airflow and keep you cool even in the scorching heat.
Most traditional vests offer dull colors that can be hard to find in an emergency. Meanwhile, the SOLAS reflective material of the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic ensures it is fully visible. You can also enjoy the expandable zippered pockets of this model, as it allows you to carry small accessories.
- Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
- Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
- SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
- Expandable zippered pockets with mesh drainage
- Heavy duty nylon fabric; soft, lightweight flotation foam
- Double crimp, funnel entry
- Expandable zippered pocket with mesh drainage …
Stohlquist Canyon Lifejacket
If you are looking for a quality lifejacket, then look no further. The Stohlquist Canyon lifejacket is all you need to keep you safe in the water.
This model is a type-V commercial-grade life vest that promises high-flotation to its users. The universal design of the product is ideally made for whitewater or recreational boating. With its increased buoyancy of 26 pounds, the life vest assures you stay afloat in water.
The vest also promises high mobility as compared to standard models. Its non-restrictive cut, along with a simple four-buckle entry, makes it an attraction for most people. As a result, the ease of use makes it highly suitable for amateurs.
Moreover, its top buckle provides additional safety to the user. While some vests might weigh you down, it ensures you can swim easily in water.
Also, the durable build quality of this product makes it a safe investment. It’s made using Denier 240 mini-ripstop shell along with 210 Denier oxford liner. Consequently, it keeps the vest protected from wear and tear and ensures long-lasting operation.
- High-flotation PFD meets NPS requirements for Grand Canyon & other rivers
- Commercially-designed whitewater vest doubles as a private rafter's high float lifejacket
- Universal sizing fit almost all body shapes
- High mobility non-restrictive cut
- Simple 4-buckle front entry with easy to reach front center pull adjustments …
Onyx 100400-200-004-16 Adult Type I Vest Style Life Jacket
Vest-style life jackets are some of the most commonly used models nowadays. Their effective design and ease of use make them a perfect choice when going in the water. But that is just the tip of the iceberg!
The Onyx vest-style life jacket is a PFD that you can always rely on. Whether you are paddling in a kayak or swimming in the water, it ensures your safety at all intervals.
This is a type-l adult life vest that is specifically designed to meet the modern user’s needs. It’s a U.S coast guard approved life jacket that features a bright orange color. It allows you to be easily spotted in case of an emergency.
The best thing about this life jacket is its adjustable design. Traditional vests usually come in a standard size that doesn’t offer you a custom fit. However, with this model, you can assure a snug fit with its adjustable straps.
Furthermore, the jacket promises a greater minimum buoyancy when compared to its rivals. Its 32 pounds of buoyancy helps you stay afloat even in very rough conditions. Meanwhile, the sturdy fabric of the product ensures that it lasts for long.
- Adult Type I Vest Style Life Jacket
- Orange, U. S. Coast Guard Approved Type I Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
- Adjustable Straps For A Snug Fit
- Minimum 32 lbs. of buoyancy
- Bright Orange Fabric
Watersports do require some sort of safety precautions to avoid any mishaps. To ensure user safety, the Stohlquist Rocker is an ideal choice for the fishing community. Its all-round capabilities make it extremely feasible for boating and fishing.
The Stohlquist Rocker packs a handful of features that provide a perfect combination of comfort and safety. Its Wrapture shaped torso offers an ergonomic design that acts as a body wrapping foam. Meanwhile, its self-tensioned shoulders ensure a stable fit for the user. As a result, it offers great balance and comfort.
Moreover, a Gripp-Loc non-slip panel is embedded within the product that minimizes the risk of ride-up. The amazing fact about this PFD is that it also provides great adjustability options. Its six different adjustment areas with side-pulls and front waist closure keep you satisfied during recreational activities.
Sometimes, wearing a PFD can be irritating for users when worn on a warm sunny day. Foreseeing this, Stohlquist offers a low-cut front-zip entry with a ventilated lumbar pad. It ensures adequate airflow to your body that keeps the heat at bay.
The unit also promises 16.8 pounds of flotation and great comfort. Its padded shoulder straps not only provide additional protection but also keep you comfortable. Also, it features a large main pocket for storage while its reflective fabric delivers high visibility.
Mustang Survival – HIT Inflatable Work Vest for Adults
If you’re looking for a PFD that you can wear for long durations, then consider buying the Mustang Survival work vest. It is tailor-made for constant wear situations when you seek a reliable solution for hot and humid climates. It also acts as a perfect choice if you seek high mobility.
The Mustang Survival is an inflatable work vest that is first of its kind. It combines a highly comfortable design with a low-profile fit. This inflatable vest provides increased mobility while reducing heat stress. As a result, you can actively indulge in watersports or other recreational activities without breaking a sweat.
This model’s major highlight is its incredible buoyancy rating of 35lbs, which is almost double than of most standards vests. Its high buoyancy rating means that it provides extra flotation for added safety.
Research shows that fluorescent yellow-green is one of the most visible colors in the water. Keeping this in mind, Mustang Survival features a yellow-green inflation cell that provides ideal visibility. Whether you are an ordinary fisherman or a watersports junkie, this vest keeps you safe at all times.
Also, this model features a Hydrostatic Inflator Technology that promises dependable inflation when required. This technology allows the vest to inflate only when four inches or more underwater. Besides, it also features a SecureZIP closure system that ensures the vest stays close even during intense action.
- Approval: USCG – Recreational Type V with Type II performance (Meets minimum buoyancy rating of 33.7 LBS)
- Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT) will only inflate when submerged in 4” or more of water pressure, and not in rain, spray, or high humidity
- 38 LBS of buoyancy when inflated
- Two heavy-duty stainless steel D-rings for use with tethers …
KENT First Responder PFD
The Kent first aid PFD is simply remarkable when it comes to user safety. Its durable quality and consistent performance make it highly dependable in any situation. Let’s have a look at some of the key features of this model.
The incredible performance of Kent PFD reflects in its soft and lightweight design. The flexibility and reduced weight of this model not only promises a user-friendly design but also offers high convenience for comfortable wear. Its segmented foam design further enhances your comfort level while offering you high mobility.
Its adjustable neoprene shoulders and nylon straps are also worth noticing as they are responsible for a snug fit. Moreover, they add to your comfort and are suitable for individuals with different body sizes. A SOLAS Grade Reflective material is also present on its shoulder straps and rear that provides easy spotting in water.
Furthermore, the contoured foam of this model offers great attraction as it conforms to the body. This allows a perfect fit, unlike traditional vests, that might be wobbly when worn. The great thing about this PFD is that it is also quite durable.
Its 200 Denier Nylon Ripstop and Oxford Nylon lining offer increased resistance against punctures. Besides, you can also find large zippered pockets for storage and a D-ring to accommodate small accessories.
If you’re a seated angler or paddler looking for a reliable PFD, then consider buying the Stohlquist Fisherman High Back PFD. It has all the properties a premium product would offer.
Stohlquist Fisherman delivers a unique graded size and mesh-top design. It also promises a flexible size that fits snugly for a wide range of people. Meanwhile, its robust construction offers the ideal use for paddlers.
The amazing thing about this PFD is that it assures your safety and comfort. It also features EVA pockets that act as folding work surfaces. Meanwhile, its padded shoulders and lower back waist add to your comfort and keep you safe.
You can also find multiple mounting locations that are tailor-made for tippets, retractors, or leader lines. Besides, its multiple pockets promise reliable drainage that keeps you lightweight without the accumulation of water.
If durability is what you admire, then this is just the right pick for you. The 500D Cordura Shell and 200D Oxford Lining ensures it stays free from wear and tear. Also, its 16lbs of buoyancy rating guarantees your safety in the water.
- GRADED SIZING - Stohlquist's Graded Sizing offers the best fit, and lowest footprint possible, for the widest range of body types. We have fine-tuned each individual size and sculpted the foam footprint and foam thickness to provide a better fitting, and
- CROSS-CHEST CINCH - The innovative Cross-Chest Cinch harness, found only on Stohlquist PFDs, offers the most unique fit of any PFD, by keeping the vest down & in place, to eliminate ride-up. The "cinch" prevents and eliminates chafing on your chin and und …
Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Auto Activation PFD
The MIT 100 is a premium-quality PFD that targets customers looking for a budget-friendly model. Its reasonable price is backed with many features that make it very attractive for the fishing community.
The stylish design of the MIT 100 offers an attractive outlook that promises ease of use. It uses an inflatable membrane technology which keeps the PFD lightweight while delivering a comfortable fit. Also, the flexible design assures it’s suitable for the majority.
The model also includes an easy access inflator inspection window. It allows you to closely monitor your device before putting it to use. Its one-fold design is also worth noticing. The unit allows you to pack it easily for storage when not in use.
The buoyancy rating of this PFD is 26lbs, which is quite notable as compared to conventional inflatable PFDs. It not only helps you stay afloat but also offers a perfect option for boating activities. Also, be mindful that its buoyancy rating is far better than most foam PFDs.
Moreover, the universal design of this model readily fits most adults. Individuals who are over 80 pounds should consider this as a perfect investment for their safety. Besides, a CO2 inflation cartridge is also included within the package.
- Approval: USCG – Recreational Type III (Meets minimum buoyancy rating of 22.5 LBS), Commercial Type V (Type III performance approved only when worn)
- Manually inflates by pulling activation cord
- Exclusive Membrane Inflatable Technology (M.I.T.) creates a lightweight, flexible fit
- Provides 28 lbs / 125 N of buoyancy when inflated - 1.5x regular foam PFDs …
Kokatat Ronin Pro Rescue PFD
Best Kayak Fishing Inflatable PFDs under $100
The following models are some of the best PFDs for kayak fishing that can be purchased under 100$.
PFDs are specifically designed for those who keep their safety an utmost priority. Whether it’s paddling, fishing, or any other boating activities, these flotation devices keep you safe from mishaps. However, you must own a quality PFD that assures your safety.
The Stohlquist Fit is a multi-use personal floatation device that is suitable for paddling and boating activities. It features molded front and back foam panels that offer comfortable use when worn. Its buckles are also placed strategically, which helps it perform better in watersports activities.
Using their vast experience, Stohlquist designs its products such that they offer a snug fit for people of all ages and sizes. The universal size of this PFD, paired with its high quality, promises you years of lasting safety and comfort.
Furthermore, the unit promises a high-profile cut-away arm design that delivers great mobility. Its lower positioned waist buckle keeps it conformed to your body while the Wrap Around Sides promise comfort.
The Coast Guard approved PFD also assures a thin profile that allows minimal seat back interference. It also has a lightweight design of only 0.7lbs and offers easy storage as compared to other bulkier models.
- FEEL THE MOVEMENT - High mobility, non-restrictive cut. Higher placement of upper buckle helps reduce ride up. Thinner back panel to reduce seat back interference
- INNOVATION MEANS BETTER - All foam corners are rounded and sculpted compared to many 3-buckle PFDs. Box-stitched webbing is also more durable than bar-tac stitching used by other Economy PFDs …
Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket
The Onyx Youth Paddle Lifejacket is a U.S Coast Guard approved PFD designed for youth passionate about watersports. Its comfortable design and adjustable nature make it one of the best PFDs for recreational activities.
The low-profile design of this model minimizes bulk while offering mobility for paddlers. Its compact foam build, larger armholes, and several other adjustment options add to your mobility. As a result, it is considered a perfect choice for water skiing, PWC, and tubing.
Moreover, the model features a wide front entry that has a sturdy front zip for a secure fit. It also includes an adjustable bottom belt that maintains a high comfort level and safety for youngsters.
The PFD also features thin shoulder straps and larger armholes that play an important role during motion. These features allow it to become extra convenient while paddling or boating. Also, the side adjustment points promise a customized fit that ensures maximum comfort.
You can also notice an extendable zippered pocket with this product. It allows you to store small items or snacks during your expeditions. Besides, the mesh drain found at the bottom of the pockets helps in draining water.
- Lightweight and compact foam design
- Large arm holes and elastic shoulder allow freedom of movement
- Front zipper closure with two body belts provide snug fit
- Mesh sides for airflow
- Fits youth 55-88 lbs. U. S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada approved
Body Glove Men’s Method Life PFD Jacket
Safety and comfort are the two things that the watersports community always seeks to achieve. A high-quality PFD such as the Body Glove Nylon can be a perfect investment for anyone looking to acquire these luxuries. Its ability to keep you safe and comfortable can make a huge difference at the end of the day.
The consistent performance of the Body Glove Nylon life jacket is due to its durable construction. Its outer shell uses a heavy-duty nylon fabric paired with polyethylene foam. The nylon adds strength to the unit while the foam takes care of your comfort.
Another plus point of this model is its secure fit. It uses four durable one-inch belts that allow you a perfect fit. The assembly is further enhanced with sturdy quick-release buckles that make removal a breeze.
Like any premium-quality PFD, this one also provides high mobility. Its large armholes allow you to move freely while involved in watersports. The lifejacket also includes strategically-placed drainage holes, unlike any other model. It prevents the accumulation of water while keeping you lightweight and comfortable.
- Super duty nylon outer shell with PE foam flotation for maximum comfort
- 4 heavy duty 1 inch belts with durable quick release buckles
- Oversized arm holes
- Strategically placed drain holes
Kokatat Women’s UL MsFit Tour PFD Life Jacket
This PDF life jacket is specifically designed with women in mind and provides for multiple point adjustments. This gives them a lot of flexibility and at the same time providing them with comfort and a sense of security. The components used in making this jacket are ergonomic and innovative in nature and include thermo-formed, padded Hypalon shoulders, articulated shell, and foam panels, reflective tape for perfect visibility, CE approved deep cut neck and armholes, GAIA PVC-free foam and modern design look and feel. There is ample space for storage for your gadgets and other personal belongings.
- Color s Available: Mango, Olive, Glacier, and Mantis.
- 500D Cordura outer and 200D nylon oxford inner shell
- Articulated shell and foam panels
- 4 bellows pockets with zippered side entry
- One electronics pocket
- Reflective tape
Life Vest Regulations
In certain countries, a life jacket also needs to meet certain regulatory and coast guard specifications (particularly for kids or those under 13). Always make it a point to check those and whenever in doubt, always consults officials, coast guard members before purchasing your jacket.
Why is a Kayak Life Vest Necessary?
There are compelling reasons why these pieces of equipment should be worn and that is to prevent any mishaps if you accidentally find yourself in the water (and are drowning) or when your boat breaks down or gets physically damaged. There are no guarantees that this won’t happen. At worse, you may not be a swimmer and in such a scenario, your chances of drowning are pretty high. In these situations, your only fall back is to cause and ensure that you purchase and wear (at all times) the best life jacket possible.
Attributes of a Good Life Vest
Best kayak life jackets are also lifesavers once you are stranded in the water and are awaiting help. In such cases, a highly visible life jacket that has a number of pockets with distress flares and radio is effectively ensuring that you get a new lease of life and get rescued by the coast guard.
A good quality standard life jacket, when worn appropriately, is created to ensure that it flips an unconscious person who is face down to rotate and face towards the sky whilst in the water on their back. This will allow this person to breathe normally.
PFD’s are designed for recreational boating. You can find them to be generally smaller in size, not very bulky and much more comfortable than a standard life jacket. However, for reasons mentioned, such life jackets do not have much buoyancy and as a result of which, may not assist you in flipping you face up if you are in an unconscious state.
Every human body (irrespective of their fitness and skill level) has an endurance level of staying afloat in water, once you are away from your boat. Add to it the unforgiving effects of being submerged in cold water (which can be all year round) or the unfortunate possibility of having an accident and hitting your head leading to unconsciousness or getting dazed. That is where a life jacket comes in to protect your life. With regards to cold water, those who are not accustomed to it can totally lose their control over their breathing, once they are immersed in water without a life jacket.
Types of Kayak Life Vests
What is a paddle vest? Paddle vests are PFDs that are commonly opted by recreational kayakers and related water sports enthusiasts. These life jackets are designed like vests and are stuffed with foam or similar floatation material which helps a person stay above water.
The best life vests do not require much maintenance. You need to clean them as you would any other jacket and ensure that you dry them out in the sun when out of use. The floatation mechanism is automatic and starts working from the moment you put this life jacket on. It is a multipurpose life jacket that can be used for a variety of water sports including kayaking of course due to its freedom of movement. You can also expect quite a few pockets with these standard PFD jackets which can help you keep, snacks, sunscreen, tools and other emergency gear handy, which is something that you don’t find in inflatable jackets.
These paddle vests can be bulky in shape and not the most comfortable whilst kayaking or moving your body. Moreover, they are well insulated and can be warm during the summer months.
Inflatable Life Vests
Inflatable life vests, as the name, suggests include vests with additional waist packs or belt bags and are frequently used for kayaking and other related water sports. They are designed in a slim style and are generally comfortable to wear as compared to the paddle vests.
These inflatable life vests come with two functionalities: manual as well as automatic. In a manual life jacket, you need to pull a cord which will trigger a carbon dioxide cartridge within the vest, causing it to inflate and start functioning. On the other hand, the automatic vest is designed to activate the jacket as soon as it is submerged in the water. Most of the kayakers prefer manual life vests given the likelihood of exposure to the water.
Inflatable life jackets are designed to provide you with maximum flexibility while you move your body during kayaking or similar sports activity. They do not cover a lot of your upper body and fairly airy in texture, which is ideal for hot summer days.
However, the manual inflatable vests are not buoyant by design and will require to be inflated before they can offer any buoyancy. This is problematic if you are involved in a kayaking accident and are injured or unconscious and will not have the chance to inflate them beforehand. These jackets also require regular maintenance for optimum functionality and the carbon dioxide cartridges require replacement after each time they have been inflated.
Inflatable vests are also not a good fit for everyone as they cannot be used by those involved in high-impact activities, for example, whitewater kayaking or waterskiing to name a few. These may also not be suitable for individuals aged 16 and under or those who cannot swim.
The Differences Between a Life Jacket and Life Vest
A good and well-fitted jacket with the right functionality can make all the difference between life and death when you are out in the water on your own. As discussed, these jackets are designed with different aims and you need to decide which works best for you, given your preferred sport and cost constraints. You must understand the difference between these life jackets before you decide to purchase one.
Quite often, a life jacket or a life vest is also referred to as a PFD but there is a remarkable difference between these. You should not confuse a PFD for a life jacket. A PFD will keep you afloat but will not flip you over for continued breathing on your back. This can be a costly confusion!
The best kayak life jackets (with more padding at the front of the jacket, and less at the back) are meant to hold the person face up if he gets unconscious in water or rotates you towards the sky if you have lost consciousness facing down in the water.
In certain countries, there are strict restrictions on each individual requiring them to wear only a life jacket or a PFD (not torn or worn out) when getting onto a boat, failing which, you could be subjected to a heft fine.
Life jackets are the bulky vests commonly found in orange or red colors and are more vests than jackets (with some having oversized collars as head support) when it comes to looks.
Water sports experts, members of the coast guard suggest life jackets for children and non-swimmers as it gives them more buoyancy and hence more chances to survive an accident.
Characteristics of a PFD
You may be wondering that it is best to buy a life jacket rather than a PFD. However, PFD has its own unique benefits and some of their features that you may want to consider, prior to your purchase, are:
- They are not very bulky and are generally more comfortable to wear. The reason for this is that PFD, generally speaking, have their buoyancy mechanism at the back of the jacket.
- They provide you with more flexibility and a range of motions whilst conducting the activity.
- PFDs can be bought for specific water sports activities, e.g. kayaking, paddle sports, and snorkeling with specific features that cannot be found in your standard life jacket.
Suffice it to say, when you buy a life vest, make sure you wear it too, at all times, particularly for kids and those who aren’t really swimmers. Whatever you call it or wherever you buy it from, it is only worth it if you wear it.
FAQs about the Best Life Vests
Who Approves PFD in the USA?
They are approved by the U.S Coast Guard.
What does PFD Mean?
PFD stands for ‘Personal Flotation Device’. They are more comfortable than a life jacket and can be worn for longer periods. However, they do not offer the same level of safety and protection as a life jacket.
How to Measure for Kayak Life Vest?
In the case of adults, kayak life vests are usually measured on the basis of their chest size and in cases of children, it is usually by means of their body weight. Certain kayaking life vests are designed for women only with shorter torso lengths helping them maintain better balance whilst in water. As a general rule of thumb, a best fitted jacket will feel snuggly on the tighter side (but not restrictive to your body) and will allow you to breathe freely.
How to Wear Kayak Life Vest?
Whichever life jacket you choose, your first and foremost concern should be a perfect fit that can close safely, depending on your body type. The last thing you want is for your kayaking life jacket to be opening or not fitting properly and causing you to panic in the middle of a sea or lake. The best life jackets or PFDs that have adjustable shoulder straps should be your priority as they give you a great fit by customizing the size to suit your body type, comfort and the weather conditions (by loosing or tightening the shoulder straps as needed).
Kayak life jackets are important for your safety and those of your loved ones. This is not a piece of kayaking equipment that you wear as a fashion statement or just ‘put on’ without ensuring a proper fit just to comply with certain regulations or requirements of kayaking sport by a specific body or activity organization.