Be Safe: The Best PFD’s For Kayaking and SUP’s Rated and Reviewed

Best PFDs for Kayaking
Joe
Written by Joe

Be sensible and safe on the water when you kayak, canoe or use a stand up paddle board. We rate and review the best pfd’s for kayaking, canoeing and SUP

It is sensible to have safety gear when near or in water. This doesn’t become any less important when going kayaking. Choosing the Best PFD's For Kayaking is as important as choosing your kayak or canoe.

This can be a great adventure for you and your loved ones, but can kayaks are unstable and can land you in the water at the most unexpected times. Even if you are a strong swimmer, a buoyancy aid is important and will help keep you afloat as you set about getting your kayak right way up. When paddling, freedom of movement is vital to ensuring that you do so effectively. This increases the importance of investing in a high-quality life vest that offers buoyancy without interfering with your movements.

Types of PFDs

PFDs are generally classified into 5 types including:

  • Special Use Devices: These are PFDs that are designed for specific uses and purposes. They must be used for the activity denoted on the label to be accepted by the USCG. Varieties of special use devices include deck suits, hybrid vests, windsurfing, waterskiing and kayaking.
  • Throwable Devices: These are ring buoys or cushions that are thrown to someone in water to serve as backup for PFDs. They aren’t recommended for the unconscious, non-swimmers or use in rough waters.
  • Floatation Aids: They are most suitable for when there is a chance for quick rescue. They are suitable for use in continuous water as they offer freedom. The wearer has to be in a face-up position and tilt their heads to avoid being face down in the water.
  • Near-Shore Vests: These PFDs are meant for use in calm inland waters where the probability of a rescue is high. They can be worn while face up, and are ideal for the unconscious as they often turn one face up.
  • Offshore Life Jackets: They are best suited for use in rough waters or remote areas where rescue may take a while. And while they are heaviest type of life jackets, they are also the most buoyant.

Overview Of The 10 Best PFDS For Kayaks, Canoes And PFD's

Some of the top rated PFDs available on Amazon include:

Stearns Pfd 2220 Cmft Fishing Lrg Grn C004 2000013804
Green with orange highlights; US Coast Guard-approved; Comfortable mesh shoulders and back for added ventilation
Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device (Black, Large/X-Large)
500 Denier Cordura shell and 200 denier oxford liner; Cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride-up
NRS Chinook Fishing Lifejacket Charcoal L/XL
Safety aid and personal tool kit all in one; Attachment points for tools and integrated rod holder
$139.95
Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket, One Size, Tan
Six adjustment straps to cinch vest up for a snug fit; High foam back accommodates high back seats
$118.83
Sale
STEARNS Adult Watersport Classic Series Life Vest, Blue
US Coast Guard-approved adult life jacket; Great for wakeboarding, water skiing, and tubing
$26.84
Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket, Red, Large/X-Large
Ergonomic WRAPTURETM shaped torso; Adjustable shoulders, 4 side pulls and front waist buckle closure
$164.74
Lixada Fly Fishing Vest-Fishing Safety Life Jacket Breathable Polyester Mesh Design Fishing Vest for Swimming Sailing Boating Kayak Floating
SIZE: Universal Adult Size (Fits for the person who is less than 95kg/209lb); BREATHABLE MESH: Mesh on the back and mesh fabric inside deliver high breathability.
$45.98
Extrasport Sturgeon Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket, Olive/Black, X-Small
Four large chest pockets - two fold out to create flat workstations, one with a fly patch; Neoprene covered adjustable waist belt for a comfortable secure fit

Last update on 2020-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best PFDs for Kayaking: Our Top Picks

Read our reviews to pick your favorite PFD for your needs:

Astral Ronny Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing, and Touring Kayaking, Conifer Green, M/L

Features:
  • Has a buoyancy rating of 16 pounds
  • Extremely durable
  • Weighs 1.02 pounds
  • Free of toxic PVC

First on the list is the Astral Ronny Life Jacket PFD and it is designed for extreme situations where protection is crucial. It is made for professional anglers who paddle in tough environments.

It has multiple pockets in the front which allow you to carry small important items. This PFD is made with materials that are comfortable, durable and lightweight. At just 1.02 pounds, it is one of the lightest PFD’s you can wear.

Other notable features include excellent ventilation, ideal for whitewater rafting, and plenty of storage space. The Astral Ronny Life Jacket PFD is a great choice for male kayakers.

Pros:
  • Very lightweight PFD
  • Multiple storage pockets in the front to carry extra accessories
  • Comfortable and durable
Cons:
  • Lacks a D-ring

Stearns Pfd 2220 Cmft Fishing Lrg Grn C004 2000013804

Features:
  • It has a green with orange highlights design which is eye-catching
  • It is a US Coast Guard-approved product
  • Very comfortable
  • It has large armholes
  • Fits well

The Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series Personal Floatation Device is an amazing product that lets you carry your boat keys as well as other essentials with ease. Made from 200D nylon shell and a strong floatation foam inside, this PFD is very durable. The green color with orange highlights makes this product very pleasing on the eye.

It is US Coast Guard approved meaning you are guaranteed to be safe when you get the water while wearing this PFD. Its incredible design keeps you cool, especially on a hot summer day. 

It has very large armholes which make water activities like casting, aiming and paddling very easy. Lastly, it has a front zipper, mesh shoulders and webbing adjustments to ensure movement is not restricted and you are comfortable at all times. 

Pros:
  • It is a US Coast guard approved product
  • Very comfortable thanks to the front zipper, mesh shoulders, and webbing adjustments
  • Very durable thanks to the 200D nylon shell
  • Perfect for casting, aiming and paddling
Cons:
  • Not ideal for canoeing

Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device (Black, Large/X-Large)

Features:
  • ​Made of ultra-tough 500 denier Cordura
  • Made from Nylon
  • 7 inches high
  • 17 inches wide
  • Has a back pad and a ventilated shoulder
  • Can be hand washed with water and soap

This is a men's vest that combines comfort, freedom and good performance in the water. Its outer shell is made of ultra-tough 500 denier Cordura that is abrasion-resistant. It's a great option if you plan on whitewater rafting where contact with rocks is a given.

The inner lining is made of 200 denier oxford which is softer and offers improved comfort. The back panels are quite high while the front panels fit closely when well adjusted to prevent obstruction while paddling.

This vest has several stowage options including two big front pockets and a slotted accessory tab on the left upper back. And while it isn’t waterproof, the Stohlquist Trekker remains one of the best life jackets for kayaking.

Pros:
  • Made from Nylon and ultra-tough 500 denier Cordura for durability
  • 7 inches high and 17 inches wide making it a very comfortable PFD
  • Has a back pad and a ventilated shoulder
  • Can be hand washed with water and soap
Cons:
  • Not waterproof

NRS Chinook Fishing Lifejacket Charcoal L/XL

Features:
  • Has 7 pocket in the front
  • Plenty of room in the front thanks to its design
  • Has a mesh lower back
  •  Its PlushFIT form makes it very comfortable

This is a personal floatation device whose pockets offer unlimited storage space. It comes with seven front pockets that you can use to store anything from tippets to small boxes.

The roomy, front entry design features eight adjustment points that allow for customization of fit for security and comfort. The back panel is well ventilated and slimmed down for comfort when using kayaks with high seats. 

Other notable features of the NRS Chinook Mesh Back PFD include a fly drying patch, a coiled retractable tool clip, rod holder clips, and several attachment loops as well as D-rings. 

Pros:
  • Has 7 pocket in the front for storing essentials
  • Plenty of room in the front thanks to its design
  • Has a mesh lower back
  • Its PlushFIT form makes it very comfortable
Cons:
  • Not designed for big or tall people

Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket, One Size, Tan

Features:
  • 4 different pocket designs
  • Six adjustable straps
  • Universal fits 30 - 52 inches
  • Oversize fits of 40-60 inches

The ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket has some amazing features and one of them is the 4 different pocket designs it has. This makes it easy for you to store as well as access everything you put in the pocket.

You can store things like keys, sunscreen. Knives, whistles and more. The 6 adjustable straps allow you to move them up and down. It has ample drainage which keeps the PFD very dry when you are not using it and for breathability, it has mesh. 

Pros:
  • 4 different pocket designs for storable
  • Breathability thanks to the mesh
  • Six adjustable straps for comfort
  • Universal fits of 30 - 52 inches and oversize fits of 40-60 inches
Cons:
  • Only perfect for kayaking

STEARNS Adult Watersport Classic Series Life Vest, Blue

Features:
  • It is a US Coast Guard-approved PFD
  • Good for sporting activities like tubing, water skiing, and wakeboarding
  • Durable thanks to the 200D nylon shell
  • Lightweight
  • It has an open-sided design
  • It has 4 adjustable buckles for breathability

The Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest is a US Coast Guard-approved adult life jacket which is why many people like this product. If you are into water activities like tubing, water skiing, and wakeboarding, this is a great PFD to purchase.

It is durable and soft thanks to the 200D nylon shell it is made from and your movement is not restricted because it is lightweight. The 4 adjustable buckles and the design of the open sides make this a very comfortable vest to wear. 

Pros:
  • It is a US Coast Guard-approved PFD
  • Good for sporting activities like tubing, water skiing, and wakeboarding
  • Durable thanks to the 200D nylon shell
  • Lightweight
  • It has an open-sided design
  • It has 4 adjustable buckles for breathability
Cons:
  • Issues of size discrepancy

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket, Red, Large/X-Large

Features:
  • Has adjustable shoulders
  • Has 4 side pulls and front waist buckle
  • Roomy

This life jacket from Stohlquist is just what you are looking for if you tackle seriously rapid waters now and then. It is compact and tough and utilizes high technology materials to offer the perfect balance of security and comfort. It has textured inner panels that grip your clothing, thus preventing it from sliding up.

It also features diagonal adjustment straps that allow for easy fitting. It comes with two zippered pockets for putting small items, and the foam is concentrated around the waist to prevent obstruction of the upper body. It’s a little destructive if you bend too much and as such, isn’t the best choice if you are fishing.

Pros:
  • Has adjustable shoulders so that they feel comfortable
  • Has 4 side pulls and front waist buckle
  • Roomy so that you can carry some key items for your trip 
Cons:
  • Not for women

Lixada Fly Fishing Vest-Fishing Safety Life Jacket Breathable Polyester Mesh Design Fishing Vest for Swimming Sailing Boating Kayak Floating

Features:
  • High breathability thanks to the mesh on the back
  • Perfect for people who weight less than 209 pounds
  • Lightweight
  • Multiple pockets for storage
  • Made from the polyester shell for durability
  • Great for aiming, casting and paddling

The Lixada Fly Fishing Vest Breathable Padded Superior 209lb Bearing Life Safety Jacket is a truly comfortable vest thanks to its adjustable waist and shoulder straps. To make aiming, casting and paddling on the water very easy, it has open sides.

For durability, it is made out of polyester and an incredible 18 pockets. It is the perfect PFD for people who weigh less than 209 pounds. The breathable mesh inside and on the back make this of the most comfortable PFDs one can purchase for fly fishing.

Pros:
  • Breathability thanks to the mesh on the back
  • Perfect for people who weigh less than 209 pounds
  • Lightweight
  • Multiple pockets for storage
  • Made from the polyester shell for durability
  • Great for aiming, casting and paddling
Cons:
  • Zipper break easily

Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing and Touring Kayaking, Burnt Orange, Medium/Large

Features:
  • Fits well and very safe
  • Comfortable
  • Very breathable
  • Durable and lightweight

This PFD was designed for you to work hard and is, therefore, a great option for active rafters and kayakers. Unobtrusive shoulder straps and open sides ensure that your kayaking style isn't cramped. It also comes with six adjustment straps, two on the shoulders and two on each side, to ensure the perfect fit.

A quick-release belt and tough zipper make the Astral Buoyancy V8 incredibly secure. The foam panels are made to flex comfortably, making this vest ideal for long kayaking trips. The back panels are high enough to clear many kayak seats. It also has two pockets where you can put small items. 

Pros:
  • Fits well and very safe
  • Comfortable to wear for both men and women
  • Very breathable thanks to its design to keep you cool
  • Durable and lightweight
Cons:
  • Most customers feel the zipper doesn't hold up well

Extrasport Sturgeon Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket, Olive/Black, X-Small

Features:
  • Has adjustable shoulders
  • Roomy and front-zip design with two additional buckles
  • Has shell casing holder
  • Multiple attachment points

Last on the list is the Extrasport Sturgeon Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket life jacket. It is designed to allow anglers to kayak for up to an entire day without feeling uncomfortable. It features Glide Fit foam technology that wraps nicely around your torso and eliminates ride-up while paddling.

It comes with multiple attachment points for your kayak fishing tools. Other notable features that make this one of the best PFDs for kayaking include seven gear pockets, adjustable shoulders and sides, front entry PFD with dual closure as well as a shell casting shoulder.

Pros:
  • Has adjustable shoulders for comfort
  • Has very high visibility
  • Roomy allowing you to store essentials
Cons:
  • Not designed for women

How to Choose PFDs for Kayaking

A good personal floatation device gives you buoyancy to help you stay afloat in case you fall off your kayak. With the wide variety of choices available in the market, choosing the right PFD for you can be stressful. So how do you go about shopping for the right life jacket without getting frustrated? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Ride-Up: Grasp the life jacket by the shoulders and lift it upwards until the fabric jams under the armpits to stimulate performance while in water. If you turn your head right and left, you should be looking at your shoulder rather than foam encased in fabric. If the V-neck of the PFD crunches against your chin, then keep shopping. This is because a PFD that’s in contact with your chin is more likely to hinder maneuverability and this is not something you want happening while in rapid waters.
  • Arm Function: To determine the arm function of a PFD, you will need to take a seat and work your arms vigorously in paddling movements. If the vest chafes under the armpits, you can rest assured that it will be intolerable in the long run. In fact, keep shopping if the life jacket chafes anywhere.
  • Breathability: This is something you need to give serious thought to, particularly if you kayak in areas with hot weather. While a tight PFD offers more safety compared to a loose-fitting PFD, you don’t have to compromise your comfort. Go for a jacket that can be loosed on hot days and tightened when in rough waters.
  • Flexibility: Make sure that the vest you buy doesn’t bunch up in front and cramp arm motion when you hold your arms chest high then draw them as far inwards as possible.
  • Comfort: A comfort fit is highly important. The feel of the vest against your body should just as important as the performance it offers in water. The flexibility, cut, sizing and utility vary from one brand to another, and all of them impact on comfort.
  • Easy On, Easy Off: You may not know but some of the best PFD for sup are a pain when it comes to putting them on and off. This is acceptable if safety is the main concern. But if you are wilderness kayaking in areas where portages are the main rule, a PFD that’s easy to wear and remove is better. A life jacked with a conventional zipper on the front will suffice for this.

Conclusion

The basic function of personal floatation devices is to help remain afloat until help arrives. They are designed in such a way that they can be beneficial for both conscious and unconscious users. Given the importance of safety while kayaking, it’s important that you invest in a high quality, durable and reliable PFD for kayaking or sup. This guide has hopefully shown you that the Best PFD's For Kayakingis just around a click away and hopefully you can ensure that you invest in a PFD that best suits you.

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