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

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

ImageNameFeature
    Special Features
  • Ergonomic WRAPTURETM shaped torso
  • Adjustable shoulders, 4 side pulls and front waist buckle closure
  • High visibility 3MTM reflective accents
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Astral Buoyancy V-Eight PFD - UnisexAstral Buoyancy V-Eight PFD - Unisex
for use in warm weather
Astral Buoyancy V-Eight PFD - Unisex
    Special Features
  • Designed for recreational kayak or canoe touring
  • 2-Large and expanding mesh zippered pockets keep essentials handy
  • Super high mesh back provides a great fit for tall kayak seat backs
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Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation DeviceStohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device
hand Wash with Soap and Water
Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device
    Special Features
  • Cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride-up
  • Ventilated shoulder and back pad
  • Hand Wash Soap and Water
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Kokatat Maximus Prime Personal Flotation Device - Men's Yellow, XS/SKokatat Maximus Prime Personal Flotation Device - Men's Yellow, XS/S
Kokatat Maximus Prime Personal Flotation Device - Men's Yellow, XS/S
    Special Features
  • Pockets: 1 large front, 1 electronic
  • Tow Compatibility: yes
  • USCG Type: V
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    Special Features
  • Designed for recreational kayak or canoe touring
  • Contoured foam and soft mesh liner promote air flow
  • 2-Large and expanding mesh zippered pockets keep essentials handy
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Astral Ringo Lifejacket (PFD)-Basalt Black-S/MAstral Ringo Lifejacket (PFD)-Basalt Black-S/M
Astral Ringo Lifejacket (PFD)-Basalt Black-S/M
    Special Features
  • Secure front pocket with internal divider and key clip
  • 1/4 front entry zipper for easy entry and exit
  • Kapok center panel to comfortably cover and fit varying chest sizes
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    Special Features
  • Big stretch mesh pockets with interior organizers
  • Rescue PFD designed for whitewater professionals with rescue training
  • Media portal for radio antenna, lash tabs and tethered whistle
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NRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD Orange L/XLNRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD Orange L/XL
NRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD Orange L/XL
    Special Features
  • Mesh Lower Back for Ventilation
  • Roomy Front Entry Design
  • PlushFIT Foam Conforms to Body
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Extrasport Osprey Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life JacketExtrasport Osprey Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket
Extrasport Osprey Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket
    Special Features
  • Front-zip design with two additional buckles 
  • Adjustable mesh shoulder straps and adjustable side straps
  • Shell casing holder and multiple attachment points for your gear 
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MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD Life JacketMTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD Life Jacket
MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD Life Jacket
    Special Features
  • Three-buckle front closure
  • Two side adjustments
  • Fishing bridge is a handy drop-down platform usable as workspace to tie-on flies or bait
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This life jacket from Stohlquist is just what you are looking if you tackle seriously rapid waters every 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.

Astral Buoyancy V-Eight PFD - UnisexAstral Buoyancy V-Eight PFD - Unisex

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.

Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation DeviceStohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

This is a men’s vest that combines comfort, freedom and good performance in 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 are 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 kayak.

Kokatat Maximus Prime Personal Flotation Device - Men's Yellow, XS/SKokatat Maximus Prime Personal Flotation Device - Men's Yellow, XS/S

This is a life jacket that is packed with innovations and features that come in handy for both saltwater and freshwater kayakers. It provides by far the best fit, comfort and range of motion compared to any other Kokatat PFDs. It comes with extra wide and padded shoulder straps that let you secure the vest without getting in your way.

Despite having a large amount of foam, the Kokatat Maximus Prime Rescue PFD is delightfully light. It has a generously sized pocket that allows you to bring along small accessories. It offers an accessory panel that attaches securely to the chest panel and which can be used to store your VHF radio when paddling.

Astral Buoyancy is a company that is known for pushing the limits of design and building some of the most comfortable, functional and stylish PFDs. The Astral Sea is no exception. Its design is based on the comfortable and adjustable platform. It also features the same foam tectonics technology that’s found in other Astral life jackets.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of this PFD is its ample chest pocket with dual zippers that provides room for storing small items. It also features a crafty fleece lined hand warmer pouch that’s useful for the colder days as well as a lightweight, durable ripstop outer nylon.

Astral Ringo Lifejacket (PFD)-Basalt Black-S/MAstral Ringo Lifejacket (PFD)-Basalt Black-S/M

This PFD is designed for extreme situations where protection is crucial. It is made for professional anglers who paddle in tough environments. It comes with a different component that feature two fleece lined pockets and four front pockets for carrying small important items.

This PFD is made with materials that are comfortable durable and highly visible from a distance. Other notable features include excellent ventilation, ideal for whitewater rafting, and plenty of storage space. The MTI Adventurewear Headwater High Buoyancy PFD is a great choice for male kayakers.

MTI Adventurewear Headwater R SPEC High Buoyancy Rescue PFD Life Jacket, Red/Aluminum, X-Small/SmallMTI Adventurewear Headwater R SPEC High Buoyancy Rescue PFD Life Jacket, Red/Aluminum, X-Small/Small

This is one of the best PFDs for sup and it comes in handy for swimmers and paddlers. If you are a serious paddler who needs something that won’t slow them down, the MTI adventurewear PFD is a great choice. It comes with a soft, PVC – free foam floatation panel that allows for great comfort. It also features side entry with quick release buckles that make putting on and off easy.

The 500D Cordura shell offers additional protection. The interior side is made of soft, stretchy fabric that provides breathability in hot weather. You can also use the lash tab to attach your tab. This PFD comes in a variety of colors, sizes and at an affordable price.

NRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD Orange L/XLNRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD Orange L/XL

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.

Extrasport Osprey Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life JacketExtrasport Osprey Canoe/Kayak Rafting Fishing Personal Flotation Device/Life Jacket

This life jacket offers the amount of storage that every angler needs. 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.

MTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD Life JacketMTI Adventurewear Solaris F-Spec Kayak Fishing PFD Life Jacket

This is a Type III floatation device that is specially designed for kayak fishing. Its Fishing Bridge and Fishing Bay features provide ample space for storing your tackle and tools. It has seven adjustment points that allow you to customize the PFD for almost any body size. It also has a D-ring on the back for tethering your net, adjustable shoulder straps, two additional zippered cargo pockets, reflective front and back trim as well as a design buoyancy of 16 lbs 5 oz.

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.

Buoyancy: This refers to the amount of force in pounds that is required to keep one’s face and chin above the water. Other factors that impact on whether or not you stay afloat are the roughness or calmness of the water, your weight, clothing, lung size and body fat. To check the buoyancy of your PFD, relax your body and tilt your head back. You will need a PFD with more buoyancy if your mouth isn’t above water.

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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