Paddling is indeed a fun experience and people do love to paddle for a whole day. However, weather can be unpredictable sometimes turning your fun experience into a horrible one. And handling your vessel in horrible weather is a dangerous task even for professional paddlers.
Therefore, it is recommended to always be prepared with safety gears while going for kayaking or any other water sports. I am listing some of the best kayak life vests or top rated PFDs for kayaking.
I would highly recommend you to go fully prepared with safety gears as even if you are strong swimmer you need a buoyancy aid in case of emergency to keep you afloat.
TOP Rated PFDS
All the listed Life jackets are very light weight and won’t disturb you while paddling. You may wear them and performs all type of physical activities without being bothered.
Best Life Vests for Kayaking
Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket is our top pick and it is type III PFD with sea level buoyancy of 16lbs. It is the most comfortable life vest with ventilated back pads and adjustable shoulder pads. It also has open sides for extra ventilation which is great for hot weather.
Its cross-chest cinch harness ensures that vest does not ride up while you move or paddle. The zipper on the front comes with a grip tab which makes it easier for you to zip in and out of the jacket easily.
The amazing thing about this jacket that it is a utility life jacket which two large front pockets with zipper closure. You may use those pockets to store your suns cream or any other stuff and in order to add further storage; there is a four-way accessory lash-tab on the back.
Trekker Life Jacket is the most durable one which is made up of 500 denier Cordura® Nylon and the lining is made of 200 denier Oxford Nylon ensuring utmost durability. It is extremely light-weight and does not require any special care for storing or cleaning.
MoveVent is a perfect life vest which is designed for kayaking and other paddling sports. It gives you freedom and comfortable movements. Talking about its comfort level; it has adjustable neoprene shoulder pads along with front and rear ventilation.
It features zipper closure along with adjustable side belts for perfect fit. It is designed in such a way that holds your body and does not ride up while paddling or moving.
There are expandable zipper pockets on the front which is enough to store all your important stuffs; however, if you require additional storage then you may use lash tab on the back.
The jacket has SOLAS-grade reflective material on the exterior which is really handy in case of emergency situation.
It is made up of 200 denier nylon on the outside and soft, comfortable flotation foam on the inside.
MoveVent is a Type III PFD.
NRS cVest Mesh Back Personal Flotation Device comes up with great features. It has a zipper closure and 4 large zipper pockets to store your stuffs.
In order to attach further accessories, it has four D-rings to attach stuffs like safety whistle. It has six separate adjustable points that ensure the perfect-fit no matter what your body type is. It has a mesh lower back.
It is US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD and there is also 3M reflective accents in order to visible on water in case of emergency.
NRS cVest is a most durable vest which is made up of 400 denier nylon which ensure amazing strength even in heavy use. This life vest is perfect for sea kayaking or kayak fishing.
One thing to remember that this kayak life jacket has lot of pockets but they are not water-proof so avoid storing water-sensitive items in pocket.
Stohlquist has got some good range of life vests for kayaking that are available in the market. The Trekker PFD is comfortable, compact and really efficient jacket by Stohlquist. It is ideal for small craft and whitewater.
The outer shell of Trekker is made up of ultra-tough 500 denier Cordura which ensure the durability of your jacket. The inner lining is made up of 200 denier oxford which ensure softness and comfort.
The jacket is designed is perfect which does not annoy you while padding. The back panel is mounted bit high so that it does not stuck to your seat and ride up your neck. The front panels are close fitting when they are adjusted properly.
There are two adjustment strips on the side and two on the shoulder which ensure that it completely hold your body and does not ride up while moving.
The jacket has enough pockets for your storage; there are two big front pockets, slotted accessory tab on the left upper back. However, these storing pockets are not water-proof so seal everything before adding them to your pockets.
Edge Life Jacket is another amazing life vest by Stohlquist. It is compact and very comfortable life jacket having a large front pocket to store all your important stuffs.
It features graded sizing in order to ensure extra comfort so that small size can get small bulk as compared to the large size. It is like; S/M size has 15 lbs. of buoyancy, L/XL has 16 lbs., and the XXL has 17 lbs. of buoyancy.
There are side, waist, and shoulder waist that gives you to further adjust it for your body type. The jacket gives you amazing mobility while paddling.
The Edge has low cut, offset front entry and extra large arm hole that make sure you can easily get inside your jacket and it does not bother you while paddling.
It is US Coast Guard Approved Type III PFD and has 3M reflective accent to get extra visibility in case of emergency.
The Jacket is best fit and you can literally wear it for full days without getting annoyed. Its open sides keep it breathable and cool in hot weather.
Astral V-Eight Life Jacket is designed for active kayakers and rafters. It is a recreational fit and there is a foam in the front and back ensuring utmost comfort. Its adjustable buckles on the side and shoulder ensure the perfect fit for your body.
It is quiet ventilated jacket that can be worn for the full day without getting irritated from it.
Astral V-Eight is quiet a secure life vest with strong zipper and quick release waist band. The back panel is mounted above so that it does not stuck to the seat of your kayak.
Some of the paddlers say that it looks bulkier while wearing and pockets are not located at the ideal position; however, most of the paddlers love it.
Rocker is another PFD by Stohlquist which is among the list of best life jackets for kayaking. It is a pro paddling life jacket which is designed to handle some rough tides.
High technology material is used in making this jacket ensuring greater level of safety and comfort at the same time.
There are diagonal adjustment straps and textured inner panels holds your body completely and does not ride up while paddling or moving. There are two zipper pockets on the front to store your belongings.
Rocker is definitely one of the most comfortable kayaking life jackets in our list. There are few negligible complaints related to the comfort overall paddlers are satisfied with it.
Vapor PFD is made by the famous life jacket company called NRS. It is the best life vest for budget available in our list. It can be worn very easily and grips your body completely.
It has wide arms that help you move and paddle pretty easily. You can wear this jacket for whole day without getting irritated or uncomfortable.
There is a wide zipper pocket at the front and there is also hand warmer pouch behind the pocket. A lash tab is also given on the back of the jacket.
In order to add extra safety, there is a reflective piping used on the jacket to make it look good.
It is test by Underwriters Laboratories and Coast Guard-approved, this Type III vest exceeds the required flotation range at 16.5 pounds. Overall, it is a perfect budget life jacket.
Outfit Tour Jacket by Kokatat is designed with deep arm cut, neck holes and adjustable shoulders adding to the comfort of this jacket. You can paddle and move pretty easily wearing this jacket and doesn’t feel like wearing anything.
There is also reflective tape which adds to the safety. Lash tabs given on the front and back to store your accessories. Along with lash tabs, there are lots of pockets given for extra storage.
It is made up of 500 denier Cordura® nylon outer shell and a 200 denier nylon oxford inner shell make it a durable and strong life jacket. This is Type III PFD.
Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series is a budget life jacket in our list which is approved by US Coast Guard. It has large arm holes which let you move and paddle easily. It is fully ventilated and keep you cool in warm weather; there is mesh on the back and shoulder for additional ventilation.
It comes with a zipper closure and webbing adjustment which ensure the perfect fit.
There are also front pockets to store your belongings that remain in easy access.
It is made up of 200 denier nylon on the outer shell and flotation foam on the inside making it a durable and lightweight vest.
ONYX Youth Paddle Sports Life jacket is specially designed for teen. It is Type III PFD for teen paddlers. It has all the basic features of PFD and it is perfect for teen ranging from 50lbs to 90lbs.
It ensure perfect comfort level for the paddlers. It has foam interior, high foam back, neoprene shoulder pads and large arm holes which add to your comfort level and let you wear it whole day.
It features zipper closure and low buckle strap on the waist which ensure perfect fit.
The outer shell is made up of 200 denier nylon oxford and inner is made of foam.
Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket is designed for the lady paddlers. It has all the features that are discussed above. It has open sides and mesh back that adds to the ventilation and ensure you stay cool in warm weather.
It also features cross-chest cinch harness which prevent the ride up. Along with that it has 1-1.5” webbing belt along with dual forward pulls for a low profile fit and also a built-in supportive inner cups in order to add extra support and comfort.
It has sea level buoyancy of 16lbs.
Flo is made up of 400 x 200 denier rip stop material and the liner made of 210 denier oxford nylon making it a durable and lightweight women’s life vest.
Why you Should wear a Life Jacket or PFD?
This question might come into your mind that why you need to wear a life jacket or PFD while involving into any water sports; therefore, I am adding this piece here.
A life jacket or Personal Flotation Device aka PFD ensure that you remain buoyant in case you are thrown into the water. I would highly recommend you to get PFD for yourself even if you are professional swimmer. It will make your kayaking experience fun and safe both.
Types of PFD
There are 5 types of PFDs approved by US Coast guard and we will be discussing them one by one.
Type I PFD is designed for off-shore to use in sea, rough water or remote areas where rescue boats can take sometime to reach you in case of emergency. It is designed to be worn for long hours and keep you afloat for a longer period of time.
It is the best performing PFD and often used by commercial vessels.
These are designed for near-shore paddling which are made for calm and in-land water. These are worn where rescue teams can rescue in shorter period of time.
The Type III PFD is recommended for kayaking, fishing, boarding and other water activities. They are also designed for calm and in-land water where quick rescue is expected; however, they are designed with wide and open sides to ensure physical activities while wearing them.
It is a throawable PFD which will take the form of ring or floating cushion. These are often used by rescue teams.
These are designed for special uses and their uses are clearly mentioned on the label.
You should never skip on PFD in case you are indulging into a water sports regardless of your skills.
There are 5 types of PFDs approved by the US Coast guard. And for kayaking, paddling, fishing or any other recreational water sports, a type III PFD is required.
You can select any of the PFD listed above for yourself while going out for kayaking or paddling. You need to make sure that your vest is comfortable, durable and meet the requirements.
Moreover, do consider the storage and other relevant factors necessary for selecting the best life vest for kayaking.