If you are in a rush, The is the Body Glove Women’s Phantom Neoprene Life Jacket
Seasoned kayakers and watersport enthusiasts know that a life vest, or personal flotation device (PFD), is probably the most important piece of equipment you need when out on a kayak, paddle board or boat. It doesn’t matter if you are leisurely kayaking or traveling long-distance, you need to find a life vest that fits you snugly and securely. Women have a few more considerations to keep in mind when choosing a PFD including a smaller fit, safety, and comfort. Here are a few tips on how to find the best ladies life jacket and a few reviews to help you start shopping.
The Best Women’s Life Vests are as follows:
- Body Glove Women’s Phantom Neoprene Life Jacket
- Astral V-Eight PFD – Women’s
- Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket
- MTI Spirit PFD – Women’s
- O’Brien Women’s V-Back Life Jacket
Best Women’s Life Vest Criteria
How to Choose a Womens Life Vest
I am woman hear me roar! Women, just like men love to indulge in a varity of different water sports. Up until the last 20 years there have not been a lot of choices for them to do the activities that they love for long, because they would often be restricted by their PFD. If you happened to have big boobs but had a more petite figure you would have to lug around a bulky pfd designed specifically for men.
Fastforward to present day and there are a varity of PFD’s designed specifically for women that do not make you feel constricted in your chest area while you are doing activties from paddling paddle boards, to hanging off a boat on water skis.
You also want to make sure it has safety features including reflective strips to make sure you can be easily spotted by others as well as a place to securely store your radio or GPS. A bright colored PFD will also help to make sure other boaters and rescue crew can spot you easily.
The US Coast Guard has approved five different types of PFDs that can be used for many different activities.
Type I PFD
This is a commercial style, life jacket made for off-shore use. It is made of foam that will give you 22 pounds of flotation. It is easy to put on, is reversible, and will give you the most buoyancy. It is effective in any type of water, particularly if you are somewhere where a rescue could be delayed. It is also designed to help an unconscious user turn face up in the water.
Type II PFD
This is a buoyancy vest made for use near the shore is also made of foam giving you 15.5 pounds of flotation. There is also an inflatable version giving you 33.5 pounds of flotation. Created for situations where you will be able to have a fast rescue or if you are in calm, inland water. It does not turn over all unconscious users in the water face up like a Type I can.
Type III PFD
This is a flotation aid that has 15.5 pounds of flotation when made of foam and 22.5 pounds of flotation with the inflatable version. They are both comfortable, lightweight, and good for those users that are conscious when a fast rescue is possible or where they are in calm, inland water. If you are able to make sure you are in a face-up position in the water this is a flotation aid that is safe for you to use. It has the same minimum buoyancy as Type II PFD and is available in many sizes and colors. Plus it is the most comfortable to wear continuously.
Type IV PFD
A throwable device has between sixteen and twenty pounds of flotation that is best used in calm, inland water where a fast rescue is possible. It was created to throw to a person who is conscious and is able to hold it until they are rescued. This is not a flotation device that can be worn and should be used along with a PFD you can wear. This type of device can be either a horseshoe buoy, ring buoys, or a buoyant cushion.
Type V PFD
This category includes special use devices that are used in conjunction with the conditions that are approved by its label.
Standard vs. Inflatable
Even though most PFDs you will find on the market are standard, there are also inflatable PFD’s that could be right for you and your needs.
Seen by most recreational users, a standard PFD has a vest design and uses foam or some other flotation material to keep it buoyant. There are many benefits to standard PFDs including:
- Buoyancy: One of the best things about it is that it is just buoyant without having to inflate it. You just have to make sure you put it on correctly.
- Easy to Maintain: Just keep it clean and dry it out after use to maintain the standard PFD.
- Versatility: You can use a standard PFD for lots of different activities including fishing, waterskiing, paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking. You can even get a pfd for your dog!
- Pockets: You will find pockets on a standard PFDs that are great to store your phone, keys, sunscreen, emergency equipment, tools, and snacks.
There are also a few negatives to a standard PFD including bulkiness that can restrict your movements, and they are very hot to wear on a summer day. Luckily there are women’s life jacket options out there that feature ventalation.
Newer to the PFD world than the standard PFD, an inflatable PFD can be either a waist pack or vest. Handy for use when paddle boarding, canoeing, or kayaking, inflatable PFD are thinner when they aren’t inflated so they are comfortable when you are wearing them. Depending on their design, they can be labeled as either a Type III or Type V USCG-approved PFD.
Inflatable PFD’s can be inflated either manually or automatically. When using the manual style, simply pull the cord activating the CO2 gas cartridge inside which inflates the vest. When it is submerged in water, the automatic design will inflate the PFD. Typically, you see the manual design most often for sporting activities like paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking since it will more than likely get wet. There are many benefits to an inflatable PFD including:
- Comfort: The thin design of the inflatable PFD is comfortable and shouldn’t limit your movement when you are paddling.
- Cool: Since they don’t cover up as much of your body as a standard PFD will, the inflatable PFD will keep you cooler and comfortable on a hot day.
Some drawbacks of an inflatable PFD include the need for inflation before it will work as a floatation device which can be hard to do if you are injured or unconscious. They also require regular maintenance to make they will work right and after each inflation, you need to the CO2 cartridge. They are also not for everyone and are definitely high impact sports like waterskiing, whitewater rafting, or whitewater kayaking, and they should not be worn by children under 16 years old.
On occasion, you will find a combination of an inflatable PFD and a standard PFD. They are a bit more expensive but they give you a good mix of comfort and buoyancy in a compact unit.
A chest measurement is used to size a PFD for an adult with sizes varying depending on the model and manufacturer. Typically, a size chart will be listed on a manufacturer’s website. You want to make sure that the PFD is comfortable. Otherwise people will often discard the life vest to the floor of the boat. Unfortunately PFD’s are not as effective floating down the stream while you are in the water!
Depending on your body type, some models will fit certain body types better than other models will so it is best to try on PFDs before you purchase them to make sure it is the right size and fit for you.
Some factors you should know before purchasing a life vest are:
- Chest size
- Do movements related to the water sport you are doing when trying one on
- Look for bust lines
As you try on different PFD, first make sure all the straps are as loose as possible. Then, start with the lowest strap and begin to adjust them working their way up to the top. You want to make sure the vest is sitting where it should for maximum safety, plus it should have a snug fit. If all the straps are tightened to their maximum capacity and it doesn’t fit snugly, then the vest is too large for you. Or, if you vest is tightened to its maximum capacity and fits snugly, but there is no way to adjust it to layer more gear, the vest is too small for you. If the vest fits you perfectly, you should still have room to layer more gear and wear it with minimal clothing.
For a quick test to make sure it does fit right, you should be able to put your thumbs under the shoulder straps and push them upward. If the vest moves up a lot, it is too loose, but if it stays in place, it fits you right.
PFD’s that are specifically for women will have shorter panels and give you more room in the chest area. They also tend to come in more feminine designs and color. Women don’t have to get a PFD that is designed for women as a unisex vest can often work just as well, but a PFD designed just for women will usually fit better and be more comfortable with its feminine and curvy shape at the front of the vest.
To keep your head above water, a typical adult will need between seven and twelve pounds of added flotation or buoyancy. Modern PFD’s are designed to give more than fifteen pounds of buoyancy and still allow you to move around easily and maintain a low-profile.
When deciding on a PFD, always read the label to make sure it will work with your weight and body composition. A good rule of thumb is that the more flotation or buoyancy a PFD features, the higher it will lift you out of the water.
A good way to check the flotation of your PFD is to test it out in shallow water. Don’t tread water but just relax your body and see if you can comfortably float while still being able to keep your mouth from getting wet. If you can, then the PFD has enough buoyancy for you.
Lightweight and cheap, nylon is most commonly used in life vests used for watersports due to the freedom of movement they give you in comparison to other materials. A neoprene life vest is better for colder climates and use in open water as they give you more warmth when in the water, are more buoyant, and have a little bit of stretch. Other materials used in PFDs include:
Gaia: Foam-based, Gaia is an organic nitrile compound. This is an eco-friendly material that is halogen, CFC, and PVC free, plus it is also softer than PVC foam and is able to and fight cold and heat well. This low-density material is easy to clean and lightweight without holding back on performance.
Kapok: A fluffy fiber that surrounds the seeds of the kapok tree, kapok is durable and water-resistant never losing its buoyancy, plus it is compostable.
PVC: Typically used in most life vests, PVC is the made of polyvinyl-chloride. This material is resistant to sunlight, flames, and oil. Because it has both chlorine and oil in it, you cannot recycle it easily.
Pockets: Handy for keeping small items close by, pockets are also great when you need to warm your hands.
Number of Zippers and Buckles: You get better fit and customization with a higher number of buckles and zippers.
Segmentation: Cut in a specific way that lets the jacket have better motion, segmentation makes a PFD more comfortable as well as more expensive to make.
Mesh Drain Panels: Panels allow water to drain and the vest to dry faster.
Color: A PFD is a bright color lets the user be seen more easily if they get in trouble in the water.
Reflective Tape: Provides better visibility in low visibility conditions.
Tabs: Allowing you to attach accessories to your body, this is a handy way to keep whistles, tools, strobes, and knives handy.
Fishing Holders: Convenient for carrying lures and flys, tools, and fishing rods.
Best PFD’s for Women Reviews
Packed with features, the Body Glove women’s Phantom Neoprene Life Vest Women’s is a stylish and simple PFD with less bulk. Constructed of high-grade neoprene, this PFD has beveled and shaped flotation panels made with PVC foam giving you a lot of buoyancy in one jacket without stopping your ability to move around. Large armholes and spandex sides also give you a lot of freedom of movement when you are either water skiing or kayaking.
The neoprene Phantom is an easy to adjust vest with two waist belts so you get the best fit and prevent it from slipping out of place. Glide-Lock material is printed on the lining to help keep it in place. Make sure it is tight when you put it on since it will loosen up a bit when it is wet so make sure it is just tight enough to zip it up but not any looser than that.
The foam panels and the actual vest are shaped to fit a woman’s body. The Phantom comes with a high-quality finish and is available in two different color designs. There are also some great features including a D-ring attached at the bottom for smaller accessories, a front zipper with an easy to grip rubber pull tab, and three strategically placed holes that allow water to drain out for fast drying.
- The smaller size fits well to a woman’s body
- Great color and design
- Let’s you move freely without feeling restricted
- Sizing is off with mid-size to small for some women but the large size is too bulky
If you are planning on some long paddling adventures, you want a PFD that will be comfortable and keep you cool. Combining airflow technology along with an ergonomic design, the Astral V-Eight PFD for Women features light construction with a high mesh back. This jacket is built specifically to wear when you are paddling with its tear-drop shape and low arm openings.
The Astral V Eight has many features that will help you stay cooler when you are out on the water. Allowing ventilation as you paddle, this comfortable jacket features cutouts that are strategically placed letting air escape from the jacket. The soft, wide open weave mesh lets air and sweat travel away from your body and inside surface is textured reducing body contact and allowing channels of air to move around your body.
Covered with ripstop nylon, the Astral V-Eight PFD comes with a comfortable polyester mesh lining and a solid back section along with a secure pocket on the front that is convenient for holding larger objects and a sturdy lasting tab that keeps a knife or other gear secure. It is easy to adjust so it feels totally natural when you wear it and features a front entry that makes it easy to get in and out of it. With the preshaped foam construction, this is a great PFD choice for a woman that looks great and fits well.
- Has tons of flotation
- Great price for a good product
- The position of the back won’t interfere with a seat in a kayak
- Difficult to swim in for smaller people
- Not as soft as one would like
For a cool fit, the lightweight Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket features a comfortable sculpted foam chest and a high back flotation that will fit comfortably above the back of the seats on a kayak. This is a high-performance vest made with a ripstop outer shell and soft inner liner. Equipped with mesh back and shoulders and open sides for increased ventilation, it also comes with large bellow pockets for easy drainage
Made of a PE Foam that is lightweight and comfortable, the Flo Life also has an inner mesh lining that improves the wearability and coolness of the jacket. With this jacket, you don’t have to worry about extra flotation material hanging out with its snug and comfortable fit. Plus, it has a great color selection and the color-block effect is an attractive feature.
Featuring a cross-chest cinch harness that won’t ride up, the Flo Life also has supportive inner cups that are built-in which is great for a female paddler. This vest is easy to adjust for a snug fit and also features a neoprene padded waistband and several useful pockets that you can use for your phone and keys.
- Nice quality and fits well in the front
- Back of vest has thick padding
- Perfect for kayaking because of its high back
- Doesn’t have an extra buckle under the zipper
- Snaps are difficult to close
Nicely designed to mix the coolness of a vented PFD and the support a woman needs, the MTI Spirit PFD includes a special bust fit system that gives you great support and distribution of pressure with foam pads that are removable. It also features a high back style and a vented mesh lower back that works on a tall seat on kayaks. The high back style also stops the jacket from riding up and provides increased ventilation so you have a comfortable day paddling.
The Spirit also includes a ton of features including two large front pockets that can zipper shut giving you enough room for your cellphone and any items you will need to use during the day. A 3-buckle front closure is handy for easy removal and the two cinch straps on the side as well as the shoulder straps are adjustable so you can make sure you have just the right fit. You also get extra storage with the secure sunglass loops and the key clip in pocket that will keep your keys secure while you are out on the water.
Other features include reflective trim so you will be easily seen in low light while an included tethered whistle improves your safety and meets Coast Guard requirements. Plus, you get a daisy chain on the back of the Spirit gives you shoulder attachment points for a fishing net, strobe light, or anything else you want to take along on the water.
- Nice that it is specially designed for a woman
- Very comfortable with handy pockets
- Straps are very easy to adjust to give you a personal fit
- Need more adjustable bust support
Featuring large armholes and a stretch panel in the back, the O’Brien Flex V-Back was made for mobility and comfort. Multiple sides and front hinge points in the segmented panels helps the jacket move with your body while the BioLite construction makes it lightweight and increases breathability so it dries faster and gives you more comfort. For watersport enthusiasts, this is the ideal jacket to give you enough range of motion while keeping you safe in the water.
Designed to stretch and give you a snug fit, the O’Brien should be worn with a tight fit, if it seems too large, go a size smaller. With a zip closure and two buckles, you are guaranteed to have enough room to move around in while still staying comfortable, plus you get a PWC lanyard attachment ring so you can attach small items securely. This stylish and safe PFD will mold to your body giving you a custom fit that is breathable and comfortable.
- Great color and feel
- Perfect for trick skiing
- Well-made and not too bulky
- Sizes run small
The winner of the best women’s life vest roundup is the Body Glove Women’s Phantom Neoprene Life Jacket. The Body Glove comes with tons of features in a stylish and simple PFD. With less bulk, the high-grade neoprene PFD features beveled and shaped flotation panels made with PVC foam that gives you tons of buoyancy in one jacket without limiting your ability to move around.
Large armholes and spandex sides give you the freedom to move when you are either water skiing or kayaking while the Glide-Lock material has printed lining to help keep it in place. This neoprene Phantom is an easy to adjust vest with two waist belts so you get the best fit and prevent it from slipping out of place and includes foam panels and the actual vest are shaped to fit a woman’s body.
The Phantom comes with a high-quality finish and is available in two different color designs. Some of the many features include a D-ring attached at the bottom for smaller accessories, a front zipper with an easy to grip rubber pull tab, and three strategically placed holes that allow water to drain out for fast drying. The definite winner of the best women’s life vest roundup is the Body Glove Women’s Phantom Neoprene Life Jacket han