The Best PFD for Kayaking Full Reviews: Woman’s and Youth Included

Best PFD for Kayaking

Looking for the best PFD for kayaking is not as straightforward as you may think! There are plenty of options to mull around such as what body type are you? What type of PFD should I wear? Is the material comfortable? Does it get in the way of my paddling motion? Are more expensive PFDs better? Take a look at pfd criteria to learn more.

I must confess that I do not have the most up to date pfd around (one of those buoy o boy life jackets) and as a result it hinders my paddling experience. This is because it is bulky, so as a result I can never get comfortable in the seat of my kayak! So in a way I’m making this guide not just for you but for myself as well when I was researching my options for a new kayak pfd. There are lots of PFD’s for diffrnet paddlers like people who go kayak fishing, sea kayaking or those just out for a casual paddle. 

Important Why wear a PFD (Life Vest)

PFDs or Life Vests have long been used for a variety of different water activities and have saved countless lives in the process. This should be enough for everyone to always wear a PFD but unfortunately not everyone does. This is because in the past they are too bulky, uncomfortable, take up too much room ect ect. Times have changed though as PFDs or Life Vests have got smaller, less bulky and a lot more comfortable (especially for kayakers).

Wearing a pfd can mean the difference between life or death in the water so there is no use of simply leaving it on shore or stowed away in a hatch that will do you no good Jack! Even if you are a good swimmer you never know what can happen or what can hinder your ability to swim. Anything from a concussion to broken arm/ leg or anything in between, it is always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario.

There was a study done by the National Boating Saftey Advisory council that stated that drowning accounted for 70% of boating fatalities and about 86% of them could of been avoided by simply wearing a PFD. The Drowning fraction in smaller vessels such as kayaks was higher as opposed to bigger boats as well. 

Don’t be one of those people please.

If you do not swim or are not a particularly good swimmer it is best that you go for a vest that features more floatation. 

Top Five Best PFDs for Kayaking: Detailed Guide

Tap (or Click) below to see Full Reviews)

Features

  • 500 Denier cordura outer shell
  • 200 denier nylon oxford interior
  • Articulated shell and foam panels
  • Full Length Front Zipper
  • Padded Adjustable shoulders with grip panels
  • Adjustable Stretch Mesh Side Panels
  • Adjustable Waist belt with Fastex buckle
  • Dual duplex zippered front pockets, electronics pocket
  • 16.5 Lbs
  • U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada Approved

One of the higher quality Life Vests out there the Kokatat Outfit Tour is a strong life preserver and can handle just about any water sport. This PFD is ideal for those who are into touring/ multi day trips for a number of reasons.

It’s just tough. Made from 500 D Cordura and a 200 D Nylon inner shell this PDF is made to last and can handle almost all of what is thrown its way. It’s stitching and quality of materials is also why it is more expensive but will last you a very long time. In my mind it is best to not skimp out on products that can potentially save your life.

>>What Customers Say>>

It’s storage potential is what’s particularly impressive. The way it is designed it is great for camping excursions or survivalists as it has storage potential for guides, an outdoor radio, first aid supplies as well as knives, fire starters, flints to say a few.

Unlike the other life vests the Outfit Tour actually has paddling on the back of it but it is shaped in a way where it is not bulky or take up too much room for your back when you are paddling.

What We Liked

  • Wide range of Arm Mobility
  • Very Durable
  • Has Ample STorage
  • Ideal for Multi Day Trips
  • Long Lasting
  • Made of Strong Materials
  • Fits Essentials you need with you at all times
  • U.S. Coast Guard Aproved
  • Transport Canada Approved
  • Ample Padding in the back
  • Fits snuggly

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Price is a bit expensive
  • Sizing is a bit off in the chest area
  • Specifically for Men

Features

  • Mesh Lower Back
  • Eight Adjustable Points
  • Seven Adjustable Pickets
  • Soft Plush Fit
  • Coil Tool Retractor to clip line snips, forceps
  • D Ring at the back
  • Strobe Holder loop
  • Rod Holder Loops
  • Knife Lash Tab
  • 16.5 Lbs

One of the highest rated PFDs for kayaking and especially kayak fishing the NRS Chinook is great for the true fisherman who wants to spend the day at the lake. It’s 7 pockets and Eight adjustable points allows it to fit to your form precisely without the vest feeling too bulky.  Fisherman oftentimes want pockets to store tackle and other sorts of gear like lines, pliers, snippers and bobbers. With so many storage options on the actual life vest you do not have to worry at all about shuffling around your gear which gives you more time to do what you love, fish!

Fisherman are often very hard to please and often times are stubborn about putting on PFDs so many times they simply throw it in the back of the kayak and forget about it which is very counterproductive. NRS has designed this jacket beautifully though as the life vest is soo form fitting that the fisherman often times forgets that they are wearing it! This is a particularly good PFD if you are fly fishing as this type of fishing requires a lot of movement and shuffling around.

This Life Vest is almost made for the fishing kayak enthusiast in mind. The back and back shoulder pad fits most kayak seats very comfortably and allows you to be comfortable throughout the day as well as longer fishing trips.

>>What Customers Say<<

Complaints on this Life vest were very far and few between. A couple of complaints were directed at the stitching and quality of the product. Particularly at the knife slot attachment. The Odd fisherman found this life vest uncomfortable, although this could be due to them ordering the wrong size.  

What We Liked

  • Excellent Rating
  • Great Mobility, does not restrict movements at all
  • Very Adjustable with Eight Straps
  • Plenty of Room for tackle and storage
  • Light Weight
  • Smartly Designed
  • Great for Long Fishing Trips
  • Great for Fly Fishing
  • Is not Intrusive

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Is not “Active Use” or “Adventure Use” Certified
  • Some Concerns on Quality of Stitching

Features

  • 500 Denier Condura shell
  • 200 Denier oxford liner
  • Cross Chest Cinch Harness for no Ride up
  • Ventilated shoulder and back pads
  • Knife Holder
  • Adjustable Padded Shoulers
  • Front Pockets
  • Grip Tab

Stohlquist Trekker Life Jacket gives you a lot of flexibility matched with storage capacity and adjustability.  This Life Jacket is great for the recreational paddler – semi serious paddler who wants room for personal belongings. Most PFDs have one big pocket and two little ones or two medium sized pockets. The Trekker actually features two large pockets in the front that you can store things like snacks, tackle first aid kits and is even big enough for todays larger phones.

The high back is very useful for kayaking as it does not get in the way of the kayak seat when paddling. Often times when I am paddling with older bulkier life jackets I am kind of forced to hunch forward and readjust. The Trekker has a mesh back to where the kayak seat would be making it a lot more comfortable.

>>What Customers Say<<

Most customers who purchased this item really liked how snug the Trekker Life Jacket was and how it could strap onto different body shapes. The multiple adjusting points make this possible as it can be fitted right onto the shape of you body.

There really are not a lot of complaints about this life vest other than the fact that the yellow color in the pictures is actually a dull orange.

What We Liked

  • Very Adjustable and Form Fitting
  • Pockets are big enough to fit phones, wallets ect.
  • Lots of room to move your arms when paddling
  • Highback is great for kayaking
  • Not Bulky
  • High Customer Satisfaction Rating
  • Great for Recreational Paddlers

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • The Yellow colour is more Orange than anything else

Features

  • Wrapture shaped torso
  • Adjustable Shoulder straps
  • Low Cut
  • Knife Holder
  • Front and Side Pockets and Zippers
  • Highly Visible Reflective Accents
  • Top Loading front pocket for secure storage
  • Mesh Sides for Ventilation
  • UL, ULC, US COast Guard and Transport Canada Approved

The Stohlquist Edge is for paddlers that want maximum mobility coupled with ample storage room. You can see from the design of the Edge that this life vest is made for your arms to be free. This makes it an ideal PFD for not just recreational kayak but also white water kayaking, sea kayaking, paddle boarding as well as sailboat racing.

The Edge features three main sizes, small/ medium for youth or female paddlers, Large/ X- Large for Male paddlers and XX-Large for Bigger Guys (or gals). Besides it’s mobility and different sizes are the fact that it is approved from four different regulatory sanctions being UL, ULC, US Coast Guard and Transport Canada Approved. A lot of times life vests are approved for one or two of these but not all four so this is a big bonus and can potentially save you from a fine or a talking to by the coast guard.

>>What Customers Say<<

This PFD has a high customer satisfaction rating especially among people who are fond of the more extreme water sports. This life vest does not just have to be used for a paddling vessel as I’ve read people who go wakeboarding, surfing as well as sailing. It also is stated to have excellent adjustability and storage with the large pocket in the front and the nice side pocket for items like chapstick, mini sunscreen sticks etc.

The main customer concerns with this vest is the fact that the main front pouch is a bit too bulky and that it does not properly fit a few women. We have a section on best womens pfds on this page.

What We Liked

  • Great for Mobility
  • Best for Activities that require a lot of Movement
  • Ample Storage room
  • UL, ULC, US Coast Guard and Transport Canada Approved
  • Fits most people well
  • Comes in 3 different sizes
  • Comfortable to wear

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Does not fit all women perfectly
  • Main Pouch is a bit bulky

Features:

  • Light Weight Soft Floatation Foam
  • Refelective grade material for visibility
  • Zippered pocket with Mesh Drainage
  • 200 denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford
  • Lash tab for small accessories
  • Safety Whistle Attached
  • Ventilation in the front and back
  • Designed to fit high back seats of kayaks
  • Durable Zipper
  • Zip Assist Loop at Zipper base
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved Class III Type Life Jacket

The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is great all in one vest to wear for shorter recreational paddling trips. I say recreational trips because it is ideal for a paddling length of about an hour to a small day trip. There is only one pocket on this life vest but it does feature a whistle and reflective material on the shoulders that allow you to be spotted for a night time paddle.

Customers report that this life vest is snug, does it’s job well and is as described. It’s vest like build does not interfere with paddle strokes which makes it ideal not just for kayaking but also canoeing and paddle boarding. A lot of people also appreciated the fact that there was a whistle attached. This actually solves a big problem when being out on the water. Often Times the CSA or U.S. Coast guard will require you to be in possession of a whistle while paddling. Sometimes you can even get charged a fine for not having one.

>>What Customers Say<<

The one major issue with this life jacket is for those that live in Canada such as myself there is no CSA Approval on the jacket, just the U.S. Coast Guard.

There were also few queries about the pockets being a bit too small and often times too small to keep a cellphone.

What We Liked 

  • Comes with Whistle
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved
  • Does not get in the way of paddle mobility
  • Comes in Multiple sizes (see chart)
  • Great for Summer Paddling (upgrade to bigger size for Winter)
  • Light Weight
  • Well Constructed
  • Meant for Recreational Paddlers

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Does not Specify if it is CSA Approved (For Canadian Folks)
  • Pockets are Small
  • Pocket does not fit Cell Phone
  • Not the Best for Long Distance Paddling or Fishing

The Best Womens PFD for Kayaking

I will have a full section on the best PFDs for women but in the meantime I will just list the best one for kayaking. Woman have different body shapes as opposed to men, as a result the fit is not optimal for them. Women’s Life jackets are usually slimmer fitting to better shape their upper body as opposed to wearing a men’s life jacket.   

Astral Linda PFD

Features

  • Designed to accommodate tall seat backs of kayaks
  • Thinvent back for ventilation
  • LightWeight PE Foam flotation
  • Large front pockets
  • Reflective Highlights at the front and rear
  • Comes in Three Different Sizes
  • 16 Lbs
  • Shell Fabric 200 Denier Nylon
  • Liner Fabric High Tenacity 200 Denier Nylon and Polyester mesh
  • High quality zipper

The best womens pfd for kayaking, the Astral Linda PFD is designed specifically to fit a woman’s body. Unfortunately for many women out there life vests are more designed for men than women and can be uncomfortable for them for a lot of different reasons.Mainly, it slide around on them when paddling making the journey uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable for long periods of time. So girls, if you are planning to spend a sufficient amount of time in the water it is best to find a pfd that is meant to fit you. Your body will thank you later!

The Astral Linda PFD is specifically designed for being in a kayak making it a superb choice for women everywhere. It also gives you ample storage room in the pockets where you can store your phone, cammer wallet or other small item.

>>What Customers Say<<

The Linda similar to the other life jackets reviewed, gives your arms a good amount of room to move and do paddling movements without having to worry about anything getting in the way.

Most of the customers are very pleased with this life vest and swear to never wear another uni-sex pfd for as long as they live since trying on this life vest. There were a couple of queries about it being a bit too bulky in the front or that the strap interfered with paddling the kayak but I think these were just down to user preference than anything else as it has a good amount of positive reviews.

What We Liked

  • Made Exactly for the Women body type
  • Made for Kayak Paddlers in mind
  • Very Adjustable
  • Ample Storage
  • Comfortable

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some Rider reported the Vest rides up a bit
  • Some Complaints about Fitting size

Best PFD for Youth

When Shopping for Youth PFD’s it is best to find one that can grow with your child as they get older. The problem with any clothing related item is that kids quickly outgrow the sizes and as a result sometimes you get less than a year out of them. When selecting the best PFD for Youth it is best to get one that grows with your child. Look for a full range of adjustability.

Stohlquist Child Drifter Personal Floatation Device 30-50 lbs

Features

  • Cross Chest Cinch Eliminates Ride- up
  • Full Mobility
  • Type III
  • One Inch Webbing Belt
  • Rugged Cordura Shell
  • Large low Profile Pocket
  • Mesh Side panels

The Stohlquist Child Drifter is perfect for Youth because it is fully adjustable which means they grow with your child. It is specifically well designed for kayaking due to the high back and does not limit movement when paddling.

The Stohlquist is snug fit for most kids and best of all is not too bulky which is often a problem for most life jackets out there.  It’s zippered pocket also provides ample room for things like wallet, phones, granola bars snacks ect.

 

>>What Customers Say<<

 

Most verified customers who ordered this life vest were happy about it’s quality and the fact that it can fit most kids of different sizes. Some of the complaints mostly were about the quality of the zipper. In some instances the zipper would come loose on activities such as sailing.

What We Liked

  • Fully Adjustable
  • Fits most kids of most sizes
  • Great for Kayaking
  • Pockets are large enough to keep phones, wallets
  • Reflective Tape is clear to see

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some Complaints about the zipper
  • Only Comes in Two Colors (Mango and Red)

Important Criteria in Choosing the Best Kayak PFDs

best pfd for kayaking
photo by worldwaits

To find the best PFD for you it is important to make a list with all of these factors and tick off which apply to you. 

What Kind of Kayaking are you Doing?

Different PFD’s suit different types of kayaking. If you were a white water paddler you would not want to wear something bulky like a NRS Chinook life vest because you need great manoeuvrability when tumbling down those rapids. Each Paddlers needs are different so keep that in mind when looking for the PFD for you and your kayak.  REI provides good criteria on PFD Criteria

Buoyancy:

This is a big one. Adults typically need 7- 12 lbs to stay afloat in the water. Most of the PFD’s recommended in this article are Type III PFD’s meaning that they have the minimum buoyancy level of 15.5 lbs to cover all bases.

Storage Capability:

This one is ultimately dependant on you and what you are doing out on the water. If you are fishing you will be more stationary than if you are doing a recreational paddle around the lake. For fishing purposes you want more storage room so as a result you want more pockets and pouches to store stuff like bait, tackle, lines, lures ect.

The same is relevant for if you are going on longer paddling trips like multi day tours. You will be bringing more equipment as a result and will looking for something with more pouches for things like first aid equipment lights, emergency flares ect.

Durability:

It is self explanatory that your lifejacket should be able to hold up against the elements and this is often the main factor as to what makes life jackets more expensive than other ones like my Bouy o Bouy example.

Life jackets are definitely not one of those things where you should cheap out on. Some qualities of good life jackets include having resilient material such as nylon or neoprene.

U.S. Coast Guard or CSA Approved:

best pfd for kayaking

This is a big one that many people often forget to check. If you live in Canada make sure that your life jacket is CSA Approved. If you live in the U.S.A make sure to look for the life vest being U.S. Coast Guard Approved. It will usually state so in the product description or on the back side of the life vest. Always check to see if each life jacket is approved by your country’s safety guidelines.

Comfort:

 

Last of all and perhaps one of the most important factors in finding a proper fitting PFD is to make sure that it fits your body correctly and that you are comfortable paddling with it on. Check the sizing guides and the “Fit as Expected” Rating to make sure that they are accurate. The “Fit as Expected Rating” is based off of what previous customers have purchased in the past and shows how accurate the manufacturers sizing guide is.

You want to make sure you get a PFD that does not give you too much bulk in the front, get in the way of your paddling strokes and gives enough clearance for a seatback. The Life Vest should be snug and comfortable and nothing should be rubbing against anything. If it is chances are it is not adjusted properly or form fitted enough.

Conclusion

Kayaking is a great family and friend bonding activity that can keep you active, fit and happy . It is not without its risks though. To cut these risks by more than 80% it is best to wear a PFD that is both comfortable to wear for the full day and comparable for the paddling activity that you are doing.

Always make sure that your PFD is approved by the water safety governing body. This will not only save you some potential future fines but will also potentially save your life.

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