Are you worried about getting the best PFD for kayaking? Are you planning to change your old jacket for a better one but don’t know how to purchase the best one? We know getting the best life jacket is a matter of life and death because if you buy the wrong kind, you risk your life at sea. We went into research about the best PFD jacket for kayaking to make your purchase decision easy.
A personal flotation device or PFD keeps users safe from drowning when thrown overboard. A PFD remains a vital piece of equipment for your kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, white water rafting, and so on. After careful research, we’ve put this post together to help you solve your life jacket problems. Please read on to unravel the information embedded in this post.
How To Choose The Best Personal Flotation Device
PFDs come in different types and uses which can be confusing to buy. However, reading our detailed tips you will discover how to choose the best PFD. Furthermore, you will also find the reasons behind the using life vests or PFDs.
Why Use A Personal Flotation Device?
A Personal Flotation Device or PFD protects the life of the wearer when in water. You cannot be too careful when it comes to water activities or anything that has to do with swimming or traveling on water. It’s like driving a car, no matter how perfect you are as a driver you still must put on your seat belt. The buoyancy of the life jacket for kayaking makes it easy for you to get back unto your kayak if you accidentally fall overboard.
A personal flotation device for kayaking and other life vests come to the aid of the wearer in the open water when accidents occur. The strongest swimmer needs to wear a vest to protect him or her if they get injured or fall unconscious. Also, the use of PFDs come backed with regulations like seat belt usage.
Here we give you the features you can use to narrow down your search for a kayaking life jacket:
Types of Personal Flotation Devices
A kayaking PFD comes grouped into standard or inflatable. The group also falls under five categories – types I to V. We have elaborated them in detail below:
Type I PFD
This offshore foam life jacket comes in a generic and commercial style. It offers the utmost buoyancy; it’s usually reversible and easy to use. It works effectively in all water conditions. Its efficient design makes it turn most unconscious users face-up in water.
They can be used in open water, turbulent, or rough seas or remote areas that are distant for rescue boats. They are the best performing life jackets, wearable for a long time and used by commercial vessels. If you kayak for leisure, the Type I vest might not be proper for you.
Type II PFD
This near-shore life jacket is also made from foam, although it can even come as an inflatable buoyancy vest for the highest floatation. It works best in calm, inland water and water conditions needing a quick rescue. Although it also can turn unconscious user face-up, it’s not as effective as its Type I counterpart.
Type III PFD
Also called flotation aids, Type III PFDs come in foam and inflatable. They are lightweight, comfortable, and more convenient to use than the first two. They are fantastic for conscious wearers in calm inland waters and quick rescue situations. Flotation aids do not work like the first two that turn wearers’ faces up. The wearer must adjust his or her face-up in the water.
Type III PFDs offer the same of buoyancy as Type II. They are perfect for continuous use and come in diverse colors. Type III PFDs compliment the physical activities of the wearer, and if you engage in kayaking, fishing, water skiing, etc., type III is the ideal PFD for you.
Type IV PFD
People use Type IV PFD or throwable devices in rescue situations. Usually thrown to conscious people struggling in the water to hold till rescue arrives. Type IVs are devices and not jackets, they come in diverse shapes, e.g. rings, horseshoes, etc. and work perfectly when used with a worn life jacket.
Type V PFD
PFDs of this class are made for specific purposes and activities. They are not conventional devices but special ones that come with usage instructions on their labels. Each Type V device has information about the conditions and user activities on its label.
Standard Vs. Inflatable
The best PFDs for kayaking come as standard or inflatable. While Standard PFDs are made of foam and are commonly available, inflatable PFDs depend on air to give them buoyancy.
These are most common and make use of foam to create their flotation features. Usable for canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding.
- They need little or no maintenance.
- Usable for various water sports and activities.
- They are easy to use, no inflating needed.
- They have pockets for convenient storage.
- They can be a bit bulky and restrictive.
- They can be uncomfortable, hot, and heavy.
Inflatable PFDs can be regular vests or waist packs and also include Type IV devices described as throwables. They come as either manual, which inflates when you pull a cord or automatic which inflates on its own when submerged in water.
- They are smaller and slimmer and more comfortable to wear.
- They are remarkably lighter and cooler.
- They require inflating to work which can be a problem if the wearer becomes unconscious.
- Not recommended for high-impact water activities.
- They need lots of maintenance.
Size of PFD for kayaking
Kayaking life jackets come in different sizes perfect fitting. The best kayak life jacket you buy should not be too tight, else it will restrict the wearers movement. Conversely, it must not be too loose, or it might slip off, putting the user in danger.
The sizes and fittings include:
To select the best fitting kayak life jacket, consider the following tips:
- When buying a PFD for your child, base the size on the weight of your child. However, for adults, the measurement is based on chest size.
- Try the vest on by loosening all straps. After wearing it, close and tighten the straps from the waist up to the shoulders.
- To test to see if the vest is too big, pull it up from the shoulder straps. If the vest pulls up around your head, it’s too big.
- After strapping the vest on yourself, try a few different movements to ensure you can functionally do the activities you intend to do by imitating the motions.
- Do not depend solely on the sizes on the label because sizes depend on the brand since PFDs come as unisex and a small in one brand could be a medium in another.
Comfort of Kayaking PFD
Do you know many people who drown do not wear their PFDs even though they own one? Many refuse to wear their PFDs because of comfort. What use is a PFD if you refuse to wear it? Hence, you need to get a good PFD for kayaking, since you will always have to wear it.
Check the size of the PFD to ensure it fits snuggly and consider underclothing allowance too. Note the materials inside the jacket, the shoulder padding, and so on. If you go kayaking, you need to get the most comfortable PFD for kayaking you can always rely on. A good life vest for kayaking comes with larger armholes for seamless and comfortable rotation of the shoulders and arms when paddling.
When making a purchase, put it on and try paddling or rotating your arms simulating a paddling action. If the vest makes it difficult to paddle, try another one. Alternatively, you can try circling your arms to see places where your arms rub against or catch the side of the PFD. If it does, change for one that doesn’t.
Durability of life jacket
A kayak life vest is not something you buy every day, so you should buy one that lasts. Durability should be resistant with contact with hard surfaces or extreme salt water. How can you best buy one with resilient materials able to withstand such conditions? A nylon or neoprene material life vest for kayaking will come in handy for this purpose. Life jackets made of nylon are used for paddle sports because they are lighter than neoprene.
Buoyancy and flotation
In Physics, buoyancy refers to the force exerted on an object that wholly or partly immersed in a fluid. As Regarding PFDs, buoyancy means the force required to keep the head of an individual wearing a PFD above water. Weight: body fat ratio, and water refer to the conditions that contribute to the required flotation level for a person.
For example, an adult requires 7 to 12 pounds to stay above water. However, according to the US Coast Guard, a Type III PFD must have a minimum buoyancy level of 15.5 pounds. Due to advanced technology, modern kayak PFDs have well over 15 pounds of buoyancy but are still comfortable to wear and move when put on. To choose the best kayaking PFD, read the label to get its compatibility with your body’s composition/weight. Higher buoyancy or flotation means you will float above water.
If you have a life jacket you think is the best kayak fishing PFD, you can check its buoyancy by putting it on then lay in shallow water without treading. If you are able to float comfortably having your mouth entirely out of the water, then it has enough buoyancy, if the reverse, stop using it.
Pockets, pouches, hydration bladders, and D rings add to the usefulness of a personal flotation device for kayaking, although the primary function is safety. You can use the pockets as storage for items like snacks, sun cream, etc. Also, people who kayak for an extended period can put water in the hydration bladder which they can drink while on the water. You can also attach different objects to the D-rings for convenience.
When buying a PFD for kayaking, consider storage, though it is not of primal importance.
PFDs come in different shapes, sizes, and styles. As a water sports enthusiast, you should now know how to buy the best PFD for kayaking. The type you should buy depends on your water activity.
Top-10 best pfd for kayaking in 2019
Personal safety is hugely important when kayaking and this vest is an absolutely essential safety item when kayaking on open water or on large lakes. Furthermore, the safety of others travelling with you is important too. You want peace of mind – you want to know that if have an accident and capsize, your flotation device will keep you safe. Fear not, we can help! We have expert knowledge of PFD’s (personal flotation devices) for use when sailing. The following are 10 top PFDs that will keep you secure on the water:
Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket by Onyx – best pfd for kayaking in 2019
Onyx specializes in safety gear and accessories such as fishing garments, high-vis work-wear and of course life preservers. The Youth Paddle Sports is a brilliant model and has a plethora of useful features. It is undoubtedly our best personal floatation device for kayaking on our list. It is suitable to fit youths between 50 to 90 lbs and is perfect for use when kayaking. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this item:
– Neoprene shoulder pads
– Expandable zippered pocket with drainage
– Six adjustable straps in total
– Lightweight and compact design
– Offers safety without compromising maneuverability
– Available in both red and yellow designs
– Has a high foam back that is suitable for high backed seats
-Does not have a strap that fits between your legs to prevent rising
The Youth Paddle Sports garment is a superb product. The design is simple but effective and the material will keep you buoyant in the water.Check on Amazon
NRS Vapor PFD – best life jacket for kayaking in 2019
NRS supplies a range of equipment such as safety shoes, knifes, outdoor gear and luggage. The NRS Vapor offers 16.5lbs of buoyancy and is suitable for kayaking – it is classed as a Type III model. It features an ergonomic design that snugly fits over your shoulders and around your waist. Moreover, it is made from flexible and soft material that is comfortable but still provides the safety you require. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this item kayaking life jacket:
– 6 adjustment straps to fit a range of builds and sizes
– Lash tab you can secure a whistle or knife too
– Created from 200D Nylon and PVC foam
– Available in several sizes
– Available in four colors: blue, yellow, red and black
– All straps can be easily adjusted for comfort
– Side-entry design which makes it easier to put on
– Can get warm in hotter temperatures
– No front zipper (must remain closed at all times)
NRS have created a simple but effective product suitable for sailing and kayaking. It is predominantly an adult garment but can easily be adjusted.Check on Amazon
Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series Personal Floatation Device – top rated life vest for kayaking
Coleman provide a fantastic range of outdoor equipment such as BBQ’s, tents, camping furniture, and safety products. The Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series is a brilliant Type III PFD. It is one of the bulkier items on our list, but is still one of the best life vests for kayaking. It has been designed in such a way to offer excellent comfort and padding. Moreover, it is approved by the United States Coast Guard. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this best kayak life jacket:
– Visible design with high-vis strips
– Approved by US Coast Guard
– Front zipper and adjustable webbing/straps
– Available in 6 different sizes
– Has large arm holes that can be adjusted to suit
– Shoulders have mesh padding for extra comfort
– Made from durable 200D Nylon
– Quite bulky – could restrict movement
– Not the lightest model available
It is always reassuring that a product is approved by the Coast Guard – you are guaranteed of its quality as a lifesaving item. This product is well-made and offers high levels of comfort, it is also reasonably priced.Check on Amazon
Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket – most comfortable kayak life vest
Stohlquist Waterware have a fantastic range of outdoor gear such as tideline boots, wet gear, dry suits, and more. The Men’ Ebb product has excellent reviews and is defined as a Type III product. It offers a buoyancy of 16lbs and is approved by Transport Canada. It is made from durable material but can be hand washed with soap and has a great shelf-life. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this most comfortable life jacket for kayaking:
– 400×200 ripstop shell
– 210 denier Oxford liner
– Neoprene waistband with padding
– Available in three sizes
– Padded shoulder straps
– Made from a combination of durable materials
– Straps and waistband are adjustable
– Extremely lightweight but still buoyant
– Front pockets are not huge therefore storage is limited
– No clip to attach a whistle or knife
Stohlquist have created a brilliant product – the straps are designed in such a way that prevent riding-up when kayaking. Moreover, the item is lightweight and still gives plenty of room to paddle and maneuver in the water. This is a great men’s item and perfect for kayaking!Check on Amazon
Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket – one of the best kayaking pfd
This is our second Stohlquist entry in the top 10 list and another superb product. Stohlquist certainly know what it takes to create great safety devices. The men’s Trekker is a grand model that is both reasonably priced and reliable. It measures 7” high by 17” wide and is suitable for male adults. It is made from high quality material that has excellent buoyancy and it can also easily be cleaned. Made in China, the jacket has great reviews and is certainly an excellent kayak safety vest. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this unit:
– Made from heavy duty nylon that resists wear and tear
– Chest harness that prevents ride-up
– Ventilation on both back and shoulders
– Combination of Denier and Nylon for the exterior
– Well ventilated to prevent becoming too hot
– Available in 6 colors and sizes
– Material can easily be cleaned
– Design still provides optimum movement
– All sizes are not always readily available
– Can be tight for larger individuals
This second entry from Stohlquist is fantastic and also has a brilliant design. The multiple straps and attachments allow for a comfortable fit.Check on Amazon
NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD – high kayaking life jacket
Our second NRS entry is the cVest Mesh Pack garment. This kayak flotation device stands out from its competitors and is visible. It has an ergonomic design with a myriad of fixtures and fittings that make it easy to wear. Additionally it is made from durable material and will hold up well against the elements – it is classed as a Type III medium-profile device. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this unit:
– Made from durable Denier Nylon fabric
– Six straps and adjustment points in total
– Reflective material for high visibility
– Designed with a high back for extra support
– Ergonomic design that fits snugly and allows movement
– Available in two vibrant colors
– Front pockets for storage
– Front zipper for easy removal
– Quite bulky despite being flexible
– Smaller people could experience fitting issues
This device from NRS is superb and looks and performs great. We liked the visibility of this product – it stands out and can easily be seen from a distance. Moreover, the adjustable straps and storage pockets are a nice touch.Check on Amazon
Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device – top rated life vest for kayak
As you have discovered, Stohlquist has created exceptional quality safety devices. This is our third entry in the list – the Stohlquist Fisherman Personal model. If you love fishing and want to be safe, this is the choice for you! Carrying your tackle can be a nightmare – the Fisherman model solves this issue. It has an abundance of pockets and zippers to store your tackle in. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this pfd for kayaking and fishing:
– Multiple storage pockets for bait and tackle
– Clips and fasteners to attach a whistle and other devices
– Made from neoprene and foam
– Available in three sizes
– Excellent product for those who love fishing
– Material is easy to wash and maintain
– Shoulders and back are padded with ventilation
– The design is not the most visible – quite a muted color
– Rather bulky
For ardent fishers, this garment is a brilliant product. It is both practical and secure – you get the best of both worlds. You can use the item to store extra fishing equipment, but it will also help you out in dangerous situations!Check on Amazon
OutFIT Tour PFD – one of the best kayak life jacket in 2019
Kokatat provide a selection of safety gear and outdoor water wear including wetsuits, drysuits, rubber seals and boots. The OutFIT Tour is a model from Kokatat that offers 16.5lbs of flotation and is classed as a type three product. It is designed to be a men’s model, but it can be used for women too – there are three sizes available – small, medium and large. Kokatat state this unit is best suited for use while kayaking but it can be used for standard boat trips too. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this pfd for kayaking:
– Made from Denier and Oxford Nylon and foam
– Front zipper stretches full length of the jacket
– Adjustable straps and clasps
– Meshing for comfort and ventilation
– Stylish but practical design
– Two front pockets for extra storage
– Key lanyards and latches for a whistle or other equipment
– Approved by the United States Coast Guard
– May be considered short in length for a taller person
We feel this is one of the more stylish and modern garments. The bold red color is easily visible and the center zipper helps with fitting the jacket. This garment is also approved by the United States Coast Guard which is always a plus.Check on Amazon
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest – top rated life preserver for kayaking
Onyx have a brilliant variety of safety garments such as the Dynamic Paddle Sports Vest. They also offer other related items such as kayak cushions and carry bags. The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle item is a Type III device and is suitable for water sports activities. We like the design and feel the webbing could add extra ventilation and flexibility. Furthermore, the features such as the drying loop make this unit a joy to use. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this kayak life preserver:
– Bubble foam on interior for extra comfort
– Several zip pockets for storage
– Design allows for robust movements
– Made from Denier Nylon and Oxford Nylon
– Comes standard with an attached whistle
– Lightweight and spacious – easy to put on
– Available in several different colors
– Size guides can be a little confusing
– Could be uncomfortable on longer trips
Overall the Onyx product seems to be everything you could need on the water. It is certainly best suited for a kayak, and the large arm holes give you great maneuverability when paddling.Check on Amazon
NRS Ninja PFD – good pfd for kayaking
Our final NRS entry in the top 10 list is possibly the most unique – it is specifically built for use in a kayak or on other small water craft. It has an athletic design with a low profile that will prevent riding up but still give fantastic performance. Furthermore, it is made from durable ripstop Nylon which will weather well and resist harsh water conditions. The following are some of the main features and pros and cons of this good life vest for kayaking:
– Made from Denier ripstop Nylon
– Double entry system from side and front
– Low profile design perfect for kayaking
– Stylish design with a range of bold colors
– Certified by the United States Coast Guard
– Durable material will stand against the elements
– Excellent movement for arms when paddling
– No storage pockets
This is a true kayaking garment – it excels when worn on a boat or small vessel as it still provides exceptional movement for your arms. You can still paddle easily without restriction. Furthermore, you can purchase it in three sizes depending on your build.Check on Amazon
Frequently asked questions about kayaks for kids
Water safety should be one of your greatest concerns when taking a kayak out into the ocean or rough water. When you are sailing, what would happen if you overturn and fall into the water? Would you be able to survive without some form of aid? What about if you were sailing in freezing water and you fell in? Would you be able to keep yourself afloat before hypothermia sets in? This is a serious subject! This is why you must fully understand how to use a PFD. The below Q&A section will improve your knowledge and ensure you are up to date with water safety:
Are PFDS required for kayaking?
The US Coast Guard stipulates that you must wear one when sailing on a kayak. Alternatively, if you are not wearing one, it must be easily accessible in an emergency. The device must be of a proper size and suitable for your own usage. A kayak is defined as a recreational vessel and must have either a Type I, II, III or V flotation device present. Rules and regulations can vary depending on the jurisdiction of the water you are sailing in – the Coast Guard regulations are a great basis, but you should check with local regulations as well.
Do you need to wear a life jacket for kayaking?
Yes you must wear a life jacket when on open water as defined by the United States Coast Guard. If you are using your kayak on a calm stream or river, using a safety device is down to your own discretion. If on open water or oceans, you must wear a life jacket. This device could be called a PFD too but they fall under the same category. You must have a Type 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 jacket.
What causes a PFD to wear out?
Even the most sturdy and durable device will wear out over time – this is unavoidable. It is important to check your device and quality regularly. The main factors of wear relating to these devices is the sun, water, wear and tear, and age. UV damage from the sun will cause the material to fade and wear over time. Moreover, continual exposure to water will eventually compromise the material. Some durable materials can resist wear, but never indefinitely.
How long does a life jacket last?
Typically a device lasts up to 10 years but this depends entirely on circumstance. If you use your safety device every weekend of the year then it will degrade quicker due to overuse. Alternatively, if you only use it a few times a year then it could last for much longer. Regardless of how long your device may last, it is advisable to have it serviced regularly – every two years if you use it often. This can help spot any wear, and also prevent serious damage.
Can you drown with a life jacket on?
Yes! Wearing a safety device does not guarantee you will not drown. The most common methods of drowning are as follows – mouth immersions, unconsciousness, and impairment (such as being trapped underwater). You must always practice safe usage of a pfd when kayaking. Moreover, you should also ensure your garment is regularly checked for integrity and potential faults. Just because you are wearing a safety device, doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful!
How often should you replace a life jacket?
The general rule of thumb is that you should replace a life jacket whenever it has any damage. Check your device before each use. Check for tears, rips, and damage to the material and clips – if you see any damage at all, replace it! To reduce the number of times you have to replace a vest, you should look after it! Don’t simply throw it into the corner of your garage when back from your trip, store it properly, dry it thoroughly, and if you were on salt water, be sure to rinse it off.
How often should an inflatable PFD be checked?
Every time you use it! This might sound like overkill, but what is the point of using a safety item if it doesn’t work or is damaged? You cannot put a price on your safety and be vigilant and check your PFD thoroughly before each kayaking trip. Check the inflating mechanism. Moreover, look at all the clasps and clips and make sure they work properly. Also look at zippers and any pockets to ensure the mechanisms are working.
How do you clean a PFD?
You should rinse your item with a garden hose or in the bath. This will remove any surface dirt and debris as well as any corrosive salt. Next you should allow the garment to soak in a mixture of soapy warm water. Scrub the straps and clasps to remove any mildew, mold and dirt with a coarse scrubbing brush. Next, wash the material surfaces with a sponge using soapy water and then rinse the excess mixture off. Allow the item to hang dry in a shaded and well ventilated area (don’t leave it in direct sunlight!).
What’s the best way to check the buoyancy of your PFD?
To test the product properly, you must perform a live test in water. Consider taking your PFD to a small body of water to test it. Wear the PFD as if you were about to embark on a kayaking journey. Once securely fitted, relax your body and attempt to float in the water. Your jacket should keep your chin above the water and you should be able to breathe comfortably. Also try jumping into the water to check if your jacket rides up or not.
How does a life jacket protect you from sinking?
A jacket works on the premise of buoyancy and displacement. When an item is pushed into water, the water is displaced around it. The heavier and denser an object, the more water it will displace and therefore the lower and faster it will sink. This is how life jackets work. They are made from low density material such as nylon and foam that minimally displaces water and maintains your buoyancy.
What material is used in life jackets?
In most cases the outer shell is made of a form of nylon or vinyl. This helps resist wear and tear and UV damage and also helps maintain buoyancy. Inside the jacket, foam is usually used – plastic foam such as polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride – these materials are excellent and lightweight and help keep you afloat.
What is the best PFD for kayaking?
Best Product: Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket by Onyx
After reviewing all of the products in our top 10 list, the Onyx Youth Paddle Sports product is our number one pick. We loved everything about this vest. The lightweight and low profile design is a winner, and the foam inside is compact. Moreover, the arm holes are spacious and allow you to move freely in a kayak with a paddle. Its 6 adjustment straps is a plus too as it gives you great flexibility. You can adjust the straps in a number of ways to ensure the jacket fits comfortably and tight. These qualities make the Onyx Youth Paddle the best pfd for kayaking.
The other models on our list all still have their merits, so don’t discount them! All of the NRS models for example such as the Ninja, cVest Mesh Back and Vapor are all excellent choices. Stohlquist also has a strong presence with their Ebb, Trekker and Fishermen models – these are fantastic for both kayaking and fishing. We believe any of these products is a fantastic choice. If you want to see more, why not check out our range of other items here?