Whenever you are spending time on the water, the proper safety gear is crucial. It is even more imminent when you are rafting, canoeing, or kayaking. Spending the day on the water in a kayak is fun, but they are known to be unstable and wobbly, dropping you into the water at any moment.
Even advanced swimmers need some buoyancy to help them float while trying to fix the overturned kayak. We have compiled some choices that highlight the best personal floatation device (PFD) for kayaking.
Best PFD for Kayaking – Review
Here are a few of our favorite picks for Best Kayak PFDs that will keep you afloat in the water.
The NRS Zen life jacket is a PFD that is perfect for experienced kayakers who may need the capability to save themselves at the drop of a hat. The jacket features a quick-release belt and attachments to allow you to hitch tow ropes or strobe attachments to your PFD.
This jacket has many features that are enabled to keep you safe out on the water. Your range of motion will not be restricted as the jacket is lightweight and shaped in a manner that will not interfere with your movements. All of the Zen jackets come equipped with a hand warmer built-in, which is excellent if you are prone to having cold hands or prefer being out on the water before the sun rises.
- Multiple storage pockets
- Built-in hand warmers
- Quick-release belt
- Fit is snug and safe
- Zipper can get caught
- Straps can get in the way when you tighten it
The Stohlquist Edge life jacket is an extremely popular option among sailors and sailors, which is a really good sign as it suggests that the PFD is flexible and allows the wearer to move easily. The jacket has a removable ion patch that is great for instances where you need to be noticed because the material is reflective.
This life jacket has a lot of cool features as well. The front has a top-loading pocket with a zipper to keep your personal items secure. The arm openings are large along with the mesh sides ensuring the jacket is comfortable, flexible, and easy to put on/take off.
- Does not restrict the range of motion
- Handles heavy weight easily
- Good buoyancy
- Could be longer in the torso
- More comfortable for men than women
The Stohlquist Drifter life jacket is an ideal choice for you if you are more of a casual, flatwater kayaker. A unique feature of this flotation device is the cross-chest cinch strap which you can tighten to keep your jacket from riding up on you all day.
This PFD has a lot of interesting and useful features. It has a durable nylon shell to help it withstand any amount of wear and tear extensive paddling may cause. All of the pockets are zippered and lined with soft fleece to keep your items dry and your hands warm.
You can feel confident that you are safe in this jacket because it has multiple reflective accents to help you remain visible to fishers and boaters.
- Easy to adjust
- Responsive customer support
- Pockets are lined
- You MUST buy the right size
- Designed for men
If you are into sea kayaking, the Astral Bluejacket is an excellent choice to consider. Although it is fantastic for sea kayaking, it is also a top choice for use on lakes and rivers. The way that the jacket is designed allows you to achieve comfort and safety simultaneously without compromising one for the other.
This personal flotation device is equipped with inner and out panels that work independently to help the PFD move with your body better. It is also lined with multiple reflective accents and the option to purchase and attach a strobe light, making it extremely easy for other people on the water to see you.
- Extremely reflective
- Great for seas, rivers, and lakes
- More expensive
- Best for sea kayaking
The NRS Ion Life Jacket provides wearers with some of the most low-profile comforts out of any PFD. It is designed to make you forget you are wearing it so you will keep it on even when not in the water. This jacket is lightweight and comfortable, making it a great choice for those who spend a lot of rigorous time on the water.
The NRS Ion is different from other options in a few ways. It has a six-panel design that fits along with the shape of your body and moves with you effortlessly while you kayak. Unlike other PFD’s, this one has ventilation along the back to help you stay cool throughout the day. On colder days, you can use the fleece-lined hand-warming pouch.
- Plenty of room for movement
- Easy to store
- Easy to adjust
- Hand warmers and ventilation
- Could use more pockets
- Max weight is lower than others
If you spend a lot of time kayaking in hot weather, the Astral V-eight PFD is right up your alley. It is perfect for spending a day out on the water in summer months and hot climates. Astral built this jacket to provide airflow throughout, so you do not get too hot or uncomfortable when wearing it.
The Astral V-eight has a patented AirScape airflow system that fights off the buildup of heat and keeps moisture at bay. The jacket has a mesh back that extends high up to give you the ability to sit comfortably in tall seats. It is designed to fit snugly to the shape of your body for maximum comfort and safety. Finally, if you need to store items on your person while kayaking, the V-eight has two very large, expanding mesh pockets.
- Very breathable
- Easy to adjust
- Extremely comfortable
- Keeps moisture out
- The design is bulky
- The outer fabric is rough to the touch
Things to Consider When Buying a PFD for Kayaking
Though PFDs seem pretty straightforward, many different factors go into them that you need to consider before purchasing. Not every life jacket on the market can or should be used for kayaking. When you purchase a PFD for kayaking, consider some of these tidbits during your search.
The United States Coast Guard has a list of five classifications for life jackets (USCG Classifications). Most PFDs for kayaking are usually types two or five, but they are all critical to know for safe kayaking.
These are “offshore” life jackets. They work well in all water types, including rough and remote waters. Type one is the most buoyant and generally comes in very bright colors for high visibility.
Also known as “near-shore vests,” these jackets are ideal for calm waters and mild adventuring (such as kayaking). They are not as buoyant as Type I. These PFDs are the stereotypical orange vests onboard most boats to remain compliant with the USCG.
Type III PFDs are in the category of “flotation aids.” If you are in a situation where you need a quick rescue, this type is best. Users can move more freely and can rotate face-up in the water with less resistance.
This is the classification for throwable flotation devices such as rings and cushions that are thrown to swimmers in the water. These are not ideal for rough waters, non-swimmers, or anyone unconscious.
These are “special use devices.” In other words, type five PFDs are for specific activities. The majority of these PFDs are used for kayaking, skiing, and sailing. They provide the same amount of buoyancy as types two and three.
The materials used to construct life jackets for kayaking are just as important as the classification. You may notice the term “denier” shows up a lot. That refers to how strong the weave in your PFD’s fabric is on the jacket. Most PFDs have a nylon exterior because it withstands wear and tears easily as well as UV damage.
The foam used to make up a PFD varies a lot. But, do not spend a lot of time trying to learn about the foam in your jacket. The overall flotation rating is what you need to focus on instead of what makes up the foam lining. Many of the nicest PFDs have fleece-lined pockets with mesh and zippers for you to carry and protect personal items out on the water.
Kayaking and spending the day out of the water is a fantastic way to spend your free time. Ensuring that you have the best kayak PFD is critical for the safety of yourself and those with you. Once you have taken the time to determine which personal floatation device is suitable for you, make your purchase and get outside for some fun on the water.