ContentsQUICK ANSWER – THE BEST KAYAK PFDSCOMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST KAYAK PFDSKAYAK PFDS REVIEWSSTOHLQUIST EDGESTOHLQUIST DRIFTERNRS CVESTKOKATAT OUTFIT TOURASTRAL RONNY FISHERKOKATAT BAHIA TOURSTOHLQUIST FISHERMANNRS CHINOOKNRS NINJAHOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KAYAK PFDSSAFETY CERTIFICATIONBUOYANCY AND FLOTATIONKAYAK STYLEFIT AND COMFORT As any experienced kayaker already knows, a personal flotation device (PFD) is one of the most important pieces of equipment a paddler needs. No matter if you kayak long-distance or around as a leisurely hobby or fish while you paddle, there’s definitely a perfect PFD out there for you. But, how do you know you’re getting the best kayak PFD for your paddle style? Here at The Adventure Junkies, we take pride in finding the best outdoor gear on the market. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to choose the right kayak PFD for you and show you our favorite finds. This way, you’ll have all the essentials you need to know before buying your own PFD. For more of out top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: Sea Kayaks | Sit on Top | Tandem | Canoes | Inflatable Kayaks Paddles | Seats | PFDs | Dry Bags | Anchors | GPS Wetsuits | Drysuits | Gloves | Shoes Fishing Kayaks | Rods | Reels | Rod Holders | Fish Finders SUPs | Inflatable SUPs | Paddles QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST KAYAK PFDS 1. STOHLQUIST EDGE VIEW AT REI 2. STOHLQUIST DRIFTER VIEW AT REI 3. NRS CVEST VIEW AT AMAZON 4. KOKOTAT OUTFIT TOUR VIEW AT AMAZON 5. ASTRAL RONNY FISHER VIEW AT AMAZON 6. KOKOTAT BAHIA TOUR VIEW AT AMAZON 7. STOHLQUIST FISHERMAN VIEW AT AMAZON 8. NRS CHINOOK VIEW AT REI 9. NRS NINJA VIEW AT REI COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST KAYAK PFDS PICTUREKAYAK PFDBEST USEFLOATATIONCHEST SIZE RANGEPRICERATING PICTUREKAYAK PFDBEST USEFLOATATIONCHEST SIZE RANGEPRICERATING Stohlquist EdgeOverall15 lbs 8 oz33 - 54 in$$4.6 Stohlquist DrifterOverall16 lbs 10 oz33 - 54 in$$$4.4 NRS CvestOverall16 lbs 6 oz33 - 50 in$$4.7 Kokatat Outfit TourOverall16 lbs 8 oz36 - 54 in$$4.8 Astral Ronny FisherFishing16 lbs 0 oz31 - 51 in$$$4.5 Kokatat Bahia TourFishing17 lbs 0 oz36 - 58 in$$$4.7 Stohlquist FishermanFishing16 lbs 12 oz33 - 54 in$$$4.5 NRS ChinookFishing16 lbs 8 oz33 - 50 in$$4.6 NRS NinjaBudget16 lbs 8 oz33 - 50 in$4.5 KAYAK PFDS REVIEWS STOHLQUIST EDGE Check out the latest price on: Amazon | REI BEST FOR: Paddlers needing a lot of arm mobility and comfort FLOTATION: 15 lbs 8 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 54 (inches) MATERIALS: Ripstop nylon FEATURES: Padded shoulder straps, lash tab, front pocket, adjustable straps, mesh sides, reflective markings PROS: Can be used for all paddle sports, barely limits mobility, easy to adjust, comes in multiple sizes, low profile CONS: Pocket zipper can get stuck if the PFD isn’t rinsed off with fresh water after each use STOHLQUIST DRIFTER Check out the latest price on: Amazon | REI BEST FOR: Versatile paddlers frequently kayaking in cold water FLOTATION: 16 lbs 10 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 54 (inches) MATERIALS: Cordura nylon, Gaia PVC-free foam FEATURES: Hand-warming pockets, multiple pockets, easy on-and-off front zipper, lash tabs, short length in back to fit with most seats, reflective trim PROS: Comes in multiple colors, comfortable, perfect for kayakers needing to keep warm in cold climates, durable CONS: Too bulky for tropical-water paddlers who might get too hot with all the padding NRS CVEST Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Serious kayakers with extra gear wanting a PFD that’s buoyant and durable FLOTATION: 16 lbs 8 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 50 (inches) MATERIALS: Urethane-coated ripstop nylon FEATURES: Six pockets including one specifically for a radio or GPS, rear beacon loop, mesh vents on the back and sides, large arm openings, adjustable straps, reflective tape PROS: If you’re looking for a PFD that can handle storage for extra safety gear, you won’t find a better one than this one CONS: Extra zippers can catch and the tab that secures the GPS or radio could be more secure KOKATAT OUTFIT TOUR Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Kayakers looking for a PFD that can handle long-distance paddling trips FLOTATION: 16 lbs 10 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 36 – 54 (inches) MATERIALS: Cordura nylon, Gaia PVC-free foam FEATURES: Two front pockets and a hidden interior pocket, deep neck and arm holes for large range of motion, adjustable straps, rear lash tab, reflective tape on all sides PROS: Muliple color options, durable, brightly colored for extra safety, spacious pockets perfect for camera or safety gear CONS: Sizing tends to be off where the chest size does not always follow the guide exactly, three foam panels are a bit bulky ASTRAL RONNY FISHER Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Kayakers who primarily fish and need a lot of fishing-specific features FLOTATION: 16 lbs CHEST SIZE RANGE: 31 – 51 (inches) MATERIALS: Polyurethane foam, nylon outer shell, polyester mesh FEATURES: Quick-access lash tab, adjustable straps, reflective tape, two flip-open pockets that can be used as a plank to sort out lures, stowaway hood, tool organizing section PROS: This PFD was built for fishermen in mind so it’s low profile while still having enough useful features, multiple color optionsk CONS: High price point might put some kayakers off KOKATAT BAHIA TOUR Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Fishermen wanting a simple and practical PFD with enough storage space FLOTATION: 17 lbs CHEST SIZE RANGE: 36 – 58 (inches) MATERIALS: Nylon, Gaia PVC-free foam FEATURES: Adjustable straps with non-slip shoulder pads, lash tab, two bellowed pockets with zip entry, water resistant pocket for electronics, fishing license window, and plier sleeve, reflective tape PROS: Obviously designed by fishermen as proved by so many fishing-specific features, comfortable, low-profile, durable CONS: Foam upper a bit thick and might be uncomfortable when paired with high-back kayak seats STOHLQUIST FISHERMAN Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Kayakers who primarily fish and want a PFD that is built specifically for their fishing tools in mind FLOTATION: 16 lbs 12 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 54 (inches) MATERIALS: Cordura nylon, Gaia Foam, neoprene shoulders FEATURES: Adjustable straps, mesh side panels for ventilation, two drop-down pockets with tool hangers, pockets form platform to sort gear and tackle, tool hangers easy to access, rod loop PROS: A popular kayak PFD choice for a reason, has all features that fishermen could need, comfortable fit, durable CONS: Fly-fishermen will find the PFD pockets too bulky on the sides which could cause chaffing, bulky NRS CHINOOK Check out the latest price on: Amazon | REI BEST FOR: Kayaker fishermen wanting a high-performance PFD for great value FLOTATION: 16 lbs 8 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 50 (inches) MATERIALS: Urethane-coated ripstop nylon, PlushFIT foam flotation FEATURES: Lash tab, mesh lower back for ventilation, D-ring on back for nets, coil tool retractor, rod holder loops, seven pockets for storage PROS: Low price point for all that is offered, ample storage space, comfortable, stylish CONS: Could use extra safety feature like more obvious reflective tape, a bit bulky for everyday kayakers NRS NINJA Check out the latest price on: Amazon | REI BEST FOR: Long-distance kayakers needing a low-profile PFD that is simple and offers a wide range of movement FLOTATION: 16 lbs 8 oz CHEST SIZE RANGE: 33 – 50 (inches) MATERIALS: Cordura nylon, PVC-free foam FEATURES: Adjustment straps, mesh interior for ventilation, quick release buckled, front pocket with zipper, lash tab PROS: Comfortable, streamlined, perfect for serious athletes, stretchy CONS: Runs a bit small, no-fills PFD not great for those wanting pockets Gear up for kayaking, without breaking the bankGet the Latest Deals on Kayaking GearSent right to your inbox...GEAR UP FOR KAYAKING HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KAYAK PFDS SAFETY CERTIFICATION In the United States, many states require kayakers – especially those aged 12 and younger – to wear a PFD approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. This means that the jacket is certified to be safe enough for kayakers to wear when they paddle. You’ll want to check that your PFD is Type III U.S. Coast Guard approved, a certification that is specifically for kayakers and other specialized boaters who need flotation for safety but without the bulk of many other PFDs. For this guide, all kayak PFDs featured are Type III U.S. Coast Guard approved. You can read more about the different types of approval in this guide on PFDs published by the U.S. Coast Guard. Other safety features you’ll want on your PFD are reflective strips, so that others can easily spot you and a place to secure a GPS or radio. A brightly colored PFD also makes you easier to spot by other boaters and rescue crew. A report from the American Canoe Association revealed that “drownings accounted for 71% of recreational boating fatalities in the United States and approximately 86% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket” from 2000 to 2014. A PFD reduces the risk of drowning immensely. BUOYANCY AND FLOTATION Most adults need about seven to 12 pounds of extra buoyancy or flotation to keep their heads out of the water. The technology of modern kayak PFDs often gives over 15 pounds of buoyancy while still being low-profile and easy to move around in. When choosing a PFD that’s right for you, you’ll want to read the label to see that it’s compatible with your body composition and weight before buying it. In general, the higher buoyancy or flotation featured on the PFD, the higher you’ll be lifted out of the water. To check if your PFD has enough flotation, put it on and take it in shallow water. Relax your body completely – no treading whatsoever. If you can float comfortably with your mouth completely out of the water, then the PFD is buoyant enough for you to kayak with. KAYAK STYLE The great thing about kayak PFDs is that they come with so many extra features that cater to different types of paddlers. For example, white-water or long-distance kayakers might want a low-profile PFD with minimal pockets and loops. If you’re constantly paddling, you won’t want a PFD that chafes or catches on the edges of your kayak. Fishermen often kayak with a ton of gear. They likely could use as many pockets and attachment loops as they can get. Some PFDs created with fishermen in mind will have loops to hang tools, a display for a fishing license and pockets that fold out into a small table. Since kayakers who fish tend to stay more stationary than performance kayakers, they can handle the extra weight and bulk. You can check out our favorite fishing kayaks of the year, too. If you’re a kayaker who dabbles in various types of kayaking, there are many overall PFDs that have just enough pockets and features to be useful without adding too much bulk. FIT AND COMFORT When choosing the best PFD for your size, you’ll want to first measure your chest. PFD brands and models vary when it comes to sizing – one brand’s small could be another brand’s medium – especially since most PFDs are unisex sized. Keep in mind that the diameter of your chest grow when you put on your paddling clothes, so measure around your nipple line after you put on your kayaking outfit. Fit the PFD by first loosening all the straps and then tightening them from the waist up. You want to make sure that the PFD can’t rise past your nose. If that happens, then the PFD is too large for you. Do arm circles and watch for places where your arms rub or catch against the side of the PFD. Did you know that many drowning victims owned a PFD but drowned because they weren’t wearing it? If your PFD is uncomfortable, you’re less likely to put it on when you go for a paddle. This naturally increases your chances of injury or death. Your PFD needs to fit perfectly, so that you’d be comfortable to wear it all the time. Check also to see that the PFD is compatible with your kayak seat. You can read about all the different parts of a kayak to learn more about kayaking. KAYAKING RESOURCESTABLE OF CONTENTSKAYAKINGTABLE OF CONTENTS 1. BASICS 5. KAYAK SAFETY 2. KAYAK SKILLS 6. DESTINATIONS 3. KAYAKING GEAR 7. KAYAK FISHING 4. KAYAK CLOTHES 8. SUP 1. BASICS 2. KAYAK SKILLS 3. KAYAK GEAR 4. KAYAK CLOTHES 5. KAYAK SAFETY 6. DESTINATIONS 7. KAYAK FISHING 8. SUP Disclosure: The Adventure Junkies is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. We also use other affiliate programs like REI, LeisurePro, Diviac and Liveaboard.com.