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.

 

THE BEST KAYAK PFD – QUICK ANSWER

  1. Stohlquist Edge
  2. Stohlquist Drifter
  3. NRS Cvest
  4. Kokatat Outfit Tour
  5. Astral Ronny Fisher
  6. Kokatat Bahia Tour
  7. Stohlquist Fisherman
  8. NRS Chinook
  9. MTI Voyager
  10. NRS Ninja

 

 

FREE BONUS! Click here to download the AJ Quick Starter Guide to Kayaking

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST KAYAK PFD

PICTURE
KAYAK PFD
BEST USE
FLOATATION
CHEST SIZE RANGE
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
KAYAK PFD
BEST USE
FLOATATION
CHEST SIZE RANGE
PRICE
RATING
Stohlquist Edge
Overall
15 lbs 8 oz
33 - 54 in
$$
4.6
Stohlquist Drifter
Overall
16 lbs 10 oz
33 - 54 in
$$$
4.4
NRS Cvest
Overall
16 lbs 6 oz
33 - 50 in
$$
4.7
Kokatat Outfit Tour
Overall
16 lbs 8 oz
36 - 54 in
$$
4.8
Astral Ronny Fisher
Fishing
16 lbs 0 oz
31 - 51 in
$$$
4.5
Kokatat Bahia Tour
Fishing
17 lbs 0 oz
36 - 58 in
$$$
4.7
Stohlquist Fisherman
Fishing
16 lbs 12 oz
33 - 54 in
$$$
4.5
NRS Chinook
Fishing
16 lbs 8 oz
33 - 50 in
$$
4.6
MTI Voyager
Budget
16 lbs 5 oz
30 - 56 in
$
4.3
NRS Ninja
Budget
16 lbs 8 oz
33 - 50 in
$
4.5

 

 

KAYAK PFDS 101

 

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST KAYAK PFD

 

1. 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.

 

2. 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.

 

3. 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.

 

4. 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.

 

perfect kayak PFD to have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/welcomia

 

 

KAYAK PFD REVIEWS

 

1. BEST KAYAK PFDS FOR OVERALL

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 | REI

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 | REI

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

 

 

 

 

2. BEST KAYAK PFDS FOR FISHING

ASTRAL RONNY FISHER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

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 | REI

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 | REI

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

 

 

 

 

3. BEST KAYAK PFDS FOR BUDGET

MTI VOYAGER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Older kayakers wanting an accessible PFD built for easy access and usage

FLOTATION: 16 lbs 5 oz

CHEST SIZE RANGE: 30 – 56 (inches)

MATERIALS: 500-denier nylon

FEATURES: Pocket for eyeglasses, extra-long zipper for easy wear, fleece-lined hand warming pockets, safety whistle, sewn-in ID patch, adjustable straps, reflective tape

PROS: Created specifically for older paddlers who might have arthritis or want special accessibility features for a low price, easy to put on and take off

CONS: Missing a few handy features like D rings, a bit bulky for paddlers wanting something more streamlined

 

 

 

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

Top 10 Best Kayak PFDs of 2017 – Kayaking Tips for Beginners – Best Kayaking Gear and Accessories - Kayaking Ideas – Articles and Posts About Kayaking
12 Shares
Pin
Share1
Tweet11
Flip

LOOKING FOR AN EPIC GIFT FOR KAYAKERS?