The Best Life Vest For Kayaking On 2022

Kayaking is definitely a fun adventure. I keep on telling that and I don't have plans on stopping. Over the years, I have encouraged a plethora of people to engage in this activity. Of course, I also give a useful checklist to interested kayakers so that they can start this hobby right.

But among all the things that I introduce, the best life vest for kayaking always come into priority. Well, even if you are a good swimmer, this doesn't mean that you don't need a safety gear already. There are various circumstances in the water that can compromise your safety. Furthermore, those who are not so good in water mobility should wear these safety vests at all times.


Most of the time, people who are doing ocean and whitewater kayaking are the ones that are being mandated to wear life vests. But even on recreational parks and watercourses, this particular amenity is being encouraged.

So what're your choices for a life vest for kayaking? Well, find out more in the next section.

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

It is pretty easy to pick a life vest if all our options are as good as the Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket. This particular unit has been integrated with their proprietary Wrapture foam so that you can feel comfortable with it at all times. They also implemented a universal graded sizing so that you can find the right fit for you. All of these features ensure that this life jacket can provide convenience to you.

Furthermore, the life vest does not hamper your mobility. It is the very reason why a lot of paddlers and swimmers for this personal flotation device. In fact, in all of the life vests created by the Stohlquist, the Edge is considered as the most versatile option that they ever produced. It can also be used on multiple water applications, too. It is simply a good choice if you want to remain safe while kayaking without compromising your comfort.


  • Provides a guaranteed fit to various body sizes
  • Ensures mobility to the user
  • Highly breathable and comfortable
  • Tightly secures to your body so that it won't be removed unless intentional
  • Designed with bright colors for better visibility.


  • No known issues.
Stohlquist Drifter Personal Floatation Device

Another life vest from Stohlquist that you should consider is the Drifter. This one has a low-profile design, which makes it great for individuals with small frames. However, I am not pretty sure if this life vest comes with a size that can fit large paddlers. Regardless of that, I can guarantee that this life jacket is exceptionally comfortable. After all, it also features the Wrapture foam design that enables the gear to perfectly fit your torso. There is also a cross-chest cinch harness on the Drifter that prevents ride-up.

You can always experience mobility with this life jacket. It will never hamper your movements at all. In fact, it can make you feel that you are not wearing anything. Of course, the buoyancy of this floatation device is impeccable as well. It will never lose its buoyancy and will ensure that you are always above the surface. Those who are doing extreme water sports can benefit from this capability of the Drifter.


  • The short lower back design does not impede your movement
  • Features the Rugged Cordura shell for maximum durability
  • Comes with bellowed zippered pockets for item storage
  • Also has a set of handwarmer pockets
  • Ventilated construction.


  • There are sizing inaccuracies with this unit
  • The handwarmer pockets can be too small for paddlers with large hands.
NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

NRS has been famous for its highly ergonomic safety gears. Therefore, it is utterly impossible for me to make this list without including one of its opuses. The Chinook Fishing PFD has been one of their best-selling life vests. Although it is true that it is originally made for paddlers, this PFD is still usable on other water sports such as kayaking. This entire gear is tailored from 200-denier ripstop nylon with a urethane coating for additional durability.

The lower back of this outdoor gear features a mesh design. It gives you extra breathability, especially on humid conditions. Because the Chinook PFD is not a low-profile life vest, it is guaranteed that it can accommodate paddlers with large bodies. Furthermore, it is rated with a 16.5-pound flotation capability, which is already impressive on its own right. There are multiple pockets that are integrated on this gear. It also has eight adjustment points for a better fit.


  • Highly rigid construction
  • Can fit paddlers with large bodies
  • Multiple pockets for item storage
  • Attachment loops and D-rings are present on the jacket
  • Feels comfortable even if it is worn the whole day.


  • No reflective materials installed on this life vest.

I am always a fan of the Kokatat OutFIT Tour PFD. It is one of my preferred life vests whenever I am journeying slightly challenging water routes. Well, there's a lot of reason for this and bias is not one of them. I have to emphasize that this item is highly rugged. Specifically, it is tailored from 500 Denier Cordura, which is an ultra-tough material. Meanwhile, the interior shell is crafted from 200 denier nylon oxford. The latter gives the wearer the utmost comfort and support.

Based on my experience with this life vest, I can say that it is capable of conforming to the body shape of its user. That's a hefty feature, as it removes the fitting problem that is common to ordinary life vests. There are pockets that are strategically installed on this life vest for quick access. It can be used to carry compact radios and first aid supplies.


  • Features an ergonomic storage system so that you can bring multiple boating accessories
  • Fits perfectly to the body of the user
  • Extremely robust construction for long-lasting use
  • Comfortable and breathable design
  • Comes with a reflective strip for visibility.


  • No known issues.
Astral Ronny Fisher Life Jacket PFD for Fishing, Recreation, and Touring Kayaking

The Astral Ronny is made for both paddlers and anglers. It specifically optimizes the mobility of its user. Most of the life vests that I have seen in the market have a "full" construction. This one did a lot of cuts for better comfort and convenience. Despite this, you can guarantee that the buoyancy of this life vest is still intact. It is as impressive as other high-end life jackets because of its boundless ergonomics.

This one features a thin-vent design. The latter is a new approach to life jacket construction, which minimizes the thickness of the back panel. In this way, the paddler will be able to fully recline on the seat of the boat. There's also a thin mesh on the back for optimal breathability. Of course, the durability of this life vest is impeccable, too!


  • Ensures that your movement will not be restricted
  • The back panel has a thin design so that you can sit better
  • Breathability is one of its best traits
  • Buoyancy is still on point
  • Comes with multiple pockets.


  • The front of this vest is notably bulky.

How to Choose the Best Life Vest for Kayaking

How to Choose the Best Life Vest for Kayaking

Right from the start, I already emphasized the importance of a life vest. It can serve as the thin line that separates your life from tragedies. Without a life vest, your kayaking adventure wouldn't be as secure as it should be. Regardless of the type of kayak that you have, life vests have to be worn at all times. It is better safe than sorry, right?

Specifically, life vests have different names. Sometimes, it is called life jacket while other savvy paddlers call it as the personal flotation device or PFD. However, all of us can agree that this is an important amenity that can secure any person when they are journeying on the water.

But of course, there are still some qualifications that you should know when it comes to choosing a good life jacket. If you are planning to buy one for yourself or your family, you need to make sure that it has the appropriate specifications. Let's discuss a little further about this.


The size of the life vest is an extremely important consideration. Whenever you are choosing for a PDF, make sure that it fits your body correctly. There are a lot of repercussions if you will get the wrong fit.

For instance, if the life vest is too large, locking it to your body will be impossible. There's a risk that it will come out of your body once you have been toppled in the water. It also impedes your ability to balance and float. Furthermore, wearing a PFD that is larger than your frame is quite an inconvenient experience.

How about if the life vest is too small? Well, you may not worry anymore about the vest escaping from your body. However, you will have to deal with a gear that is tightly embracing your body. It totally removes your comfort while paddling. Of course, on hot days, wearing tight clothing is the last thing to do. You need extra ventilation and wearing life jackets that are too snugly will not give you such breathability.

Just imagine your shoes. Do you like to wear footwear that is too tight or too spacious? The fitting should be moderate so that you can feel comfortable without compromising your safety and ability to swim.

Check this video on how to properly fit a life jacket:

Ergonomics and Mobility

Having a life vest doesn't mean that your mobility should be suppressed. This gear is made not to intervene in your activities while on the water. Instead, it is just there to act as support in case your boat will get toppled over.

A life vest should provide you with a great arm and upper body mobility. There's no excuse. If the life vest that you want can't give you these things, move to other options. It is not worth taking. Instead, what you need to look are life jackets that come with a myriad of adjustment straps. It would be great if the jacket has a large set of arm holes so that you won't experience the feeling of being cramped.

It would also be great if the life vest comes with pockets for your kayaking accessories. It is a necessary feature so that you can stow any gear that you want without having to mind the aspect of accessibility. Although this one is not really necessary, a life vest that features a pair of hand warmers is an excellent choice.

For those who are doing ocean and offshore kayaking, you have to make sure that the life vest you get must have a pocket where you can store a VHF radio. Are you planning to bring a survival knife? You should select a life vest that features a lash tab. The latter will allow you to lock the sheath of the knife.

Are you paddling a kayak that has a tall back seat? Then what you need is a life vest that has a back that is made from thin-foam. If not, it should have a mesh layer. Any of these designs will allow you to feel extra comfort and breathability.


There are multiple classifications that the U.S Coast Guard has set for personal flotation devices. Here are they:

  • Type I - This particular life vest are made for rugged situations where expertise is quite needed. Notable, a Type I life vest is very bulky. However, it can give you an insurmountable level of buoyancy. It will also render people in a position where their frontal body is facing upward. This is an excellent feature for rescuing people that are unconscious.
  • Type II - The Type II life jackets are geared for inland waters. The design of this vest is quite simple and is quite smaller than a Type I life jacket. Moreover, you can expect that they are not as expensive as their other counterparts. For kayaking, this is a good choice already. However, the comfort that a Type II PFD can bring is not as great as a Type III.
  • Type III - A Type III PFD is the best life vest for kayaking. It is excellent for paddlers and other water enthusiasts. Aside from providing comfort, a Type III PFD can give you excellent mobility. You can paddle and swim all you want without getting bothered at all. There are multiple designs for Type III PFDs such as hybrid, inflatable, and buoyant.


These are the very things that you have to know about life vests. It is essential that you can take them into account whenever you are choosing for a kayaking life vest so that you will arrive at an option that can keep you safe on the water all the time.

Most of the best life vest for kayaking are already listed here. If you want to cut the time needed for selecting a personal flotation device, then the options that I have listed here are already a decent choice.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

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