Top 6 Best Kayak Life Vests You Will Ever Need for Your Safety in 2021

If you have ever tried out kayaking before, then you know how fun it can get. Many people enjoy kayaking as it helps them forget about their troubles to have fun for once.

Even if it is a fun sport, your safety is also vital. The last thing you would want is drowning while kayaking. It is why you need the best kayak life vest.

A good life vest will provide more security and confidence while kayaking. However, what makes a model good? And which one should you get? I will answer those questions plus more in this guide to help you pick the best kayak life vest.

Quick Picks: The Top-Rated Kayak Life Vest

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ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, Medium/Large, Aqua
Stohlquist Youthescape PFD 50-90 lbs, Lime
Stearns Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket | Life Vest for Children, Cancun Shark
Old Town Solitude Women's Life Jacket (Grape, S/M)
NRS PFD Foam Chinook Unisex Fishing Kayak Lifejacket, Charcoal, Size Large/XL
Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Auto Activation PFD, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades
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Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
Stohlquist Kid’s Escape PFD
Stearns Coleman Life Jumper Kids’ Life Vest
Old Town Solitude Women’s Life Jacket
NRS Chinook Fishing PFD Life Jacket
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ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, Medium/Large, Aqua
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Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
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Stohlquist Youthescape PFD 50-90 lbs, Lime
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Stohlquist Kid’s Escape PFD
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Stearns Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket | Life Vest for Children, Cancun Shark
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Stearns Coleman Life Jumper Kids’ Life Vest
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Old Town Solitude Women's Life Jacket (Grape, S/M)
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Old Town Solitude Women’s Life Jacket
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NRS PFD Foam Chinook Unisex Fishing Kayak Lifejacket, Charcoal, Size Large/XL
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NRS Chinook Fishing PFD Life Jacket
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Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Auto Activation PFD, Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades
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In a hurry? Check our best pick above, or keep reading for product reviews and buying guide!

What is a Kayak Life Vest?

A kayak life vest is like any other type of life vest you have used before. Its work is to help you float in the water before you get help from other people.

It is common for people to underestimate the importance of kayak life vests until they need one. As such, always wear a life vest or PFD while kayaking. It is best to be ready for anything while in the water.

You are likely to come across different types of life vests in the market. You can get traditional life vests or something trendy. What is important is that you understand how good they work and if the vests will provide enough buoyancy when you need them to do so.

Why is a Kayak Life Vest Necessary?

Yes. As the name suggests, a life vest can potentially save your life if a mishap happens in the kayak, and you end up in the water. You would always want to have the best protection important to help you float rather than drowning.

Keep in mind that it is not a guarantee that it would save your life. You also need to have other skills, such as swimming. Nevertheless, it comes in handy to help you float until help arrives.

Types of Kayak Life Vests

The kayak life vests can come in different shapes, sizes, and styles. However, they are all categorized into the following major types.

– Type 1

A Type 1 life vest is designed for open boats and rough seas. It is highly rated as it would work better in the rough conditions until you get help. The design and performance of this life vest will help in keeping the head above water for long.

Most recreational kayakers do not use them. You are likely to get them in commercial vessels.

– Type 2

Unlike the Type 1 life vests, the Type 2 life vests are good for near shore activities. You are advised to use such a vest in the calm waters or situations where you expect immediate rescue to be easily available.

– Type 3

If you are into kayaking, this is the best type to consider. This classification states that such life vests are suitable for recreational activities.
Other than kayaking, these life vests can be great for other activities such as fishing, water skiing, and more.

It is worth noting that they work best in calm waters as you can easily get rescued faster to avoid drowning.

– Type 4

This category is left for the throwable PFDs. They convert into a cushion to help you with floating. They are most likely to be a ring that you can hang on to avoid drowning.

– Type 5

The Type 5 life vests are designed for specific applications. The conditions and activities where you can use such life vests will be labeled on them. A good example is when you need a vest for hypothermia protection, it would be indicated. Also, the design would be different.

How To Choose a Kayak life vest

Vest Comfort

One thing that should appeal to many people is the type of comfort you get with the vest. You are likely to wear it for hours, so it should be comfortable.

One way of making the vest comfortable is by including padded shoulders. Others are likely to have soft lining important for improving comfort. Considering the inside material will rub against your skin, it is best if the material is soft.

Comfortable vests also need to be the right fit. They should not be too big or too small.

Size

When picking the best kayak life vest, it is best to consider the chest size. Different models would have various vest options to choose from depending on size.

Once you get the chest measurements, see if the manufacturer has something within your range.

It does not have to be the exact size as most models offer the option of adjusting the life vest for the right fit.

Some would offer standard sizes, while others have one size fits all. As such, it is best to know what is the right chest size for you before buying. Getting a model that is one size larger than your shirt size will always lead to a better fitting life vest.

Durability

The kayak life vest durability will always remain an important factor.
Some of the common durable vest materials include neoprene and nylon. These materials will ensure that you always get something good for years to come.

The durable material will also withstand harsh environments and remain scratch-resistant. No one wants to get a puncture when the life vest needs to be working.

Fitment

Here, I am talking about the adjustability of the best kayak life vest. It is best to find a life vest that offers the option of adjusting it until you get the right fit.

Do not use a life vest that is too big or too small. It has to be a snug fit for security and comfort. A good fitment also means that the vest works as expected.

Buoyancy and Floatation

The buoyancy and floatation performance can determine the overall performance of the life vest. If the vest does not have enough buoyancy, then it cannot keep your body above the water level.

Adults need around 8 to 12 pounds of buoyancy or floatation to keep the head above water.

Newer models now have better buoyancy technology to improve performance. There are models now providing up to 15 pounds of buoyancy.

Product Reviews of The Best kayak life vests

This vest has a sculpted flexible foam design important for making it conform to your body. Such a feature is important for comfort and keeping the vest in place while paddling.

It is nice to know that the U.S Coast Guard approves the use of this vest. As such, you can wear it, knowing that it meets the high safety standards in the industry.

The manufacturer also uses heavy-duty nylon fabrics to make the life vest. The fabrics are good for resisting tears and punctures you are likely to experience while outdoors.

Another reason for getting this life vest should be its mesh ventilation panels. These panels are crucial for improving the overall ventilation you get with the vest. Even if you have to wear the vest for hours, it should still feel comfortable.

Pros

  • The expandable zippered pockets provide storage space
  • It is available in various sizes
  • The mesh ventilation improves comfort

Cons

  • Some kayakers find it too bulky

If your kids love kayaking, then you would want to ensure their safety is also guaranteed. That is why you would get this best kayak life vest.

The material is super-soft for comfort. Even if your kid has to wear it for hours, it should remain comfortable.

It also features a low-profile buoyancy foam. This foam is designed to hug the body better as a way of improving comfort. As such, the kid should enjoy a comfortable fit. The model also has adjusters to improve fitting and security.

The waist belt of the life vest has a front buckle. This design makes it easier to wear or take off the PFD whenever necessary.

Since it is a Type III PFD, it should have all the essential features the kid needs while in any water body. Well, it is still US Coast Guard approved, making it a safe choice for most people.

The PFD has zippered pockets for holding snacks and other accessories that kids love.

Pros

  • It is a comfortable PFD
  • It is easy on and off the body
  • The model has adjusters for a comfortable fit

Cons

  • Cleaning the PFD material is not easy

I cannot insist enough on the kid’s safety while kayaking. It is why this is another option to consider as the best kayak life vest for the kids.

If you are not sure why you should get it, the fact that it is US Coast Guard approved should be more motivation. This is because you would know that the life vest is good to suit the various water sports or general use while in the water.

The use of the nylon shell is all about making it durable. You will not have to worry that the PFD would be easily punctured or torn apart. I can comfortably recommend it for anyone with kids to use it.

From the way it looks, the graphics are likely to appeal to the kids even more. It will also give them the confidence to be in the water or go kayaking with adults.

Parents love the way the PFD can snugly fit the kid. This is all-important for safety, ensuring that the kid can have a comfortable time kayaking.

Pros

  • It is a comfortable PFD
  • It has a nylon shell for durability
  • The PFD meets strict safety requirements

Cons

  • Older kids might feel it is too tight for them

Back to the adult kayaking life vests for now. You will find this being a nice option to consider if you like kayaking more often. The manufacturer designed it with a performance paddler in mind. One thing is for sure; the life jacket is designed to keep you safe.

There are several adjustments available with this life vest. The aim is to make it a snug fit for comfort too. No one wants a life jacket that can easily come off when it is supposed to be working great.

This model is also designed for utility too. This is thanks to having the zippered pockets. Such pockets would make it easier for you to store some of the supplies securely you might need while kayaking.

There is also the AirComfort system integrated into the jacket. As such, this one will improve the overall breathability of the jacket. You should end up with a comfortable life jacket good for hours of use without getting sweaty.

Pros

  • It is a comfortable PFD
  • It can fit people of different chest sizes
  • The tough nylon material makes it durable

Cons

  • The zippers are not high-strength compared to competitors

You might have to spend more to get this best kayak life vest, but it is going to be worth it. Yes, it is not the cheapest, but it stands out for its construction, safety, and performance.

The PFD is excellent in terms of comfort to make the wearer feel it was worth getting it. You can use it for kayaking, fishing, and many other applications while in the water. As such, you should find it is a versatile life jacket for the money.

The model has an excellent fit on the body. The idea is to make it comfortable while at the same time, remain secure. Make sure that you pick the right size before making the purchase.

The life vest also has two large zipper pockets. If you remember, I said it is a fishing vest too. You would always want more space to store some different materials in the vest to use while fishing. Since the pockets are zippered, they will not fall out easily.

Pros

  • It has pockets for storing accessories
  • It is a comfortable life vest
  • Having multiple adjustment points makes it a snug fit

Cons

  • Some feel it could use better breathability to keep you comfortable

When you are looking for the best kayak life vest, you probably did not expect to come across the name Mustang. Well, it is not the car model, but rather an important device that can potentially keep you alive when you fall into the water.

Users love it for offering the automatic inflation feature. This means that the PFD will automatically inflate to the right size within seconds when you get into the water. As such, you would be sure that your safety is guaranteed.

The model uses the 500D Denier Cordura outer shell. This shell is crucial for ensuring that the PFD can withstand any objects trying to puncture it.

There is also an inflator inspection window to check its performance. The easy access flap is great for those who might want to do maintenance to the PFD.

Reports also show that it is 1.5x better at buoyancy than some foam PFDs in case of an emergency.

Pros

  • It easily inflates within seconds
  • The outer shell is durable
  • It offers more buoyancy performance for its size

Cons

  • Some find it is expensive for the features

FAQs

How do you wear a kayak life vest?

It is not hard to wear a kayak life vest. You would wear it like any other vest. It will have a zipper that you close and a buckle to hold the vest in position. There will also be shoulder and side straps important for adjusting the vest for a comfortable fit.

How do you measure for the right kayak life vest?

For adults, you need to consider the chest size. As for the kids, they will be chosen based on their body weight. Some models would be designed for women only, so make sure you choose appropriately. Such models would have a shorter torso to maintain better balance while in the water.

Why should you wear a life jacket/PFD?

A life jacket is vital for keeping you afloat until help arrives. Each time you head out for a kayaking activity, make sure that you are wearing your PFD.

The U.S Coast Guard estimated that 84.5% of those who drowned in 2017 were not wearing life vests. So, it is easy to see why you need one.

Conclusion

Now that you know why life vests are important, are you ready to try them out? Well, it should not be hard to be convinced that life vests are good for you. If you look at the success stories of owning one, then you will be intrigued to own one today.

Some countries do not allow kayaking without a life vest. In such a case, make sure that you get one today to be safe while enjoying your kayaking activity.

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