Are you planning your next kayaking adventure? Of course, you will want to make sure that you are ready for any eventuality. Just about anything can happen when you are on open water and safety should always be a primary concern.
You are sure to feel safe and secure when you have picked out the best life vest for kayaking. However, with so many different models to choose from, knowing that you have selected the best can be difficult.
Therefore, we have created detailed reviews of the most popular life vests around, to help make the decision process a little easier for you.
Top 9 Best Life Vest for Kayaking In 2023 Reviews
1 ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
If you are planning a kayaking adventure, you will need to choose your life vest carefully. Of course, you will want to make sure that the model you choose is buoyant enough to keep you afloat. However, it is important to make sure that the life vest does not restrict your movements too much.
Designed for kayaking, freedom of movement is ensured…
Fortunately, the ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest has been designed especially for kayaking. It provides the freedom of movement that you will need when you are paddling and you are sure to find that this model is also ideal for a wide range of other watersports too.
This model has been fully Coast Guard Approved, which is sure to provide you with extra confidence. It is set with a mesh back to help keep you cool and comfortable in hot weather. There are also reflective strips on the front to help make you highly visible in low lighting conditions.
Time to hit the water…
Despite the fact that this model features plenty of padding, you can be sure it will be comfortable to wear since the high positioned bubble foam on the top portion of the inner back is designed to accommodate kayak seats.
The sides of the life vest are also open to allow air to circulate, leaving your arms free to move.
The neoprene comfort pads on the shoulders are fully adjustable for the perfect fit, and the front of the vest has been specially sculpted to ensure this too. The vest is also held firmly in place by a series of belts that are very easy to adjust.
- Set with SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility.
- Features mesh in the lower back.
- Includes expandable zippered pockets.
- Made of heavy-duty nylon fabric.
- Fully Coast Guard Approved.
- Only features one pocket.
2 NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD
When you are on the water, you are likely to want to take plenty of gear with you. However, it is important to make sure that essential items remain close at hand for quick access. The last thing you want is to waste time fumbling around in a backpack for your trusty pocket knife.
Four strategically placed pockets on this one…
The NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD has been designed to solve this issue. You are treated to no less than four strategically placed pockets in total and they are all secured with durable zippers, to help keep the water out.
In addition to these pockets, you are provided with four large and durable d-rings. These can be used to clip small and essential items onto the outside of your life vest so they are never more than a quick hand reach away. This will make it easier to keep things like emergency whistles suitably accessible.
Although a little bulky, it suits any body type…
No matter what body type you have, you can be sure that this life vest will be the perfect fit. This is due to the fact that it is set with six different, separate adjustment points, which help to ensure a snug fit without restricting your movements.
The NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD has been made of 400 denier nylon fabric that is very durable.
This mighty model is US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD. It is set with strategically placed 3M reflective accents to help make you highly visible when in the water.
- Features a total of four pockets.
- Set with 6 adjustment points.
- Comes with a front zipper for easy removal.
- Boasts an ergonomic design.
- Available in 2 vibrant colors.
- This model is rather bulky.
3 Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device – Best Life Vest for Kayaking Men
With its superior tough design, this life vest for kayaking can withstand plenty of knocks and shocks.
The Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device has been designed especially for aquatic adventures. It provides plenty of comfort and support without interfering with your motions as you paddle.
Tough on the outside, soft on the inside… * like *…
The outer shell of this model has been made from extra-tough 500 denier Cordura.
This is ideal for kayaking where abrasion from the sides of the cockpit can tear lighter fabrics, making it one of the best men’s life vests for kayaking on the market. However, the inner lining of this life vest is made of 200 denier oxford making it suitably soft and comfortable to wear.
Less risk of getting caught on your seat with this model…
The back panel of the life vest is set higher than some to prevent it from catching on kayak seats. This also helps to prevent the back from riding up around your neck, which we like. However, the front panel fits nice and close to provide better buoyancy and features straps that are easy to adjust.
Although this life vest is not machine washable, you are sure to find that it will be easy to clean. A little soap and warm water are all that is needed to remove any surface dirt, And, the breathable material also dries very quickly.
Two pockets for small items…
This model comes complete with two large pockets at the front. These pockets are secured with zippers and will keep small items safe while repelling water. However, the pockets may be a little too small for larger and more bulky electronic items such as Smartphones.
- Available in a wide range of colors.
- Features ventilated shoulder and back pads.
- Boasts 2 zippered pockets.
- Set with a cross-chest cinch harness.
- Tough outer shell.
- Includes a soft 200 denier oxford inner lining.
- The pockets are not suitable for bulky electronic gadgets.
4 Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket
With its streamlined design, this life vest makes it easy to paddle your kayak. The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket features graded sizing for enhanced comfort. This means that smaller sizes are not as bulky, but still provide the buoyancy and support that you need.
Carefully calculated buoyancy requirements for various sizes… clever…
The required buoyancy for each size has been carefully calculated to reduce bulk. For example, the small/medium model has fifteen pounds of buoyancy, while L/XL boasts sixteen pounds of buoyancy. This is a smart way of reducing bulk while still providing the buoyancy that you need.
The overall design of this life vest delivers optimum comfort. The waist, shoulder, and side straps are all fully adjustable to provide the perfect fit. The vest is low-cut and boasts extra-large armholes for maximum mobility when you are on the water.
Living life on the edge…
This model is fully US Coast Guard Approved Type III PFD and is set with 3M reflective strips. This means that you can be sure that safety is a primary concern in its design.
You are treated to large pockets at the front for your gear as well as the choice of four different bright colors.
We recommend ordering one size larger than normal though…
It’s important to note that the sizes that this model comes in, tend to run a bit on the small side. This means that it is a good idea to order a size larger than you usually wear and with sizes running up to XXL, this should not pose too much of a problem.
- Set with fully adjustable shoulders.
- Available in 4 cool colors.
- Boasts large front pockets.
- Less bulky than the average.
- Features reflective 3M™ strips.
- Sizes tend to run a bit small.
5 Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD
If you are kayaking on a hot and sunny day, staying as cool as possible is essential. Traditional life vests tend to have a rather dense and bulky design, so while they are ideal for the winter months, they are likely to make you feel rather hot and uncomfortable in the summer.
Welcoming a breathable design for hot weather…
The Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD boasts an especially breathable design that is ideal for hot weather. The mesh backing allows air to circulate and preventing the life vest from sticking to your back.
While the front of this model is fully padded to make it buoyant, it also comes with cutaway mesh panels.
The design of this model allows you to work hard while still keeping your cool since the open sides are combined with innovative and unobtrusive shoulder straps. The design specifically provides you with the support you need without restricting your movements in any way.
Chafe prevention too… awesome…
There are a total of six adjustment straps that allow you to achieve the perfect fit. The foam panels that are set into the front of the vest flex as you move, to help prevent chafing. You are also treated to expandable mesh pockets that can be used to store essential items.
The front of this life vest features a full-length zipper. This is designed to help make it quick and easy to take off. However, the large amount of padding that is set on either side of the zipper may get stuck in it occasionally.
- Set with PE and EVA foam inserts.
- Boasts a buoyancy rating of 16 lbs.
- Features a quick-release waist belt.
- Comes with large expanding mesh pockets.
- Designed to be especially breathable.
- The zipper tends to get caught.
6 Kokatat Outfit Tour PFD Kayak Lifejacket
Kokatat has created a wide range of safety gear and items that are designed for water sports. The company’s collection includes a huge range of wetsuits as well as drysuits, boots and rubber seals.
Kokatat products are known for being particularly high quality and ideal for water sport enthusiasts.
But how does their life vest design measure up?
The Kokatat Outfit Tour PFD Kayak Lifejacket boasts a bright and bold design that really stands out from the crowd. This model offers four cool colors to choose from, namely red, mango, navy, and bright yellow. This makes it easy to choose a model that suits your sense of style.
It’s Type3, which means comfortable, easy to wear and ease of movement…
However, you can rest assured that this model is not simply a pretty face. You are provided with an impressive 16.5 pounds flotation to keep you buoyant. This is also a Type3 product so you can be sure it will keep you safe and secure when you are in the water.
We like the zipper and adjustable clasps…
This mighty model has been made of a durable and comfortable blend of Denier and Oxford Nylon and foam and removing the life jacket is easy, thanks to the full-length zipper that runs down the front. A series of adjustable clasps and straps hold this model firmly in place at all times.
Can be a tight fit for some though…
If you are relatively tall, you may find that this model falls a little short. It should also be noted that there are only three sizes available to choose from so if you require something a bit bigger than large, you are likely to find that this life vest is a tight fit.
- Set with zippered front pockets.
- Approved by the United States Coast Guard.
- Boasts adjustable straps and clasps.
- Features a full-length front zipper.
- Available in 4 cool colors.
- Not ideal for very tall people.
7 Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket – Best Kids Life Vest for Kayaking
If you are taking the kids out on a kayaking adventure, you will need to make sure they are as safe as possible.
Choosing the best kids life vest for kayaking is the perfect way to do it. this is because you are likely to find that standard life vests are too large and bulky for your little ones.
The Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket has been designed especially for kids. It is designed to be very buoyant and can be depended upon to keep your child afloat. It is suitable for kids that weigh between 50 and 90 pounds.
Kids can easily paddle wearing it…
The overall design of this life vest is really lightweight and compact. This helps to make this model cooler and more comfortable so your child will still be able to paddle the kayak while receiving extra protection in case the kayak capsizes.
There is a zippered pocket on the front that is ideal for small items such as a whistle. The pocket is expandable and set with drainage which means that excess water will be able to flow through it rather than getting caught and weighing down the life vest.
No strap between the legs though…
There are six different adjustment straps to hold this life vest firmly in place. However, it should be noted that this model does not feature a strap that runs between the legs.
This means that the life vest may rise up slightly if your child is very active.
- Set with neoprene shoulder pads.
- Boasts a lightweight and compact design.
- Ideal for high backed kayak seats.
- Designed especially for kids.
- Suitable for kids weighing 50 to 90 pounds.
- Does not have a strap between the legs.
8 Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device – Best Woman’s Life Vest for Kayaking
Trying to find a life vest for women can be a bit of a challenge. While they get the job done, most life vests have been designed with the male form in mind, which means that women are likely to find the average life vest to be rather bulky.
Going with the flow…
As the name suggests, the Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device has been designed especially for women. It boasts a tapered design that should fit comfortably on the hips and the armholes in this model are extra spacious to prevent restrictions when paddling the kayak.
This vest is very lightweight and is made of high-quality PE foam. This is combined with mesh lining on the inside that is highly breathable to keep you cool and comfortable and it is topped off with a tough and protective 200 ripstop denier shell, which covers the outside.
Neoprene padding for comfortable buoyancy…
The waistband of this life vest helps to hold it firmly in place and is padded with neoprene. This helps to make sure that the life vest is suitably buoyant while providing extra comfort. There is also a cinch harness that runs across your chest to provide the extra support that you need.
There are two different cool and colorful designs to choose from. The grey and purple model looks particularly striking, while the orange and grey version is better for visibility. The design of the life vest is completed with motif embellishments and two large zippered front pockets.
- Set with a padded Neoprene waistband.
- Fully Coast Guard approved.
- Boasts a comfortable and lightweight design.
- Features 2 large front pockets.
- Designed especially for women.
- Not machine washable.
9 Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device
As you are sure to have noticed, most of the best life vests for kayaking are created by Stohlquist. This leading company has created a wide range of life vests that are suitable for men, women, and children.
These life vests are known for being superior for their high quality and come with a large number of innovative features.
A long-term investment in durability…
This model features lightweight PE Foam with an inner mesh lining that helps to keep you cool and comfortable. You are provided with a buoyancy of sixteen pounds that is sure to be sufficient and the overall design of this life vest is very durable, so it should be with you for a long time to come.
Cool to wear, cool to look at too…
Because the overall design is so lightweight, you are sure to find that paddling is easy enough and even after spending the whole day on the water, you are sure to remain cool and comfortable. There are also two different colors to choose from to suit your sense of style.
Although there are only three sizes to choose from, this model is designed to provide the right fit. If you have a larger-than-average frame, the Univ Plus version is sure to be the best option for you. There are also plenty of fully adjustable straps that hold the life vest in place when you are moving.
Bigger pockets and some clips would have made it our favorite…
However, it should be noted that the pockets set into this life jacket are quite small. There are no clips on the life vest, meaning that it could be difficult to keep track of a whistle and other items.
It is unfortunately not machine washable either.
- Set with a padded Neoprene waistband.
- Features a 400 x 200 denier ripstop shell.
- Boasts padded shoulder straps.
- Designed to stay firmly in place.
- Lightweight PE Foam combined with inner mesh lining.
- Not machine washable.
- The pockets are rather small.
A Buying Guide For Finding The Best Life Vest For Kayaking
Ultimately, your choice of a life vest is likely to come down to personal preference. You are likely to want to choose a model that appeals to your individual sense of style, but here are some of the other factors that you should consider when choosing the perfect kayaking life vest for you.
- Size Matters
First and foremost, it is important to make sure that your new life vest is the right size for you rather than a one-size-fits-all option.
You need to check the various measurements carefully to make sure that the chest area will not be too tight and there should be enough space so that you can easily wear your kayaking gear underneath the life vest.
You need to make sure that your movements are not restricted when you are out on the water. The armholes should be large enough so that you can paddle with ease and models that are set with mesh panels will allow air to circulate to help keep you cool and comfortable.
The life vest should be set with suitable straps to help hold it firmly in place. And, these straps should be fully adjustable to provide extra comfort. The shoulder straps should also be as wide as possible, easily adjustable, and fully padded.
The amount of buoyancy that you need will depend on your weight. It is essential to make sure that your new life vest will actually keep you afloat if you happen to capsize. Most models come complete with their buoyancy rating clearly marked.
- Safety First
It is important to make sure that your life vest is fully Coast Guard Approved. If you are planning a solo kayaking trip, you should take a whistle and other essential items with you. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose a life vest that features pockets to keep these items in, and a few outer clips for fast access to emergency items.
The pocket design makes a huge difference, so check all the details…
Ideally, the pockets should be zippered to prevent items from falling out while you are in motion. And, they should keep as much water out as possible, to keep your items as dry as possible. Moreover, they should also allow excess water to drain out so that your life vest does not become weighed down.
Visibility is also particularly important when you are on the water, especially in low-light conditions. Therefore, your life vest should be set with reflective strips and it may also be a good idea to choose a life vest in a bright color so that it can be easily spotted.
Last but not least, make sure that the life vest you choose is going to be suitably durable. This is especially important if you are kayaking in saltwater, as salt tends to eat through flimsy materials. Ideally, any life vest made for kayaking should be made from heavy-duty neoprene or nylon.
Interested In Other Great Kayaking Gear?
There are a number of great products on the market to improve your kayaking experience. Do check out our Best Kayak Seat Reviews, the Best Trolling Motor for Kayaks Reviews, the Best Trolling Motor Battery Reviews, and the Best Kayak trailer Reviews.
We also have some great informative articles for kayaking enthusiasts. Have a browse through our ideas for How to Transport a Kayak without a Roof Rack, the difference between Sit on top vs Sit in Kayak, and What are Scupper Plugs?
Our Final Thoughts The Best Life Vest For Kayaking
When choosing the best kayaking life vest for you, you’ll want a model that is tough but comfortable. Created with the needs of kayakers firmly in mind, we would choose the…
It boasts an especially rugged outer shell that is combined with a soft inner lining for enhanced comfort. And, this model also delivers excellent buoyancy, which is sure to provide extra peace of mind.
It provides the support that you need without restricting your movements in any way so when you are ready for adventure, you will find this to be a great kayaking companion!