What Is the Best Kayak Life Vest?

best kayak life vest

You want to have a fantastic experience out on your kayak. It may be with family, friends or even alone. But kayaking can only be amazing if it is safe—and that means having a kayak life vest, among other things.

If you have been searching around for a kayak PFD, you know that the options are countless. There are so many brands, it’s crazy. Which one should you buy? With all these life vests around, it is easy to be confused. Advertisers highlight the positive features but they won’t tell you about the negative side.

Don’t buy an inferior PFD. Let us help you find the best one. Here we discuss 20 of the best kayak life jackets available.

Kayak Life Jackets Compared

Kayak PFDs
For Whom
My rating
1. Onyx MoveVent
1. Onyx MoveVent
Uni
4.8
2. Onyx Curve MoveVent
2. Onyx Curve MoveVent
Uni
4.7
3. Onyx MoveVent Torsion
3. Onyx MoveVent Torsion
Uni
4.7
4. Onyx Universal
4. Onyx Universal
Uni
4.6
5. Stearns Adult Classic
5. Stearns Adult Classic
Uni
4.4
6. O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG
6. O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG
Men
4.6
7. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG
7. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG
Men
4.5
8. Astral Women’s Layla
8. Astral Women’s Layla
Women
4.9
9. O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo
9. O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo
Women
4.6
10. Stohlquist Women’s Escape
10. Stohlquist Women’s Escape
Women
4.6
11. Stohlquist Women’s Flo
11. Stohlquist Women’s Flo
Women
4.5
12. Onyx Kayak Fishing
12. Onyx Kayak Fishing
Fishing
4.7
13. Stohlquist Fisherman
13. Stohlquist Fisherman
Fishing
4.6
14. Stearns Collared Angler Vest
14. Stearns Collared Angler Vest
Fishing
4.5
15. Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest
15. Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest
Fishing
4.2
16. Airhead Gnar Infant
16. Airhead Gnar Infant
Infants 15-30 lbs.
4.7
17. Airhead Gnar
17. Airhead Gnar
Kids 30-50 lbs.
4.7
18. O’Neill Child Superlite USCG
18. O’Neill Child Superlite USCG
Kids 30-50 lbs.
4.3
19. Stohlquist Youth Fit
19. Stohlquist Youth Fit
Youth 50-90 lbs.
4.4
20. Onyx Youth
20. Onyx Youth
Youth 50-90 lbs.
4.4

Kayak Life Vest Reviews

Read on for our reviews:

1. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Kayak Life Vest

onyx movevent kayak life vest

The MoveVent life vest is designed for all paddling activities, including kayaking. It is one of the most comfortable PFDs you can get. Take a look at its features.

Material

The Onyx MoveVent is made using 200 denier nylon oxford and nylon ripstop. Its comfort pads are made of neoprene. The flotation foam is lightweight and super tough.

Design

This life vest has reflective material to help with visibility—an important aspect in watersports. It comes in three sizes: X-small/small, medium/large and X-large/2X-large/. The expandable zipper pockets have mesh drainage.

Comfort

Shoulder adjustments have neoprene comfort pads. The vest conforms to a paddler’s body, thanks to the flexible and sculpted design. It also has ventilation at the back and front for a cooling effect.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon
  • Neoprene comfort pads
  • Lightweight flotation foam
  • Reflective material
  • Three sizes available
  • Expandable zipper pockets
  • Flexible and sculpted design
  • Ventilation at the back and front
  • Lash tab for smaller essentials
  • Attached whistle
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Ideal for high-seat kayaks
  • Comfortable
  • Not bulky
  • Small pocket

Customer Feedback

Users say that this is a great PFD for the price. It’s lightweight and comfortable, even for hours of paddling. One kayaker says that it doesn’t push you forward like most life vests. They love the big armholes as well. Some paddlers wish there were more pockets or, at least, a bigger one.

Check Price of the Onyx MoveVent

2. Onyx Curve MoveVent

onyx curve movevent kayak life jacket

Another one from Onyx. The Curve MoveVent comes in different colors. Like the other Onyx vest above, it ensures maximum comfort for paddlers.

Material

The outer shell of the Curve MoveVent is made using 200 denier nylon while the flotation material is made with soft and lightweight material. It has neoprene comfort pads.

Design

The Onyx Curve MoveVent features adjustable side belts and a durable zipper closure. It has a mesh lower back that is suitable for high-seat kayaks. The life vest is available in three sizes: X-small/small, medium/large and X-large/XX-large.

Comfort

There is ventilation at the front and back. A sweaty PFD can make you really uncomfortable so this is nice. It is flexible and sculpted to make it conform to your body. Shoulder adjustments are fitted with comfort pads for comfort.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon
  • Soft flotation foam
  • Neoprene comfort pads
  • Adjustable side belts
  • Durable zipper closure
  • Mesh lower back
  • Three sizes
  • Front and back ventilation
  • Flexible and sculpted
  • Ideal for high-seat kayaks
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Proper ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Excellent mobility
  • No pocket

Customer Feedback

For many kayakers, this is a perfect vest. It is light and fits them very well. In a few minutes, they forget that it is there. Most people opted for the yellow color and, in addition to being beautiful, it improves visibility. Some paddlers wish there was a pocket or even a D-ring. A few (very few) users say it is bulky at the front.

Check Price of the Onyx Curve

3. Onyx MoveVent Torsion Kayak Life Vest

onyx movevent torsion kayak pfd

The MoveVent Torsion comes with everything you may want. It looks like an ordinary life vest but the features are quite exciting.

Material

This PFD is made using 400 denier nylon. It is built to last. The flotation foam material is soft, lightweight and comfortable. To show their confidence, the manufacturer offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Design

The expandable zipper pockets have mesh drainage. There are adjustable side belts and a waist belt as well as a lash tab for smaller essentials. A whistle is attached so you don’t have to buy one. The Onyx features a strong zipper closure, reflective material and a drying loop.

Comfort

The back is fitted with Bubble Foam to keep you as comfortable as possible. Like the other life vests in the MoveVent product line, this one has ventilation and the front and the back. It stays in place and conforms to your body—you won’t even notice it.

Features and Specifications

  • 400 denier nylon
  • Soft flotation material
  • Expandable zipper pockets
  • Adjustable waist and side belts
  • Lash tab for accessories
  • Comes with a whistle
  • Reflective material
  • Drying loop
  • Front and back ventilation
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Bubble Foam for added comfort
  • Flexible and light
  • Comfortable material
  • Small pockets

Customer Feedback

The Onyx MoveVent Torsion is well made, according to users. It is breathable and they can wear it for a long time without feeling sweaty or uncomfortable. The main complaint is about pockets. Kayakers love the idea of pockets but they say that this vest’s pockets are too small for most accessories. You can only put keys, a whistle or credit card.

Check Price of the Onyx Torsion

4. Onyx Universal

onyx universal kayak pfd

Every kayaker wants a small and compact life vest. One that won’t hinder them in any way or move too much—just like the Onyx Universal.

Material

It is built using 200 denier nylon. The shoulder pads are made with neoprene and there is a mesh lower back. These materials are meant to make it lightweight but still durable.

Design

The Onyx Universal is lightweight, low profile and compact. It has a high foam back and six adjustment straps. The straps ensure that your vest is in place and snug. There is a large pocket at the front for your essentials.

Comfort

The breathable mesh lower back keeps you from getting all sweaty under the hot sun. Although it only comes in two sizes, you can adjust the Onyx Universal PFD to fit perfectly. The shoulder straps have pads for comfort.

Features and Specifications

  • Made with 200 denier nylon
  • Neoprene shoulder pads
  • Mesh lower back
  • High foam back
  • Six adjustment straps
  • Large front pocket
  • Two sizes available
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Compact and low profile
  • Breathable back
  • Adjustable
  • No Velcro on pocket

Customer Feedback

Kayakers love how adjustable the Onyx Universal is. Finding a PFD that fits can be a struggle sometimes. It doesn’t rub against their arms or neck when they’re kayaking. Some say that it would be nice to have Velcro or a zipper on the pocket—but they are not complaining.

Check Price of the Onyx Universal

5. Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

stearns adult classic kayak life jacket

This adult vest comes in two colors: red and blue. It is designed for the enthusiastic kayaker*. There is a lot to love about it.

Material

The Stearns features a 200 denier nylon construction. Its inside foam is made from PE. The material makes it an all-purpose life jacket, suitable for any season.

Design

There are two sizes available: adult universal and adult oversized. It features a three-buckle design and you can adjust it using the four chest straps. The open sides make it a better fit for most users.

Comfort

The Stearns has large armholes to allow for movement. Its adjustability is great—you can always make it bigger or smaller depending on what you’re wearing.

Features and Specifications

  • Available in red and blue
  • Comes in two sizes
  • 200 denier nylon construction
  • PE foam
  • All-purpose life jacket
  • Three buckle design
  • Four adjustable chest straps
  • Open sides
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Large armholes
  • Adjustable
  • Affordable
  • All-purpose
  • No pockets
  • Limited size options

Customer Feedback

The fact that the Stearns life jacket is adjustable means that it can fit most people. A good number of kayakers say that they haven’t had any issues. A few, however, find it either too big or too small. Besides that, the users agree that this is a quality life vest and they recommend it.

Check Price of the Stearns Classic

6. O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Life Vest

O

This O’Neill life vest looks stylish. But that’s not the only cool thing about it. The life vest comes with many awesome features to keep you safe and comfortable at all times.

Material

The O’Neill PFD features a closed-cell PVC marine-grade foam and a 100% polyester lining. Add to that the heavy-duty zipper and advanced technology, and the result is a high-quality kayaking vest.

Design

It has anatomical flex points and a segmented foam core that help with movement. The quick-release buckles are a nice touch as well. There are expansion panels and a concealed belt system.

You can get this life vest in six sizes: small, medium, large X-large, XX-large and XXX-Large.

Comfort

The manufacturer went out of their way to make the O’Neill Men’s life vest as comfortable as possible. They have included expansion panels, to make it fit well. Then there is the minimum bulk design and anatomical flex points for full mobility.

Features and Specifications

  • Closed-cell PVC foam
  • 100% polyester lining
  • Heavy-duty zipper
  • Anatomical flex points
  • Segmented foam core
  • Quick-release buckles
  • Concealed belt system
  • Expansion panels
  • Six sizes and four colors
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Wide range of sizes
  • Super comfortable
  • Very well made
  • No pocket or D-ring

Customer Feedback

A number of users were confused by the sizes and a few bought a vest that was a little bigger.

Everyone seems to agree that the O’Neill Men’s life vest is a great product. It is high-quality and looks great. They also say that it is durable. So as long as you get the right size, you will love it.

Check Price of the O’Neill Men’s Reactor

7. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest

O

This Type III PFD has commendable adjustability. That is the most notable feature. But there are other fantastic qualities. Check them out below.

Material

The O’Neill Men’s Superlite life vest is built from 100% polyester. The foam filling is made with lightweight polyethylene. These materials are not only durable but also light and comfortable.

Design

There are four safety buckle closures and a zipper safety tab. The exterior is water-resistant. This O’Neill vest also has reflective inserts for visibility. You have four colors to choose from.

Comfort

The armholes are large to avoid restricting your movement. The design is anything but bulky and you’ll soon forget that you are wearing a PFD.

Features and Specifications

  • 100% polyester
  • Polyethylene foam filling
  • Four safety buckle closures
  • Zipper safety tab
  • Water-resistant exterior
  • Reflective inserts
  • Six sizes and four colors
  • Large armholes
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Compact design
  • Wide range of sizes
  • Great adjustability
  • Strong seams
  • No top shoulder pads
  • No pocket or D-ring

Customer Feedback

Even the buyers know that O’Neill never disappoints. Their Superlite Men’s life vest is exceptional in quality. It fits well and does what it is supposed to do. Again, a few people had an issue with the sizes—they chose a size that was too large or too small.

Check Price of the O’Neill Men’s Superlite

8. Astral Women’s Layla Kayak Life Jacket

Astral Women

Most regular life vests don’t usually work well for women. If most of the PFDs you have tried are too small or squish you, check out the Astral women’s life vest.

Material

It is built using 200 x 400 denier ripstop nylon. The liner is made with 200 denier high-tenacity nylon and it has PolyPro webbing. It is made to last, regardless of how adventurous you are.

Design

This life vest is made specifically for women. It features an internally sculpted Kapok foam bust cup. The women-specific architecture includes a multipanel princess hinge.

The secure front pocket has an internal divider to help you stay organized. You get the PFD in three colors: eggplant, red and blue.

Comfort

The Astral Layla life jacket features adjustable buckles for a perfect fit. This design has been in the market for almost 20 years. You can trust it to conform to your curves and keep you safe.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 x 400 denier ripstop nylon
  • 200 denier nylon liner
  • PolyPro webbing
  • Internally sculpted bust cup
  • Multipanel princess hinge
  • Front pocket with divider
  • Three colors available
  • Four sizes
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Perfectly sculpted
  • Secure front pocket
  • Adjustable
  • A little expensive

Customer Feedback

Kayakers don’t have a single complaint. The Astral women’s life vest turned out to be better than they expected. It is high quality and conforms to their curves well. There is an ideal size for every woman and they really appreciate that.

Check Price of the Astral Layla

9. O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo Life Vest

O

As a kayaker, you know that taking care of the environment is important. And that includes buying products that feature eco-conscious construction—like the O’Brien women’s life vest.

Material

This PFD’s BioLite construction is not just eco-friendly. It is lightweight, soft and breathable. On top of that, it is made to last.

Design

At the front, there is a zippered closure and two adjustable belts with buckles. The vest is hinged in the front and has wide armholes for easy movement.

Comfort

The breathable material used to make the O’Brien Neo life vest is breathable, which is perfect for an activity like kayaking.

Features and Specifications

  • BioLite construction
  • Front zippered closure
  • Adjustable belts with buckles
  • Hinge point at the back and front
  • Neoprene outer
  • Lanyard attachment ring
  • Five sizes available
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Breathable material
  • Snug fit
  • Comfortable
  • Issue with sizes

Customer Feedback

Kayakers don’t seem to have many complaints about the O’Brien Neo women’s life vest. It is well made and gorgeous. The PFD does a good job keeping users afloat and it is comfortable. Some people got the wrong size. Just pay attention to the manufacturer’s size chart and you will get the right size.

Check Price of the O’Brien Impulse Neo

10. Stohlquist Escape Kayak PFD For Women

Stohlquist Women

If you are looking for a kayak vest that will snugly hug your body and not ride up, the Stohlquist may suit you.

Material

This PFD from Stohlquist Waterwave features a 200 denier nylon. The material is lightweight, comfortable and durable.

Design

There are three colors available: violet, turquoise and sail blue. It is fully adjustable at the sides and shoulders. The life vest has a waist belt, reflective accents and a zippered pocket.

Comfort

The shoulder straps are padded for comfort. This PFD’s chest foam is perfectly shaped and it has a low-profile buoyancy foam that is flexible.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon
  • Comes in three colors
  • Fully adjustable shoulders and sides
  • Waist belt
  • Reflective accents
  • Zippered pocket
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Three sizes available
  • USCG and Transport Canada approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Adjustable
  • Big arm openings
  • Quality construction
  • Color misrepresentation

Customer Feedback

Users are happy with their purchase. The Stohlquist is beautiful and made with heavy-duty materials. It offers plenty of room for adjustment—many buyers don’t have an issue with sizes. The only complaint is about color. The violet vest is not actually violet but it is close.

Check Price of the Stohlquist Women’s Escape

11. Stohlquist Women’s Flo Kayak Life Vest

Stohlquist Women

The Flo life jacket is flattering and comfortable. More importantly, it is efficient and you can count on it if you fall into the water.

Material

The Stohlquist Flo PFD features a 200 denier oxford liner and 400 x 200 denier ripstop shell. It is lightweight.

Design

It features a neoprene padded waistband and inner mesh lining. It comes in two colors: orange/gray and purple/gray.

The vest has a cross cinch strap to prevent ride up. It also has pockets.

Comfort

There’s mesh at the shoulder and back as well as open sides to allow for air circulation and cooling. The chest area has supportive foam cups for comfort.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon construction
  • Neoprene padded waistband
  • Inner mesh lining
  • Two colors
  • Cross cinch strap
  • Beverage pockets
  • Open sides
  • Supportive foam cups
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • High quality
  • Proper ventilation
  • Fits well
  • Doesn’t ride up
  • Hard to zip the zipper

Customer Feedback

For 91% of buyers, the Stohlquist Flo fits as expected. Kayakers love how it allows for free movement and does not ride up. Very few women say that they found it short. They were expecting it to go all the way down to the waist. One user says that the Stohlquist Flo vest saved her life.

Check Price of the Stohlquist Flo

12. ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

Kayakers complain a lot about not having enough pockets and attachment points on their PFDs. This won’t be an issue with the Onyx fishing life vest.

Material

The life jacket is built using 400 denier nylon oxford and it has neoprene shoulder pads. The lower back is made of breathable mesh.

Design

The Onyx fishing vest includes six adjustment straps for a snug fit. For high-back seat kayaks, this PFD has a high foam back. There are several pockets, attachment points and a lash tab for your accessories.

Comfort

The life vest’s high back makes it comfortable to sit in a kayak for a long period. The shoulder straps are fitted with comfort pads. Breathable mesh on the lower back prevents you from getting sweaty.

Features and Specifications

  • 400 denier nylon
  • Neoprene shoulder pads
  • Mesh lower back
  • Six adjustment straps
  • Several pockets
  • Elastic attachment points
  • Lash tab
  • Hanging loop
  • Low profile
  • Two sizes: universal and oversize
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Plenty of pockets
  • High back
  • Heavy-duty material
  • Adjustable
  • Zipper issues

Customer Feedback

Those who bought the Onyx kayak fishing vest love it. They appreciate the pockets and attachment points. According to them, this is a well-made PFD and it keeps them afloat when they fall into the water. While they highly recommend it, they advise you to be careful with the zipper. Fabric gets stuck in it easily.

Check Price of the Onyx Fishing Life Vest

13. Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device

Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device

Safety, comfort and convenience—that is what you get with the Stohlquist fisherman PFD. You won’t have to customize this life vest to suit your fishing needs.

Material

The outer shell is made using 500 denier Cordura and the liner from 200 denier oxford. This is one of the most rugged PFDs out there; perfect for fishing.

Design

The Stohlquist Fisherman personal flotation device has enough pockets and attachment points for all your tools. The two front pockets have a stiffened shell to protect whatever you put in them. There are smaller mesh pockets inside them with zippers. It comes in three sizes: small/medium, large/X-large and universal plus.

Comfort

The sides are open to allow for air circulation. Its high-back flotation ensures comfort when leaning on your kayak’s backrest. The lower back waistband and shoulder straps are padded.

Features and Specifications

  • 500 denier Cordura shell
  • 200 denier oxford liner
  • Enough pockets and attachment points
  • Stiffened front pockets
  • Open sides for ventilation
  • High-back flotation
  • Padded waistband and shoulder straps
  • Front zip entry closure
  • Three sizes
  • USCG and Transport Canada approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Plenty of pockets
  • Rugged
  • Comfortable
  • A little bulky

Customer Feedback

For many buyers, this is the “best kayak fishing vest ever”. They like how rugged it is and the pockets. It saves lives and does a good job of keeping kayakers afloat. Some think it is a little bulky—but that is something they can live with.

Check Price of the Stohlquist Fisherman

14. Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Kayak Fishing Life Vest

Here is another fishing vest—ideal for the angler who doesn’t want a bulky PFD. It comes with all the features you may need without being unnecessarily heavy.

Material

The Stearns Comfort angler vest features a PVC/PE flotation foam. The outer shell is constructed using 200 denier nylon oxford.

Design

The front is zippered and there are two adjustable webbed straps. At the front, you’ll find two large zippered pockets. They are meant to hold essentials but can also act as hand warmers when it is super cold. The mesh shoulder panels are great for hot days.

Comfort

This Stearns life vest has large armholes for ease of movement. Its flexible neoprene collar is soft against your skin.

Features and Specifications

  • PVC/PE flotation foam
  • 200 denier nylon oxford outer shell
  • Front zipper
  • Two adjustable straps
  • Large zippered pockets
  • Mesh shoulder panels
  • Large armholes
  • Flexible neoprene collar
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Lightweight
  • Large pockets
  • Proper ventilation
  • Issue with sizes

Customer Feedback

Anglers are impressed, to say the least. The quality of the Stearns Comfort is amazing. They love the pockets—for their licenses, phones, etc. The neoprene neck has also been mentioned several times because of how comfortable it is. A small percentage wish that the manufacturer had included a size chart.

Check Price of the Stearns Angler

15. Kylebooker Kayak Fly Fishing Vest Adjustable for Men and Women

Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest

The Kylebooker Kayak Fly fishing vest offers value for your money. You get a feature-packed PFD for all kinds of outdoor activities.

Material

This fishing vest is made using rugged but lightweight material. The pockets are lined with fleece and the lower back is made of mesh. Zipper pulls are not metal—as is the case with many PFDs—but are plastic.

Design

The Kylebooker comes with multiple pockets and attachment points for all your accessories. Its high foam back makes it ideal for high back seat kayaks. Some of the pockets are waterproof. You can get the Kylebooker in two sizes: universal and oversize.

Comfort

There are six adjustment straps for you to make the vest bigger or smaller. The mesh at the lower back is breathable and shoulder straps are padded.

Features and Specifications

  • Fleece-lined pockets
  • Mesh lower back
  • Plastic zipper pulls
  • Multiple zippered pockets and attachment points
  • Waterproof pockets
  • High foam back
  • Six adjustment straps
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Lash tab
  • Ample drainage

Pros & Cons

  • Tons of pockets
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Zipper issues

Customer Feedback

Many kayakers love how adjustable the Kylebooker is. This eliminates most of the problems related to size. They appreciate the pockets as well. It has amazing features and is comfortable. Most users seem to have received vests with faulty zippers.

Note: the manufacturer does not mention whether this life vest is Coast Guard approved.

Check Price of the Kylebooker

16. Airhead Gnar Infant Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest

Airhead Gnar Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Kayak Infant Life Vest

Kayaking is a family activity and no one should be left behind. The Airhead Kwik-Dry ensures that even babies have fun and stay safe.

Material

This Gnar life vest is constructed using Kwik-Dry Neolite and 200 denier polyester. The material is not only durable, but it is also fine and soft on the skin.

Design

This infant PFD is multicolored. It has a deep neckline and super large armholes. For added safety, there is a crotch strap, body belt and a grab handle. It has a zip closure.

The Gnar life vest is suitable for babies who weigh 15 pounds to 30 pounds.

Comfort

A supportive headrest keeps the child face-up. The material used is flexible, lightweight and breathable to make sure your baby is comfortable at all times.

Features and Specifications

  • Kwik-Dry Neolite and 200D polyester
  • Multicolored
  • Deep neckline
  • Large armholes
  • Crotch strap
  • Body belt
  • Grab handle
  • Supportive headrest
  • Zipper and buckle closure
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Beautiful design
  • Comfort features
  • Fine, breathable material
  • Issue with sizes

Customer Feedback

The colors are exactly as advertised—what you see is what you get. Some users say that their babies didn’t like PFDs before but they love the Gnar infant life vest. It is comfortable and not stiff. Most importantly, it is safe. A few parents have had problems with the size—either too long or too tight.

Check Price Airhead Gnar Infant

17. Airhead Gnar Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest

This is much like the one above, but it is for bigger children. Every parent wants the best for their kids, especially when it comes to safety. This PFD won’t let you down.

Material

The Gnar Kwik-Dry is built using EPE foam and 200 denier polyester. You don’t have to worry about your child getting all sweaty or itchy.

Design

This life vest has large armholes and a deep neckline, just like the Gnar Infant. It is multicolored and gorgeous.

The PFD includes body straps, an adjustable crotch strap and a zipper closure. It is meant for children who weigh 30 pounds to 50 pounds.

Comfort

The material is very soft ad lightweight. It is also breathable and flexible. Every feature is designed to make your child feel comfortable—no bulkiness or irritation.

Features and Specifications

  • EPE foam and 200 denier polyester
  • Large armholes
  • Deep neckline
  • Multicolored
  • Two body straps
  • Adjustable crotch
  • Breathable material
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Fine material
  • Breathable and comfortable
  • Well-made
  • Safe
  • Issue with sizes

Customer Feedback

According to users, the Gnar children’s life vest is amazing. The material used is lightweight, dries fast and is comfortable for kids. The PFD does a great job. Some users have had problems with the size. You may want to confirm with the manufacturer’s size chart before buying.

Check Price of the Airhead Gnar Life Jacket For Kids

18. O’Neill Child Superlite USCG Life Vest

O

You can’t go wrong with the O’Neill Superlite PFD for your child. This life vest is designed for kids weighing 30 pounds to 50 pounds. See more details below.

Material

The outer shell is made from heavy-duty nylon and has a PVC marine foam. The material will not affect your kid’s skin. It is breathable and lightweight.

Design

The O’Neill features fun graphics and colors. It has wide webbing belts and a safety crotch strap. All these straps have quick-release buckles. There’s a heavy-duty front zipper.

Comfort

In addition to being soft, this life vest has a head panel. It supports the neck safely and keeps the head above the water—all while ensuring that the child is comfortable.

Features and Specifications

  • Heavy-duty nylon
  • PVC marine foam
  • Fun graphics and colors
  • Wide webbing belts
  • Safety crotch strap
  • Quick-release buckles
  • Heavy-duty front zipper
  • Head panel
  • USCG approved Type III PFD

Pros & Cons

  • Bright and colorful
  • High quality
  • Lightweight
  • Runs small
  • Not much neck room

Customer Feedback

Parents love the O’Neill children’s vest. It is light and the quality is commendable. According to some users, however, what they have doesn’t float a child on their back. The sizes are also a little off. Other than that, this is a good life vest.

Check Price of the O’Neill Children’s Vest

19. Stohlquist Youth Fit Kayak Life Jacket

Stohlquist Youth Fit Kayak Life Jacket

For older kids, the Stohlquist life jacket is exactly what you need. It is easy to put on and adjust. Read on for more details.

Material

This PFD has an outer shell and liner made from 200 denier nylon. The material is soft and flexible. You can use the vest all year round.

Design

There is a hanging loop, strategically placed, for storage and drying. The three-buckle entry is easy to adjust. For higher mobility, the Stohlquist life jacket features a sculpted foam paneling.

It comes in two colors: blue and red.

Comfort

This PFD’s thinner back panel reduces interference with the seatback. It has open sides for ventilation. The neck and armholes are large so there’s freedom of movement.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon
  • Has a hanging loop
  • Three-buckle entry
  • Sculpted foam paneling
  • Two colors available
  • Comes in two sizes (50 lbs – 90 lbs, 75 lbs – 125 lbs)
  • Thinner back panel
  • Open sides
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Adjustable
  • Great quality
  • Comfortable for kids
  • Rides up

Customer Feedback

The buyers were not expecting a fancy life vest because of the price. The quality has exceeded their expectations. It is comfortable and allows kids to move freely—thanks to the large armholes. Some parents say that it rides up.

Check Price of the Stohlquist Youth Fit

20. Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket

onyx youth kayak life jacket

It is not always easy to find an “in-between” life vest size. The Onyx Youth is ideal for kids weighing 50 pounds to 90 pounds and fits very well.

Material

The Onyx life vest has a 200 denier outer shell. This material is common because it is light and durable.

Design

The PFD features a zipper entry and six adjustment straps. It has an expandable, zippered pocket. The foam is compact and low-profile, perfect for kayaking.

It is available in two colors: red and yellow.

Comfort

This Onyx Youth life vest features large armholes for mobility. It has a high foam back and the shoulder straps are fitted with neoprene pads.

Features and Specifications

  • 200 denier nylon outer shell
  • Zipper entry
  • Six adjustment straps
  • Zippered pocket is expandable
  • Compact, low-profile foam
  • Two colors available
  • Suitable for youth 50 lbs – 90 lbs
  • Large armholes
  • High foam back
  • USCG approved

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent mobility
  • Compact and light
  • Comfortable
  • No crotch strap

Customer Feedback

Many parents love the Onyx Youth because it is not bulky. Their kids wear it the entire time they are in the water and they don’t complain. The life vest also fits well. One buyer wishes it had a crotch strap. There are no negative reviews.

Check Price of the Onyx Youth

Conclusion

Finding the right kayaking life vest doesn’t have to be frustrating. You now have 20 awesome options to choose from. There is something for everyone– toddlers, children, women, men and anglers. Every category has been considered. Pick the one you like and plan your adventure.

Remember to have fun and make memories.

How to Choose a Kayak Life Vest

Everyone knows that kayaking without a life vest is a bad idea. But it is also no secret that these PFDs can be super uncomfortable. You don’t want to feel trapped and suffocated when you’re supposed to be having fun. Avoid this by choosing the perfect life vest for you.

But how do you do that?

The right PFD should be so comfortable that you forget it’s there. And in case of emergency, it should do what it is supposed to do—keep you afloat. These two factors are the most important.

And speaking of factors…

What to Consider When Choosing a Kayak Life Jacket

a. Type: Inflatable Vs Standard Kayak Life Vest

Before getting into this, let me mention categories briefly for clarity.

According to the USCG (United States Coast Guard), PFDs are categorized into five types, depending on their effectiveness, nature of activity and water. There’s Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV and Type V. Generally, Type III are the best for kayakers and paddlers.

Now, when it comes to inflatable vs standard, you need to know what will work for you.

1. Inflatable Vests for Kayaking

Inflatable life vests are less bulky and more comfortable. Typically, it is just a vest and a belt. Because they don’t cover a large area of your body, these PFDs are ideal during hot days.

An inflatable life vest becomes inflated when you get into the water. This can either be done manually or automatically. With an automatic PFD, the CO2 cartridge is activated when the vest is immersed in water, causing it to be inflated.

With a manual one, you have to pull a cord for it to be inflated.

Both of them have their pros and cons.

The automatic vest will come in handy when you’re too hurt to pull the cord or unconscious. But you need to be very careful with its maintenance to avoid any kind of malfunction.

The manual PFD, on the other hand, is a little less complicated. However, if something happens and you can’t activate it, you know how the story may end.

It can be hard to choose between these two types because you never know what will happen in case of an accident. You’ll be happy to know that some inflatable PFDs have both a manual and automatic functions.

2. Standard Kayak PFDs

A standard vest is made using flotation material such as foam. It is the more common of the two.

Standard vests don’t require any activation and there is nothing complicated about them. They are used in a wide range of activities by paddlers of all skill levels. Nonetheless, most of them are bulky. They can make you sweaty and uncomfortable when it’s hot.

Again, if you can’t choose between a standard and an inflatable, they make hybrid ones.

b. Buoyancy

If a life vest is not buoyant enough, there’s no point in wearing it.

The buoyancy of a PFD is the force required by the vest to help your head stay above the water. It is measured in pounds or kilograms, that is, the weight of water displaced.

A good flotation device should keep your chin above the water.

Factors such as lung size, body fat ratio, water conditions, weight, among others, determine the ideal buoyancy level.

A buoyancy level ranging from 7 pounds (3 kilograms) to 12 pounds (5 kilograms) would be enough for any adult. The USCG, however, has a set minimum of 15.5 pounds (7 kilograms) for Type III PFDs.

c. Comfort/Fit

If you have to keep adjusting your life vest, the kayak trip won’t last long. You will be too uncomfortable to continue.

Comfort and fit have been merged here because if it fits well, it will be comfortable. A well-fitting PFD should be neither too big nor too small. Let it be snug. While for kids the size depends on their weight, the chest size determines the right PFD size for adults.

Look for features such as padded shoulders, large armholes, breathable material and adjustability. Small details like these are always ignored, yet they can make the biggest difference.

The best way to find a comfortable life vest is to try out a few of them. Put it on, get into a sitting position and fasten the buckles. Start with the waist buckles then move up to the shoulder. Have it on for a while, and even make paddling movements, to make sure nothing gets too tight or too loose.

d. Design

For obvious reasons, a life vest should be brightly colored or, at least, have a reflective strip. You want to be visible at all times.

If it is a dog’s PFD ensure that it has quick-release buckles.

A kayak life vest can serve other purposes too. If you have to wear it you might as well optimize its usefulness. When shopping around, see if you can find vests with zipper pockets and a pouch for a hydration bladder.

These features allow you to keep water, snacks and other essentials near. They are not necessary but they are nice. You don’t have to reach for your cooler or deck bag anytime you’re hungry or thirsty.

e. Material

Kayak life jackets are usually made using nylon, neoprene or BioLite.

Nylon is strong, lightweight and easy to maintain. PFDs made from nylon are also affordable. Their downside is that they can be rough on your skin, especially when you’ve worn them for a while.

Neoprene is softer and breathable but it costs a little more.

If you kayak in saltwater, the life vest material should be able to handle it.

Kayak Life Vest Maintenance

Choosing the right kayak life vest is not where it ends. You have to take care of it. Poor maintenance will render the PFD useless in no time and put you in danger. So here are a few things that you need to do.

Clean it properly: after kayaking (especially in saltwater) rinse the vest using freshwater. When it gets dirty, use the right detergent. Avoid harsh chemicals.

Check before each trip: don’t put on your PFD without inspecting it. Look for mold and anything that may affect its function or your health. Be even more keen with an inflatable PFD.

Wear and tear: regularly check to make sure that the life vest is in good condition. If you’ve been using it for some time, you may notice signs of wear and tear—discard it.

Don’t misuse your PFD: avoid using it as a knee pad or for anything other than its intended purpose.

Don’t repair the life vest: in an attempt to save a few coins, you may be tempted to sew that small tear you noticed. Fight the temptation. This also applies to sewing any fun symbols that you have in mind.

Conclusion

Choosing a kayak life vest is not hard because there are only a few factors to consider. However, each factor matters and some are crucial. If you’ve looked through kayak accident statistics, you know that a PFD can save your life. So don’t be in a rush or opt for the cheapest option. Find a life vest that has been tested and proven.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun and make memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *