You can never deny the value of a life jacket when out in the water.
There’s so much unpredictability about the changing conditions of the water, so it is best to be prepared. After all… Safety first!
If you’re kayak fishing, in particular, you need to have all the right gears to keep you safe and help you make the most out of this fun and rewarding activity.
And this is what our list and buying guide on the best life jacket for kayak fishing is for! We did our homework and rounded up 10 of the highest-rated items in stores today after testing them ourselves. Now, all you have to do is to sit back and go through each feature and limitation of these products to help you choose the best one to buy.
There are hundreds of brands and models of life jackets out there but not all of them are suitable for kayak fishing, so by going straight to the pros and learning more about what they use, you don’t have to risk making an expensive mistake.
So go ahead and feast your eyes on this exhaustive list of great life jackets for kayak fishing and why they’re worth your dollar.
- 10 Best Life Jacket for Kayaking
- 1. NRS Chinook PFD for Fishing – Best for Comfort
- 2. Stohlquist PFD for Fisherman – Best for Support
- 3. ONYX MoveVent PFD Life Vest – Best for Larger People
- 4. Onyx Curve PFD MOVEVENT – Best for Flexibility
- 5. ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Inflatable PFD – Best for Ease of Use
- 6. Eyson Slim PFD – Best for Quick Inflation
- 7. SALVS Adult PFD – Best for Excellent Fit
- 8. O’Neill Superlite USCG Personal Floatation Device – Best for Mobility
- 9. Amarine Made Fishing Life Vest – Best for Adjustability
- 10. Astral V-Eight PFD for Fishing – Best for Toxic-Free Materials
- Buying Guide for the Best Life Jacket for Kayak Fishing
- Frequently Asked Questions:
10 Best Life Jacket for Kayaking
1. NRS Chinook PFD for Fishing – Best for Comfort
When buying a life jacket to use for kayak fishing, it is not enough that it is protective; it must be comfortable, too. This is why we rave about the NRS Chinook life jacket that’s super lightweight, you’ll almost forget you’re wearing it! In fact, many people keep forgetting to take it off at the end of their angling day because it’s just super comfortable.
But this life jacket is not all about comfort. It’s practical to put on, too. There are 7 pockets on the front and mesh ventilation on the lower back for breathability. This is the kind of PFD that won’t make you feel like wearing a straightjacket because there’s plenty of room but without causing it to slip off your body.
Kayak anglers should invest in a PFD that’s not just lightweight, comfortable, and supportive, but effective, too, in the job it’s designed to do. The NRS Chinook beats the rest in terms of comfort and with all the bells and whistles to give you peace of mind each time.
- Comes with 7 front pockets for your personal items
- Has a rod holder integrated into the pocket
- Plush Fit foam material matches your body’s natural contours
- Lightweight and comfortable
- May be a bit too big for some people, so it is best to check the size
- A bit too pricey
2. Stohlquist PFD for Fisherman – Best for Support
Crafted from nylon material, this PFD from Stohlquist is designed with the fisherman in mind. It is lightweight and comfortable, and there is an Oxford liner to add ventilation to your body. The floatation component is high on the back, and it rides up to your backrest for optimum safety. There are padded shoulders made of Neoprene, and the open sides offer breathability.
This is one of the finest life jackets today, and you can expect to stay safe and comfortable in the water. With excellent padding on the right areas, as well as pockets for multiple items, this PFD is a lifesaver in every sense of the word.
You will find it a little tricky to adjust this PFD at first but it takes some getting used to for you to get it perfectly right. Other than that, everything else seems to be perfect about this life jacket, and worth every buck.
- Made of sturdy and comfortable material
- Protective with a high back design for the floatation feature
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Includes pockets/ pouches for your convenience
- Tricky to adjust at first
- Can be a bit small for some users
3. ONYX MoveVent PFD Life Vest – Best for Larger People
We understand your concern – you just need a roomy life jacket that won’t feel uncomfortable or restrictive at the same time. Good thing there’s the ONYX MoveVent, which is suitable for folks in search of a larger size without compromising the level of safety you can get from it.
This life jacket is excellent fit-wise and safety-wise. There are shoulder adjustments allowing you to achieve your preferred level of tightness or looseness. The SOLAS-grade reflector adds visibility, so people can spot you right away in the event of a disaster. Plus, with a zipper-assist loop design, this makes it easy to put on and keep secure on your body.
There is no doubt that this life jacket works perfectly well. But it is important to check the size carefully since that tends to be an issue among some users. Otherwise, you should be fine after settling on a size that you believe suits you because this PFD really does the job.
- Breathable and comfortable life jacket design
- Has supportive comfort pads made of neoprene
- Enhanced visibility
- Lightweight and sturdy
- A little too big for some people – it is important to refer to the size chart
- The size difference is mostly on the netting part
4. Onyx Curve PFD MOVEVENT – Best for Flexibility
It can be tricky to find the right PFD because of many factors – size, comfort, support. But you can never go wrong with the Onyx Curve for a lot of reasons. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to the best life jacket that is not only comfortable but great for the price, too.
This unit features a lightweight foam for floatation, so it does not feel like it is weighing you down when you wear it. There is also a mesh material on the lower back, and it works really well on a sit-on-top fishing kayak or those with higher backrests. And most importantly, this PFD has a sculpted design to match your body’s contours.
Some people found the life vest too big that it rides way up their head. But it could pretty much be the issue with sizing. Other than that, this PFD really does the job and works perfectly well for your advantage.
- Suitable for individuals 90 pounds and above
- Fits your body like a glove
- Soft and supportive foam
- Mesh material provides ventilation
- Can be too large for some users
- A tad pricey
5. ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Inflatable PFD – Best for Ease of Use
Another great life vest by Onyx, the Absolute Outdoor PFD is just what the name implies – it is designed for water sports including kayak fishing. It is 10 inches high and 10 inches wide, which is perfect for individuals who prefer these dimensions for their specific body size.
The material is durable and puncture-resistant for your peace of mind. You can count on this unit to inflate either manually by manipulating the T-cord or instantly once you immerse yourself in the water. The neckline is soft and comfortable for all-day use.
Our only observation is that the PFD is a bit on the small side. It is fine if this is your specific size but may not be right for other individuals. At first glance, it does look small but it gets the job done, which is the most important thing about it.
- Fits perfectly for the designated body size
- Resistant to tearing
- Choice of manual or automatic inflation
- Easy to use
- Looks small at first glance
- A bit too tight for some users
6. Eyson Slim PFD – Best for Quick Inflation
Are you afraid you’ll never get your life jacket to work when an emergency occurs? Ease your worries because the Eyson life jacket works fast to keep you safe. It offers a quick inflation system that lets you adjust and position your head properly right above the water. There is also an oral inflation unit as a back-up in the remote possibility that auto inflation does not activate right away.
We love the fabric used for this life jacket, which is neoprene. It is comfortable and smooth, and works well when you are engaged in water sports. The cover material is also durable and waterproof while resisting punctures and tears.
With an adjustable buckle and strap webbing, just pull the buckle, and it should be nice and secure on your body. There is also a D-ring as an additional piece to let you hook up small items you need when fishing.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Includes a backup inflation system
- Easy to adjust for the right fit
- D-ring included for multiple tools
- Make sure you check the size chart and dimensions of the PFD to avoid any fitting issue
- Not enough pockets unlike other brands
7. SALVS Adult PFD – Best for Excellent Fit
A PFD must not be just sturdy and durable but it also needs to be just the right fit for you. Otherwise, wearing a very small or very loose life vest tends to defeat the purpose. This is why we love this item – it fits great and really gets the job done when it comes to keeping you secure and safe in the water.
It is a bit slim, so that is something worth noting before you purchase this item. Be sure that it is designed for your body size to prevent any issue with comfort and fit. The material is also comfortable, which is a plus point for this item.
Both men and women will find this life vest a true value for their money. You can count on it for automatic inflation but manual inflation is an option, too. Overall, it is great for the price you pay.
- Durable and well-made
- Manual and automatic inflation systems
- Includes a 30-day manufacturer’s money-back guarantee
- Offer comfort and safety
- A little bit overpriced
- Slim fit
8. O’Neill Superlite USCG Personal Floatation Device – Best for Mobility
Just because you are wearing a life jacket, that does not mean your movements must be restricted. This is why we rave about this item that offers not just support but mobility, too. It is made of a lightweight material that is comfortable and supportive at the same time. It fits well and works for many body types.
There are 4 buckle closures for safety and an armhole size that is just right to keep the life vest on. The mesh material offers drainage and ventilation. With a relaxed fit, you can forget about wearing this life vest – it almost feels like you’re not even wearing one. That’s how comfortable it is!
It fits a bit snug for some people but it is not always an issue for some people. There is a strong exterior that adds floating and is tear-resistant at the same time.
- Features safety buckles
- Lightweight and supportive materials
- Provides excellent mobility
- Great for all water sports including fishing
- Has a snug fit
- Somewhat expensive
9. Amarine Made Fishing Life Vest – Best for Adjustability
This is a great life vest when you look for one that is adjustable and supportive. It comes in a universal size for adults, so you can easily adjust it to match your preferred fit. Even those under 110 kg should be able to fit into this vest perfectly. The material is durable and with detachable foam plastics for greater comfort.
This life vest stays on, thanks to the crotch-strap that prevents it from getting pulled off or up your body. As for functionality, there are multiple pockets that allow you to store several small items for sailing and fishing purposes.
It may seem a bit too small for some people, particularly adults who are a little on the heavy side. But since it is adjustable, you can easily find the fit that works for you best.
- Universal size for adults
- Adjustable and comfortable
- Multiple pockets included
- Easy to use and clean
- Looks small
- Has a cheap appearance but works great
10. Astral V-Eight PFD for Fishing – Best for Toxic-Free Materials
A life vest is a real necessity when engaging in water sports and activities. This is why we would like to add this product to our list because it gets the job done while providing you with sheer comfort. The material is naturally buoyant for your safety and it is comfortable to wear at the same time.
There is an air-escape system that removes excess heat to keep you cool. The webbing is breathable and the nylon shell is durable. We love the fact that there is absolutely no toxic PVC to this life vest for your peace of mind. It is all-natural, making it an eco-friendly life vest.
This is a lightweight PFD that works great. It is worth noting that the front comes with some indentation padding, which should be okay for more airflow. But the padding on the front may be better when tapered off for better comfort. Zipping up is tricky at times.
- Lightweight and supportive
- Versatile for any type of water sports
- Eco-friendly materials used
- Provides a good fit
- Can be hard to zip up
- The padding could use improvement
Buying Guide for the Best Life Jacket for Kayak Fishing
For your peace of mind, it is important to put on your life jacket when kayak fishing. It can literally make a difference between life and death considering the unpredictability of the waters.
But it is also essential to not just pick up any PFD you find in stores. After all, they are not created equal. This is why you need to be aware of features to look for in a reliable life jacket to make sure that it actually works and does the job right.
Here are the must-have features in a life jacket and why they are worth investing in.
1. Inflatable or Paddle?
An inflatable life jacket is less bulky and lightweight. You will find it easy to use because you can either inflate it manually or allow it to inflate automatically once you get into the water. Anglers will find this type of PFD perfect as they do not press tightly on your body, making it great to use even in hot weather.
As for a paddle vest, it is more suitable for kayaking and SUP. It is pretty basic and comes with pockets and pouches for your multiple tools. It also works great but just a little bulkier than the inflatable one. With pockets included, who wouldn’t find it practical for your fishing needs?
Naturally, you want to make sure your life jacket is comfortable to wear. This is particularly true if you are heading out to fish all day. The fit should be perfect and without any pull to your skin. Cheap ones are usually bulky, and this can cause an issue on your posture. It is best to go for a minimal design that is lightweight, which usually equates to comfort.
When you are fishing, you want to have essential tools within your reach such as your lures and baits. This is why it is good to choose a life vest that comes with pockets, allowing you to easily grab your fishing essentials.
There are some life vests that even come with a D-ring, which lets you clip in some smaller items. Just don’t go overboard with storing multiple items, though, as it may get heavy and cause discomfort in the long run.
It is important that your life vest stays secure on your body. There needs to be some kind of closure system that prevents the vest from riding up or slipping off. For instance, there are those with a crotch-strap while others have additional buckle closures at strategic areas to keep the vest in a perfect place.
Be sure your life vest is buoyant and really does its job of keeping you afloat in the water. There are paddings on the vest that adds floatation power that can save your life when disaster strikes.
In addition, you want to be sure that the material is breathable just as it is comfortable. Mesh adds excellent drainage while keeping the vest breathable and well-ventilated.
Lastly, check the price tag. You can find multiple types and designs of life jackets but the real test is in checking if it suits your budget.
But at the same time, don’t let the price be the only determining factor when buying a life jacket. Never compromise quality for the sake of saving a few bucks, which can cost your life in the end.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is there such a thing as a universal size when it comes to life vests or PFDs?
A: There are some products labeled as universal size but we recommend that you check the size chart or look for one designed for your body size. If you are not certain about your particular size, you can also opt for a universal fit. However, it is not guaranteed that you can get the perfect fit, as compared to when you wear one actually ideal for your size.
But one thing to note is that you should go for 28 up to 32 inches for the width if you are a size small, and go 4 inches wider for a medium, and another 4 inches wider for a large or extra-large.
Q: Should you go for the Foam or Inflatable PFD?
A: This largely depends on your unique preference. The situation also impacts your choice between the two since both of these types have their positive and negative features. Foam life vests have instant buoyancy and ease of maintenance but they are also bulky. As for inflatable PFDs, they are lighter and more comfortable but they are not quite recommended for non-swimmers and children. So if you are planning to take your kids with you during kayak fishing or you are not a swimmer, it is best to go for the foam vest.
Q: Are there specific vests prescribed for kayak fishing?
A: Keep in mind that life vests are not created equal. This is why you need to choose the right type of vest for the activity you need to do, which is in this case, kayak fishing. You need to read the specifications of the product in question to make sure it is designed specifically for this activity. Otherwise, you may compromise your safety, ease, and comfort when you end up buying the wrong kind.
It is a fact that a life vest is a necessity when engaging in water sports such as kayak fishing.
This is why you should make it a point to invest in a good quality life jacket that would keep you safe and even spare your life in the event that an emergency arises.
We hope we were able to help you select the best life jacket for kayak fishing after learning more about your options and our buying guide in this post. Please be sure to compare each featured item well and look into their unique specs to guide you best in purchase that item worth your time and money.