If you’ve already read our guide to starting kayaking, you’ll know that a life vest is one of the most important items on our kit list.
In our 3-minute guide, we’ll cover the overall best life vests for kayaking.
We’ll also cover those specifically designed for women, children, and even for fishing!
The Astral V-Eight life jacket is designed for to be an all-rounder. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to hit whitewater, surf, tour or even go kayak fishing; it’s suitable for all.
One thing you’ll notice with lower-end kayaking life jackets, is ventilation is poor. You’ll get heat build-up and that can cause chaffing. That’s not the case with the V-Eight.
It’s lightweight and breathable, with a flexible mesh on the back panel of the vest.
Although the foam is pre-shaped, it’s flexible, and that means it’s suitable for both men and women.
And, it doesn’t stop there. You’ll also get storage in the way of a front pocket and one small sleeve on the interior.
Overall, it’s a high-quality product at a reasonable price.
Stohlquist have become incredibly popular in the kayaking scene. And, it’s easy to see why, with the EBB.
The foam is ridiculously lightweight. That combined with the mesh back means high levels of comfort. That makes this the choice for those going on longer trips.
The initial fit might seem odd, but that’s because there’s a tonne of ways to adjust the vest. And, that means that eventually, you’ll have the perfect fit.
The straps on the shoulders are adequately padded, so you won’t get that “cutting in” feeling.
The Trekker is more durable, and slightly more stylish. Apart from that, it’s much like the EBB.
That said, there is an adjustable cross-strap. So, unlike many of the other vests on the market, the vest is going to stay secure throughout your paddle.
Both Stohlquist vests fit as expected, so no need to go oversized. And, you’ll have some storage space here in the form of a front pocket.
Astral V-Eight, Stohlquist EBB Or The Stohlquist Trekker?
We’re not just saying this because it’s the cheapest, but we’d favor the Stohlquist EBB.
Being so secure, it stays fixed in position. And, when it’s in that position, it’s comfortable. The differences in breathability are hardly noticeable between the EBB, Trekker and Astral V-Eight.
So, it’s cheaper, and that’s where we’d be spending our cash.
Best Kayaking Life Jacket For Women
Most kayaking life vests are unisex. But, if you’re looking for that perfect fit, there are brands out there that offer buoyancy aids specifically designed for women.
Onyx need no introduction in the kayaking game.
Their MoveVent PFD is highly breathable, and offers a fit specifically designed for women.
It’s stylish, and extremely low profile, and that means you’ll have all the flexibility you need when you start paddling.
This is all thanks to the adjustable straps. There’s 2 on the waist, shoulders and side. So, you can adjust it any-which-way you want to get the perfect fit.
You’ll notice the high back straight away, and this is particularly important if you have a smaller torso than most. The jacket will clear the seat and that means plenty of comfort.
Realistically, the storage on offer is a little on the tight end of the spectrum. But, we’d hope you’d bring a dry bag along to store all your gear for the trip.
Another great PFD for women in the kayaking scene comes from NRS.
NRS are better known for their wetsuits, but their buoyancy aids are definitely worth a mention too.
Thanks to the Plush FIT foam that NRS uses, this is about as comfy as you’re going to get when paddling.
You’ll get 6 adjustable straps like the Onyx, but you’ll get extra storage in the form of 2 front zipped pockets.
Onyx MoveVent Or NRS Zoya?
Depending on what deals are on offer, the Onyx can be purchased under $100. At that price, this is the clear winner.
But, there are minor differences in fit, comfort, breathability and flexibility.
And, the NRS Zoya vest for women wins on all fronts. If you have the budget, head straight for the Zora.
Best Life Vest For Kayak Fishing
Kayaking life vests for fishing are typically looser fitting, but they have a lot more storage.
If you plan to paddle in other scenarios (such as whitewater kayaking), it’s worth investing in a second jacket, like one of the ones we’ve mentioned above.
The MTI fishing life jacket has more storage than you could ever imagine. You’ll have everything you need to hand thanks to a tackle pocket (that’s particularly large) and a couple of front pockets too.
There’s also plenty of places to secure things like hooks and floats. You’ve got D-rings on the rear and there’s even a plier sleeve. It’s the multi-tool of kayaking life jackets!
Although the MTI jacket offers a loose and comfortable fit, that doesn’t mean it’s insecure. There’s 3 adjustable straps to keep it in place. So, even if you flip your kayak, you’ll still stay afloat.
It’s suitable for anyone with a 30-52” sized chest, and you’ll need to adjust the straps to suit. The padded shoulder straps are a nice feature and help with comfort when your wrestling a catch.
Best Kayaking Life Vest For Toddlers
Stohlquist Vest For Children
If you’re taking toddlers with you on your kayaking adventures, you need to make sure they stay safe. And, the Stohlquist vest for infants is designed to do exactly that.
The Stohlquist PFD is lightweight and comfortable, but it has plenty of buoyancy at the same time.
More importantly, there’s plenty of grab points, so if your toddler does fall out of the kayak, you’ll be able to get them back in easily.
Thanks for reading our guide to the best life jackets for kayaking.
If you’ve not already, head over to our 10-minute Guide To Starting Kayaking.
And, don’t forget to jump on our email list for kayaking tips and product deals.