10 Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest 2019 – Reviews & Buying Guide

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As much as we love the water, it’s essential to always be prepared for the mishaps and accidents that can happen at any time. That’s why a life vest is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment you can have while kayak fishing. In this article, we help you choose the best kayak fishing life vest so you can stay safe on the water at all times.

Wearing a life vest is not only necessary as a precaution in case you fall into the water, but for kayak anglers, it can also be a source of extra storage for some of your gear. So if you want a fishing life jacket that will keep you comfortable, safe, and organized, then read on to find out everything you need to know about how to find the right one for your needs in our buying guide.

10 Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest: Our Recommendation

 

To save you time, we’ve even listed 10 of the most popular options on the market right now for you to choose from.

Top 10 Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest Review:

1. NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

This jacket is specifically designed with kayak anglers in mind. It comes with multiple pockets where you can put your tackle as well as attachment points for various tools, and even an integrated rod holder. If ever there was a jacket that could make you a lot more effective on the water as an angler, this is it.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any other life vest that can match the durability, comfort, and utility delivered by this high-quality, affordable offering from a well-known brand. As far as kayak fishing PFDs go, this one gives the best value for money.

The back of this vest is designed perfectly for seats in fishing kayaks or the tandem kayaks. The lower back has a mesh section while the flotation is higher up in the shoulder area. This means that you get more comfortable seating. The PFDs also extremely adjustable so that you get a perfect fit no matter your size or shape.

Highlighted Features

  • Type III medium profile life vest
  • 200 denier ripstop nylon coated with urethane
  • Mesh lower back for comfortable seating
  • Strobe holder loop and multiple attachment loops
  • 5-pound design flotation

2. Stohlquist Fisherman PFD

Designed for water safety and comfort, this life vest comes with all the necessities to protect you while helping you keep important gear close at hand. If you are searching for a vest with excellent cockpit management that will allow you to conveniently organize and place little things that might otherwise end up in your seats (or worse, overboard) then this is the jacket for you.

The anchor points and the array of pockets together with the front sleep entry closure and padded neoprene shoulders are all amazing features which make this possibly the best life vest for kayak fishing – or at least one of the top two!

As with all the best angling vests, this Fishermen vest comes with mounting locations for tractors, tippets, leader line, nippers, pliers, hemostats, and more.

Highlighted Features

  • Made from high-quality, durable nylon
  • Easy to clean and maintain; hand wash with soap and water
  • Neoprene padded shoulders for adequate flotation
  • Open sides for convenient ventilation
  • High back flotation for comfortable seating

3. ONYX Kayak-Fishing Life Jacket

This is a feature-rich life jacket that all kayak fishing enthusiasts will absolutely love. If you are searching for great value, you’ve come to the right place. This product from Onyx brand is designed with different pocket designs and functions which hold your essential gear, making your entire fishing experience one of fun and ease.

This jacket is designed to be so comfortable that you might even forget to take it off once you leave the water. It has a collection of zippered pockets lined with fleece as well as a zippered chest pocket. The opening on the top pocket allows radios, pliers, and other pieces of equipment to slip down and clamp securely to your vest, keeping them easily accessible.

This kayak life vest has a high back which doesn’t get in the way of your kayak seats, and it also has mesh at the back which is great for breathability.

Highlighted Features

  • Universal fit for 30-52-inch chest
  • Mesh back offers comfortable sitting in a kayak
  • Push button drop-down pocket
  • Comes with a lash tab for holding assorted gear
  • Six adjustments straps for a perfect fit

4. Stohlquist Men’s Ebb PFD

This is a comfortable lightweight design which is ideal for all kinds of kayak fishermen. It has a mesh back which makes it easy for you to sit in your kayak without having annoying bulky material pushing into your back. The mesh clears even higher seat backs in canoes or kayaks.

The jacket comes with eight points of adjustability which is perfect for offering the right fit for a wide range of body sizes. It comes with two side-entry pockets and a cinch strap harness to help keep it from riding up. The padded shoulder straps make the vest comfortable to wear.

The Ebb life jacket also has lightweight PE foam and an outer shell made of durable ripstop nylon. This is among the best kayak fishing life vests that you’ll find on the market right now. It’s not only made from high-quality materials with great craftsmanship, but it also comes at an extremely affordable price.

Highlighted Features

  • Type III PFD with 16-pound sea-level buoyancy
  • Transport Canada and USCG-approved
  • Ventilated sides and back
  • Reflective graphics on the back
  • Padded shoulder straps ideal for carrying the boat

5. Onyx Paddle Sports PFD

This vest comes in stunning colors including purple, yellow, orange, and aqua. It fits your body like a glove while keeping you cool during movements thanks to innovative vented channels. The SOLAS-grade reflective material offers better visibility and the sculpted, flexible design conforms to your body and helps ensure that the vest stays in place.

The shoulder adjustments crafted from neoprene comfort pads in the PFD also has adjustable side belts, strong, durable zip closures, and a convenient zip-assist loop at the base of the zipper to help keep the vest in place.

It has bubble foam added at the back for extra comfort as well as an attached whistle for safety. If you’re looking for the best kayak fishing PFD for the money, you won’t go wrong with this one. Made from a polyester knit material, this vest is durable, comfortable, and safe.

Highlighted Features

  • The inner back has bubble foam for extra comfort
  • The vest has expandable zippered pockets
  • Drying loop on the back for convenient drying after use
  • Comes with an attached whistle for safety
  • Mesh design on pockets for easy drainage

6. MTI Adventure Wear PFD

This vest was designed to cater to avid anglers. It has open-access top pockets which make it super easy to stow your gear. The large lower-cargo pockets are sized to allow for storing a reel or spool of fishing line. The D-rings in the front and back of your vest allow you to attach additional gear.

The PFD also has three buckle-front closures which allow for convenient venting. With USCG strength testing at 50mph for water-ski, jet ski, and other general boating uses; you can be sure that when you buy this vest, you’re getting the ultimate in safety features.

For anyone searching for the best kayak life jacket, this is a great option to consider. It has a minimum buoyancy of 15.8lb and comes in a variety of sizes to suit all physiques.

Highlighted Features

  • USCG strength-tested at 50mph for general boating use
  • 4 large front pockets offer ample space for storing fishing necessities
  • Center buckle closure has adjustable sides for a perfect fit
  • D-rings on the front and back to attach assorted gear
  • The entire vest is PVC free

7. Onyx Curve PFD

This is undoubtedly one of the most comfortable vests that you’ll be able to find anywhere. If you are searching for a life jacket that won’t hold you back and allow for free and easy movement so you can enjoy your paddle sports, this revolutionary offering from Onyx could very well be it.

The life vest is sculpted to offer total freedom of movement while you paddle. It’s also crafted to help maximize venting to allow you to keep cool even through strenuous exertion. The vest fits like a glove thanks to the adjustments. You can be sure that you will be safe in the event of an accident or mishap – this vest will keep you afloat.

Approved by the US Coast Guard, this PFD has a floatation foam and bubble foam on the shoulder and back. The shoulder adjustments come with neoprene pads which makes it more comfortable to wear the vest and also helps make it easier to carry your boat.

Highlighted Features

  • Best fishing life vest in type III PFD category
  • Designed to support weights of 90 pounds and above
  • Made from lightweight, soft flotation foam
  • Outer shell made from durable 200 denier nylon
  • Offers great mobility for recreational water sports

8. Astral Ronny Life Jacket

This lifejacket is designed for safety and it’s perfect for the high seats of today’s recreational fishing kayaks for big guys. It has a steam vent design at the back and multiple pockets to the fronts that are designed to offer the ultimate in comfort and functionality.

The buoyancy rating of this type III jacket is 16 pounds which means that you don’t have to worry about staying afloat in case your boat capsizes. It has PE foam inserts and is USCG-approved. If you are searching for a life vest with a recreational fit, this could be the best option for your needs.

The back panel is made using super thin mesh and foam which helps to keep you cool even during the most strenuous of activities. This feature also allows you to lean back comfortably against even taller kayak and canoe seats.

The breathable liner of this jacket is one of the main reasons why it’s the preferred choice of active kayak anglers who want to stay cool and comfortable during their fishing adventures. This brand puts nature first and all the products are completely free of PVC and other toxic materials. This is arguably the most comfortable fishing life vest you’ll get out there.

Highlighted Features

  • Designed for safety with PE foam inserts
  • Buoyancy rating of 16 pounds
  • USCG-approved type-III life vest
  • Made from durable 200 denier material
  • Comes with breathable liner and multiple storage pockets

9. Stearns Child Classic Vest

For those who have little adrenaline junkies that tag along during water adventures, this is the perfect vest for kids. All junior adults will be able to enjoy a comfortable day on the water thanks to this classic series vest. Approved by the US Coast Guard, this PFD is designed with three chest belts that are adjustable for a perfect fit.

It also comes with a crotch strap that is adjustable as well as two large homes which provide easier unimpeded movement. The vest has secure 1-inch webbing, a durable 200 denier nylon shell, and PE foam within the vest which all come together to create a product that will help to ensure the safety of your young one in the event of a mishap or fall in the water.

Specifically manufactured for children under 50 pounds, this durable high-quality vest will be sure to last you season after season with the proper care. The closed-sided life vest will stay in place even in the water,  making this one of the best life jackets for kayaking kids on the market today.

Highlighted Features

  • Secure 1-inch webbing
  • Closed sides for a comfortable fit
  • Leg strap to ensure vest stays in place
  • Made from durable nylon over PE foam
  • Designed for children between 30 to 50 pounds

10. MTI Inflatable Yoke-Style PFD

This inflatable belt pack from MTI Helios brand is designed to offer comfort as well as safety. The longer yoke-style shape is a unique design that is great if you live in hot climates as it will keep you cool at all times without sacrificing your safety in the event of an accident or fall.

This is a firm favorite of many people who spend a lot of time in the open water – from sailors to kayak fishermen and everyone in between who loves water activities. If you want the safety and confidence to be on the water without the added bulk and discomfort of a traditional PFD, then this could be the ideal option for your needs.

This lightweight design manually inflates when needed which means that unless you actually and have a need for the vest, it’s almost as if you’re not wearing one. This design of this fishing life vest inflatable option may very well become your go-to PFD if you’re in a very hot climate.

Highlighted Features

  • Comes with oral inflation tube for backup
  • The vest has reflective trim
  • Includes tethered whistle for additional safety
  • Yoke-style design for enhanced coolness
  • Inflates in seconds with a firm tug on ripcord tab

 

Buying Guide: Things To Consider When Buying A Kayak Fishing Life Vest

 

There are certain things that you need to consider before making your choice of the best kayak fishing life vest. We’ve listed some of them below, and it’s important that you take the time to go through each one and decide on which of the factors are most important to you. This will help you to pick the right PFD for your needs.

  • 1. Comfort

This is among the most important qualities of a good kayak fishing vest. You need excellent comfort and enhanced mobility whether you’re sitting in or peddling a kayak. The last thing you want to do is to opt for a vest that’s too restrictive or one that is too uncomfortable to wear.

  • 2. Storage

This is something else that you need to consider before choosing your PFD. Having a life vest that has lots of pockets as well as accessory loops is usually a plus when you’re fishing from a kayak. This is because storage is already in short supply and at times, it may be hard or awkward to twist around and try to grab a tackle box, and so it’s nice if you have handy access to the gear you use most frequently.

  • 3. Durability

Ripstop nylon is the material most commonly used when constructing kayaking vests, but you can choose from organic foam or Gaia, Kapok, PVC, and many others. Check the denier – a number used to measure the density of the nylon. The higher this number is, the more durable the vest is.

It’s also important to think about the material which makes up the vest. In addition to being durable, you want a material like PVC or polyvinyl chloride foam that performs well and is resistant to sunlight, flames, weathering, and chemicals.

  • 4. Wear

It’s also important to consider how your life vest goes on. You have a choice between belt packs which have life vests inside (you put this over your head after entering the water) or the traditional form style life vest. You could also opt for the inflatable life vest. All of these options are great choices and it just comes down to your individual preference as to what works for you. You can also consider whether or not you want to deal with cartridges from inflatable vests.

  • 5. Type

There are many different types of PFDs, some of which were going to look at below. It’s important to consider this information so that you can choose the right type of life vest for your particular needs.

  • 6. Size

In order to ensure that your kayak fishing life vest performs well, it’s important to ensure that you get the right size for the wearer. Keep in mind that your weight doesn’t determine the size of your vest. The chest size matters most because this is where the material for flotation is held in the vest.

Make sure you choose a vest that is adjustable to allow you a closer fit. The ideal size vest is one that will offer you freedom of movement and comfort without being too restrictive.

  • 7. Coast Guard-Approved

Faulty life vests are the cause of many drownings according to statistics. That’s why it’s advisable to opt for a life vest that is approved by the Coast Guard. Taking note of this important point while buying your kayak fishing life vest will help to ensure that you do not become another statistic.

The good news is that all the vests on our list are approved by the Coast Guard and manufactured under supervision from water life experts which means they are not likely to fail. So you have the peace of mind of knowing that whichever one you choose is completely safe and dependable.

 

Why Do You Need a Kayak Fishing Vest?

There are many reasons to wear a kayak life jacket. The main and most obvious one is to save you from drowning in case you fall into the water. Another reason to wear a kayak life vest is that it’s a requirement by law.

Some people also wear lifejackets because they offer multiple pockets for a wide range of storage. Another reason for wearing a PFD is that it helps to boost your confidence and your performance when you’re on the water.

Any time you are taking part in outdoor activities, it’s important to have all the right safety gear. Kayak fishing is no different, and each time you get ready for your adventure, it’s important to ensure that you have your life vest on hand. As long as you make safety a priority while on the water, it’s very unlikely that you will suffer any serious and possibly fatal mishaps or accidents.

Most states strictly mandate the use of PFDs for the obvious reason of ensuring your well-being during your water adventures. The sad truth is that accidents are bound to happen when people are having fun. For example, a kayak, boat, or other fishing vessels might capsize in the water but if you’re wearing a life vest, then you have the support you need to keep you from drowning.

Yet another important reason to wear life vests is that in a scenario where someone is hurt, in shock, or conscious, a life vest will help to keep them afloat until they can be rescued. Aside from the safety purposes, the best kayak fishing life vest will also offer additional storage where you can keep some of your fishing tools handy.

Not having to rummage and search for gear that you need is a great feature which makes these vests extremely appealing to fishermen. No matter what level of expertise you have when it comes to water sports and activities, a life vest is an essential item to have every time you head out on to the water.

Whether you’re an expert in fishing or kayaking, you still need to be protected and stay on the right side of the law. After all, isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

 

What Type (Categories) of PFD Is Best for Kayak Fishing?

Life vests are generally categorized into five major categories according to the US Coast Guard standards. You need to understand the different types of personal flotation devices that are intended for different uses so you can better inform your choice and get the right life vest for your needs. The five categories of life vests are  as follows:

  • Type 1 PFD: Offshore Lifejackets

These types of life vests are suitable for oceans, the open seas remote water, and all other kinds of waters. They are designed for boating in remote or rough conditions where rescue might be slow in coming. Type I PFDs offer the ultimate flotation, but they are also very large and bulky which makes them fairly uncomfortable.

However, these are used for emergencies and will quickly make a person face up even if they are unconscious on the water thanks to their buoyancy. You’ll typically find these on commercial vessels, and they are not sold to the general public.

  • Type II PFD: Nearshore Buoyancy Vests

These are typically used in calm waters. They are not as buoyant as type I vests but they are commonly used on board for a quick response when there’s an emergency. These versions of the type I PFD a commonly available to the public and the great for use in situations where the chances of immediate rescue are high.

Although not as bulky and uncomfortable as their previously mentioned counterparts, these vests are still unsuited to kayaking.

  • Type III PFD: Flotation Aids

The majority of fishing life vests belonging to this category are great for sailors to offer them more comfort and ease of movement. These types of vests are ideal for use during activities where you need the full range of motion such as paddling and casting the thanks to their large armholes and the fact that the bulk of the vest’s flotation is kept well away from the arms and shoulders.

  • Type IV PFD: Throwable Devices

This is merely a backup or an aid to a life vest which means that this category of PFDs is not designed for unconscious people or non-swimmers. Type IV PFDs include ring buoys or cushions that are thrown into the water. These are not a requirement for kayaks.

  • Type V PFD: Special-Use Devices

The life vests that belong to this category are those that are specifically designed for a particular use. These include ones for kayaking sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, and so on. The Coast Guard deems these sufficient only if they are worn while performing the specific activity that they were designed for.

So it’s extremely important to ensure that if you opt for a type V PFD, you make sure that it is designed for kayaking or other similar activities.

 

Standard vs Inflatable PFDs

The majority of personal flotation devices on the market make use of foam in order to provide adequate flotation. A different option is to use inflatable life vests. This can be a good choice for you depending on what your priorities are. Here are the major differences between standard and inflatable PFDs so you can determine which is better for your needs.

Standard (Foam) PFD

These are the ones most commonly used in kayak fishing. The vests have foam in them that is shaped into panels. Some manufacturers even contour these panels to offer added comfort for the wearer. Since non-inflatable life vests are inherently buoyant, they will provide flotation automatically without the need to activate them manually.

In addition to that, they are very reliable, which means that the chances of them failing are extremely slim. They also don’t require much maintenance other than drying them out prior to stowing them away and ensuring that you store them out of the sun. Another major advantage of standard PFDs is that they generally have more space for storage than their inflatable counterparts.

Inflatable PFD

This is a relatively new type of PFD that has the major advantage of having a slim profile. This makes them very unrestricted during various activities and the preferred choice of many. Inflatable PFDs inflate in one of two ways: either when you pull a draw tab, or they inflate automatically when the vest is submerged in water.

It’s obvious that kayak fishermen would be better off with one that’s is manually inflated in order to reduce the risk of accidental activation when water is splashed on the vest. Although these vests offer more comfort, one of the major disadvantages to wearing an inflatable PFD vest is that it requires regular testing to ensure that it’s functioning correctly.

Also, after the vest has been inflated, you will have to replace the CO2 cartridge prior to using the vest again. This type of vest is generally not recommended for weak swimmers or children.

 

Caring and Maintenance

As with most other items in your inventory of fishing gear, caring for your life vest will help to increase its lifespan significantly. This means that you need to take proper precautions before using your vest, during use, and also after using it to help prevent it from becoming faulty and to keep it performing at its best for as long as possible.

Listed below are some of the things you should do for the proper care and maintenance of your life vest:

  • Before going out to the open water, make sure that you test your PFD in shallower waters so that you can determine if there’s any damage to the vest.
  • After each use, rinse the life vest to help prevent the material from becoming faded and worn out as this may signal a loss of strength.
  • Check your vest frequently to ensure that there is no waterlogging, mildew, or funny smells coming from the flotation device as these may be signs that indicate a lack of buoyancy.
  • Always Inspect your PFD for holes, tears, as well as to ensure that the straps and zipper are all working properly before going out to the open water.
  • Drip dry your vest before you store it in order to reduce mold or mildew within the fibers. Always store it in a space that is ventilated and away from the sun as direct sunshine causes a rapid breakdown of the materials.
  • Check your PFD at least once a year. If you notice any signs of mold, waterlogging, or damage, then it’s time to replace your vest.

In addition to all the things you need to do to ensure that your vest can protect you in the event of an accident or mishap in the water, they are certain things that you must not do in order to preserve the integrity of your device:

  • Don’t alter the vest in an effort to make it fit. If it’s not the right fit for you, replace it with one that is.
  • Don’t use your PFD as a cushion for kneeling, sitting on, or as the boat bumper.
  • Don’t overload your vest with heavy fishing accessories as this will decrease its buoyancy.
  • Don’t use harsh chemicals on your vest as this will likely damage it.

 

FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Kayak Fishing Life Vest

Q-1: Are There Universal Size Lifejackets?

  • When searching for the best kayak fishing PFD, one of the most important factors to consider is the size and fit of the PFD. It’s possible to purchase one that is designed to have a universal fit so it can be used by people with a wide range of different body physiques.
  • If you are not too sure about your size, or if you intend to use the lifejacket between several people it’s important to make sure you get one that has a universal fit. As a general rule, life vests ranging from 28 to 32 inches are considered small while those that are 32 to 36 inch is a medium, and from 40 to 44 inches is considered large.

Q-2: Do User Age and Gender Matter When Choosing the Right PFD?

  • When buying the best life vest for kayak fishing, it’s important to determine the age of the person who is going to use it. However, this is typically not a big issue for most as people rarely tend to take small children along with them when kayak fishing in unpredictable waters.
  • But if you have to bring small kids along, it’s vital that you ensure their life jackets fit securely on them so that they stay afloat in the event that your kayak capsizes.

Q-3: Do Non-swimmers Need a Special Type of PFD?

  • The buoyancy of your chosen vest plays an important role in the safety of the wearer in the event of an accident in the water. It’s important to choose a life vest that has adequate buoyancy to keep your head above the water in such a situation.
  • Each vest comes with a buoyancy rating so make sure you choose one that is ideal for you particularly if you are a weak swimmer or a non-swimmer. A PFD in the type III category comes with a US Coast Guard-mandated minimum buoyancy of around 15.5 pounds while those in type V category can have a minimum of 22.5 pounds.

Q-4: Is It Better to Use Inflatable or Foam PFDs?

  • There isn’t one type of life vest that is better than the other. It all depends on your individual preferences and your situation. Each type of vest comes with its own pros and cons. For instance, with foam vests, you have automatic buoyancy, low maintenance, and increased storage. The downside is that these types of vests tend to be bulkier than inflatable ones.
  • In addition to being less bulky, inflatable PFDs offer more comfort but they are higher maintenance and unsuitable for children and non-swimmers.

Q-5: Can I Use Any Type of Vest for Kayaking?

  • As previously mentioned, not all vests are made the same. In order to ensure that you stay safe during your kayak fishing adventures, it’s vital to wear the right vest for that activity. A vest that is not designed for kayaking may prove to be a hindrance and might not provide adequate protection when needed.
  • That’s why you have two use the information in this article to help you choose the best kayak fishing life vest so you can stay safe on the water at all times.

Final Verdict

The bottom line is that there are a lot of different PFD vests that you can choose from, but if you don’t have the right one for your needs then you may as well be wearing an ordinary vest because if you do find yourself in a situation where you need help keeping afloat in the water, only the right type of vest will work for you.

So use this article as your resource to help you choose the best kayak fishing life vest from the multitude of options available on the market today so you can stay safe and confident while enjoying your water adventures.

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