Best Life Jacket for Kayaking [Reviews]
Life Jackets for Kayaking Have Come A Long Way In Recent Years, I Think They Are Great!
Check Out My Reviews Of The Best Life Jackets for Kayaking Below
In a hurry and just want to find out what the best life jacket for kayaking is? After our thorough testing and research we highly recommend the Seachoice Life Vest as the best by far.
If you plan on going kayaking, you’ll be set for a day of fun. That said, kayaking can be dangerous in some circumstances. After all, this is a water sport, and things can go wrong on the water.
You always want to take the necessary precautions, and that means wearing a good life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
In this article, we will be reviewing 5 of the best life jackets for kayaking, and discussing what you should look for when shopping for a PFD.
Table of Contents
Check Out Our Best Life Jackets for Kayaking Reviews
Best Life Jacket Overall
Seachoice Life Vest
Outdoor Veteran Rating
This is a Type II personal flotation device which is meant to be worn on calm water for a quick kayaking trip or something similar. It has several main advantages that we want to mention.
The Seachoice Life Vest, as mentioned before, is a Type II personal flotation device. This means that it has a hole for the head to go through, and a strap which connects to the body.
However, unlike regular life jackets you might be used to, it does not have any arm holes and it doesn’t go around the back of the body. It’s a foam mat that covers the front of your torso.
Now although the Seachoice is not ideal for long boat rides or for being out on the high seas, it’s more than acceptable for a quick kayak trip or boat ride.
Models like this are designed to help flip unconscious people over in the water to keep their faces above the surface, although it might not always work.
However, we like this model due to its lightweight design. Moreover, due to it being a Type II PFD, it allows for great agility, so you can use those kayak paddles without hindrance, and fishing is no problem.
Just keep in mind that this life jacket is not designed for children under 90 lbs., and it won’t work well for overweight adults.
- US Coast Guard approved
- Easy to store
- Not designed for children
Best Life Jacket Runner-up
Coleman Comfort Series Personal Floatation Device
Outdoor Veteran Rating
This life jacket from Coleman is designed to be very lightweight and to allow for maximum mobility, yet it is also durable and has a great weight capacity.
The Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series Personal Floatation Device is made with a durable 200D nylon shell, so it should last for years, and it should be able to handle some rough use as well.
To help keep you afloat when things go wrong, this life jacket is loaded with ultra-buoyant PE foam, and it can support large adults. It is also US Coast Guard approved. Keep in mind that this model is designed for adults over 90 lbs., and not for children.
To help get a secure fit, this life jacket features an adjustable waistbelt, as well as adjustable side straps.
As mentioned before, this jacket is designed to allow for greater mobility, as it has very large arm holes; you can go through a full range of motion with your arms when wearing this model, making it perfect for fishing and other water sports.
On that same note, the Coleman Company Stearns Comfort Series Personal Floatation Device also features mesh shoulders and a mesh back, which allows for a good deal of ventilation, so you don’t over-heated on a scorching day.
You also get a few pockets in the front to store important gear.
- Great for adults of all sizes
- US Coast Guard approved
- Well ventilated
- Multiple pockets
- Cannot be used by kids
Best Life Jacket for Kayaking
Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket
Outdoor Veteran Rating
Now we are going back to a more classic style of life jacket. Although the Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket might look basic, it will get the job done, and it’s very reasonably priced as well.
If you need a life jacket, even if you are a large adult, this model should be more than adequate.
It features an extremely high level of buoyancy which ensures that even the heaviest adults will stay afloat. This is due to the high-quality buoyant foam which this model is made with. Just remember that this life jacket is not made for kids under 90 lbs.
The Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket, although being very buoyant, weighs under 1 lb., and is extremely slim. It’s designed for great mobility, and it’s all thanks to its very low profile design.
It also features very thin back pads, so they still help you float, but they won’t interfere with seat rests, thus making your kayak trip just that much more comfortable.
The sculpted foam and the large arm holes allow your arms to move freely, which makes it an ideal life jacket for kayaking and fishing alike.
To ensure that you get a secure fit, this life jacket features 3 adjustable buckle straps. The 200D nylon outer shell also adds to the over-all durability.
- Allows for maximum mobility
- Highly adjustable
- Ideal for adults of all sizes
- Comfortable when sitting against backrests
- Not for kids
Best Inflatable Life Jacket
Amarine Made Life Jacket
Outdoor Veteran Rating
This high-quality life jacket from Amarine is an extremely durable, highly buoyant, and comfortable life jacket, everything you need for some serious kayaking.
One of the most impressive features of the Amarine Made Life Jacket is that the outer shell is made with 600D Max waterproof terylene Oxford fabric, which is about as durable as a material can be when used for life jackets. It should last for years and it shouldn’t rip if you snag it on something.
Being 100% waterproof ensures that it does not absorb water. This, combined with the high-quality foam, means that the Amarine Made Life Jacket is extremely buoyant.
That said, this life jacket is not designed for adults heavier than 230 lbs., and it can’t be used by small children either.
Many people like this life jacket for its well-padded and super comfortable design. It features padded and adjustable shoulder straps for comfort, as well as an adjustable torso strap. It also comes with a crotch strap to ensure that it stays in place while you have it on.
Although this life jacket is secure and durable, the design is also ideal for being active, as the large arm holes allow for great mobility.
What people also love about the Amarine Made Life Jacket is that it has some pretty big pockets so you can keep your phone, keys, wallet, whistle, and more with you while you kayak.
- Superior durability
- Tons of pockets
- Lots of padding for comfort
- Crotch strap for a secure fit
- Not for very heavy adults or small kids
Best Youth Life Jackets
Outdoor Veteran Rating
As you can probably tell by the name, this life jacket is designed for youths. This alone makes it unique on our list, as all other life jackets we have reviewed have been for adults.
The most important thing to know about this life jacket is that it is designed specifically for youth between 50 and 90 pounds, no bigger or smaller.
To ensure that your kids are safe and secure, this model comes with 6 adjustment straps located on the waist, sides, torso, and shoulders. Once you put in on your child and adjust the straps, it’s not going anywhere.
The Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket is made with very buoyant foam, so it should not have any issues keeping your child afloat.
While this may not be the most durable life jacket on the market, it does have the advantage of being relatively thin, low-profile, and very lightweight, making it perfect for kids who want to go kayaking.
The neoprene shoulder pads, combined with the highly flexible design, as well as the large arm holes, are all features that make this life jacket comfortable and ideal for sports like kayaking.
The Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Life Jacket also comes with a single zippered pocket to store a few small items.
- Lightweight and low profile
- Large arm holes for mobility
- Very flexible and comfortable
- Has a pocket
- Not overly stable
Learn All You Need to know with our buying guide
Before you go out and buy the first life jacket you see for kayaking, there are a few key purchasing factors to look for, so let’s talk about them.
The most important aspect of any life jacket is its buoyancy, or in other words, its ability to keep you afloat.
When you buy a life jacket, always pay attention to the type of life jacket (Type I, Type II, etc.), and look at how much weight the model is intended to support. If you weight 250 lbs. and the life jacket can only support 200 lbs., then that’s not one you want to buy.
If you are going kayaking, wearing a comfortable life jacket is important. You want something that is relatively thin, has a low profile, and is lightweight.
Moreover, you want something that has large arm holes so you can easily paddle your kayak without the life jacket obstructing your full range of motion. On a side note, the more adjustable straps the life jacket in question has, the better of a fit you will be able to achieve.
Kayaking is a sport, it involves a lot of movement, and it might mean also taking a few bumps. You will want to look for a life jacket that is made with durable materials, such as 200D nylon or Oxford fabric.
It is especially important that the life jacket be resistant to ripping and tearing. Simply put, you don’t want to spend money on a life jacket that is going to fall to pieces after a few uses.
Although not all life jackets are reflective, and in fact, many are not, it is useful if your lifejacket has a reflective design, or at least some reflective components.
If your life jacket can reflect light, it makes you much easier to see out on the water, thus preventing any accidents from occurring which may be caused by low visibility.
Number of Pockets
Another thing to look for is if your life jacket has pockets, and if so, how many. Although it’s not 100% necessary, being able to carry a few choice items on your person is always useful.
Should I Wear a Life Jacket When I Kayak?
Yes, life jackets should be worn whether you are boating, kayaking, water skiing, or anything in between. In fact, in many areas, wearing a life jacket when engaged in such activities is mandatory.
What Type of PFD Should I Wear?
Life jackets for kayakers, should be US Coast Guard approved, and are designated as to their type.
Type I life jackets can be used for all water – open ocean, rough seas, or remote water, where rescue might be slow in coming. However, they might be uncomfortable to use when kayaking.
Type II jackets are suitable for inland water. They will turn some unconscious wearers to the face-up position, but not necessarily. They are bulky, and not generally comfortable to wear; however, they are more comfortable than Type I vests.
These are suitable for most water sports, including kayaking. They offer freedom of movement and are the most comfortable for a conscious person.
Type V are specialized PFDs for specific activity. Varieties include sailing, kayaking, water skiing, and wind surfing.
How Do I Know When to Replace a Life Jacket?
Technically speaking, if the life jacket is in good condition, it does not need to be replaced. Life jackets do not have an expiry date. However, if it has any sort of damage that affects either the fit or the buoyancy, then it needs to be replaced.
The above are some of the best life jackets for kayaking, and we would recommend checking out any of these options. Also, when you are buying a life jacket for kayaking, always make sure to follow our buyer’s guide so you get the best possible model for your needs.