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6 Best Life Jackets for Kayaking & Fishing – (Reviews 2021)

Kayak fishing is really amazingly fun activity. However, most people do not think about the dangers they may encounter while practicing it. Being in a kayak is not the same as being on your boat, and you must do everything in your powers to keep you and your beloved ones safe. For this reason, you are now fishing for the best life jacket for kayaking and fishing.

Life jackets are so much more than an essential accessory. Their purpose is to save lives, and you must wear them every time you take your vessel out in the open waters. As with all marine equipment, there are many factors you need to keep in mind when choosing the right unit – a quality life jacket should offer enhanced freedom of movement, its buckle-closure and zippers must be well-made, and so many other things.

That’s why this buying guide includes useful information, tips, and reviews of life jackets for kayaking and fishing that will surely help you make the more satisfying choice.

Best Life Jackets for Kayaking & Fishing Comparison Chart

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

  • Price: $ – $$$$
  • Size: XS – S – M – L – XL – XXL
  • Color: 4 Options
  • Material: Polyester
  • Specifications: Solas grade reflective material / Attached whistle
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NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

  • Price: $$$ – $$$$$
  • Size: S/M
  • Color: 4 Options
  • Material: Nylon / Mesh
  • Specifications: Multiple D-rings and attachment loops / Coil tool retractor, rod holder loops
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ONYX MoveVent Torsion Paddle Sports Life Vest

ONYX MoveVent Torsion Paddle Sports Life Vest

  • Price: $$ – $$$$
  • Size: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL
  • Color: Red
  • Material: Neoprene pads / Bubble foam and mesh
  • Specifications: SOLAS grade reflective material / Expandable zippered pockets
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Lixada Fly Fishing Safety Life Jacket

Lixada Fly Fishing Safety Life Jacket

  • Price: $$
  • Size: Universal Adult Size
  • Color: 12 Options
  • Material: Polyester + EPE Foam
  • Specifications: Four generous chest pocket, four zipped front pockets, two side mesh pocket
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Stohlquist Men's Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

  • Price: $$$$
  • Size: S / M / L / XL / Univ Plus
  • Color: Red/Gray – Steel Green
  • Material: Nylon
  • Specifications: Neoprene Padded waistband / Reflective graphic
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Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

  • Price: $$ – $$$$
  • Size: S / M / L / XL / XXXL
  • Color: Green
  • Material: 200 denier nylon / PE flotation foam / Mesh and neoprene fabric
  • Specifications: Two zippered pockets / Type III U.S. Coast Guard-approved
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Here are the most reliable products you can find these days. Bear in mind that since they come in different styles, they are not arranged in any particular order and you will have to decide for yourself which one is the safest for your lifestyle.

1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life VestThe first life jacket on our list is designed to be comfortable for when you do recreational paddle sports such as canoeing and kayaking. The padding is made from soft, lightweight flotation foam to protect your chest. It should keep your head above the water. At the same time, it is constructed in a way that provides you with enough arm movement. However, some people might still find it uncomfortable because it is not an auto-inflatable life jacket. It comes already inflated, and it might seem too bulky.

Nonetheless, it will provide you with safety. While it is snug, it is equipped with vented channels to keep your body breathing. You can easily store it thanks to the drying loop on the back. In case of an emergency, you just need to use the whistle attached to it. You can adjust the length of the shoulders and the side belts for comfort. The jacket is constructed with zippered pockets. However, they are a bit too small to store essential things. Overall, this ergonomic, sturdy life jacket will give you enough comfort and security when out on the water.


  • Ergonomic
  • Adjustable shoulder straps and side belt
  • Strong zipper
  • Safety whistle
  • Drying handle


  • Pockets are too small
  • Already inflated and slightly bulky

2. NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

NRS Chinook Fishing PFDThis next life jacket might be on the more expensive end, but its price matches the quality of materials. The outer side is covered in very dense urethane-coated nylon. It will provide ripping when you move around during massive action. The lower back is made from mesh for ventilation and breathability. This life jacket is a Type III U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation aid, and it will ensure your safety.

What is best about it is the extra utility that it offers. With 7 various sized pockets, you can store anything urgent you need for fishing and kayaking. The multiple D-rings allow you to attach even more accessories. Adjustments are made possible thanks to the several shoulders and side straps. However, keep in mind that the upper straps might cause chafing of the neck. It is highly probable that this jacket will ride upon the torso after you enter the water. The color is visible, but no reflective material is provided for better night vision. Besides this, the life jacket will serve you well because it is designed to ensure your safety and comfort.


  • 7 various pockets
  • Adjustable straps
  • Lower back mesh
  • High-quality nylon
  • Thin, comfortable and stable


  • Rides upon the torso in the water
  • No reflective trim
  • Straps might chafe the neck
  • Higher price

3. ONYX MoveVent Torsion Paddle Sports Life Vest

ONYX MoveVent Torsion Paddle Sports Life VestThe next product on our list fits properly for excellent comfort during recreational sports. You can adjust the shoulder straps so that you can feel snug and safe once you pull the front zipper up. The shoulders are protected from irritating chafing thanks to the neoprene pads. The jacket is appropriate for a kayak’s high back seats because it is equipped with bubble foam and mesh in the lower back. This will also offer your back some ventilation.

However, keep in mind that it might get quite hot in the summer, and the jacket will keep you even warmer. After all, safety is first, and this U.S. Coast Guard Type III jacket will enable flotation in calm, inland waters. Bear in mind that it will not keep your head above the water, especially in rough areas. In case you need it, you can blow the safety whistle.

The materials are designed to be reflective and visible. The jacket is equipped with small pockets. They are a bit too flat for you to store many things, but they can still be of some use. Overall, this life jacket will remain stable around your body, and it will ensure your comfort.


  • Reflective and highly visible
  • Stable and comfortable
  • Type III U.S. Coast Guard flotation aid
  • Mesh lower back


  • Pockets are too small
  • Not suitable for rough waters
  • No D-rings

4. Lixada Fly Fishing Safety Life Jacket

Lixada Fly Fishing Safety Life JacketThis life jacket comes in 5 highly visible colors that you can choose from. In addition to this, there are reflectors on the back and on the shoulders for even more safety on a professional level. Although the jacket comes in a universal adult size, it fits really well both men and women up to 95kg of weight. You can adjust the shoulder and waist straps to your convenience. The materials are top quality. The polyester shell will enable movement, while the lightweight foam allows buoyancy. Keep in mind that this life jacket has not been U.S. Coast Guard-approved.

Nonetheless, the foam should help stay above the water if you fall from your kayak. Another advantage of the padding is that it can be replaced. The jacket offers excellent utility because it is equipped with multiple front, side, and back pockets. It is a very convenient jacket for your gear. However, they are not waterproof. The zipper at the front is not as good as the other materials, and it does not slide the smoothest. In the end, considered the price this life jacket is quite comfortable because it leaves space for movement. At the same time, it offers extra utility.


  • 5 reflective colors and additional reflectors
  • Universal adult size fits well people up to 95kg.
  • Padding can be replaced
  • Multiple pockets


  • Not U.S. Coast Guard-approved
  • Zipper does not move smoothly
  • Pockets are not waterproof

5. Stohlquist Men’s Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Stohlquist Men's Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation DeviceThe Stohlquist life jacket has been U.S. Coast Guard-approved for your peace of mind. It is a Type III life jacket that defines it as a flotation aid. Remember that this type of jacket can be used only in calm, inland waters. The outer material is nylon. It is flexible and allows you enough movement in the arms and shoulders. You can adjust the shoulder and waist straps according to your body size. For further comfort the upper straps are padded. This way, you can carry your boat without any harm done to your shoulders. The inside is filled with lightweight PE foam to provide buoyancy. The lower back is made from breathable mesh to allow ventilation during the hot days.

If you are the type of person to bring things with you during kayaking, this jacket offers you a couple of handy pockets. You can access them from the side. This jacket is snug, and it comes with a waist cinch to prevent riding up. Therefore, it is not too bulky, and you can wear it without worrying that it will hinder paddling. The graphic is reflective, but the colors are not the brightest. This jacket provides medium visibility.


  • S. Coast Guard-approved (Type III)
  • Allows arm and shoulder movement
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Useful pockets


  • Colors are not bright
  • Not suitable for rough waters

6. Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler VestТhe last life jacket on our list comes with an affordable price. However, the cheapness of it should not deceive you. It will serve its purpose to provide you with comfort and a sense of security when you are doing recreational sports. The jacket is a Type III U.S. Coast Guard-approved. This means that it can be used as a flotation aid in calm, inland waters. The outer material is a 200 denier nylon. It will allow you to move your arms freely when paddling. The jacket’s design includes a PE flotation foam on the inside. It is what enables your buoyancy in the water.

Another great material is the mesh and neoprene fabric on the shoulder panels. This fabric will provide enough ventilation as well as protection from chafing. The jacket is equipped with two zippered front pockets. Therefore, you can store the gear that is most necessary for you. However, the main disadvantage of these pockets is that they are quite small and narrow. The zipper at the front will ensure that the jacket remains still and snug around your body. Overall, it is a comfortable life jacket worth the low price.


  • Mesh and neoprene shoulder panels
  • Two zippered pockets
  • Type III U.S. Coast Guard-approved


  • Pockets are small and narrow

About Kayaking Life Jackets

Life Jackets for Kayaking and Fishing Reviews

A personal water jacket is an equipment designed to help a wearer stay in the water. It ensures that if you’re thrown into the water at any point, you’re going to remain afloat. Even if you’re an experienced swimmer, a worthwhile investment PFD could save your life under unexpected circumstances.

PFDs are available in a variety of materials, buoyancies, and sizes to suit a wide range of body types, budgets, and performance options. Sometimes you can make your kayak fishing experience better with just a few simple design features. It is also essential to know how high your kayak backseat is when deciding what kind of PFD back you will need (upper, low, mesh, foam, etc.).

Whether you are planning on getting fully prepared for the season with various quality personal floatation device products or you just want to spend a few hours fishing, it is good to know the basics of the PDFs so you can be ready in case of any danger.

Different Types of Life Jackets

We are not going to list all the types of PFDs because we’ already done that in our extensive guide to getting the most suitable life jacket. We should, however, mention that kayak jackets fall either under the Type II category or the Type V one. This is because they are not meant for open seas and at the same time we can safely call them “specialized”.

Life Jackets for Kayaking and Fishing

Features To Look For

Functions are significant when it comes to something so crucial like life jackets. If you want to choose the right product for you, the best you can do is understand the features and the benefits of life vests.

  • Comfort

You are going to wear your PFD the whole time you are kayaking, so you need to make sure your jacket is comfortable. Many come with padded shoulders for extra comfort. The material should also be considered as it might rub against your skin. Many say life jackets should be snug but still comfortable like a good pair of shoes. You will notice that life jackets made specifically for kayaking have larger armholes so that you can rotate your arms comfortably when paddling.

  • Material

There are 3 main materials used for the composition of PFDs – PVC, Kapok, and Gaia.

  • Gaia happens to be an eco-friendly fabric that also battles sunlight very well. People also like it because of its lightweight.
  • The Kapok seed fibers derived from the Kapok tree are what give the buoyancy to your life jacket.
  • Finally, PVC is the most popular material used to make life jackets. It is resistant to most natural factors and is the cheapest of the 3.
  • Buoyancy

The average person needs between 7 and 12 lbs. of buoyancy. Body fat also helps keep you afloat. So the more body fat you have, the less buoyancy you will need. But let’s not put any stress on that.

  • Weight

Some people prefer a lightweight PFD, even to the detriment of specific fishing characteristics. If you aren’t too concerned about the weight, it may be perfect for you to have a heavier PFD with more features.

  • Size and Fit

Needless to say, your kayak jacket must fit you perfectly. If it is too small for you, then it won’t be able to help you stay afloat. If it is too big, it might come right off if you end up in the water. Don’t make any compromises when it comes to the right fit.

  • Storage

It is generally a plus to have a PFD with lots of pockets and accessory loops when fishing. Turning around and grabbing a tackle box can sometimes be a little inconvenient, so it’s nice to have convenient access to your most commonly used gear. Some PFDs are equipped with hydration bladders to allow you to drink water while paddling.

  • Durability

Ripstop nylon is the material used to build most kayaking PFDs. Denier is a measuring mark of the density of the nylon – the higher the number, the denser it is.

Foam vs. Inflatable PFDs

To know the differences between these two vest characteristics is very important. Here we are going to introduce you to some advantages and disadvantages of both.

Foam (Standard) PFDs

Those PFDs are what 90% of the people use. The foam blocks that are inside will help you stay on the surface of the water. A key advantage is a comfort that these jackets provide as well as the minimal maintenance that they require. You simply have to rinse them off and hang them out to try. Just remember to not have them exposed to sunlight for very long periods.

Disadvantage – They are big, and they need more space on board.

Inflatable PFDs

The big advantage here is the fact that you will get zero restrictions on these jackets. This is because they are not inflated when you wear them on board. If you end up in the water, though, the jacket will self-inflate. The other way to inflate such a PFD is by pulling a string. This is similar to what you’ve seen on airplanes.

Disadvantage – you have to always make sure the jacket is intact and not damaged. They are also not meant to be used by young children.


It is essential to know how to take care of the life vest. If you maintain the life jacket properly, it will last longer and look better. Here are some tips on the maintenance of the PFDs.

  • Do not try to clean a life jacket with industrial cleaning agents. The foam that makes the device functions can be dissolved and the exterior fabric weakened.
  • If the jacket has mold, move it to the outside area before wetting the fabric and brush away any visible spores. Scrub as suggested but add to the cleaning solution 1/4 cup of oxygen-based bleach. This will help the dark stains be removed.
  • Do not directly use chlorine bleach on the jackets as it weakens fabrics and can damage the interior foam.
  • Never dry your PFD on or on a direct source of heat, such as a heater, radiator, dryer, or direct sunlight. This will weaken the PFD’s buoyancy and drastically restrict its lifespan.
  • Examine your life jacket thoroughly before entering the water; check for any rips in the fabric or seams, and make sure that all snaps, hooks, pockets, and tightening latches are working correctly. Make sure your life jacket can perform adequately by taking it for inspection twice a year to a professional at a marine shop. Most organizations that are well-versed in these evaluations will not even charge you, but also if they make this small amount of money might save your life.
  • Do not leave them onboard for extended periods when the boat is not in use. Extreme temperatures can harm the boom.
  • Always rinse your PFD with fresh water after it comes into contact with saltwater.
  • Never put a life jacket in a standard washer with a top load. The agitation breaks the foam and makes it useless to the jacket. You can use a large front load washer, but a low final spin rate should always be used.
  • Before storing, let your PFD drip-dry. Assure and store in a well-ventilated place. Vests work best when stored in dry, cool, dark places.


Best Life Jackets for Kayaking and Fishing

Both kayaking and fishing are outdoor activities taking place in a watershed environment. Safety is a must and always a priority, just like any other outdoor activity. Here are some tips for safe use of the life vest.

  • Make sure everyone knows how to put their life jackets on. Secure if needed. Pay extra attention to children since even the high-class infant life jacket needs to be appropriately adjusted.
  • At the beginning of each season or periodically if you live in a year-round water-friendly climate, life jackets should be tested. You can do it yourself by checking the buoyancy in a pool. A safety device should be able to keep an average person afloat for several hours.
  • The jacket is not safe if the outer fabric or covering is torn or has begun to split or break down. The flotation material can flee and cause an accident.
  • If the material is faded and you find out that the fabric is weak, try to tug or pinch the fabric on a strap and try to tear it down. If it tears, throws the jacket away.
  • Never store a life jacket that is heavily soiled. Stains become food for growth in mold and mildew, weakening fabrics and destroying the device’s effectiveness.
  • Do not use the vest like a boat fender. It is not designed to protect your boat’s surface. If you need a fender, just buy a proper product, which will do a great job.
  • To avoid inhaling mold spores, any life jacket infested with mold should be discarded. The mold may have moved into the padding, and the jacket may not be safe anymore.
  • Be careful when choosing the color. It should be easy to spot a life jacket in the water. Bright orange is the right choice of color for children in particular.
  • Life jackets are to be worn on a boat at all times.

Wrap Up

Well done, friends! You have successfully completed our buying guide to finding the best life jacket for kayaking and fishing. We really hope that our tips, information, and reviews of life jackets for kayaking and fishing have helped you find the unit of your dreams.

If that is indeed true, and you find our piece helpful, don’t hesitate to share it with others. We also love getting feedback from our readers, so if there is anything you would like to tell us, you can always leave us a comment or send us an email.

When searching for a specific product like this one, you need to be careful with many things. For this reason, our primary goal is to help our readers. Therefore, we have many other articles written to help you find the most reliable product available on the market, and you should definitely go check them out. Thanks for reading, and as always- stay put!

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