Best Life Jackets for Kayak Fishing: Reviews and Buying Guide [2019]

Your safety and the safety of your loved ones take precedence when you’re kayaking or fishing, just like it would anywhere else. Mishaps and accidents when you’re in water are more or less inevitable, and that’s why personal floatation devices (PFDs) can be life-saving pieces of equipment. They keep your head above water, and they’re not just a safety precaution, you’re required by law to wear them in many states.

A simple PFD will do if you’re just kayaking, but if you’re angling with a kayak, you need to invest in a PFD that also doubles as a fishing jacket. Comfort and storage are factors that should affect your choice. A good kayak fishing PFD will provide you with pockets for additional storage (yay!) and won’t restrict your movements while you’re reeling in your catch.

Of course, with so many options to choose from, it can be a tricky business to find one that’s the right pick for you. Read on, and I’ll present a roundup of some of the best kayak fishing PFDs available on the market today.

 

 

Top pick

If you can’t spare a few minutes to read the whole post, my top pick for the best kayak fishing life vest is the Stohlquist Fisherman. This vest is geared to provide you with comfort and safety for a very reasonable price.

 

 

The Best Life Jackets for Kayaking Reviewed

Stohlquist Fisherman

Like any good kayak fishing PFD, Stohlquist’s Fisherman vest provides you not only safety but also comfort and storage space. It’ll help you in organizing your little odds and ends conveniently. You won’t have to fumble around in your kayak looking for something that should have been close at hand.

 

Key Features

  • Type III classification
  • Standard type
  • 25-pound floatation rating
  • Several D-rings
  • Four Velcro and three zipper pockets

 

What I like about this product

This vest is crafted from nylon, more accurately, 500-denier Cordura shell – completely waterproof fabric, and 200-denier oxford liner – another lightweight but waterproof fabric. This blend ensures that the vest is built to last.

The shoulders are padded with neoprene, a water-resistant fabric. The jacket itself lets perspiration ventilate, which minimizes discomfort to a considerable degree. It doesn’t restrict your movements too much, so you won’t feel awkward when moving about with this vest on.

Since it comes with multiple pockets, this vest is angler friendly. Not only can you keep your fishing equipment in them, but you can also use them to store your valuable belongings safely. These features make this model the best kayak fishing life vest available in 2019.

 

What I don’t like about this product

I don’t have any gripes with this vest; only one nitpick that it can feel a bit bulky and awkward when you’re sitting.

 

 

Pros

  • High-quality, durable nylon design
  • vCan be hand-washed and dried
  • High-back floatation
  • Great ventilation
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Uses eco-friendly material

 

Cons

  • Can be a bit awkward when you’re seated

 

To bottom-line this vest for you, it’s easily one of the best, if not the best fishing kayak life vest available today. It provides plenty of comfort, utility, durability, storage, and safety, so it comes as no surprise that this vest made it to the top of our roundup.

 

Overall Rating – 4.8/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

Onyx’s Kayak Fishing life vest offers excellent value with functionality to boot, particularly if you’re on a tight budget. This vest is feature-rich with generous storage.

 

Key Features

  • Type III Classification
  • Standard type
  • Nylon design
  • Three zippers and four Velcro pockets
  • Retractable equipment holder
  • Lash tab

 

What I like about this product

The vest makes use of three pocket areas – Velcro, buckles, and zippers. Although there are a lot of pockets, you can’t use them all simultaneously, because many of them are crammed on top of each other. That being said, there’s still plenty of storage available.

You can use the zipper pockets to store your pliers, scissors, and radios. Once they clamp to the pocket, you can access them conveniently. You can push a button to reveal an ashtray-shaped pocket which can hold your smaller fishing tackle. Knives, sunscreen, whistles, keys, and similar things can be stowed securely in the lash tab.

Aside from its extensive storage, the comfort it provides is another selling point. The vest has a high back with breathable mesh, which affords better ventilation.

 

What I don’t like about this product

Although it has multiple zippers, they’re all plastic, which means they might get damaged or malfunction after prolonged use. The shoulder straps also aren’t padded with foam, which may cause discomfort when you’re paddling.

 

Pros

  • Helps with organizing your stuff
  • Great accessibility
  • Lets you store all kinds of smaller gear
  • Universal fit with six different straps for adjustment

 

Cons

  • The quality of the zippers is questionable
  • Could have been more comfortable

 

If you’re hunting for a US Coastguard approved vest that provides generous storage space, acceptable build quality, and comfort, this life jacket should be on your shortlist.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Astral Buoyancy

If you’re fishing from your kayak on a particularly hot day, this PFD can be the answer to your heat problem.

 

Key Features

  • Type III classification
  • 17 pounds of floatation
  • Airescape ventilation technology
  • Two pockets
  • Chimney Vent
  • Mesh back

 

What I like about this product

You’ll find an excess of ventilation holes on this jacket combined with a pitted pattern on the foam that allows for air to flow more freely, your body heat to escape, and your sweat to evaporate, leaving you feeling cool.

The outer shell is nylon which makes for a durable design, while the front panels of the PFD provide added comfort. The chest also features cuts for the accommodation of the female body – which again reduces discomfort.

There’s a huge pocket on the front panel and a knife-notch for securing your diving knife. Additionally, there’s also a second smaller pocket inside the upper left panel which can store more of your smaller essentials.

 

What I don’t like about this product

Although the manufacturers claim it fits both men and women, there are only three adjustable straps, which mean the PFD won’t fit snugly for every body type.

 

Pros

  • The breathable design keeps your body cool
  • Environment-friendly materials
  • Allows for free airflow
  • A lash tab for holding a knife
  • Minimal body contact made by the foam

 

Cons

  • Fewer adjustable straps

 

This PFD might be the exact answer you’re looking for if you have issues overheating while you’re out on the water but be sure to try the vest on before purchasing, as it’s not as adjustable as some of your other options.

 

Overall Rating – 4.4/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

NRS Chinook

This PFD is geared specifically toward anglers who fish from kayaks. To help keep your equipment and essentials as organized as possible, it comes with several pockets along with a rod holder. It’s among the best kayak fishing life vests out there.

 

Key Features

  • Type III Vest
  • 200-denier nylon construction coated with urethane
  • 5 pounds of floatation
  • Multiple D-rings, seven multiple-sized pockets
  • Retractor pocket for tools

 

What I like about this product

It comes with seven different pockets on the front panel and several hooks and D-rings to carry your gear with ease. There are eight adjustable straps to ensure a snug fit, and it doesn’t restrict your arm movements, so you won’t have to worry about chaffing when you’re paddling your kayak.

The back features a mesh section and floatation which allows for comfortable seating. This PFD not only excels at storage and mobility, but it also affords top-notch build quality, functionality, utility, and comfort. It also provides great value for money, giving it a spot with some of the best kayak fishing life vests.

 

What I don’t like about this product

There’s a minimum requirement for optimal usage that you weigh above 90 pounds. If you weigh less than that, the manufacturers recommend opting for a different PFD.

 

 

Pros

  • Designed with a focus on kayak fishing
  • Eight adjustable straps which fit any shape and size
  • Plenty of storage for your tools and essentials
  • Loops for holding other attachments

 

Cons

  • You have to weigh over 90 pounds—this can’t be used by most children

 

If you wish to put your faith in a well-known and well-trusted brand, this PFD is probably one of the best fishing kayak life vests on the market today. It is a near-perfect combination of functionality, safety, and comfort.

 

Overall Rating – 4.7/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Astral Ronny

This lightweight PFD features thin foam on the back panel which lets your body heat escape and supports you even when you’re seated on tall seats.

 

Key Features

  • 200-denier nylon construction
  • Heavy duty zippers
  • Ideal for both men and women
  • Weighs only a pound

 

What I like about this product

This vest is crafted from 200-Denier nylon, paired with heavy-duty zippers with self-locking teeth. It’s lined with mesh which allows the fabric to ‘breathe,’ making it more comfortable for the wearer. In addition to the mesh, the back features a steam vent design for added comfort.

The front panel has multiple different size pockets for maximum storage. There are four pockets which can carry your fishing equipment, electronic devices, accessories, and other useful tools. It comes in several different size options for both men and women, and it weighs only a pound. The materials used are environment-conscious choices, which is always a positive point.

 

What I don’t like about this product

The insertions inside the jacket can come loose after some time – which, although rare, can be a problem. At times, zippers also fail to latch all the way, which can be annoying.

 

Pros

  • Super-thin foam on the back panel to allow heat to escape
  • Four pockets for storage purposes
  • Various sizes to choose from
  • Comfortable, even when sitting in a tall kayak seat

 

Cons

  • The foam stuffing needs improvement
  • Zippers can get stuck

 

If you’re searching for an affordable fishing kayak PFD, which blends comfort with functionality, all within a reasonable price, this life jacket is a steal.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Onyx Curve MoveVent

If you want your PFD to let you move freely without restricting your mobility, this Onyx PFD is it. It offers superior comfort at an affordable price.

 

Key Features

  • Type III Vest
  • Uses floatation foam
  • 200-Denier nylon construction
  • Mesh in the lower back
  • Neoprene pads on shoulders

 

What I like about this product

This life jacket is crafted to allow for complete freedom of mobility when you’re paddling your kayak. Its adjustments hug your body snugly, and it is sculpted to ventilate as much body heat as possible, keeping you cooler when you’re exerting yourself physically. It uses bubble and floatation foam on the back panel as well as the shoulder, which also features neoprene pads, making for a fairly comfortable vest.

 

What I don’t like about this product

I don’t have any complaints with this model, except for perhaps it’s minimum weight limit which doesn’t allow wearers under 90 pounds.

 

Pros

  • Comfy design
  • Keeps your body cool
  • Fits well
  • Lightweight

 

Cons

  • Only suitable for weights of pounds or more

 

This PFD should make the cut if you’re looking for a vest built with a focus on comfort and ventilation.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Stohlquist Men’s Ebb -Best Budget PFD

If you’re on a tight budget, the Stohlquist’s Men’s Ebb is probably one of the most affordable options available on the market.

 

Key Features

  • Type III design
  • 16 pounds of buoyancy
  • Effective ventilation on back and sides
  • Lightweight PE foam
  • Padded shoulder straps

 

What I like about this product

The build quality of this product is nothing short of impressive. The manufacturers made sure to include only the highest quality materials – durable ripstop nylon and featherweight PE foam. Thanks to its side-entry pockets and strap harness, this PFD won’t ride up.

There are eight adjustable straps to ensure a perfect fit regardless of your body size or shape. The mesh on its back panel clears high seat backs in kayaks. Its high-quality build makes it one of the best kayak fishing PFDs you can find.

 

What I don’t like about this product

As comfortable as it is, it might feel a little bulky to some. Not a lot of thought went into designing the pockets, which feel a bit shoddy.

 

Pros

  • Extremely affordable
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Will fit nearly every size

 

Cons

  • Feels a tad bulky

 

The Men’s Ebb is a cool, comfortable yet lightweight PFD that has great value to offer for a budget option.

 

Overall Rating – 4.5/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe

When you’re paddling, you want as little bulk on you as possible. Unfortunately, most PFDs lack a slimmer profile and tend to feel bulky and heavy. This PFD is the answer to that problem.

 

Key Features

  • Type V classification
  • Floatation rating of 22.5 pounds
  • 420-Denier nylon design
  • Two padded zipper pockets
  • Utility pockets can carry extra CO2 cartridges
  • Mesh ventilation for lower back

 

What I like about this product

This PFD is so lightweight that you’ll forget you’re wearing it, even after you get out of the water. The neckline is supported with neoprene, which makes for an ergonomic and comfortable design. Unlike most PFDs, this vest can be set to inflate automatically when it comes in contact with water. However, I’d recommend you keep it on manual if you’re fishing from a kayak because the splashing water could accidentally inflate the PFD.

Although thin in its design, this model offers a generous amount of storage in the form of two large side pockets which can hold your smaller gear and other essentials.

 

What I don’t like about this product

Since it’s not manual in operation, the carbon dioxide cartridge will need replacing once it’s depleted, which can become annoying over time. That being said, this pitfall is not unique to A/M-24 and is found in all inflatable PFDs. Furthermore, since it is Type V PFD, it’s not suitable for children or non-swimmers.

 

 

Pros

  • Can be set to auto or manual only configurations
  • Very lightweight and comfortable
  • Reflective piping for enhanced visibility

 

Cons

  • CO2 cartridges need replacing once depleted
  • Not suitable for kids or non-swimmers

 

If you’re looking for a compact, slimmer PFD that can be inflated automatically if needed, the A/M-24 is one of the best inflatable PFDs out there.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Harmony Gear Flex Fit

Weighing in at just under a pound, this lightweight PFD is designed for both men and women. You can wear it on white water trips or casual paddling, but it’s crafted with a focus on kayak fishing.

 

Key Features

  • Type III PFD
  • Single zipper pocket
  • Floatation rating of 16.5 pounds
  • Neoprene padding on shoulders

 

What I like about this product

The arm openings are low cut, which gives you complete freedom to move your arms for paddling. To store your valuables and essentials, it comes with a large pocket on the front with mesh drainage on the bottom. The back has a slim profile, and the front uses Gaia foaming, which provides for a fit that hugs your body and keeps you comfortable.

 

What I don’t like about this product

There are only three adjustable straps to get the right fit. Unfortunately, three straps are insufficient for most people, and instead of the PFD fitting snugly, it might feel like a loose, bulky mass hanging from your body.

 

Pros

  • Designed for both men and women
  • Lightweight
  • Reflective piping for better visibility

 

Cons

  • Fewer adjustable straps

 

While this PFD is fairly inexpensive, it is comfortable to wear and paddle in; it also doesn’t weigh much, making it an attractive option if you can overlook the minor fitting issues.

 

Overall Rating – 4.6/5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Life Jacket Buying guide

Most PFDs you’ll come across are designed for recreational boating and not kayaking, which means lesser freedom of movement and more restriction for your arms. So, a PFD particularly geared towards kayak fishing will serve your needs best. Here are a few factors that you need to take into account before you decide on a fishing kayak PFD.

 

Approval

Ensure that whichever vest you’re buying has been approved by your country’s standards. This can be a matter of life and death because defective PFDs will fail to deploy properly during an emergency, so it’s crucial that the government has approved the quality of your vest.

 

Here are a few standards you should check your vest’s approval against:

  • United States Coast Guard
  • ISO (International Standards)
  • CE (European Standards)

 

Every PFD in this list has been approved, so you can have peace of mind if you choose to go with one of these vests.

 

 

Type of the PFD

Different classifications of PFDs are aimed at different purposes.

 

Type I: This type of PFD is bulky and cumbersome but meant for use in remote areas where it might take a while for rescue to arrive.

 

Type II: These PFDs aren’t as cumbersome and awkward as Type I, but they aren’t as buoyant either.

 

Type III: These PFDs are intended to be used by sailors and kayakers who need some freedom of movement and comfort.

 

Type IV: These devices are mostly throwable PFDs, which are meant to supplement other PFDs.

 

Type V: These PFDs are tailored for a single activity, be it kayaking, surfing, water skiing, and so on.

 

Material

Most PFDs make use of PVC foam, which is fairly durable and resistant to most things which damage the vest over time. Some deem it to be toxic under certain conditions. Gaia is a more environmental-friendly option, which also weighs less than PVC.

 

 

Size and fit

It’s important that you get a PFD with a hugging fit. Many PFDs come with adjustable straps which can accommodate and fit just about any body shape and size, making them universal.

 

Standard vs. inflatable

Kayak anglers often use standard non-inflatables because they’re split into foam panels which ‘hug’ your body. The reason they’re popular with kayak anglers is that they afford more storage options, as well as more reliability – since they don’t need to inflate to provide buoyancy.

If you’d rather pick a slimmer profile over a bulkier one, inflatable PFDs might be an attractive option for you. They allow for more freedom of movement, so much so that you won’t even feel you’re wearing them, even after you’re out of the water.

 

Final Thoughts

Ever since kayaking while fishing started growing in popularity, a plethora of attractive PFD options for kayak anglers started showing up as well. For this roundup, my top pick would be Stohlquist’s Fisherman. It’s easily the best kayak fishing PFD because it provides great mobility, plenty of storage, decent enough comfort, and ventilation, all within a very reasonable price.

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