It is perfect weather and even water is still, it is the right time that you get your kayak & paddle wet – but do not think of any “worst scenario” that comes to your mind.

No matter whether it is a sudden change in water tide or wind – or you lose your balance and slip for a moment– it can get you, so, in such case, it is always good to have the right kayak life vest that can keep you afloat once you find your move and get your control back– it will save your life when you are kayaking!

When it comes to choosing the best life vest, you need to pay special attention and care just like to do with your kayak & paddle; let me show you how to find the best kayak life vest!

Before we go ahead checking out the top life vest reviews for kayaks we will cover everything that you have to know before you plan to buy a life vest for your kayaking trip.

Best Kayak Life Jackets and Vests

Different Types of PFDs

There are mainly 5 types of PFDs (or personal floatation devices) that you will come across in the market. Each of these types of life vests can be classified by the use and risks that they are planned to protect you against.

  • Type I PFD – Offshore Life Vests 
  • Type II PFD – Near-Shore Life Vests
  • Type III PFD – Flotation Aids Vest
  • Type IV PFD – Throwable Devices
  • Type V PFD – Special-Use Devices

Just some of the available types are best for kayaking thus we will cover each one of them quickly and explain which kind of PFD you must look out for when buying one.

Also Read: Life Jacket vs PFD – Check Out the Difference

Type I & II PFD Vest

Offshore & near-shore life vests are the best type of PFDs that you will find on cruise ships and bigger boats. You must make use of type I and II PFD if there are any risks of you getting in the water away from the seashore as these vests can help you to stay afloat for very long hours. 

Such PFDs generally feature bright reflective bands and colors. You will find type I & II floatation devices made from foam and air cushions. These life jackets will help you to float even when you are unconscious. 

But, the drawback with these two devices is that their design will be a bit bulky and restrict the movements. The type I PFDs don’t meet the USCG requirements, and though these vests will keep you totally safe underwater, they will not help you meet the legal requirements of the state.

Type III and IV PFD Vest

Type III and IV PFD vest is an ideal kind of vest for fishing, kayaking, water skiing, and various other water activities. They’re made for calm and in-land waters and where you may expect the quick rescue however they are well-designed to complement the physical activity that you are going to do.

The type IV PFDs aren’t meant to be worn. But, they are made to be thrown out in the water for helping somebody who wants rescue. Generally, you will them in the ring shapes mainly hanging on the side of the boat. The design doesn’t allow for higher mobility and thus they are not suggested for the kayakers.

Type V PFD Vest

Type V vests are made only for special uses. Conditions and activities for which the Type V PFD device is suitable can be outlined on a label.

Each of them is very different. Like, the full-body survival vest will be termed Type V as it is made for the cooler climates as well as protects your body from hypothermia. Other Type V floating devices will outline Type I, II, and III performance level on their label.

10 Best Kayak Life Jackets and Vests

Now let us go ahead and check out the complete review of the top kayak life vests that you must consider buying for your next kayak trip.

1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports CGA Life Vest

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports CGA Life Vest

Onyx MoveVent features a heavy-duty and 200-denier and a tear-resistant outer shell that is made from Nylon. It has a beautiful touch of the neoprene padding and where it really counts –the Onyx MoveVent vest’s design is highly comfortable and feels a bit tough to some users.

Its sculpted foam – with the high-back cut works with most of the kayak seats – it offers the safe and secure and flexible fit and 15.5-pound buoyancy for the USCG-approved PFDs Type III.

However, not messing with the movements, this Onyx PFD vest scores much higher than your average life jacket in the terms of breathability. Its mesh panels on the front and backside of this life vest will do wonders in improving the ventilation on hot scorching days!


  • Entry System: Double-crimp, funnel
  • Material: 200-Denier Nylon
  • Chest Sizing: 28”-36” (X-Small/Small), 36”-44” (Medium/Large), 44”-56” (X-Large/2X-Large)
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • USCG Type: III


  • Very lightweight
  • Has got whistles for safety


  • Not fit for bigger individuals

2. Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest

Onyx Unversal Paddle Kayak Life Vest

Second, on the list is the Onyx Universal paddle life vest that is made with the “Flex-Cut” design by using perforated & progressively tapered foam that will reduce front thickness as well as offer the contoured and low-profile fit to the wearer. Its open sides, as well as lower back design, keep you comfortable and cool while paddling under the water.

The strong tradition of designing the best quality life vest is made in a Universal Paddle life jacket and offers the perfect fit, function, as well as safety that you can enjoy your water activity anytime you want.

Onyx is a company that is highly committed to offering its customers safe, reliable, as well as user-friendly items. You can explore the outdoors in a new way with this exciting lineup of new products that will enhance your hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, camping, and other memorable experience.


  • Entry System: Double-crimp, funnel
  • Material: 200-Denier Nylon
  • Chest Sizing: 28”-36” (X-Small/Small), 36”-44” (Medium/Large), 44”-56” (X-Large/2X-Large)
  • Weight: 1.05 lb
  • USCG Type: III PFD


  • Better foam back accommodates back seats
  • Lightweight, low profile, compact style; sublimated liner graphics and style
  • 6 adjustment straps to fit properly 
  • Comfortable neoprene pads and a large pocket
  • Breathable lower back


  • Thicker front panels

3. Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

At a glance, this life vest is made with the kayak anglers in thought. You will find many pockets located everywhere, and making this the best choice for longer fishing trips:

Right from its zippered fleece pockets to drop-down tray and snap-close slot to put your radio & 2-inch tabs, this is one amazing vest that has the “kayak angler“ written on it. Besides, this vest features highly comfortable neoprene pads as well as a high foam back, it is paired with the lower mesh panel, and does not interfere with your kayak seat as well as keeps things easy and breathable.

Onyx Kayak Fishing life jacket is available only in 2 sizes – Universal & Oversize – but it also includes 6 adjustment straps, which allow for the snug and custom fit.


  • USCG Type: III PFD
  • Material: 400-denier nylon construction
  • Weight: 15.5-pound buoyancy
  • Chest Sizing: 2 available sizes


  • 4 different pocket styles & attachment points
  • Practical and functional layout for the kayak anglers
  • 6 straps for the customized fit
  • High-back cut and lower mesh panel that will accommodate your seat 


  • Zipper pulls do not feel very durable
  • Does not feature extra buckle fasteners
  • Tends to get sweaty and hot

4. Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket:Personal Floatation Device

This three-buckle design of the Stohlquist Fit Life Jacket has several benefits. It makes it simple for you to adjust, this makes coming in and out of the water highly comfortable, and this prevents the seatback interference. Besides, it is made for better mobility as well as comfort.

This high-profile and cut-away leaves higher room for action and movement. Its upper buckle won’t ride up while paddling. There’s the hanging loop for simple storage and drying.

The multi-use flotation unit is best for different types of water sport activities. This life jacket is quite universal so it can fit many users. This vest is highly comfortable for rowing and lacks total comfort while you sit very low in a kayak.


  • USCG Type: III PFD
  • Material: Neoprene
  • Weight: 15.5-pound buoyancy
  • Chest Sizing: 50 – 90 Lbs


  • Higher mobility
  • USCG approved
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Padding isn’t bulky


  • Not good for smaller height people
  • Not made for the sit-in kayaks

5. NRS Chinook Fishing Kayak Lifejacket (PFD)

NRS Chinook Fishing Kayak Lifejacket (PFD)

NRS Chinook Fishing life vest is a high-end vest made for kayakers who do not mind fishing every time. This roomy fit makes the kayak a versatile equipment device that can easily be worn on regular clothes. Because of its PlushFIT foam, which conveniently molds to the body, you will feel good wearing this jacket for several hours.

This comes with a wide variety of adjustment points to customize this in the way you want. These two zippered pockets in the conjunction with two accessory pockets and tool holder pockets will allow you to keep your necessities in hand. The model has got USCG certification that makes it the best garment with a high-security rating.


  • Entry System: Front zip
  • Material: 400-Denier ripstop Nylon
  • Sizing: X-Small – XX-Large
  • USCG Type: III


  • Mesh lower back offers ventilation
  • Rod holder comes handy while fishing


  • The price tag is very high

6. Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest

Stearns Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest

Stearns Adult Watersport Classic vest is a simple and effective kayak jacket, it is perfect for the day at a lake. Stearns Classic life vest is approved by US Coast Guard. This durable construction includes a 3-buckle style and nylon shell.

The life best will fit many users and is designed for adults weighing more than 90 pounds. This life vest is highly adjustable for 30 to 52-inch chest sizes. Armholes are spacious and roomy, still, snug to keep you on water. It has adjustable web straps that make it the most versatile PFD life vest.

The only negative point is this jacket is a bit bulky and cumbersome while you’re paddling. Suppose you are searching for an inexpensive life vest that can keep you afloat, this is the most viable option for you. Many people can buy many of the life jackets that you can have on your hand while they take the people kayaking.


  • Entry System: Open-sided with 3 adjustable buckles
  • Material: Nylon
  • USCG Type: III
  • Sizing: 30 to 52-inch chests
  • Weight: 0.7 Ounces


  • Lightweight & comfortable
  • Very good for the shorter trips
  • Three buckle design that gives a perfect fit
  • Affordable jacket
  • Universal size can fit all types of kayakers
  • Approved by US Coast Guard


  • No pockets
  • Quite bulky for users

7. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest

O'Neill Men's Superlite USCG Life Vest

O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest is a perfect combo of the coated nylon that contributes to its overall shell’s durability, and cut foam that ensures flotation and keeps things very lightweight. Yes, it is a USCG-certified PFD.

The number of sizes available is seven, from S – 4XL – is quite insane. However, it has 4 heavy-duty and simple to adjust, 1.5” straps with fast-release buckles, which push its fit beyond security. Suppose unrestricted movement is your top priority, then it is a pretty strong option because of its streamlined design. This is quite sporty as well as a cool-looking device, too –so I know some of you may appreciate this vest.


  • Entry System: Open-sided with 4 adjustable buckles
  • Material: Nylon
  • Sizing: Seven sizes
  • USCG Type: III
  • Weight: 1.27 Pounds


  • Have 4 of 1.5” belts with fast-release buckles
  • Anatomically-cut foam for better and unrestricted movement 
  • Reflective graphics for better visibility
  • Vertical straps to prevent from riding up


  • Does not feature mesh panels at its back and sides
  • Listed sizes will go small
  • Very short for the long torsos

8. Yukon Epic Paddle Life Vest

Yukon Epic Paddle Life Vest

Yukon Epic Paddle Vest offers you complete freedom of movement where you want to paddle really hard and making it perfect for the active kayakers or rafters alike. Many people like this Yukon life jacket as it is very lightweight and comfortable to wear. This is not any surprise since it is made with the sculpted PVC-free foam that is considered the lightest material available today.

It is the best life jacket that you want to paddle boarding as it comes well-equipped with special features, which includes the large and expandable front pocket where you can put your goodies or snacks, the breathable mesh back, as well as neoprene shoulder pads for better comfort.

For better comfort, Yukon made this life vest with the breathable mesh back as well as neoprene shoulder pads. The life vest is an important accessory that you will need to add to the paddle days.


  • Entry System: EZ pull side zipper
  • Material: 400D nylon
  • Sizing: XS/Teen (29″-32″), S/M (32″-40″), L/XL (42″-50″), 2XL/3XL (52″-60″), 4XL/6XL (62″-70″).
  • USCG Type: III
  • Weight: 1.27 Pounds


  • Ergonomically made to adjust at any length and width of your body
  • Big expandable front pocket and over-pocket & lashing tab
  • Pretty well made
  • 4 loops on its back allow for the water reservoir attachment
  • Highly comfortable on the water 
  • Fits even plus-sized women and men


  • Smaller people could experience fitting issues

9. Stohlquist Waterware Edge Life Jacket

Stohlquist Edge Lifejacket (PFD)

For the roomy kayak life vest that fits like glove, you must consider looking at an Edge model made by the Stohlquist Waterway. Featuring the top-loading pocket for ease of accessibility as well as storage space for the small knick-knacks, this is a real deal for you. It has got graded sizing that makes it the universal equipment that will accommodate everybody regardless of height and weight. 

Its fit is totally customizable –shoulder, waist, as well as side traps, are easy to adjust to attain the perfect feel and look. Its low-cut design allows you to fit the arms without any kind of trouble whilst feeling safe and secure. 

The better-visibility 3MTM accents make others find you easily especially during the night time, whereas the center lash tab will allow you to bring a wide variety of utility attachments with you.   


  • Entry System: Offset front-zip
  • Material: Mini Ripstop Nylon, 200-Denier Oxford
  • Weight: 1.21 lbs.   
  • Flotation: 15 lbs. 8 oz (Small)
  • USCG Type: III


  • Mesh sides offer you maximum ventilation
  • Ergonomic WRAPTURE torso sits well on the chest


  • Runs small

10. Airhead Trend Life Vest

Airhead Trend Life Vest

Airhead Trend Life Vest is the only highly recommended product if you are looking for the best PFD that delivers better visibility in low light conditions and the water. This bright pink color makes a better choice, and this can help to make you visible. It is one important consideration as visibility will make you much safer. 

The life jacket is the most durable and affordable option that is appropriate for many different activities. This 200-denier polyester make is an interesting feature as this material is quite resistant to wear & tear. It dries much faster and will withstand exposure to UV rays. There’s a layer of very lightweight foam in this life jacket’s panels, which form the protective shell. This foam delivers better buoyancy in water, and the vest meets even USCG safety guidelines perfectly. 

Side panels of this vest create a closed design. This closed design will feel a bit restrictive than other products in the market, but it will help in making you feel much safer whenever you feel a bit anxious about being on the water. Its closed design is the best choice in case you want the snug fit.


  • Entry System: Quick-release buckles
  • Material: 200-Denier Polyester
  • Weight: 1.26 Pounds.   
  • USCG Type: III


  • 4 adjustable buckles 
  • Bright color improves visibility 
  • UV-resistant material 
  • The closed design offers a snug fit 


  • The closed design will feel a bit restrictive 
  • Zipper closure is not available 
  • Lesser size options

Final Words

Even the cheapest and basic life vest would be enough for meeting the USCG’s requirements and guidelines. But as we say, the top PFD is one that you will like to wear for a certain reason.

Suppose you are into kayak fish, it is very important that you protect yourself with the best quality of life vest. The top kayak life jacket is one you can wear & you rightly.

It must have lots of storage pockets where you can put your gear, fit you properly without restricting your movement as well as offer enough protection in the event you fall over.

You must stick with the top kayak life vest for water activity, and keep this accessible so that you will not hesitate in putting this on when required!

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