Whenever you’re on or near water, it’s common sense to have the right safety gear, but it’s never more important than when you’re out in a kayak or canoe. These agile little craft are great fun and very useful for hunting and fishing, but they’re also notoriously unstable and prone to landing you unexpectedly in the water. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, you need a buoyancy aid to keep you afloat while you set about getting your kayak right way up and ready to move on.
Obviously, when in a canoe or kayak you need to paddle. Freedom of movement is vital which means that the best life jacket for kayaking won’t interfere with what you’re doing. When you’re choosing a vest, you need to ensure you get one that won’t restrict you or rub uncomfortably. Here are some excellent choices for a kayak PFD that will let you get the most out of your time on the water.
Stohlquist’s range of PFDs have a good reputation in the kayaking and paddle boarding communities. They’re compact and comfortable, and they don’t interfere with paddling. The Trekker is ideal for small craft, combining comfort and freedom with good performance in the water. The outer shell is ultra-tough 500 denier Cordura, which is perfect for wear in a kayak where abrasion from the cockpit sides can damage lighter fabrics. Obviously it’s also ideal for whitewater rafting where you’re likely to end up scuffing against rocks. The inner lining is softer 200 denier oxford for improved comfort. The whole vest is easy to clean with soap and water.
The Trekker is well shaped for kayaking or rowing, with the back panel mounted quite high; it won’t catch on seats and ride up around your neck. The front panels are close fitting when properly adjusted and will also stay out of the way. Two adjustment straps on each side and two more at the shoulders, mean it’s very easy to adjust. The sizes are slightly snug so it’s probably best to go up one size from what you normally buy, but the good news is the Trekker can be adjusted to fit tall, thin figures as well as bulkier ones. Many otherwise good vests struggle at this.
Finally the Trekker also has some good stowage options. There’s a slotted accessory tab on the left upper back, plus two big front pockets. These are high enough that you can still get into them if you’re kayaking with a spray deck, and they have plenty space for keys, snacks and so on. One word of warning – they’re not waterproof, so seal anything delicate in a Ziploc bag.
With its excellent build quality and comfortable fit, the Stohlquist Trekker is an outstanding PFD for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, or even as a kayak fishing life vest. Definitely recommended.
This vest was designed to let you work hard, so it’s ideal for active kayakers and rafters. Open sides and unobtrusive shoulder straps mean it won’t cramp your paddling style, and six adjustment straps – two on each side and two on the shoulders – ensure a perfect fit. A lot of attention has been paid to keeping it well ventilated making it a top pick for warmer weather.
The Astral is also quite secure, with a tough zipper and quick-release waist belt. The foam panels flex comfortably as you move, so this vest can be worn all day with no chafing. The back panel is high enough to clear most kayak seats, and there are a pair of handy pockets too. A few users have noted the PFD feels a bit bulkier than it looks and pockets aren’t located in ideal position but for the most part, the Astral Buoyancy V Eight gets rave reviews.
If you’re planning on tackling some seriously tricky rapids this pro paddling life jacket from Stohlquist could be just what you’re looking for. Compact and tough, it uses high technology materials to give you a great balance of comfort and security. Diagonal adjustment straps make for easy fitting, while textured inner panels grip your clothing and prevent the vest riding up.
The foam is concentrated round the waist, so there’s no obstruction at all for the upper body. It also has two zippered pockets for small items. If you’re on the larger side (both men and women), you’ll find the Rocker to be one of the most comfortable kayaking life jackets out there. The only comfort-complaint you may have is if you tend to paddle with your arms high where the shoulder strap can cause slight irritation if you’re sleeveless. The Stohlquist Rocker can also be slightly restrictive if you try to bend forward too much, so it’s maybe not ideal for fishing, but for anything from whitewater kayaking or even floating down a river, it’s hard to beat.