Guide to selecting a PFD / Life Vest for Inflatable Kayaking

Guide to selecting a PFD / Life Vest for Inflatable Kayaking

One of the questions we get asked all the time about inflatable kayaks is: Which life vest should I get to go with it?
We've boiled it down to this 5 step guide.

1 - Just wear one. We've heard tons of stories about near accidents due to not wearing a PFD. Thats why our first step is to just wear one.

Life jacket, life vest, Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – whatever you call it, it only works if you wear it! Did you know that nearly 70% of all drownings involving canoes, kayaks, or rafts might have been avoided if the victim had been wearing a life jacket? Or that 9 out of 10 drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety?

There's a lot to unpack hear but making sure it is comfortable should be the top priority. That is why we are now offering free shipping + free return shipping on PFDs over $60 in the Continental USA. This is applied automatically to qualifying orders at checkout.

It should fit like a good pair of shoes, snug but comfortable. A good fit test that you can do before hitting the water is to tighten up the life jacket as you would wear it, then hook your thumbs under the shoulder straps and haul upward. The jacket should stay in place around your body and not ride up around your ears.

2 - Any life jacket that's Coast Guard approved. All PFDs at are US Coast Gaurd approved and there will be a physical stamp inside the life vest.

3 - We recommend a type III PFD.  Type III – Flotation Aid: For use in calm water by conscious users, where there is good chance of fast rescue. Type III is generally the “paddler’s choice” because they are designed for general boating/water activities as marked on the vest, and are more comfortable. Minimum buoyancy 15.5 lbs. adults, 11 lbs child, 7 lbs infant. the best life jackets for kayaking are those that are made specifically for paddling.

4 - Kayaking specific PFDs have large armholes and keep the bulk of the flotation away from the shoulders and upper chest to give you the fullest range of arm and upper body motion while paddling. Models described as 'High back' or 'Mesh Back' typically give a great range of motion.

5 - Pay attention to the extras - Many of them will also have convenient features like zipper pockets for carrying such things as sunscreen, glasses and snacks. And some models even have pouches for hydration bladders that can be mounted on the back of the PFD.

Extra Protip - 

Some PFDs are designed specific for applications in the water, like fishing, or a SUP Belt for stand up paddleboarding.

If you are doing a lot of either activity, consider one of these alternatives.

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