The 7 Best Life Vests For Kayaking In 2020

David Welch
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Life jackets are essential for paddling!

Without a life vest, you could quickly find yourself in big trouble out there on the water. A life jacket provides a level of safety and comfort that you truly need when kayaking.

There are, however, numerous types and brands out there on the market today, and some of them truly are better than others. Let’s just say that designing a good vest that does the job and keeps you safe is anything but easy. There are a lot of details to cover, and that is why choosing the best life jacket can prove to be a bit tricky!

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life VestBest Overall
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

Our rating: 9 / 10

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

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Extremely comfortable, fully adjustable, and easily adjustable. This is a well-designed, affordable life jacket for kayaking.

This product is engineered with a soft nylon exterior that is highly durable, and an extra-large neck opening that keeps water out. This powder-coated model is designed with an ultra-wide, breathable elastic mesh under the arms to keep you comfortable.

The Onyx MoveVent has fully adjustable leg straps, an adjustable and removable chest strap that is engineered with hard webbing for durability, and adjustable buckle closures over the shoulder that give you more freedom to move while wearing the life jacket. The shoulder adjusters and leg-strap buckles are also convenient to use.

2. Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Our rating: 7 / 10

Stohlquist Men's Trekker Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

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This life jacket is made with front pocket and chest strap that are easy to use. It has a double adjustment system in the front for a comfortable, secure fit.

This life jacket comes with a whistle on the chest strap and has a foam collar to keep it from riding up your body while you’re kayaking.

It has a large back pocket with an adjustable strap which gives you plenty of room to store the necessary items you’ll need. This jacket is also great for fishing due to its many pockets.

3. Stohlquist Men's Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Our rating: 7 / 10

Stohlquist Men's Ebb Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

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  • It’s comfortable and easy to wear.
  • Inflatable tubes don’t rip
  • It’s easy to adjust to the right fit


The Ebb has many excellent features including flotation, storage for your knife and first-aid kit, a whistle and pull straps for removing it, a reflective strip for extra visibility, and a removable foam collar (if you don’t think you need it).

Overall, the Ebb is one of the most popular life-jackets out there, particularly among kayakers.

4. Astral – V-Eight Life Jacket PFD

Our rating: 7 / 10

Astral - V-Eight Life Jacket PFD

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  • Inexpensive
  • Comfortable
  • Users love the flotation
  • Lightweight


  • May need to order a larger size than you think you need
  • The two-way zipper may be a little uncomfortable for some users

5. Stohlquist Kids Life Jacket Coast Guard Approved Life Vest

Our rating: 6 / 10

Stohlquist Kids Life Jacket Coast Guard Approved Life Vest

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  • Comes in 12 different sizes
  • Coast Guard approved
  • Made from quality materials
  • Comes with back to back adjustments
  • Easy flotation and adjustment
  • Button front entry collar
  • Comfortable fit
  • 60 gram non-allergenic foam
  • Great price
  • Are available in cool colors


  • In large sizes can be slightly short
  • Backup whistle included is not the best
  • Simply no head support

If you're new to kayaking, the Stohlquist Kids Coast Guard Approved Life Vest could be just what you need to keep your little ones safe as they paddle right alongside you.

It is comfortable for your children because it is made from high-quality fabric and it features adjustable straps and back to back adjustments to ensure a perfect fit.

The Coast Guard approval makes it a top choice for any parent looking to take this type of trip.

6. NRS Zoya Mesh Back PFD

Our rating: 6 / 10

NRS Zoya Mesh Back PFD

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  • Great for small female paddlers who need a life vest
  • Easily adjustable straps
  • Offers great protection
  • It is comfortable to wear
  • It is made from a lightweight material
  • Comes in multiple colors


  • Might be too thick for smaller kayakers
  • The leg straps are not adjustable

The NRS Zoya PFD is a great product to use for female kayakers who are looking for a lightweight life vest. This product is stylish, comfortable, and easy to adjust. The front and back panels are also adjustable to ensure a snug fit.

It is also lightweight and water-resistant up to 110 pounds. It comes in multiple colors for you to choose from. It also has leg straps that are adjustable.

7. MTI Adventurewear Women's Moxie PFD Life Jacket

Our rating: 4 / 10

MTI Adventurewear Women's Moxie PFD Life Jacket

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  • Lightweight neoprene fabric gives you excellent warmth/stretch ratio
  • Seams are sealed for durability and watertightness
  • Detachable, adjustable neoprene belt
  • Pull tab at chin for easy donning
  • Zippered flotation collar
  • Comes with a grab loop
  • Five years of manufacture warranty
  • Extra compression straps that you can lengthen or shorten according to the size of your kayak.
  • You can adjust the width of the shoulder straps so that they are comfortable for your shoulders.


  • Tends to run smaller than expected.

The MTI Adventurewear Women’s Moxie PFD is an excellent entry-level PFD that is versatile and can be used comfortably for different water activities. It comes with an adjustable front and a full-width, adjustable, detachable/adjustable waist belt.

The Moxie PFD is the perfect pick for paddlers weighing between 90 and 220 pounds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best life vest for kayaking?

If you plan to use your kayak for more than just casual paddling on calm lakes and ponds, it’s a good idea to invest in some additional safety and survival equipment. One great option is the best life vest for kayaking. It can help you when you get into trouble on the water.

First out on the market was the inflatable or “pump-up” vest. This type of life jacket becomes snug around the torso and stays afloat when filled with air. They are very inexpensive and are buoyant enough to get people back to the boat.

The next generation of life jackets that came out was the automatic or “inflatable with gas canister” vests. These vests are more versatile because they automatically inflate if the wearer falls into water. You can normally find them in two different styles:

Do you have to wear a life vest when kayaking?


Even if you’ve had years of experience on the water, it’s still important to always use a life vest when your boat is wearing a life jacket. No one knows when something will happen and it’s always better to be prepared.

There are four main types of life vests available for kayaking: traditional foam vests, inflatable vests, vest pack systems, and vest/straps combinations.

Each type has its benefits and drawbacks. They are also designed to fit different body types and requirements so it’s important to make sure you choose the right one.

This guide will take you through the basic differences between the different types of life jackets available. It will also help you choose the best life vest for kayaking for either yourself or your kids.

What is the best PFD?

PFD stands for personal flotation device. It is the most basic element to kayaking. It’s a piece of equipment designed to keep you afloat in the event of an unexpected fall or flip. Each type of PFD has a different design, so you will need to ensure you have the right type of vest for your kayak.

If you buy a kayak, the manufacturer will give you a PFD. So if you take your kayak with you on a trip, you will have a PFD with you. If you plan on renting a kayak, you should ask for one or find out if the location provides one.

PFDs are classified by type. Below you will find a rundown of the types of PFDs to help you choose the best PFD for Kayaking.

What is the best inflatable life vest?

An inflatable life vest is one of the most important pieces of gear that you can have in order to stay safe on the water.

There are many other types of life jackets available, however, in my opinion, an inflatable life vest is the best form for kayaking because it provides so much more functionality and keeps you safer than the rest.

In addition to the traditional short-term flotation vest, inflatable life vests also give you a PFD, or personal flotation device, a durable harness, features that other types of PFDs don’t offer.

In this chapter, we’ll help you make the best decision by explaining the different types, the advantages and disadvantages of inflatable vests and other types as well as provide you with our top 7 picks for the best inflatable life vests for kayaking on the market in 2019.


Whether you are a beginner kayaker or a seasoned pro, we got you covered. Our list of the best life vests for kayaking includes an option for every budget, but also for every skill level. The list is in alphabetical order for your convenience, but you should always do your own research to find the model that is right for you.

Our Recommendation

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life VestBest Overall
Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest