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10 Best Kayak Life Vests – The Essential Kayak Accessory

Best Kayak Life Vest

If you own a boat or kayak, then you absolutely need a kayak life vest. A life vest or PFD (portable floating device) can literally save your life if your kayak rolls over in the water.

Moreover, the kayak life vest offers a lot of comfort and convenience when kayaking. Most models have waterproof pockets for storing your sensitive electronics like smartphones. They also have a padded interior that not only provides you with comfort but also security against impacts.

Below we have reviewed some of the best kayak life vests for the money. Let's see how well they perform!

If you search for kayaks, here are some kayak reviews that I recommend to read like type of kayakcheap kayakkayak for dogkayak for beginner, pedal kayak, touring kayak, recreational kayak, and many more. 

Image

Product Name

Material

Dimensions

Rating

Current Price

Onyx Movevent Dynamic Kayak Life Vest

1. Onyx Movevent Dynamic Kayak Life Vest 

Polyester

X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, X-Large/XX-Large

4.7

Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Kayak Life Vest

2. Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Kayak Life Vest

200 Denier Nylon Oxford

Fit youth, 50-90lbs

4.6

Onyx Movevent Curve Kayak Life Vest

3. Onyx Movevent Curve Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, X-Large/XX-Large

4.6

Stohlquist Men's Trekker Kayak Life Vest

4. Stohlquist Men's Trekker Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, XX-Large

4.7

Stearns Adult Classic Kayak Life Vest

5. Stearns Adult Classic Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

Oversized, Universal

4.3

Stohlquist Men's Ebb Kayak Life Vest

6. Stohlquist Men's Ebb Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, Plus

4.6

Stohlquist Women's Flo Kayak Life Vest

7. Stohlquist Women's Flo Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, Plus

4.5

Stohlquist Women's Escape Kayak Life Vest

8. Stohlquist Women's Escape Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, Plus

4.4

Astral Linda Women's Fishing Kayak Life Vest

9. Astral Linda Women's Fishing Kayak Life Vest 

Nylon

Small/Medium, Medium/Large, Large/X-Large, Large/X-Large

4.4

Amairne-made Fishing Kayak Life Vest

10. Amairne-made Fishing Kayak Life Vest 

Terylene

Universal

4.1

1. Onyx Movevent Dynamic Kayak Life Vest 

Onyx Movevent Dynamic Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, X-Large/XX-Large
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Material: Polyester
  • Color: Aqua, Orange, Purple, and Yellow

The Onyx Movevent is a simple and modest looking kayak life vest. However, this model is one of the most popular life vests that money can buy.

It comes in different sizes to suit almost anyone. Best of all, it has a unisex design so it will fit both men and women quite well.

You have the choice between different colors for individual preference and it has mesh pockets for adequate water drainage. Furthermore, there is a bubble foam lining inside the vest that provides excellent comfort during those long hours of kayaking.

All in all, the Onyx Movevent is one of the best kayak life vests that money can buy based on its build quality and protection that it offers to the user.

Pros:

  • Inner foam in the back for comfort
  • Unisex design. Will fit both men and women
  • Available in 4 different color choices and different sizes
  • Mesh pockets for water drainage

Cons:

  • The price could have been a little bit more competitive

2. Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Kayak Life Vest 

Onyx Youth Paddle Sports Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Fit youth, 50-90 lbs
  • Weight: 0.59 lb
  • Material: 200 Denier Nylon Oxford
  • Color: Red and Yellow

As its name suggests, the Onyx Youth is made for children and teenagers that weigh between 50 lbs to 90 lbs. It is not the most striking looking life vest, but it gets the job on fine.

It has a mesh bucket design for easy water drainage as well as 6 adjustment straps that allow you to adjust the fit to your liking. Moreover, it is very easy to wear on as it has a front zip system as well as a single buckle for added protection.

Furthermore, it is a low profile vest and extremely lightweight at 0.59 lbs. In fact, the Onyx Youth is the lightest kayak life vest in this review. To make it more comfortable to wear for an extended period, this life vest has neoprene shoulder pads.

Pros:

  • Affordable. Value for money
  • Very lightweight at 0.59 lb
  • 6 straps for fit adjustment
  • Neoprene padded shoulder pads

Cons:

  • Basic life vest

3. Onyx Movevent Curve Kayak Life Vest 

Onyx Movevent Curve Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, X-Large/XX-Large
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Blue and Yellow

Of all Onyx kayak life vests, we prefer the Onyx Movevent Curve. This top-rated kayak life vest does not come cheap. However, it has an excellent build construction and will provide a superb protection when necessary.

This vest is made from a very tough and durable 200 denier nylon material. It is also extremely durable which will make this life vest long-lasting.

Moreover, inside you will find a soft foam that provides both comforts and make the kayak life vest float on water. It will provide protection to anyone of at least 90 lbs or more.

One striking feature you will find is the presence of a lower back mesh that can be used as a security harness on the seat of a sit-on-top kayak.

Pros:

  • Excellent build construction. Durable and long-lasting
  • Snug and comfortable fit
  • Provides excellent maneuverability when kayaking
  • Lower back mesh optimized for sit-on-top kayaks

Cons:

  • Sizes selection could have been wider
  • Does not provide good protection for people below 90 lbs in weight

4. Stohlquist Men's Trekker Kayak Life Vest 

Stohlquist Men's Trekker Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, XX-Large
  • Weight: N/A
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Sapphire Blue, Black, Red, Yellow, and Green

This Stohlquist kayak life vest is made for men only. It adopts an excellent build construction from a very tough nylon material and has a 500 denier Cordura shell that provides excellent protection against impact.

Moreover, this life vest is very well ventilated and has an excellent drainage system. You can wear this PFD for an extended period without feeling discomfort.

Due to the material used in the construction, you can quickly and easily wash it with something as simple as soap and water.

Furthermore, the buckling system along with the full front zip is very high-quality and heavy duty.

Finally, one of the best things about this good kayak life vest is that it is available in a wide range of colors and sizes to fit almost any men out there.

Pros:

  • Quality build construction. Durable and long-lasting
  • Easy to wear and remove
  • Ventilated back pad and shoulder pad for comfort
  • Available in a wide range of colors and sizes

Cons:

  • The price. It is an expensive life vest

5. Stearns Adult Classic Kayak Life Vest 

Stearns Adult Classic Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Oversized and Universal
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Blue, Camouflage, Red

The Stearns Adult Classic is a special kayak life vest both in terms of size and colors. It is available in blue, camouflage and red.

In terms of size, this is one of the few models in this kayak life vest review that has an oversize dimension. If you are on the plus side, this Stearns kayak life vest is a good model to consider.

Above all, it has a 3-buckle system that is very easy to use. It does not come with a front zip which is not as secure as other models. However, this PFD is much faster to wear on and easier to remove.

Moreover, due to the open design of this kayak life vest, you will not feel discomfort even when worn for an extended period. Finally, despite the simple looks, it is coast guard approved which means that it is safe and can save your life.

Pros:

  • Will fit oversized adults
  • 3 buckle system is very easy to use
  • Coast Guard approved

Cons:

  • Does not have a front zip. Not as secure as other models in this review

6. Stohlquist Men's Ebb Kayak Life Vest 

Stohlquist Men's Ebb Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Small/Medium, Large/X-Large, Plus
  • Weight: N/A
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Red/Gray and Steel Green

This kayak life this is another proposition from Stohlquist. It is a men model that comes in different sizes from small to universal plus to fit almost anyone.

The color of this life vest is limited to only a red/gray and a steel green but the fit is excellent. Moreover, there is front zip that adds security and makes it easier to wear and remove.

Additionally, there are 2 buckles at the side to adjust the fit of this kayak life vest. Comfort is also not lacking in this unit as it has a neoprene padded waistband as well as a heavy-duty PE foam in the inside.

For more convenience, you will find 2 large side pockets where you can keep various accessories. Best, the side pockets can be secured with a button.

Pros:

  • 2 side pockets for convenience
  • Easy to wear and to remove
  • Can be hand washed with soap and water
  • Neoprene waistband and PE foam lining for comfort

Cons:

  • Limited color choices
  • Price could have been a little bit more competitive

7. Stohlquist Women's Flo Kayak Life Vest 

Stohlquist Women's Flo Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, Plus
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Orange/Gray and Purple/Gray

This model is similar both in terms of looks and in functionality to the Stohlquist life vest we reviewed above but this one is made for women only.

It comes in 2 different colors of orange/gray and purple/gray which isn't the most diversified. However, it is still visually attractive however limited it is. Moreover, the build construction is excellent and wearing it is very easy.

Similar to the previous model, comfort is excellent as it has a PE foam lining as well as a neoprene waistband.

Pros:

  • 2 side pockets for convenience
  • Mesh shoulder straps for ventilation
  • Presence of beverage pockets
  • Very comfortable to wear

Cons:

  • The price

8. Stohlquist Women's Escape Kayak Life Vest 

Stohlquist Women's Escape Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: X-Small/Small, Medium/Large, Plus
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Red and Sail Blue

The Stohlquist Escape is a woman exclusive PFD that comes in a wide range of dimensions from extra small to universal plus size. The color choice is still limited but the functionality is simply excellent.

This kayak life vest has been engineered from the ground up to offer excellent buoyancy in water and superb comfort to the user. It uses very soft foam on the inside and has a tough nylon exterior that is extremely durable and long-lasting.

Moreover, this unit has large pockets to the side that can be conveniently zipped. It adults a low profile designed that makes it highly maneuverable, especially when kayaking.

Pros:

  • Competitive pricing
  • Large side pocket with a zip for convenience
  • Low profile design. Excellent maneuverability
  • Comfortable to wear with padded shoulders and PE Foam inside lining

Cons:

  • Not the best fit. Many petite customers complained that the chest area is a little bit loose

9. Astral Linda Women's Fishing Kayak Life Vest 

Astral Linda Women's Fishing Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Small/Medium, Medium/Large, Large/X-Large, Large/X-Large
  • Weight: 1.26 lbs
  • Material: Nylon
  • Color: Glacier Blue, Pine Needle Green, and Rosa Red

For years the Astral Linda has been one of the best kayak life vests for the money. This is a women life vest that is intended for recreational purposes. However, it is highly versatile such that it can still be used for a wider range of activities from touring to fishing.

This model contains 2 side pockets with a zip. It is waterproof and water resistant so can be used to store your sensitive items like smartphones quite easily.

Moreover, the inner side of this life vest has a mesh design for easy water drainage. In addition, there are comfortable pads on the inside that makes this life vest very comfortable to wear especially when worn for an extended period.

But what makes the Astral Linda an excellent kayak life vest for women is that it has been specially engineered with a preshaped foam such that it will offer an excellent fit to women of any shape and size.

If both looks and security are important to you, this is a worthwhile kayak life vest to consider even if it is a little bit on the expensive side.

Pros:

  • 2 waterproof side pockets with zipping system
  • Mesh interior for water drainage
  • Preshaped foam offers an excellent fit to women of any body size

Cons:

  • A little bit expensive

10. Amairne-made Fishing Kayak Life Vest 

Amairne-made Fishing Kayak Life Vest
  • Dimensions: Universal
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs
  • Material: Terylene
  • Color: Red

Not everyone can afford an expensive life vest. This is where models like the Amairne-made comes in. It is a simple and yet effective PDF that can be used in a wide range of situations, including kayaking.

This life jacket is made from Terylene which is a waterproof and durable material that will make this unit long-lasting. Moreover, there are 2 large for pockets with a mesh exterior easy water drainage. Those pockets can be used for almost anything, from beverages to holding fishing accessories.

Additionally, the 2 large buckle straps at the shoulders allow you to quickly and easily adjust the height of the life vest your liking.

Sadly, this shoulder strap is not padded and does not offer the most comfortable fit. However, for the price, we appreciate the fact that it offers easy adjustments.

Pros:

  • Made from a fully waterproof and highly durable Terylene material
  • Extremely affordable. Value for money
  • 2 front mesh pockets for convenience and easy water drainage
  • Shoulder straps are adjustable

Cons:

  •  You need to be less than 110 kg for this PFD to be effective
  • Shoulder strap is not padded. Not the most comfortable life vest

How to Buy a Kayak Life Vest

How to Buy a Kayak Life Vest

1. Purpose

Your purpose is an important factor to take into account when purchasing a kayak life vest. Some kayak life vests offer more maneuverability than others.

Therefore, if you are performing kayaking that is movement intensive like whitewater kayaking then you will need a more heavy-duty and performing model than a recreational kayak life vest.

2. Safety

Safety is at the heart of the kayak life vest. After all, the whole point of the kayak life vest is safety.

For maximum safety, you need to make sure that your life vest has a simple zipping and buckling system that makes it easy to wear or remove as quickly as possible.

Additionally, look for terms like "low-profile" and "compact foam design". This means that your kayak life vest has been designed in such a way that it will offer full maneuverability in case of an emergency.

Moreover, the foam design will ensure that your kayak life vest will keep you afloat at all times and protect you from impacts.

3. Comfort

Wearing a kayak life vest does not mean that it has to be uncomfortable. Quite the contrary as most models are actually quite comfortable.

For maximum comfort, ensure that your kayak life vest is lightweight. This will make it highly portable and you will quickly forget that you are even wearing one.

Moreover, the shoulder pads need to be reinforced with padding like neoprene to ensure a comfortable fit. But what really makes this PFD a very comfortable unit is definitely its foam back.

Indeed, the large foam back of the kayak life vest provides you with exceptional lifesaving protection. This foam back is also extremely comfortable when it comes into contact with your back, thus preventing any discomfort when worn for an extended period.

4. Color

The color in a kayak life vest serves the purpose of visibility. In case of an emergency, you can easily be seen by rescuers. Additionally, many life vests are fluorescent and reflect light well. This makes them highly visible at night.

There is no particular choice of colors when it comes to a kayak life vest. It will all depend on your preference. However, bear in mind that colors like yellow and green are more visible at night than other colors.

5. Drainage

It is important that your kayak life jacket has a drainage system. This will ensure that water can easily drain out of the vest and remain dry. Most of the time, you will find life vests with a simple mesh drainage system which is effective for most purposes.

6. Pockets

For more convenience, keep an eye out for life vests that come with pockets. Sooner or later you will want the convenience of pockets to store your accessories or even beverages.

For the best bang for your buck, we recommend that you go with life vests that are waterproof so as to protect your sensitive items like smartphones.

FAQs

1. Are Life Vests Required When You Go Kayaking?

Yes. The life vest must always be worn when you go kayaking. It is one of the most important accessories for kayak owners as it will literally save your life if your kayak rolls over.

The life vest will always stay afloat and prevent you from sinking. Wearing a life vest is especially important if you are kayaking in rapid currents like whitewater.

2. How Do You Clean The Life Vest?

Cleaning your life this is an extremely important practice. It will help extend the lifespan of your life vest and make it look new and clean all the time.

Moreover, due to the build of materials used in the life vest, it is known for attracting mold over time. Therefore, it is very important that you regularly clean your life vest to prevent a health hazard.

One of the easiest ways to clean a life vest is by laying it on the ground and cleaning it with water and hand soap.

Do not forget to rinse thoroughly afterward. It is a good idea to use a high-pressure nozzle with your hose as pressure water has more potential for removing dirt.

Moreover, focus mostly on the straps of the life vest as this is the part that usually needs the most cleaning.

3. Do Life Vests Have An Expiration Date?

In general, the life vest is made out of materials that do not have an expiration date and will potentially last forever if kept in good conditions and maintained properly.

However, you need to take good care of your life vest so as to extend its lifespan. One of the surefire ways to make your life vest last a very long time is by not regularly exposing it to UV light.

Indeed, UV light from direct sunlight can be harmful to the plastic and foam materials used in the construction of the life vest.

Moreover, degradation of the life vest is more severe when used in saltwater than in freshwater. You need to thoroughly clean your life vest whenever you use it in saltwater.

4. How Do You Test Out Your Life Vests?

Before even fitting on your life vest on, a quick and easy way of testing your life jacket is by throwing it in water. If it floats that it passes the test because all life vests need to float on water, regardless of whether it is used in saltwater or freshwater.

5. Is There a Minimum Age to Wear Life Vests?

Yes. The legal minimum age for wearing an inflatable life vest in North America is 16. If it is not inflatable, then there is no age limit.

6. Will the Life Vest Fit Both Men and Women

Manufacturers of life vests design it in such a way that this accessory is unisex and will fit both male and female comfortably.

Moreover, you do not have to buy a life vest that is one size bigger. Due to the elastic build materials used in the life vest, and the presence of adjustment straps, it should provide a tight and snug fit for any body type.

Concl​​​​usion

As we have seen, the kayak life vest is an affordable and yet priceless kayak accessory that can literally save your life one day. If you do not own a life vest, then you absolutely need one as there is no excuse for not wearing a life vest while kayaking.

They are light and provide excellent maneuverability. Moreover, the life vest is known for its long lifespan and this is not a kayak accessory that you have to buy every year. A quality kayak life vest can easily last you a decade.

Finally, if you have still not found a decent model in our kayak life vest review above, then we recommend you read it again.