PFD Reviews

Boat Clothing & Shoes

a L/XL Sweet Strutter PFD in Navy Blue

A lot of kayakers I see on the water aren't wearing a PFD they say they are to bulky, uncomfortable. Please wear your PFD. The models below are some excellent choices for fishing, paddling and swiming PFDs on the market today.

Safety Products

Best rescue PFDs for paddling and swimming

Stohlquist Fisherman - PFD

High Back Life Jacket

The Stohlquist Fisherman PFD is the perfect option for any fisherman. The design of this life jacket is made to provide you with comfort and safety. There are also places for all your gadgets so they do not end up overboard! This is the ideal PFD for any sit on top paddler. 

With places for the little things this Fisherman Type III Pfd provides excellent cockpit management. Fold-down EVA tool pouch pockets stiffened outer shells to protect your fishing tackle and contents.

They gave the actual comfy PFD angler-specific features to allow you to land a good big one. two large front zip pockets hold ones tackle and also other necessities. your own FISHERMAN Individual Flotation Device in addition involves four elastic holders to be able to keep goods similar to needle nosed pliers in straightforward reach. Stohlquist beefed up the particular flat-water PFD throughout 16lb 12OZ connected with flotation to be able to keep people effectively above your current water line if your fish pulls with just your wrong moment along with catches you instead of any other way around.

It's a high back flotation rides with mesh on lower half for kayak fishing. The large size front pockets make for awesome tackle workstations. Great vest at a great price, the rear float sits high so you can comfortably sit in a seat. It's also a great fishing vest, place to attach a kayak tow/drag line to, etc.

You will find them more comfortable especially in the summer. Most people swear by NRS or jackets like the one you want for the pockets. Personally, even on your rec yak, everything has a place so nothing has to be on you. You can hold your arms close to your chest when fishing and when you wear a standard vest it just feels foreign.

NRS Chinook

by far the most popular angler PFD on the market

Chinook kayak lifejacket

The high back floatation sits above the seat back in your Jacksons and you are completely comfortable wearing it all day. For river fishing, I'm able to keep hooks and weights in my front pocket for easy access when you need to re-tie. The bottom of the back floatation sits above the 360 backrest.

Lots of storage and very comfortable. The side straps make the NRS Chinook adjustable for a wide range of abdomen sizes and chest.

It gets hot in central FL in the summer and it's nice to be able to keep the belt buckled but unzip the vest for more air. Also seems pretty comfortable and you can find the pockets to be useful. You can keep your camera and phone in them.

With a few more skins in the game-much better than the old lifejacket

The new chinooks are much better than the old ones. They are great for tournaments. Camera in one pocket, identifier in the other. Top pocket extra batteries and sdhd cards. You will forget you are wearing it. It's ultra comfie.

The most comfortable and the most reliable one. 800-3000$ yak 150-300$ Rod 100-200 paddle 30$ PFD makes no sense. NRS Chinook have a great warranty - 5 years. You got a new one back with no charge.

Right now you can find closeouts pretty cheap in amazon. All their PFD Chinook uses the same flotation so the difference is the strap lengths on the sides. If you chose an XXL it will still fit if your a Med or a LRG. Just take up the extra straps and use a zip tie to keep them out of the way. Do not cut them or it voids the warranty told by NRS.

Onyx A/M-24 - Inflatable (PFD) Life Jacket

Those PFDs are both automatic inflate and manual. If you recieve a blow as you go overboard, you don't want to have to regain consciousness in order to activate them. Neoprene neckline and padded air mesh back make it super comfortable.

Onyx PFD - really comfortable even in warm weather

Inflatable life jacket technology one size - fits all by Onyx Company, comfort and performance have come a long way in the last 20+ years. Note that inflatable PFD are approved for those that are 15 years and older, and over 80 lbs. Onyx have other life-jackets for those that do not fit that criteria.

Onyx Outdoor Gear have camouflage options in Realtree Outdoors® Max-5 pattern as well. The M-16 and M-24 belt packs can also help act as a wader belt when wearing over waders.

The water sensing bobbin initiates the inflation process when the material gets dissolved. Onyx inflatable life jackets have protective covers over the mechanisms that shield the bobbin and bobbin housing from rain and precipitation. There are some negatives to the performance of the HIT versions, and are also typically more expensive.

The water sensing bobbins in the automatic versions are designed to be activated when submerged in water. Other instances may cause the material in the bobbins to dissolve and initiate the inflation process, such as high humidity over long periods of time, leaving them sit on the bottom of your boat, or in storage compartments.

Onyx also have Manual versions and versions that can be converted from Automatic to Manual for those instances where you know you will be getting wet or be in the water. Here is one of those Manual and Automatic options.

Inflatable life jackets are great for those of us that spend a long time on the water when we go and move a lot from spot to spot. They are so much more comfortable and light weight if you do a lot of casting. If you typically go out for a couple hours and fish in a spot or two, stay with the foam type.

Onyx - MoveVent Torsion Paddle PFD

new comfortable flotation foam lifejacket from Onyx

Onyx MoveVent Torsion flexible design Vest is another comfortable and Soft PFD for recreational sports and paddlers. To keep you cool is designed with ventilation in back and front.

When you pay the money for a real good brand of kayak designed pfd like a Onyx MoveVent or similar, they are comfortable and after a few minutes of wearing one, you forget it's even on. They're a little bulky compared to an auto inflator but they are guaranteed to keep you afloat in an unfortunate event.

For more different options of PFD at a wide range of prices include a few options that will fit up to a 65" Chest. For more Information visit:

Astral V-Eight PFD

high back and very comfortable lifejacket

In fact, most PFT's create a non breathable barrier against your skin and can cause discomfort and ultimately contribute to some paddlers deciding not to wear a PFD in the summer. The breathable technology's Astral V-Eight pfd is answer to this challenge. V-Eight pfd allow trap body heat to escape and fresh air to enter.

EV a foam on the inside part of the V-Eight combined with a super soft mesh reduces your body to vest contact by about 70% promoting air-flow inside the PFD.

The orange V-Eight on photo. Float is at the shoulder blades and then netting below that. I bought it to be a bit cooler, but it will help with seating in the Oru. The Astral V-Eight is super comfort.

Force 6 Rescuer II PFD

for paddling and swimming lifejacket

The pickets are faired into the front and hold lots of gear. The shoulders have the fastex back pouch attachment and the PFD has the optional leg straps that keep the PFD riding low in big water. Very comfortable for paddling and terrific adjustment system. Back that comes down all the way and is meant to fit between your back and the seat. About the swimming ability mustang universal, and NRS rapid rescuer but like the versatility and high buoyancy of the force 6 rescue tec for ops.

The Force 6 Instructor II PFDs have two quick-release belts for any external gear that might snag. The Rescuer II pockets are faired into the PFD front and don't pose a significant snag hazard.

Several Force 6 models have between 28lbs and 30 lbs. Pouch on front and back enables the wearer to carry pulleys, webbing, and gear for rigging on the move. The newer PFD are lower profile, as well. The pouches have a rip away feature, but when snagged they come off losing a $65 pouch.

If the rescuer has a large chest and shoulders, adjustable shoulder straps may not have long enough tails for overhand knots. Since the attraction for agency "Universal" PFDs is to have PFDs that supposedly adjust to everyone, that creates an expectation mismatch with reality.

Some volunteer rescue agencies don't have the funding to equip every rescuer with custom-fit gear. They often have SWR as a third or fourth priority. That means very limited funding for SWR gear.

The Force 6 Rescuer II and Tec models don't have anything loose hanging on them.

In fact, with the knife lash tabs higher in the PFD they have fewer entanglement possibilities than do kayak-style PFDs with lash tabs lower on the PFD.

Force 6 makes several other PFD models that have neither a rope/hoisting harness or Molle attachment points, including the Instructor II, Rescuer II, and the USCG-approved Rescue Tek PFD model.

Stearns Hybrid Green-Fishing Vest

With a foam to hang flies lifejacket

That front center piece unzips and makes a small work table for doing up rigs. There is also a piece of foam to hang flies, hooks and other lures. It also unzips on the one side to swing out of the way of the main zipper.

You were able to get them on Amazon, but is the cheapest.

Kokatat Rescue PFD, the Poseidon

Kokatat Watersports Wear Company has released an new and innovative PFD for sea kayakers.

You can pretty much always, have a small first aid kit, boat repair, compass, whistle, knife, snack, sunscreen, grease pencil, light and strobe and vhf radio. Experimented with carrying a hydration pack, but have found it to be bulky. With this pfd though, you would be more inclined to do so. If you are going to be at Canoecopia, you should stop by the Kokatat Watersports Wear booth to try it out in person. The key with pfd's is to put them on. The chest pocket and belly pocket allows a distribution that allows the pockets to not get too big. Maybe have seen pfd's in the past that I really liked, but just didn't work on your torso.

One thing maybe you have noticed with PFD and other models is that if you have a lot of stuff packed in it, it becomes more difficult to do a cowboy re-entry (i.e. the "beer belly effect") Although, Kokatat is not in this way.

the new Kokatat Watersports Wear PFD

The PFD looks nice ,super comfort and re-entry has never been a problem and ts of pockets too.

The Poseidon comes with the full chest pocket. From there you choose the pieces you want or you can buy most of them together in what Kokatat Watersports Wear, is calling an expedition kit. Here is the link to the pieces available:

Poseidon PFD Configuration options

the new PFD configuration options

Between the Poseidon and the Maximus Pfds

Both are excellent PFD's. The Poseidon is specifically designed as a touring vest so it can be accessorized with many pockets. There is an expedition kit that has a tactical pak, hydration system, quick release belt, and second pocket.

The maximus PFD is extremely comfortable but has fewer places to carry things. Although you can certainly attach a hydration system to it and there is an electronics sling that can be added to it. I think it comes down to your preference. The Poseidon is extremely comfortable and very easy to fit specifically to my body shape.

An inflatable PFD

Inflatable Type II (SOSpender types) and Type III (belt worn) PFDs of reputable mfg for strong swimmers.

I don't recommend kayak fishing for anyone who isn't a fairly strong swimmer, but many who do it are only marginal swimmers, even some non-swimmers. For these folks, an inflatable PFD set or limited to auto-inflate is MINIMUM protection and maximum comfort. It's way better than not wearing one.

For a relatively strong swimmer (someone who can tread water without laboring for at least 15 minutes, survival float for at least an hour without stress, swim 100 yds in clothes and shoes), the inflatable PFDs are an excellent choice for max comfort and good protection.

They are VERY comfortable, and that means there is zero excuse not to wear them. NOTE: inflatable PFDs do NOT COUNT as a PDF on board (legally) unless they are worn under TX law (and most states and USCG jurisdictions). But no PFD does any good unless it is worn (except for keeping you from getting a ticket).


For mobility, especially where I need unrestricted movement you can use the Kokatat Maximus Prime PFD or Astral Green Jacket. Really like both, for different reasons. While both give great mobility, the Astral works best in a kayak of the 2 but not as much storage as the other. But perfect for kayaking. You can usually use it for raft guiding for the most part. The Kokatak, not as well in a kayak cockpit but is VERY comfortable, easier to put on &
I am also recently been using the Mustang Universal Swiftwater PFD as my high-float option. Find it very comfortable, easy to adjust & don. Storage pockets not the best but acceptable.

PFDs with pockets

If you swim to a rescue and need something more than your bare hands, you need the ability to carry carabiners, prussics, a knife, a strainer saw, pulleys, etc. PFDs with pockets give you the ability to carry the gear without it dangling loose.

The shoulder straps

Note: The NRS shoulder straps will loosen up, 100% true and great comment. Although, I rescuer should have their own pfd. I adjust and sew my straps . You c an put a simply over hand knot also. The comments on gear are also merited. I put simply nothing on my vest that could trap me. I have had it occur in NH and was able to pull blow off strap. If you believe that any gear you may need be secured to your pfd blow off strap. It is the answer for people who never want an huge pocketbook on your chest to alter their swimming ability.

Best PDF for you

For starters it depends on everyone's background, myself I come from the river industry where my PFD is something I put on and wear for about 150-165 days a year for no less than 3 hours at a time.
I have chosen the past 2 iterations of Astral's GreenJacket. As an instructor with the ACA, I find that it is a jacket i can wear in class as well as on the river recreationally. I am able to quickly and securely change my gear load-out to meet my needs of a course (extra biners, webbing prussiks, etc) or boating for fun (few of the above mentioned, but the addition of a CPR mask and gloves, and a few small med pieces). said David M.

The jackets mentioned above are great for meeting the NFPA standards for the industrial rescue, but have limitations in everyday river usage.

How to choose

Rescue vests are much more difficult to choose via specs listed on paper than most other pieces of equipment. This is something we wear and in our case, very integral to our jobs. As you can see from this thread, what works well for some doesn't for others. Fit is really important as well. The best way I've found to choose a rescue vest is a large class or conference where a wide array of vests are available. You can test drive by swapping vests to at least see what fits. Better yet, take a test drive with a nice aggressive swim test.

To choose your pfd for comfort look into different features that you like - adjustable shoulder straps, denser flotation (not a big fan of high flotation, the bulkiness of the flotation has a tendency to get in the way of paddle strokes). Harness is nice but most times I would probably remove it unless I'm paddling class 4 or higher or a new creek, maybe you like a lower fitting pfd where a kayaker would have a problem with the pfd being in the small of their back, that is where you want to ride, sizing is an issue too. People usually go a size bigger so they can wear winter gear under it.

Female PFDs

Made for women. Even has cups for your boobies

When you use female PFDs that the different cut for the padding made a difference. Generally speaking the ones I've come across have less padding in the top to allow extra space. When using them. "I didn't experience lower back pain and issues that I found I did have when using a unisex/male PFD".

However, they are improving rapidly on light weight designs, attempting to make PFDs that don't feel like you are wearing anything. So unfortunately the best way is to see what suits you is to try them on - which may be easier said than done depending on where you live.

Get those geared to females with all the loops, knife holder, but try it yourself going in and out from a kayak, not just from the rack. Jump, bent, kneel and wear what you will usually wear in your kayak trips so you do not get rash/burn when you paddle. I got a high end PFD.

Professional rescuer Vs paddler rescuer PFD's

There is value in both 22lbs. "professional rescuer' model pfd's and 17lbs. "paddler rescuer" model pfd's. In teaching roughly 200+ fire an d rescue team members per year in SWR classes and also I test PFD's for companies.

Overall I have found overwhelmingly that even the professional rescuer will choose the 17lbs paddler style PFD over the 22lbs UNLESS they are 6'4" + and weigh 240 or more. The 17lbs can do anything the 22lbs and better. Why are they choosing the 17lbs rescue vest?

Because the are more comfortable, easier to maneuver in while swimming, easy to don/doff, and they can carry as much if not more gear than some of their 22lbs counterparts. As one of the guys said earlier, you should go out and test a few models and fined out what works best for you.

There is no "official" governing body in the professional rescue world, at least in the US, that says you must wear 22lbs or more. Exceptions could be state or local could have these requirements which some are getting changed after actually trying 17lbs PFD's.

Another factor about swimming in a PFD

Heavier rescuers don't float as high in the water as lighter ones do. Ditto for very fit rescuers with very low body fat percentages.

This is due to having a higher percentage if body mass lower in the water and exposed to more laminar flow force.

Lower floatation quantity does not always equal improved ability to swim to an objective.

a PFD for a plus sized fellow

1. Onyx M24 CO2 Manual Inflatable PFD Life Jacket

large+ PFD

2. Deluxe Mesh Fishing Life-Vest for Adults by Bass Pro Shops

Vest for Adults

You can buy a medium and these run large, has mesh on the shoulders and neoprene on the neck both very comfortable, the clips are centered which makes it easy to loosen once your at your fishing spot, and these are on sale now for $35.

3. NRS Chinook

Wear NRS Chinook all the way. "I am 6'1" 285 with a 54" chest. I tried on my cousin's size XL and decided to go with the XXL just for the extra adjustment. I wouldn't do it any other way, or any other pfd." You can order it through ACK Kayak for just over $100. The NRS Chinook is a great fishing vest that also happens to be a great pfd. Go for the largest one, my understanding is the pfd part is the same on all, it's the straps that are different lengths for sizing. If you don't trust inflatables NRS Chinook is your choice.

4. Astral Veight.

"I'm 5'8", 230. Belly, chest, shoulders." So comfy, you can wear it even on flat calm lakes when I plan on swimming.

5. Onyx PFD

With the Onyx you'll forget you have it on.