Best Life Jacket for Kayaking Review Guide [Expanded for 2022]

If you are looking for the best life jacket for kayaking in 2022, you are in the right place! Most people know that being out on the water can be unpredictable and they understand the importance of wearing a life jacket. There are quite a few different options for kayaking life vests out there, so I have put together a guide of what to look for when purchasing one.

Whether you are looking for something that is compact, or inflatable, or maybe a  fishing life vest, I have put together the best PFD for kayaking in general, as well as the best life jackets for fishing.

Best Life Jacket for Kayaking: Your Ultimate Guide [Expanded and Updated in 2022]

Life vests provide peace of mind for those on the water. The best kayak life vest is one that you will wear, at that could save your life if you ever need it. There are a few different types of lightweight life vests for kayaking that minimally restrict the movement of paddling or casting a fishing line.

Just so you are aware, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Best Life Jacket for Kayaking | The Best Kayaking Life Vests | PFD and Life Jackets for kayaking and SUP

Best Life Jacket for Kayaking Comparison Chart

Eyson Slim InflatableManual4.3$$
Eyson Slim Inflatable PFDAutomatic4.3$$
ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR OnyxAutomatic4.4$$
Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100Automatic4.5$$$$
Onyx M-16 Belt PackManual 4.0$
Onyx M-24 Belt PackManual4.3$$
Eyson Belt PackManual4.0$
ONYX Universal Paddle VestFoam4.2$
Onyx Kayak Fishing Life VestFoam4.2$
Onyx MoveVent Sports Life VestFoam4.4$$
Onyx MoveVent Sports Life VestFoam4.3$$

Types of Kayak Life Vests

There are several types of kayak life vests including auto inflating ones and ones that have pockets for those who like to fish and need a few things close at hand. Before you decide which one is right for you, check out the different types below

Inflatable Life Vests

Most styles of inflatable life vests are designed with minimal bulk. They come in a vest style and a belt style to suit the wearer. Inflatable life jackets need to be worn to be in compliance with US Coast Guard Regulations. So if you buy one, use it! Do not keep it in the hull of your kayak. Inflatable life jackets use a CO2 cartridge to inflate the pfd. There are automatic versions where the pfd will inflate when submerged (usually in less than 10 seconds from entry into the water) and also manual versions which have a pull cord that will inflate the pfd. The best inflatable life jacket for you could be one that has the manual cord and the automatic inflate option. Inflatable life vests are great for all day wear in hot conditions as they do not press tight to your body. They are often chosen as the most commutable fishing life vest.

Paddle Vest

Paddle Vests are made with floatation foam and are low profile for kayaking, canoeing, fishing or SUP. Many people think that one of these is the best life jacket for kayaking. They can be basic or come with all the bells and whistles that you could think up for a fishing life jacket. If you are the type of fisherman that likes pockets or fishing vests, you can find a great kayak fishing life vest with everything you need.

Best Kayak Life Vest | SUP and Kayak Life Jacket Review Guide

When you are looking for the best kayak life vest, you need to consider a few factors. Although more bulky, paddle life vests are cost effective and you do not need to worry about replacing cartridges. However, they are less bulky than a traditional life jacket

Things to Consider when Purchasing a Life Jacket for Kayaking

There are a few things to consider before you make your kayaking pfd purchase but before you keep reading, have a look at this video about three mistakes people make when choosing a kayaking life vest and as you read the options below, take these into consideration.


If you are looking for the best life jacket for kayaking, then you already realize the safety implications of being out on the water. So one of the most important things to consider is comfort. If you plan on paddling for a long day, you are going to want something that fits well and is comfortable. A cheap life jacket will be bulky and may cause bad posture in the kayak, making for an uncomfortable day. Better to get yourself a life jacket that is designed for the kayaker.


If you are fishing, you will likely want the best life jacket for fishing. Why? Well for the same reason that fishing vests are popular: POCKETS! You need gear close at hand and with a fishing life vest, you have that!


How your life jacket goes on is another thing to consider. Belt packs have life vests inside them and you put it over your head after entry into the water. Your other options are inflatable life vests or traditional foam style life vests. Both are good choices, it comes down to what works for you and whether you want to worry about cartridges.


Do you want a long term investment or something for one weekend? If you are looking for the best life jacket for kayaking, go with one that has great reviews as a durable product. You want nylon or neoprene, especially if you are going to be in the salt water. Salt destroys everything!


You want to make sure that the life jacket you choose will keep your head above water in case of an accident. Read the reviews and the buoyancy rate for each life vest to ensure it works for you.

Best Kayak Life Vest Reviews

Read each review below for more information on each of the life vests in the chart above.

Eyson Slim Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

This Eyson slim inflatable life vest is lightweight and made for all day wearing comfort. Its slender design keeps you cool in warm weather and provides peace of mind and safety without any bulk. This paddle sports life vest inflates in 3-5 seconds after the wearer manually pulls the inflation handle cord. It comes in a variety of colours and fits all sides of adults.

Eyson SlimAutomatic/Manual Inflatable PFD

ThisEyson Slim Inflatable PFD is identical to the Eyson manual one above, except it will automatically inflate when it comes into contact with water. This automatic inflate option is ideal if the wearer is somehow injured and unable to pull the cord. For the few extra dollars, I would suggest this option.

>> CLICK HERE to read more reviews or buy on Amazon

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

This durable inflatable life jacket fromAbsolute Outdoor has a manual pull cord as well as an automatic inflate when the wearer comes into contact with water. It is US Coast Guard Approved type V life jacket. It allows for full range of motion with minimal bulk. It has a soft neoprene neckline for all day comfort on the water and durable nylon for strength. It is rated for up to 330 lbs.

>> Click here to see over 300 reviews or buy on Amazon

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx Manual Inflatable Vest

This durable inflatable life jacket is also from Absolute Outdoor, but has a manual pull cord to inflate the vest. It is US Coast Guard Approved type V life jacket. It allows for full range of motion with minimal bulk. It has a soft neoprene neckline for all day comfort on the water and durable nylon for strength. It is rated for up to 330 lbs and is the best life vest for someone who does not want to feel as though they are wearing one! While I suggest you go for the automatic option in most cases, if you want a manual inflating life jacket, you can get this one here.

Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Automatic PFD

A premium product at an affordable price, this fishing life jacket for sale from Mustang was designed with style in mind. This inflatable PFD is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) for use as a Type III Personal Flotation Device Type V (Commercial Use) PFD. The buoyancy provided by the PFD is more than 1.5 times the buoyancy of most foam PFDs. The PFD can also be orally inflated in non-emergency situations with the oral inflation tube. It allows full range of motion with minimal bulk. The Mustang MIT 100 fits 30-52” chest size and adults over 80 lbs.

>> READ more reviews or check out more Mustang Products here.

Onyx Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

This PFD fits like a belt and is popular among stand up paddleboarders. It is an extremely low profile life jacket and is also U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device PFD with Type III Performance approved. Its universal size its 30”-52” chest and up to 52” waist. As with other inflatable life jackets for sale, contains a CO2 cylinder. As mentioned, these are very popular for Stand Up Paddle Boarding and also for canoeing as they just buckle around the waist. If your fishing kayak has a high back (as many do), the bulk of wearing the pack to the back may not be as comfortable as the vest style PFD.

Onyx Manual Inflatable Belt Pack Life Jacket

The main difference between the M-16 and the M-24 belt packs in the internal bladder. They both have 22.5lbs of buoyancy, but the M-16 has 16 grams of compressed CO2 gas, and the M-24 has 24 grams of compressed CO2 gas. The M-16 has a smaller profile compared to the M-24. Also, the shape of the internal bladder on the M-16 is like a rectangular pillow. The M-24 has the “normal” horseshoe shape bladder. If you are choosing between these two Onyx products, you should probably get the M-24, although both will work.

This belt pack life jacket from Onyx is a manual inflation model, you will need to put it over your head and inflate if you end up in the water.

>> Click here to read more reviews or buy on Amazon.

Eyson Inflatable Belt Pack Manual

The Eyson brand of pfds is a bit cheaper than the other known brands and it does not have US Coast Guard certification. However, this Eyson inflatable belt pack has good reviews for SUP and while it may not be the best life jacket for kayaking, in my opinion, better something than nothing. For super budget conscious stand up paddle boarders, I reccomend this option.

As with the other belt packs, this can be bulky in a kayak, but works great in a canoe.

ONYX Universal Paddle Life Vest

The Onyx kayaking life vestt features a high foam back accommodating high back kayak seats. That is why I put it in my top 10 best kayak fishing pfd. This model has a low profile and 6 adjustable straps giving a comfortable fit with minimal bulk. The lightweight Universal Paddle life Jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type III PFD with a high foam back covered with 200-denier nylon oxford and a breathable mesh lower back. Ensure you purchase the correct size. They come in standard, junior and oversize.

>> Click Here to read more reviews or buy on Amazon

ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket, Tan

The Onyx Kayak Fishing vestis feature-rich but yet a great value! Designed with four different pocket designs and functions to hold your essential gear and keep you fishing longer. In addition to the zippered fleece-lined pockets and the zippered chest pocket, radios or pliers can slip down and clamp to the pocket/vest through the opening at the top of the pocket, to keep them easily accessible. The one-button push drop down tray pocket holds a small tackle box. A lash tab to hold a knife, whistle, etc. is also included and can also be used to hold fly fishing tippets, sunscreen, keys, etc. The six adjustment straps can be adjusted up or down depending on your activity or the heights of the boat seat or kayak. The high back of the vest does not get in the way of the seats and has mesh for breathability. There is ample drainage to keep the vest dry when not in use. Universal fits 30″-52″ chest. Oversize fits 40″-60″ chest.

>> Click here to Read Reviews or buy on Amazon.

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

The Onyx MoveVentis step up from the Onyx universal paddle vest. comes in various colors. This vest fits your body like a glove, yet innovative vented channels help keep you cool during movements. SOLAS grade reflective material gives better visibility. The sculpted and flexible design conforms to you and stays in place. Shoulder adjustments are made with neoprene comfort pads. The vest has an adjustable side belt; strong durable zipper closures; and a zip assist loop at the zipper base to keep the vest in place when you need it. Bubble foam on inner back for added comfort.

With this life vest, ensure you check the measurements and purchase the right size.

Size XS / Small Fits chest sizes 28″-36″ For people 90 lbs. or more

Size Medium / Large: Fits chest sizes 36″-44″. For people 90 lbs. or more

Size XL / 2XL: Fits chest sizes 44″-56″. For people 90 lbs. or more

>> Click here to see color options and reviews on Amazon.

ONYX MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest

The Onyx MoveVent curvemoves easy, cools perfectly. It is said to be one of the most comfortable vest ever! Onyx’s revolutionary MoveVent Torsion Life Vest is sculpted to give you total freedom of movement as you paddle plus is crafted to maximize venting so you can stay cool through the most strenuous exertions. It fits like a glove, floats like a life preserver and cools like central air! This vest is U.S. Coast Guard Approved. This is a low profile vest that does not have any pockets or D ring attachments.

For sizing information: Size XS / Small Fits chest sizes 28″-36″ For people 90 lbs. or more

Size Medium / Large: Fits chest sizes 36″-44″. For people 90 lbs. or more

Size XL / 2XL: Fits chest sizes 44″-56″. For people 90 lbs. or more

>>Click here to see size info and reviews

Kayak Life Vest fishing pfd 2019 Guide

Why is a Kayak Life Vest Necessary?

You have read about the best pfd for kayaking, now let me tell you why! Well first of all, my wife would kill me if I didn’t wear one. But in all seriousness they are to help in case of

  • A boat capsizing
  • a boat sinking
  • when a person is tossed from the boat from a collision or rough water
  • when a person is tossed or falls into cold water and can go into shock quickly
  • when us stand up fisherman are caught off balance
  • when waterlogged clothing prevents us from staying afloat

So you can swim, So can I. But do not be the idiot that the Coast Guard search and rescue has to go and look for and recover your body because you didn’t choose to get a kayak life jacket!

There are 5 types of categories for life vests, Most kayakers should use a Type III or V USCG-approved life vest.

Type III PFD’s allows more freedom to move about which is typical for paddlers and provide the most comfort. The devices in this category are gear for those who can put themselves in an upward position and possess the ability to tilt the head back to breathe properly.

Best Life Jacket for Kayaking in 2019 conclusion

Technology has changed a lot over the years and these life jacket manufacturer’s have put a lot of effort into making slim fit and comfortable life jackets. If you have any questions about kayaking, fishing, or life jackets in general, leave me a comment!

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If you fish or kayak with your dog, why not ensure they are kept floating as well, nothing worse than your dog trying to use you as their life jacket! After you get yourself the best life jacket for kayaking, get one for your pooch by clicking the link below!

Fido Pet Products Paws Aboard Neoprene Doggy Life Jacket, Medium, Red

best kayak life vest