Hey there! Welcome to my best life jackets for kayak fishing review.
I have been selling and testing boating and fishing gear for the last six years, using kayak life jackets regularly while kayak fishing, and being a USCG Licensed captain. I pulled 12 life jackets off the shelf for this review to narrow down the five best kayak fishing life vests. I will include the best kayak fishing life jackets for men, women, and kids (with the help of my wife and kids).
These kayak fishing life jackets provide the most safety, comfort, and flexibility while kayak fishing. I will not try to find a budget pick for this review because safety is not something to go budget on.
You don’t have to wear one of those uncomfortable orange life vests that are impossible to cast in anymore. Choose one of these PFDs, and you’ll get a US Coast Guard-rated personal flotation device (PFD) that won’t get in the way of you catching fish.
Ready to take off that uncomfortable and constraining PFD?
Let’s get to it!
The best men’s life jacket for kayak fishing is the Astral V-Eight Fisher PFD.
The best women’s life jacket for kayak fishing is the Kokatat Naiad PFD.
The best kid’s life jacket for kayak fishing is the Stohlquist Spinner Fishing PFD.
Best Life Jackets For Kayak Fishing – Comparison Table
Best Life Jackets For Kayak Fishing Reviewed
Astral V-Eight Fisher Personal Flotation Device
USCG Approved: Type 3
Buoyancy: 16 lbs.
Closure: zipper, buckle
Pockets: 2 front zip
Weight: 1lb. 5oz.
Why buy the Astral V-Eight Fisher Personal Flotation Device?
- Over-engineered life vest made for kayak anglers
- Proprietary Airscape breathable technology
- It keeps the cool air flowing in and releases body heat
- Optimized pockets for fishing gear
- Velcro to prevent shoulder straps from flapping around
- The high back is made for any kayak seat
Introducing the world’s most advanced life jacket, explicitly made for kayak fishing: The Astral V-Eight Fisher PFD.
It’s more than just a life vest – it’s an over-engineered fishing tool that keeps you safe and adds convenient storage. This means you can access fishing pliers, soft plastics, trolling motor remotes, or anything else you need.
Astral set out to eliminate the frustration of wearing a life jacket while kayak fishing.
And they did it!
Most kayak anglers don’t wear life jackets because they are uncomfortable and hot. But with Astral’s proprietary Airscape breathable technology – the V-Eight promotes to flow of cool air while helping release the heat from your body.
They did this by implementing an “egg-crate style foam” similar to what is used in high-end mattresses. This foam, combined with mesh openings, helps minimize the contact the life vest has with your body.
The Astral V-Eight is so comfortable I barely notice that I have it on while kayaking or fishing. I have been using these life jackets for over three years now, and it has held up on the heat of North Carolina summers, even with being left in the bed of my truck and constantly being exposed to sunlight and weather.
No other life jacket is more comfortable and breathable and offers as much storage as the Astral V-Eight.
If you want the best life jacket for kayak fishing, look no further than the Astral V-Eight.
NRS Chinook OS Fishing Life Jacket
USCG Approved: Type 3
Buoyancy: 16.5 lbs.
Pockets: 5 + VHF Holder
Weight: 1 lb.
Why buy the NRS Chinook OS Fishing Life Jacket?
- Designed for ultimate safety
- More storage space in zippered pockets than the competition
- Adjustable shoulder and waist straps are padded to prevent chafing
- High back to accommodate any kayak seat
- Multiple attachment points
- Open sides for a great range of motion and breathability
Next is NRS’ solution for kayak anglers who want a life vest designed to be as safe as possible.
Safety starts with the high-vis orange color option, perfect for offshore when visibility is imperative, especially during low-light hours or storms.
Next, the reflective strips are just about everywhere you look on the Chinook to add even more visibility, which means if things go south, you will be easy to spot.
Another safety feature NRS added on the Chinook is the two gear tabs manufactured specifically for handheld VHFs. Having a handheld VHF is a must when fishing offshore. The gear tabs on the Chinook make the VHF easily accessible while still being out of the way and not stopping you from catching fish.
On top of all the safety features the Chinook brings to the table, this kayak fishing life jacket is INSANELY COMFORTABLE.
For one, the adjustable shoulder straps are padded, preventing chaffing, and the adjustment straps around your waist also have a pad that protects your body from any threat of a rash or discomfort.
This life vest is padding to make it one of the most comfortable vests I’ve ever tried. While this is positive, it can also be negative. This is where the Chinook falls short of being my top pick.
With all this padding and not a ton of places for air to flow in and out, this life vest is hotter than the Astral V-Eight.
The breathability of the V-Eight is hard to compete with, which ultimately separates these two life vests.
While the Chinook has an opening along the side, which is excellent for unrestricted movement while casting and paddling, there could have certainly been more priority when adding breathability features.
The Chinook is still the safest life jacket I tested, and also highly comfortable. This PFD is best for kayak fishermen who typically fish in cooler weather and are less concerned with breathability.
Plus, I like how open the storage pockets are on the Chinook – they are roomier than the pockets on the V-Eight.
But if you’re like me, live in the south, and sweat more than the average human, then the Astral V-Eight should be at the top of your list.
Kokatat Naiad PFD (Women’s)
USCG Approved: Type 3
Buoyancy: 16 lbs.
Pockets: 2 zippered, two hand warmers
Why buy the Kokatat Naiad PFD?
- Available in vibrant, popular colors
- Made with eco-friendly materials
- Fabric is soft, comfortable, and durable
- Multiple adjustment points to help fit most body types
- Fleece-lined hand-warming pockets
- Teams up with Kokatat Hydration reservoir
- Lifetime warranty
This one is for the ladies: The Kokatat Naiad PFD for women.
My wife has been using this PFD for over three years and loves it, so I sat her down with me to take some notes on her favorite features and why she has stuck with it for so long.
Her favorite features about the Naiad are:
- Purple color
- Sustainably made
- It’s super comfortable, and the fabric doesn’t irritate her sensitive skin
- The fleece-lined pockets (she is always cold – even though we live in NC)
- She attached the compatible hydration pack (See Below)
In addition to all those great features, this perfect fishing PFD will fit nicely for just about all women. Multiple adjustment points help make this comfortable life vest sit nicely on your body.
Speaking of sitting well on your body, the back of this life vest has two mesh touch points that add breathability to your back and prevent too much contact with your body.
Keeping back from complete contact with your body is why this kayak fishing life vest is breathable and will remain comfortable throughout long fishing trips.
In addition to the two hand-warming zippered pockets, three additional zippered pockets can be used as storage for cell phones, tackle, snacks, etc.
And just like the two top picks for men, the Naiad has a high back that will pair well with the modern-day fishing kayak seats.
Overall, this is a complete life jacket optimized for kayak fishing and well-built using environmentally friendly materials.
Women who want a comfortable kayak fishing experience while keeping safety and style as top priorities should buy the Kokatat Naiad PFD.
NRS Women’s Shenook Fishing Life Jacket
USCG Approved: Type 3
Buoyancy: 16.5 lbs.
Pockets: 5 Total
Weight: 2 lbs.
Why buy the NRS Women’s Shenook Fishing Life Jacket?
- Tool holder pocket
- Multiple zippered pockets big enough for tackle boxes
- Precisely cut to contour with a woman’s body
- Rod holder loop
- Low profile colors
- Multiple attachment points
- It doesn’t constrict the range of motion
Next is the most popular kayak fishing life jacket for women: The Sheenook from NRS.
The reason the Sheenook is so popular is that it flat-out works.
The Shenook has everything you need and nothing that you don’t. Regarding kayak fishing, we all know how vital a minimalistic setup is.
I had my wife try this one to see how it stacked against her Naiad. She quickly noticed how snug it was to her body once she adjusted the shoulder straps and emphasized how comfortable it was.
She mentioned that while it fit her body nicely and felt non-restrictive, it was also hot. Upon further inspection, the Sheenook lacked the Naiad’s ventilation.
Ventilation and breathability are essential, and the lack of breathability is why this PFD fell to number two on our list.
Although the breathability isn’t the best, the Sheenook makes up for it with well-thought-of storage pockets and tool latches. Line cutters, fishing pliers, safety whistles, and VHFs are paired with this PFD without getting in the way of fishing.
Storage is where the Sheenook stands out.
My favorite feature about the Sheenook is that the zippered pockets act as a mini tool bench – a great place to tie a leader or bait a hook. The flap is strong enough to withstand mild pressure and can be a lifesaver for rigging.
It’s not cheap, but if storage is your priority and you prefer the bright blue and purple colors that the Naiad comes in, then the NRS Sheenook PFD should be at the top of your list.
Stohlquist Spinner Youth Fishing Life Jacket
USCG Approved: Type 3
Buoyancy: 16 – 18 lbs.
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Why buy the Stohlquist Spinner Youth Fishing Life Jacket?
- Multiple mounting points for fishing tools
- Non-restrictive foam made with youth anglers in mind
- Created by a trustworthy brand that makes p[products that last
- Lifetime Warranty
Last but certainly not least is a kayak fishing life jacket for young anglers, boys or girls: The Stohlquist Youth Fishing Life Vest.
There’s not a lot of competition regarding youth life vests made for fishing. So the Stohlquist Spinner has a leg up on the market just by designed a PFD to be used while fishing for kids.
That said, this isn’t just a run-of-the-mill life jacket. It comprises mounting points for fishing pliers, line nippers, retractors, etc.
Even with a small canvas, Stohlquist found room to fit front zippered pockets large enough to house tackle boxes.
The mounting points and tackle box storage area are where the Stohlquist Spinner stands out.
Furthermore, the foam used to make this PFD is designed to be non-restrictive and even floats a child’s head at the proper angle – so they’re not straining their necks looking out of the water.
The last feature worth mentioning is the Stohlquist Spinner comes with a lifetime warranty. This speaks volumes about how much confidence Stohlquist has in their product.
The Stohlquist Spinner is a great life jacket for young anglers, and wearing one promotes good habits at an early age.
Look no further than the Stohlquist Spinner when it comes time to find a fishing life vest for kids.
What Type of Life Jacket Do You Need For Kayak Fishing?
Before buying kayak fishing, PFD, knowing which life jacket is best for kayak fishing is crucial.
Kayak fishing life vests should be Type 3 life jackets and be United States Coast Approved.
Foam vs. Inflatable Life Jackets
The two main types of life jackets are foam and inflatable.
Foam Life Jackets
Foam life jackets are the most common type for kayak fishing. Foam PFDs have an inner foam core that provides flotation and an outer shell made from a durable material that can withstand UV radiation and everyday abuse.
Inflatable Life Jackets
Inflatable life jackets are more compact and lightweight than foam life jackets. These vests inflate when they come in contact with water or after manually pulling the cord. An inflatable PFD also provides more freedom of movement than foam life vests, but they can be punctured or damaged by sharp objects such as fishing hooks, so it is important to use
Considerations When Shopping For the Kayak Fishing PFDs
Now that we know we need a Type 3 PFD, it’s time to consider the following features for your next kayak fishing PFD.
I would love to use my PFD as a second tackle box.
I keep soft plastics, my cell phone, a line cutter, a handheld VHF, and a granola bar or two in my life vest’s pockets.
All of the life vests on our list have enough storage pockets for most kayak anglers, but I know some like to carry more than others, so be sure to consider what you’ll want to carry in your pockets when you buy your life vest.
When it comes to closures, there are a few different types used on fishing PFDs.
Some use buckles, some use zippers, and some pull over the head like a shirt.
My two favorite closure systems are the zipper and buckle combo or the more simple velcro straps.
The zipper and buckle combo offers maximum security, while the velcro straps are quick and easy to get on and off.
Choose whichever closure system you find most comfortable when selecting your life vest.
Breathability should be at the top of everyone’s list regarding features to look for in a fishing PFD.
I’m 6’4 “, 240 pounds, and sweat like a pig, so breathability is everything. The last thing I need is a life vest sticking to my body and increasing my body temperature even more. That sounds like a bad day of fishing.
Most anglers I talk to don’t wear PFDs because they are too hot. So pay attention to breathability when it comes time to buy.
I love the Astral V-Eight because it is the most breathable life jacket I could find.
You’re most likely a fisherman or woman if you’re reading this. Not someone who plans on sitting on a pontoon all day reading a magazine.
That said, we should consider what benefits a life jacket will have regarding actual fishing.
For one, you want at least a couple of zippered pockets for fishing gear like tackle, lure, leader line, fishing weights, etc.
Secondly, you want exterior mounting points and holders for fishing pliers, line cutters, handheld VHFs, safety whistles, trolling motor controls, etc.
If a life vest doesn’t have these kinds of features, then you need to be questioning whether or not it is even a fishing life vest or not.
All life jackets have a specified buoyancy level.
This is the weight your life jacket can support in the water.
Generally speaking, the more buoyant your PFD is, the safer you are on the water because it will work to keep your head above water if you become unconscious.
While the kayak fishing life jackets on our list are not as buoyant as life jackets you’ll find aboard a research vessel, they should still serve the purpose of keeping your head well out of the water without you having to do the doggy paddle.
Comfort is always a significant factor you should consider when purchasing any clothing, including a life jacket.
If you’re uncomfortable wearing your PFD, you won’t wear it, which is never good.
Look for adjustable straps, varied cushioning in the body and shoulders, and breathable fabrics.
These will help ensure that your life jacket fits well and is comfortable enough for you to wear without it feeling like a hassle.
Coast Guard Approved
Finally, you want to ensure that your life jacket is US Coast Guard-approved and labeled as such.
This means that it has been tested and found to meet specific standards set forth by the United States Coast Guard regarding buoyancy, materials used, construction methods, and more.
A life vest with this label ensures that you wear a piece of PFD equipment that will perform as advertised.
So when it comes time to buy, always look for the United States Coast Guard approval label on the life vest before making your final decision.
Common Questions Related to Kayak Fishing Life Vests
Below are my answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about kayak fishing life vests.
Do you need a unique life jacket for kayaking?
Yes, you do need a special life vest for kayaking.
This is because the design of traditional life vests may need to be bulkier and restrict your movement in a kayak, especially if you plan on fishing.
Additionally, regular life vests are not built to accommodate specialized fishing accessories like pliers and line cutters.
Which type of life jacket has the most buoyancy?
The life jacket that has the most buoyancy is a Type-I PFD.
Type-I PFDs are typically used on boats for commercial purposes, and I do not recommend these PFDs for recreational boating.
What is the difference between a kayak fishing life vest and a regular life vest?
The design is the main difference between a kayak PFD and a regular life vest.
Kayak PFDs are designed to fit more comfortably in a kayak and provide extra features such as multiple pockets, holders, and clips for fishing accessories.
Regular life vests are made to be worn while standing or walking and may need to be more comfortable in a kayak.
What is the difference between a Type 2 and Type 3 life jacket?
Type 2 and Type 3 life jackets differ in the amount of buoyancy they provide.
A Type 2 PFD is designed to support a conscious person in a sitting or vertical position, while a Type 3 PFD provides less buoyancy but is more comfortable while wearing it.
They are both approved by the US Coast Guard, but Type 3 is more suitable for most water activities.
Do I need to wear a life jacket while fishing on a kayak?
It is highly recommended to wear a life jacket while kayak fishing.
Even if you are an experienced paddler or fisherman, wearing a life jacket can help to keep you safe in case of an unexpected event, such as capsizing or falling overboard.
It is also essential to ensure that the life jacket you wear is Coast Guard-approved and fits appropriately to provide you with the necessary buoyancy and safety.
Always remember that life vests save lives, so wear one when kayaking or fishing!
To sum it all up, I’d like to go over my top picks for the best kayak fishing life jacket:
The best kayak fishing life vest for men is the Astral V-Eight.
The best kayak fishing life vest for women is the Nokatat Naiad.
The best kayak fishing life vest for kids is the Stohlquist Spinner.
All life vests in this list are high quality and cater to different types of anglers. Some are better for warm weather, while some are better for cooler weather.
No matter what type of PFD you choose, ensure it is US Coast Guard-approved and fits appropriately.
Safety should always be the top priority while on the water, so make sure you have a reliable and comfortable kayak fishing life vest!
For help choosing fishing kayaks, check out the pages below:
- Best Fishing Kayak For Big Guys
- Best Fly Fishing Kayak
- Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Best Fishing Kayak Under $1,000
- Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
- Best Accessories For Kayak Fishing