The first thing you should be considering before you pull out your kayak into the local river isn’t your bait or all your fishing gear – it’s safety. Riding a kayak involves the likelihood that you’ll end up in the water sooner or later, and it’s imperative, therefore, to have on a personal flotation device (PFD) or safety vest to keep you afloat when and if you do. The best vests can actually enhance your fishing experience – fitted out with pockets you can store your gear in for quick access and secure enough to let you take a quick dip if the weather gets too hot, they let you paddle out without the fear of getting carried away by milder river rapids or rough coastal currents. Take a look at our picks for the best safety vest for kayak fishing.
ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket
This vest is US Coast Guard certified as a Type III Life Jacket – meaning it’s approved by relevant authorities to be safe and recommended for boating and recreational activities such as water skiing, fishing, canoeing and yes, kayaking. Ideal for calmer waters found inland, the vest’s made of 400 denier nylon oxford, making it pretty durable and resistant to the elements, especially constant exposure to water. The vest comes with a comfortable mesh padding along the lower back that allows it to feel lightweight and breathable when worn, as well as a high foam back that’ll let you comfortably sit back in even the highest-backed kayak seats.
With a safety whistle included, the jacket comes with six adjustable straps you can use to cinch into the snuggest and most comfortable fit for you, as well as a bunch of handy pockets to stow your gear into. The drop-down panel pocket accessible with the push of a button is perfect for storing a utility or tackle box, or even a large smartphone, with a 2-inch elastic strap to keep everything secured in place. You can also tuck in a radio and your pair of pliers in the largemouth cargo pocket, with room to spare in your chest and side pockets, both lined with fleece and zippered up. The arm-holes of this vest are not at all restricting, letting you paddle, swim and otherwise move around with the utmost dexterity.
STAR BUDGET PICK
RIYIN Red Adult Buoyancy Aid Life Jacket
Suitable for anyone under 100kg, this safety vest is constructed out of EPE, a buoyant, wear-, moisture- and weather-resistant polyethylene foam, making it an ideal material for a PFD. The vest comes with multiple zippered pockets to hold assorted gear and other fishing necessities, and adjustable straps that let you secure the vest in place. Among safety features are reflective shoulder straps that increase visibility at night or in the dark.
Note, however, that this vest is not US Coastal Guard (USCG) certified – as a light-duty vest, it is better used in calm waters where there is little to no risk of being caught in the undertow or river rapids, preferably shallow water bodies where swimming back to your kayak or land isn’t likely to be difficult.
MTI Adventurewear Fisher Life Jacket
Certified safe for kayak fishing under the USCG and bearing a Type III certification, this life jacket is constructed out of the buoyant, lightweight, water- and weather-proof EPE/PE foam. The vest comes with two roomy, zippered cargo pockets as well as two easily accessible chest pockets to store leaders, pliers, bait and other gear, with D-rings at both the front and back to hook up other gear items. With adjustable side and shoulder straps and a central buckle, it is comfortable to slip on and secure snugly about you, not restricting movement such as paddling, casting or swimming and perfectly suitable for using when boating or kayak fishing. The 200-denier polyester construct of the vest makes it lightweight, comfy to wear on even the hottest of days, while at the same time incredibly resistant to wear and tear, and water and weather damage.
ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
This life jacket boasts numerous features making it an attractive contender for the perfect PFD to invest in for kayak fishing. Structured out of reflective material for high visibility at all times out in the water, useful in case you require a rescue or get separated from your companions, the vest also comes with a safety whistle and a nylon construct of a 200 denier rating, making it as lightweight as it is durable and resilient.
Designed for maximum comfort, the vest hugs the natural shape of your body while providing the necessary ventilation and breathability to let you keep cool while fishing and paddling. Though not boasting as many pockets as some of our previous suggestions, the jacket does come with a zippered, expandable pocket you can tuck a few essential pieces of gear into, fitted with mesh drainage should water get in. The mesh padding at the lower back is also perfectly situated to let you comfortably settle in any kayak seat, no matter how high-backed, with side straps to help you secure the vest in a way most comfortable to you. The vest also comes with neoprene shoulder pads so it doesn’t restrict movement or cause you unease when you’re out on the water.
Choosing the Best Lifejacket for Kayak Fishing
Comfort is the keyword when it comes to life jackets – the more uncomfortable they are to wear, the more likely you’ll be tempted to leave them at home. Look out for life jackets with mesh padding against the lower back, to let you sit comfortably against diverse kayak seats no matter how high-backed, as well as breathable constructs which don’t restrict your movement. The best vests, even within lower price ranges, should include at least adjustable shoulder straps and a few secure, zippered pockets to keep your gear in. Vests with central and side straps let you adjust how snug or loose you’d like your vest, while a padded foam backing, ideally of polyester or nylon construct – both lightweight, comfortable and breathable materials which are highly weather- and water-resistant – can ensure you’re at ease as you set about kayaking.
The best life jackets also come with a safety whistle and reflective material for higher visibility, to make it easier to signal for help in the case of an accident or emergency.
Also ensure the appropriate buoyancy of whatever soft-foam construct your vest is made of – we highly recommend opting for options certified safe as Type III floatation devices by the USCG, especially if you are planning on fishing or kayaking in waters likely to get a little rough from time to time.