Buying Guide: Best Personal Floatation Devices, Models, and Features
A PFD(personal floatation device) is essential for all users if you plan on venturing very far out onto the water. A couple of items qualify as PFD’s, such as vests and throwables like life savers, but we are going to be focusing on Life Jackets in particular. Ideally, the best PFD will be both comfortable and fit well, but will also be appropriate for the type of activity that you plan on participating in while kayaking. Although nobody plans on needing one, you never know what kind of accident you might have while fishing. You can never been too safe, plus obviously if you are a beginner or do not know how to swim, they become vital.
Why Use a Life Jacket?
A personal story of mine, I once went into some backwaters one day near the Cumberland river. I’m a pretty good navigator, and can swim quite well, but I still wear my PFD. Anyways, near a particular part of the backwater it opens up and into a small lake, and that is where the best fish are, but naturally its quite packed. One morning I decided to get a jump on the competition and got out there early, it was still dusk, and hard to see, but I knew my way around. Then, I heard a motor. The people in the boat obviously couldn’t see anything, and despite my yelling they ran right into me. Their boat flipped, yet amazingly my kayak was fine, unfortunately these two weren’t wearing PFD’s. I had fish them out of the water and they almost drowned.
Look, 90% of all drowning victims die because they don’t wear life jackets. They don’t take the necessary precautions, and do something stupid like those two fishermen that day. You can be the best swimmer and navigator in the world, but you still have to account for other people as well, just like being out on the road.
Attributes to Look For
U.S. Coast Guard Approved: Don’t just purchase any old thing from Wally World, take the time to look and make sure that the PFD that you intend on purchasing is made of quality and has been approved by the coast guard. This is easy to find, as it will be clearly labeled on the tag.
Sizing: This is a necessity, and a huge point to not overlook. Too many people purchase life jackets which are the wrong size, and it makes them extremely uncomfortable during their water excursions. I’ve seen people purchase a thousand dollar kayaks which are made to be comfortable, and then purchase a 20 dollar life jacket which digs into their side, very stupid. Worse, some people take their life jacket off because of the discomfort, and if you purchase a PFD which is too big, you might slip out of it. Measure and choose the correct sized model.
Durability: This is a tiny consideration, just make sure that the life jacket is tight around you and every once in a while check it for rips or tears. Although it might see a lot of use, if you purchase a water resistant product, chances are it will be durable enough to keep you safe for several years without tearing.
Reviews of the Top 3 Models
Stohlquist Women’s Cruiser
Designed specifically with women in mind, the Stohlquist Cruiser is hands down my favorite life jacket, and I wear it all of the time. Hey, women and men aren’t built the same way, and we have different proportions, this model fits my contours perfectly and is extremely comfortable to wear. It has neoprene padding on the shoulders, is very soft, and overall I highly recommend it for any female kayakers.
Stearns Comfort Series
This Vest is designed specifically with the angler in mind, and is designed to hold a lot of your nick knack fishing gear. Its USCG certified and has netting which allows for great breathability near the shoulders, plus there are large arm holes, which I think are very important because while padding you don’t want to constantly rub your arms up against anything.
Material used in its construction is the 200D nylon, but it also includes Crosstech Floatation Foam. This is one hell of a durable model.
O’Neill Superlite USCG Vest
If your looking for a vest which has great versatility in case you intend on fishing, but is also perfect for recreational kayaking, go with the O’Neill Superlite. It is USCG certified, has quick release buckles for easy removal and attachment, and is very durable. What I like best about this vest, is it looks stylish. The black goes well with just about any thing.