Best PFDs that don't interfere with your kayak seat?

Both my new kayaks have ridiculously comfortable seats with padded backs and lumbar support.
I have one PFD with back floatation that only comes partway down, so that it doesn’t come between me and the seat. I need another one, so I can take a friend out, if I want to, and the one I have isn’t that great.
What are some good PFDs with back padding that doesn’t interfere with kayak seats.

A lot of people, of both genders because of the zipper and pocket placements, like the Kokata MS Fit.

I can’t find a vest that works well. Most stores carry junk. Few Outfitters around to find a selection. Points of contention for me: an attachment point for a VHF that doesn’t interfere with paddle stroke. A simple pocket to hold the whistle and keeps it accessible while containing the lanyard to prevent entanglement. A clean front that doesn’t rub on forearms. High back that doesn’t contact the seat back (might rethink the need for that because I’m considering going to a backband vs. high back seat.

Astral V8, NRS Clearwater. Used to use the Clearwater as a rental jacket and it fits a lot of people well. The MSFit is very comfortable (it’s what I have used for years) but it is not a high back jacket.

The Stohlquist Ebb (mens) and Flo (women) are half mesh back that have become very popular at my store for exactly the high back seat issue you describe, and they are quite airy in the summer.

More inbound and not all the color/sizes are listed on the web;

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
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I have never had an issue with the MS Fit in a boat using a backband, and I am not tall. But yes, if there is a seat back in the boat it’d probably be not high enough…

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You might consider the NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

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On line shops like Outdoorplay are very generous about returns and exchanges and I have gotten several PFDs through them. They understand how fit is crucial with a PFD and offer many models (though this year the industry is still catching up on stocking levels after a year of pandemic disruptions in supply lines and production.) You can arrange to have several styles and/or sizes shipped with return authorization labels included to simplify selection.

I’ve always liked Astral PFDs and have owned 5 different ones. It’s hard to beat their V8 for hot weather ventilation and the half mesh back. BUT the pockets in the model totally suck. Other Astral styles offer far better storage. I like their encapsulated “green” kapok models for comfort, the buoyancy material is softer and more flexible than the usual foam panels in most vests. The women’s version is the Abba, I would have to check what the men’s model is called now. The Abba has decent pockets including a large left breast pocket with a side zip that works well for retaining the whistle lanyard and keeping it readily accessible. Also has fleece lined handwarmer panels layered along the sides which can hold a folded map or other flat items.

Though one thing about Astral is that they are constantly changing their model features year to year. this can make picking one with what you want tough. But it also means they have frequent good close-out deals on the discontinued versions (one reason I have so many of them).

The best pockets tend to be in styles designed for outfitter guides or for fishing. The trick is always balancing cargo volume with a profile streamlined enough to not inhibit self rescue.

Like with hiking boots, it’s difficult to recommend “best” models for any given person because fit is so individual and we all have different body metrics. It is pretty much trial and error, which is complicated when you live somewhere with limited brick and mortar store access.

I wish it was possible to buy the Yak brand of PFD that I’ve used in Europe and really liked. It’s a UK brand that has clean designs and great fit. I’ve sought them but so far only found the brand at UK and Australian dealers. The customs and duty issues are an obstacle to getting them so far.

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About a month ago I bought on line the kokatat bahia predator PFD on sale 65% off for $65. I thought it a good deal and it has a lower back pad in the lumbar area that is thinner and then is cut with the high pad like all the quality kayak PFD are. It is intended for fishing but really the only thing fishing is the large compartment has a Velcro removable lure holder. Take that out and it is just a nice big formed storage place. I sized mine correct but they all want to slide up on me so I added a lower buckle and it solved the problem. I’m still seeing them on line at about 50% off.

Solquist Trekker has high back.

I just bought the Chinook and even took my radio to check the fit. Thought I nailed it, but ran into issues, I can describe if asked. Still reviewing posts. As usual, excellent source info.

I like a buckle on the waste, coupled with a zipper. Mesh. High back. The Chinook is fishing but didn’t matter, then on a long trip, I realized the slits low on the jacket shoulder straps didn’t keep the radio upright. I finally unclipped the radio and attached it the boat, then realized I need a new vest and bought the Chinook. Lots of good leads, as well as mail order option.

Completely agree with the comments on the Astral V8. I switched to the Astral BlueJacket when I found I needed more and better storage options. While it does not have the mesh back of the V8, the rear is fairly low profile and I have not had any issues with it interfering with my seat back.

Bought an Astral for my sister when I saw an advertisement that a model was specifically designed for women. I just noticed while shopping for my new vest, they now have a considerable expanded line. I do hate when you find something you like and it vanishes from shelves.

Yup, about all you can carry in the “pockets” of a V8 is a whistle and a chapstick. I heard that later models than mine (which is about 10 years old) added a little more space but not much.

I think Kokatat probably offers the models with the most storage capacity and features.

Search update. Of the ones I’ve seen, Astral V8 has most options. High back, open sides, out front waist buckle (Chinook is tucked under but I typically buckle/unbuckle at beginning/end). Front is clean; only used pockets for a Silva lensatic compass - it leaked the fluid during tub washing (my Ranger cost to much to chance), a cheap stainless pocket knife and a whistle. Also has a hard point to lace a web straps to hold the radio in a location that may be a good spot. Thanks OP; ifvI saw this two weeks ago it possibly could have saved me $139. Now I have a spare for guest paddlers.

Last year I purchased an Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest. It has the half mesh back that is supposed to work well with higher kayak seats. It generally fit me well, but it did get in the way of the seat on the boat I was paddling at the time - the Advanced Elements Ultralight. I kept fidgeting with it while I was paddling and it got pretty annoying. I read great things about the Astral V8. Lots of petite women told me they loved it, and it was supposed to be great with higher seat backs. Ordered one of those, and it completely did not work for me - just nothing about it fit my body correctly. Now, this year, I am paddling an Eddyline Rio, and the Onyx PFD works great, no issues with the seat at all, very comfortable and the mesh back is relatively cool. So, perhaps that is a long way of saying there are multiple factors at play with fit - it will probably just take some trial and error with different models to find what works for you.

Gear is a personal thing. Sure is good to hear opinions.

Astral V8 looks good. Not horrendously expensive and has features I look for.
Surprising how many PFDs don’t have a place for attaching a dive/rescue knife.

Best best I ever had is a kokatat Hustler R partner has regular version. Way better than an ASTRAL V8. I sent that back.