Choice of PFD and footware

Hello, another thread of mine.

Just wondering what everyones preferred brand and type of PFD and footware for tour kayaking is.

I have the boat and the scagit paddle is coming soon. Want to get an idea of preferred life jackets from actual kayakers and not what dicks tries to sell me.


Personal preference
It all comes down to personal preference for PFDs. Best if you can find a local shop, try on until you find one you like, then leave it on as you shop for other stuff, try boats on floor, etc. If it fits so comfortably you forget you have it, then it is perfect.

My preference is Kokatat MsFit Tour.

Two PFDs and three pairs of shoes later,
I found Astral was perfect for my needs. As Peter noted, PFDs are all about personal preference. Shoes, too.

Pockets on front of my first two PFDs interfered with re-entries, so at the suggestion of my outfitter I went with Astral’s YTV. I also like Astral shoes because they have several drain ports, dry quickly, have nonslip supportive soles, and I can lace them.

Try Them On
As Peter says, it’s all down to personal preference.

Brands like Astral, Kokatat, NRS and Stohlquist are good places to start. Like many paddlers I have more than a few PFDs and my inclination now is that simpler is better. One pocket for a whistle and a knife is really all I need and a simple design makes scrambling back into a boat quite a bit easier. You HAVE to try it on and if you can’t sit in a kayak, or better still your kayak, with it on then at least sit flat on the floor wearing one. You don’t want to buy one that fits perfectly when you’re standing only to find it rides up and hits you in the chin when you sit. Also keep in mind that different sizes typically only differ in the length of the adjustment straps. You want to have room in it to go over cold weather clothing but don’t buy something larger than you really need.

As for footwear, anything you don’t mind getting wet will do. A very experienced guide I know swears by his old pair of Crocs. ACA instructors advise against anything with laces that might get entangled if you need to do a wet exit, so my favorites for all but really warm water are short neoprene booties that I originally bought for scuba diving, For cold water, again NRS and Kokatat have options.

What does the PFD do in the water?
People don’t think about it very much, but if the PFD rides up your chest over your face it’s not very helpful for getting you out of harms way or back in your boat. It should fit snuggly and stay in place in beatdowns and rolling in moving water.

Astrals are usually good fits for people with a little bit of a belly issue going on. Now I have lost weight I use an NRS model.

Keep your PFD simple, and you can upgrade later.

boat specific
The right pfd has to fit you and the boat. You do not want the pfd to interfere with your seat, or cockpit coaming. Most paddling pfd’s will work with most seats, but you won’t know for sure until you try it with your boat.

I made the mistake a long time ago of buying a pfd that fit right and was comfortable, but when I actually sat in my boat with it on, there was no way it would work. It was too long in back and interfered with the seatback and was too wide and rubbed on the coaming. Luckily the store let me trade it back for one that actually worked.

If I were looking for a new pfd, I would use the NRS Ninja as a starting point.

personal preference
Many people prefer minimal coverage but make sure it fits snugly and won’t ride up. Best way is to try some on yourself.

Shoes, even more personal. I kaap a pair of sandals in the day hatch and go barefoot most times, when it’s cooler I add neoprene socks.

a thought on this
I don’t think it would be unreasonable to go to your local paddle shop with your boat, take your boat off the car, and then try PFDs on while sitting in your boat.

PFD fit
1 - personal choice

2 - do you want pockets? What will you carry on it? Are there attachment points for a light etc?

3 - are you a man or a women (we do have different shapes)

I like the fit of my Salus Ungava.

Linda loves her lady’s Stolhlquist BetSea - she says it fits very much like a bra with multiple adjustment points.


PFD value

– Last Updated: Jul-22-16 12:51 PM EST –

The best PFD is the one that is comfortable enough that you will never be tempted to not wear it. As others say, it is to some extent a matter of personal taste. Personally, I like Astral models so much that I currently own 3 of them. The structure of the back is most critical for fitting in the boat --in some of my kayaks I prefer a vest with no flotation in the bottom half of the back panel. In a couple of them I prefer a foam back. And I have one, the Astral V8 that is the best for paddling in very hot weather due to its excellent ventilation.

What area do you live in? REI, Eastern Mountain Sports and L.L. Bean stores will all have some better selections than Dick's, as will independent kayaking and wilderness sports shops.

As for footware, I've got and use everything from rafter type rubber and webbing sandals to drugstore type water shoes to dive booties to knee high Kokatat booties with dive boot type hard soles and a Goretex shaft. Depends on the water temperature, how muddy the banks are at the launch sites, how long I am going to be out and even which boat I am using. If I was just starting out I would go with the cheapest option (like $10 slip on water shoes or fake Crocs) and then decide if I felt like I needed something with a harder sole.

It's also hard to lose with a pair of $30 ankle high hard sole dive booties, though, like those made by Deep See. They are easy to put on, give good traction and protection on shore for getting the boat to the water, keep your feet warm on chilly days but are not that bad on warm ones, are flexible in the ankle and provide enough sole rigidity to keep your feet from hurting after a while braced on the footpegs.

sandals n
neo booties…colder ? sandals plastic bag drysuit bootie wool socks

NRS can take care of your footwear needs, but I should warn you that it is best to try them on. They might have made improvements in size designations, but it’s still wise to try them on.

For summer, my recommendation is NRS Comm-3 wetshoe and for colder weather–NRS Boundary Shoe (boot). For the Boundary boot, be sure you get them large enough to allow you to also wear neoprene wetsocks. Some people like to wear wool socks, but for me if it’s too cold for neoprene socks in the Boundary boots–it’s too cold to be paddling.

Solquist Trekker I love it for comfort better than the few Kokatat’s I have. Lacks few pockets and D-rings like my Kokatat’s. I wear it all the time. I paddle 15-20 miles at times and forget it’s on me.

PFD’s & Footwear
I have a couple of PFD’s that work for me and I am still looking for the perfect footwear.

I use a Kokatat MsFit Tour with a Hydration Pack and a modified Tactics Pack for extended touring. The MisFit Tour is comfortable and simple with good storage for VHF, camera, Hammer Gel flask, Probars, protein bars, lip balm, whistle, etc. The Tactics Pack is my ditch bag and fits nicely over the Hydration Pack.

I use a Kokatat Maximus Centurion for day trips with my Illusion. I like the additional flotation and the way it moves with me but it is a little longer than the MisFit and the deck on my day boat is an inch lower then the deck on my touring boat. Wearing it with my tow belt in the touring boat causes it to ride up a bit so I go with the MisFit when paddling the Tempest.

As far as footwear goes I want something that is low volume to fit under the deck but has enough midsole to protect my feet when walking over sharp rocks and some provision for heel and toe protection. It has to shield against wear for the Gore-Tex socks on my drysuit but also has drain well. If it is secured by laces or bungies it has to fit snuggly enough that it doesn’t get sucked off walking on muddy beaches yet I have to be able to pull free of it if it gets snagged on something under deck. The soles must offer good grip on slippery surfaces.

I have some NRS Titanium Neo Booties that are OK in some circumstances but are too flexible and don’t come close to providing enough protection for the bottoms of my feet. I’ve beefed them up with some serious insoles but they are still too soft for rocky beaches. They are also too warm for Summer.

Typical water sandals don’t cut it because they don’t protect the Gore-Tex socks, often come off too easily or not at all and seldom have the right combination of toe and heel protection.

My current shoes are imperfect but I’m on the second pair until I find something better. I’m using the Teva Churn. It mostly accommodates my needs as it is a real shoe that drains well with a real midsole. It stays on the foot pretty well in mucky stuff but I could pull my foot out if entrapped. The toe protection as adequate without being too big and the heel protection is OK. Teva totally missed it on the outsole, though. It is made of something that is way too hard to grip anything wet. Seems like they didn’t give any thought to that part or were more serious about making a price point than a real water shoe. There is a heel pad on the back of the shoe that if lengthened on the medial side would extend the wear/life of the shoe for paddling. Pushing on your foot pegs to facilitate torso rotation wears through the netting material on the side of the heel and shortens the life of the shoe.

If Teva would put a 5.10 sole on the shoe and incorporate a properly shaped heel pad that was made of a long wearing material that would stand up to abrasion from fiberglass they would have a pretty good design. As it is it’s just another almost- good paddling shoe. It will do until I find a better one.


What do shoe laces get caught on?
I love laced shoes because I can adjust the pressure over my foot. Too tight over the foot arch and my feet will cramp. After reading your post I stuck my head inside my cockpit to see if there was anything my shoe laces could catch on. I have Sea-dog foot braces and the adjustment lever is flat against the side of my hull. Nothing there. No other protrusions.

My boat has a sliding seat so possibly the knob in front of the seat - but I’d be mostly out of the boat by the time my feet got that far.

Had never heard that about shoe laces before in anything I’ve read or in any ACA/BCU classes, so I’m curious about what to look for to avoid such an issue.

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic
I use the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic. It’s pretty comfortable while seated because the cushion sits high up on your back. Also has a small pocket. Simple and effective.

Dick’s and Amazon carry them.

Spent a boat load
Well I thank you for all the great advice.

I spent a boat load just now(yes, pun intended) on all my safety gear. Seeing how dangerous and unpredictable kayaking can be, being new and most likely going to have a tip over… I decided to spend what it takes for safety sakes. I got all the stuff mentioned by all of you. Paddle float, bilge pump, sponge, whistle, I also got a NRS Pilot, knife to cut cords if I have too…makes a lot of sense.

I also decided on getting a NRS CVest for my safety jacket. I like all the pockets and the look of it.

Well when my new Skagit CF paddle gets here and all the rest…it’s go time. Thanks.

Best safety gear I ever got…
…about one month into my kayaking journey…an eskimo roll…can be gotten with the help of a local whitewater club, some already skilled friends, or whatever, wherever it takes to get it. For me, the single most valuable component of kayaking.