Help finding a good PFD

Now that I got my canoe, an OT Osprey 140 (thanks for all your help) I’d like to keep from drowning until I learn balance and paddle techniques. Are there PFD’s designed just for canoers, most on the WEB appear they’re for other watersport activity.

Most of the kayaking PFDs make good
canoeing life jackets, but because you don’t have a skirt in the way, you can use a longer PFD if you wish.

I use my Lola Sherman kayak PFD all the time when paddling my open boats. I have an old Walbridge HiFloat, made from a kit, with 30 pounds of floatation, but it is not as comfortable and I seldom have a use for that much floatation.

Lots to choose from …
Use the GuideLines section of this website for info. Then check product reviews.


I love the compactness and range of motion yak pfds give me.

However, Serratus makes a full size pfd that has a bladder attach point. Depending on how much time you spend on the water, could be a good selling point for you.

Use this link.

NRS is the best when it comes to kayaking gear. You can call their techs for advise.

We paddle both canoes and
kayaks and use the same PFD’s for both.

We have Lotus Rio Bravo ones and they suit either boat equally well.

With that said any time I can get away without wearing mine (shallow water, not far from shore and calm conditions) I do so.

Funny how it goes. Back when I used to do triathlons, all forms of floatation were banned from the swim portion!



PFDs made for kayakers work fine for canoes as well. Check out NRS for some paddle specific PFDs. Here is a good article on choosing the right PFD

Have fun paddling. It is always great to see a new paddler!

Email me if you have any questions. I will do my best to anwser them for you!



Comfort and features
Any Coast Guard approved PFD will be “good” in the sense that it will keep you floating.

Shop for comfort and the features you want.

just like you find a boat; keep
trying them on until you find one that fits you and your needs based on how you are going to use it. Obviously it needs to be comfortable (unless you do not intend to wear it; in which case it really doesn’t matter which one you get as long as it meets the Coast Guard approval for your application). But more than comfort, is it functional? Do you need/want pockets, lash tabs, mesh back, strobe clip, tow ring, etc. Is your preference side entry, front entry, buckles, zippers, etc. Some people even care about color (with yellow and orange being the best from a visbility standpoint); some because of safety and some because of fashion. Do you wanta mesh panel in the back or not (kayak thing)?

After you finally get one, put it on, load it up, adjust it so that it is how you are going to use it and then get in water over your head. See how it actually floats you. Does it simply keep you afloat or does it keep your face out of the water?

Whether you choose to wear it or not is completely up to you. I am not aware of any law that requires an adult to actually wear a PFD. I am not the PFD police and I do not care. Well, I care if I am paddling with you. Just make your decision based on the facts. Not all, but most drowning occur in water that was shallow enough for the dead person to have stood up in and had their head out of the water. Most drownings, but not all, occurred without being planned. If the situation arises that you need it and you do not already have it on, it will be in great shape to leave to somebody. Of course, if you choose one that does not float you with your face out of the water, it matters less if you wear it. Most paddlers can swim, most boats float. (If you can not swim, I think you shold take up a hobby that does not put you around water.)

There are instances where your PFD can create a hazard (strainer) so you also want to become very familiar with how to get out of it while in the water.

I digree, sorry. Experiment. Do not take the cheap route. Get a mid-grade that you can live with and then check out ones that others use and create a +/- list. After a while, you will know the best one for you. Buy it and keep you other one for a spare so that you have one for a friend that wants to go paddling with you.

More Options
An open boat like a canoe or SOT gives you more options. I would wear a ski vest when surfing SOTs. More floatation and impact protection.

For a canoe, I would op for someting more comfortable. Something more like a fishing vest. You will be more likely to wear it.

I have a Stolquist "Motion"
I wanted a PFD with a coupld of pockets, so I bought the Stolquist “Motion”.

It has several front pockets, and many adjustment straps for maximum comfort.

I really like it, even after using it all summer!

make certain it seems right before $
I tried about three different pdfs before I lost enough inches around my waist to fit into a LOTUS with the Mesh back and a couple of pockets.

The Mesh keeps me from getting too warm, it doesn’t hit me in the mouth when I paddle, and it has some pockets. Pockets are important.

Unfortunately I don’t have to worry yet about staying afloat outside of a boat so I can’t say much about that.

Thanks for the direction on PFD choices
I opted for a better grade PFD for my boy, he’s 9, and i’ll get by with a fishing vest for now. I’ll be doing most of the paddling anyway and Besides for now we’ll hug the shoreline until I learn more. But as I will one day venture out into larger lakes I’ll invest in a better suited PFD in my size(BFG).


– Last Updated: Nov-03-05 11:56 AM EST –

I've been satisfied with the Lotus pfds that my wife & I use.

I wear a Lotus Lola when paddling slow, flatwater.
It has 16 1/4 lbs of flotation & because of the way it's made & its light weight, I sometimes forget I've got it on.
I wear a Lotus Rio Bravo when paddling whitewater. I like the 17 1/2 lbs of flotation, and the freedom of movement it offers.
My wife wears a Lotus Rio Grande. I bought it for her because she is not a great swimmer, and it has 18.5 lb of flotation. She also likes the 2 big, mesh pockets.

I have been fighting the urge to buy an Aquavest 100;
want to try one on before I buy one.


good pfd by Salus
My husband and I are devoted paddlers and love to fly fish. We booked a trip in Canada and forgot our own vest and used some Salus fishing vest the guides provided. They were so light and comfortable that we stopped on the way home and bought two Angler models with hand warmer pockets. I would think they would be perfect for canoeing but I still use my kayak vest when kayaking as it fits the seat back better. The only thing was the Salus was not US Coast Guard approved. But my local shop says they will be in 2006 and he’s got them on order. I tried on one of their kayak vest and almost bought it before my husband slapped my hands. It sure fit nice and had a soft wicking fabric against the inside. Nicely made in Canada