If you wear a PFD…which one?

I’m in the market for a new PFD. My current is a NRS.
Not being near a lot of water my brick and mortar selections are very few.

Astral V8. Cool temp wise for a PFD.IF

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I wear a Yak Adventure Equipment Highback, plenty of adjustment for fit and handy pockets. Had it for a few years now, very comfy, hardly know I am wearing when on the water.

I’ve long been a fan of Astral and currently use three of them, a V8 for the hottest weather, a Layla (older female specific model with the “eco” type flexible flotation stuffing) for comfort on moderate day trips and a Camano for coastal paddling in colder water because of the higher flotation and it being sleeker if I have to self rescue.

Also I still very much like my older Lotus Lola (the founders of Astral worked for Lotus, I believe) but should probably retire it because it is over 20 years old.

I have tried PFDs from Stohlquist, NRS and Kokatat and none really fit me. I have a very short upper body so that’s a crucial fitting issue. I’ve returned or sold off some and kept others to loan to friends and family who paddle with me. I get the sense that PFDs are similar to shoes: not every model fits every body and the size ranges are often not realistic. Per my chest size most brands say i should be in a medium or medium/large but I have found that smalls fit much better since they are shorter in the torso and narrower at the shoulders so a better fit. But ordering from a shop like Backcountry or Outdoorplay that offers easy returns has worked out well for me.

I did borrow a Yak from one of the local paddlers when I kayaked with their club in the UK and liked the fit and comfort a lot but they are not available for sale in the USA – if I could get one I probably would.

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NRS C-Vest for me. My wife wears a Stohlquist Womens Cruiser.

Kokatat MSFit. Despite the name I know a lot of guys who wear the same vest. I think I’m on my 5th one. Comfortable, actually sized (not just longer straps) lots of pockets and attachment points.

That said, it is really hard to find something that fits and is comfortable without trying it on. I’ve tried a few (several of which have already been mentioned in this thread and are great vests) that were terribly uncomfortable for me but others love them. Purchase from places with good return policies.


There should be no “If” in your question.
I like NRS.
Brodie mentioned he is on his 5th Kokatat. He is making the point that they need to be replaced occasionally. Don’t keep old PFDs as loaners. Test them once in awhile.

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or regular version of it. Super comfortable and it stays down. Much better than an Astral V8.

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I agree with your statement. However vests are like motorcycle helmets in that world. Some do, some don’t

If? Kokatat MSFit. Handles my shortish torso well and has pockets and tabs to attach stuff.

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Astral Greenjacket.

Brodie is a she, by the way :sunglasses:

But yes, and I should have made that clearer. PFDs do have a lifespan. For me in Florida with lots of UV and lots of use, I replace mine after 4 years or so, or when the fading gets pretty bad. I don’t trust the stitching on the straps at that point.


Sorry Brodie. Good words.

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I am male (though do have some man boobs). I do wear the Kokatat MsFit. Like them enough that when I go to replace one, I buy another.

NRS Big Water Guide for the extra flotation (22.9 lbs, vs. 15 or 18 for a “regular” vest). Sailing takes me further offshore than kayaking so my worst-case-scenario imagination has me floating for, uh, quite a while. :dizzy_face: I had crotch straps installed but I took them off for kayaking because they didn’t reliably stay tucked up in the side straps and interfered with getting my spray skirt seated. Considering getting something more kayak-specific.

i have several PFDs from variouis manufacturers. My go-to however is my kokotat orbit with a couple of pockets and overhead donning. I never use my PFDs a seat or a cushion in any way, and it has a special place to hang to dry in my canoe shed if it gets damp during use. I am sure that the one I bought for marathon canoe racing more than 15 years ago sill in excellent shape is still more than adequate to save my life.

NRS Ninja currently and It’s very comfortable and fits my pendulous belly much better than my old Patagonia. I can actually adjust it enough that it does not ride up around my ears if I go into the water.

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I love the NRS Matik inflatable in the summer months. Pricey, but there are other inflatables available. Maybe wouldn’t recommend it for salt water where corrosion could be a factor. Even in freshwater I inspect it religiously. In the cold weather I go to the Astral V8, very comfortable and adds some warmth over the dry suit.

I have a very long upper body so I’ve got a lot of belly showing but it floats me just fine.

As a sea kayaker, I use:
Late Spring through late Fall = Kokotat Outfit
Late Fall through late Spring = Astral Bluejacket

Why the seasonal shift? The Bluejacket is too HOT during our warm months, but is great for cold temps paddling.