In the market for a PFD?

I use a kokatat orbit tour which i like for its ease of movement but I found one “finally” that I think will become my main pfd especially for wet exit practicing.

Its called the Astral V8. It does not have the large foam in the front which is what i hate. It is cut pretty open around the arms and although I haven’t purchased it yet and tried it out, I already can tell it should be very comfortable. It has some ventilation holes which I don’t know if gimmicky or not but interesting.

Just a suggestion to check it out if looking for a pfd as I have tried many and the only other I wear sometimes is the Kokatat Msfit tour which feels bulkier than this one.

Only advice I have is buy high quality, and high comfort. Your life might depend on it someday. I’ve never been in a kayak without first putting a pfd on.

I didn’t like MsFit
It felt bulky to me too. I eventually got a stolquist motion. No shelf that sticks out.

I"m looking for one like the NPS wear
It’s made of vertical ribs that go all the way around. It’s thin and covers the whole torso. Looks like it would protect your ribs from smashing against rocks.

Any suggustions as to where I might find one like this?

Extrasport B-27?
I have one. It tends to ride up and chafe my neck.

I like Astral PFDs
They are designed by Phil Curry, who started the top-notch PFD movement in this country with Lotus. They are made in the USA. They fit my body type well; maybe not others. [Fit is the key.]

I use their Tour 300 in shoulder seasons, their hybrid in summer and Willis when running whitewater and doing Canoe re-entry for ACA classes.

Whatever you do, get a pfd trhat fits yourself, and has most of the features you want as per pockets, ventilation etc. If it fits and is convenient and comfortable, you’ll wear it, which is the idea.

What I Have
I’d add in, once you try on one you like, look online for bargains. I bought mine about 2 years ago when they were sold for $59.99, and at some sites still are, but got it online for $30, no shipping and no tax at:

This is the actual floatation device I have, though I’m not recommending anything as I am a newbie, but I am happy with it. I did try a few other styles by other brands, but do like the higher back feature with my sit on top:


To help you pick a PFD you need to tell us what size you are, what kind of craft you use, and what type of paddling you are doing such as ocean cruising, river running, small lakes, etc. and in what kind of weather conditions.

I am a big guy at 6’3" and 230 pounds. I paddle mainly canoes on big lakes and big rivers below Class IV. I occassionally kayak on the ocean or raft on Class IV rivers in California. For my purposes I picked U 22 Agency Hi Floater Extrasport. It has a universal fit. Is cut short, and is open at the sizes and armpits allowing excellent arm movement. Because it has extra bouyancy your face rides higher out of the water in waves which is helpful in whitewater or in rough water in the ocean or on big lakes. It also has two pockets and three attachment rings plus reflective tape to make you visible at night or in low light conditions.

Other very good choices for all around use are

l. Astral Willis

2. Kokatat Ronin

3. NRS Mystik

4. Lotus Rio Grande

If you may be involved in whitewater rescues I suggest:

1. Extrasport Fury Swiftwater

2. Kokatat Ronin Pro

3. NRS Rapid Rescuer

All of the above PFD’s have good arm movement. Some have floatation that is like memory matresses that comform to your body after you wear them the first time. There are new models coming out which combine memory foam and cartridge inflation which allows you to reenter kayaks easier with the PFD not inflated or float higher in big water if you can’t reenter your kayak or canoe.

My suggestion is go to several paddling shops carrying a variety of makes and try them on. Wear the type of clothing you will be using when wearing the PFD. One of the advantages of a Universal PFD is that if you have to wear a dry suit or wet suit part of the year and only a paddling jacket for the rest of the year the PFD will fit more comfortably than a set size one.

All of the PFD’s I have mentioned in the first category will run from $100-140. Those in the second category will run $140-200.

Happy Shopping!

Murph 1