Need Suggestions For Kayak PFD

I have a PFD that I use that I originally bought for boating. I think that a high waisted PFD that has a more comfortable fit and has larger arm holes would be better for kayaking. Why are the PFD’s for kayaking so expensive? I know how to swim and I’m not going into any rough water, I just want something light weight and comfortable to wear that isn’t going to ride up on me. Does anyone have any suggestions for decent PFD’s that cost about $50 or less? I also wonder if I should try to find a vest made for women so I don’t feel, um…squished up there. I tried my husband’s adjustable, but it just didn’t feel right in the chest area no matter how I adjusted it. I don’t think I need a bigger size, it just didn’t feel right.

If you shop for sales and closeouts
you can find some pretty good PFD’s within your price point. Normally good ones seem to be in the $75 to $125 range.

I purchased my girlfriend a Stohlquist BetSea model a few years ago for $50. I have seen the same PFD for $50 somewhere on-line recently. She likes it and passed on a new one I offered to acquire for her, so I guess she really does like it.

A quick search didn’t reveal any selling for below $70 right now, but watching the sales and closeout pages for the major outdoor retailers will usually result in a deal showing up sooner or later.

I Found This
I found this, but it’s a closeout so no returns. It says it fits chest size 36 -42, so looks like the right size. I was wondering if I should take a chance and order it since it’s only $40. I saw good reviews for this PFD, but I would be taking a chance since there are no returns. This is the link to what it is and what it looks like:

A Woman-Specific PFD…
…seems to be your best bet. My wife has been using a Kokatat Ms-Fit for the past year, and finds it very comfortable. In fact, when I went looking for a PFD this spring, she convinced me to try on a Ms-Fit along with several other PFDs - and I bought the Ms-Fit. I’ve had problems with muscle spasms where a muscle crosses a rib end, and the Ms-Fit has a split in the floatation right at that point. I find it far more comfortable than my old PFD, and haven’t had any reoccurance of the spasm problem since making the switch.

Normally, I’m about as much of a cheapskate as a paddler can be - I build our S&G kayaks, we make our paddles, do our own cockpit outfitting with salvaged foam, etc…but we don’t scrimp on our PFDs, since they are far and away our most vital piece of safety equipment. I paid about $90 Cdn. for the Ms-Fit on sale, and would gladly spend more to get the right piece of gear.

If you know how to swim, and are not
going into rough water, why not just take the one you have and leave it on the back deck, like my wife and I do most of the time.

With that said, we do have high end ones, and practice putting them on in rough water over our heads, and do wear them on long open crossings, or when it is rough

jack L

buy it
looks like a great deal on a quality PFD, I recently bought my wife a Stohlquist Cruiser which is similar but with zipper pockets and it cost more than twice as much.

I Know JackL has many many more
hours on the water but I’d never reccommend carrying your life jacket instead of wearing it. Stuff happens in the quietest waters. Ideally you would try a variety of them on while sitting in your boat so the combination of boat fit, backrest fit, and person fit is best. You will enjoy your paddling a lot more if you are as comfortable as you can get. A good life jacket is a long term investment that can be serviceable for 10 years or more with decent care. Remember its a “life” jacket - how much is that worth? Just thoughts. R

it’s not cheap BUT
You might want to try on an Astral Vee-8. I already owned and was using a pretty nice woman’s model Lotus PFD but had found it hot and somewhat restrictive in the chest (I’m a 36 D). I was in REI one day and spotted the Vee-8 and tried it on just on a whim because it looked cool – love at first cinch! Liked it enough that I was willing to blow $95 on it and have not regretted the decision. Unlike any other PFD I’ve ever used (and I’ve owned 4 models by Lotus, Stohlquist and MTI AND I had used a borrowed Kokatat MsFit for one trip), even on hot days I am hardly conscious that I am wearing the Vee-8. The foam has various perforations that allow body heat to escape and the cut allows excellent range of motion wihout feeling bulky. It has the high-cut back with mesh in the lower half so it doesn’t interfere with the kayak seat back band and the front is cut low enough that I don’t feel like it is trying to strangle me (I’m short-waisted). Only drawback is that it has minimal pockets – actually only one that is large enought to hold anything and it is a snapflap that is not too secure.

I know it’s pricey, but it really is way more comfortable (at least for my curves) than any other vest I’ve tried and it is extremely well made. If you have a chance to try one, do so, and you’ll see what I mean. It might make you willing to bite the bullet on a the higher price.

Astral V-8
First off, I’m a guy. I also have an Astral V-8 and can confirm that it is indeed quite comfortable—— for me. I remember when researching it, that a lot of women found it to fit very well. I paid about $65 on ebay.

Didn’t mean to sound cheap
I didn’t mean to sound cheap, I was just wondering why some of the pfd’s are so expensive. Being a newbie, I didn’t give much thought to purchasing a pfd, I figured anything that kept you afloat would be good. I didn’t think it would be so difficult to find a decent pfd. Trouble is, We have EMS (which doesn’t have squat at the moment), Dick’s sporting Goods (ditto), and a ridiculously over-priced kayak/canoe place. Since there isn’t much to choose from around here, it helps to listen to suggestions.

Cheap! Cheap! Cheap! One day only!
If you get this is time, REI is offering the '09 Extrasport Breakwater PFD for $45 (down from $115) one day only, as its “Deal of the Day” (a promotional offer with a different item every day). Hopefully you see this in time. It’s a pretty good price. Click on the link.

Too Big
I checked out the PFD at REI, but it’s too large, it’s an XXL. Thanks anyway.

How About This One?
What do you think?

if the size fit you might be OK
or maybe this one, womens fit, has a pocket

Do we know what size you are?
We now know not XXL


– Last Updated: Oct-15-10 8:37 PM EST –

I guess knowing the size would help. I have a 38" chest size, so I'm guessing between Med. to Large, might depend on how the PFD's run though.

Stohlquist is nice.
I checked the link for the Stohlquist escape. Looks like a nice PFD. I may consider it. Any idea where I can get a coupon code?

Sizing is important.
My (male) shirt size is small, sometimes medium. This past spring I tried on PFDs from three different manufactures. In two cases, I fit into a large. My Astral V-8 is a medium/large. I don’t get PFD sizing but it sure doesn’t seem to be the same a shirt sizing.

$50 PFD
I bought a child’s Stohlquist Escape for that amount. It is not big enough for me to wear with a drysuit, but it works for warmer-season wear (thin clothing). It has a short torso and very light weight. I tested it and it does float me. Feels like there’s less flotation than an adult PFD has. I don’t plan to use it in surf or other WW. Should be perfectly fine for calm water, especially since I usually wear a wetsuit.

Their label indicates chest size to only 29" but it goes to 34". I guess they sized it assuming thick fleece and a jacket.

If the child’s version is too small, Stohlquist makes a men’s and a women’s version of the same PFD, similarly priced.

yeah, sizes are weird
Since PFD size is mostly just about chest measurement, it may be drastically different than your shirt size. For example, I’m tall, skinny, and broad shouldered. The shoulders and height mean that size L shirts are usually too small for me, so I wear XL. But my skinny body means that when I go to pool sessions I fit nicely in my wife’s XS/S PFD. (Although you’d hate to see me in a similarly sized shirt.)

All that to say, be cautious when shopping online for vests you haven’t tried on in person.