Paddling PFD recommendations

I paddle an OC1 (one man outrigger canoe). I used to race outrigger all over the world. I was in a snowboarding accident in 2015 . Now I’m weak and have patchy feeling on my right. I got back into paddling OC1 years ago though not competitively. I can do a side stroke if I fall in. I’m looking to paddle in a large bay. I’ve worn inflatable pfds. I used to swim like a fish…10 miles out in the ocean. What recommendations are there for regular “paddling” pfds? I’m looking for non-bulky and pretty good flotation. I also like zipper closure…not a bunch of buckles. I don’t care about pockets, etc. Most I’ve tried are too bulky….my arms rub on the sides. Any recommendations

Astral V8 should meet your needs .

My personal preference is a PFD with a buckle on the bottom that keeps it from rising past my arms, a place to clip a VHF out of the way of the paddle stroke, a few D rings to loop items to as I carry hear between the boat and the mode of transportation, a whistle pocket, any pockets should be relatively flat so they don’t interfere with paddling, and a high pad in the back so it doesn’t interfere with the seat back.

I’ve yet to find a PFD that has everything I want.

Kokatat Hustler best PFD I ever had. Stays down, good pockets, super comfortable, good flotation, side straps over head to get it on. Way way better that the Astral V8 I tried.

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PFD are like clothing . Most will do the basic job but how they feel is up to the wearer.


found the pouch pockets in the V8 constructed so tight they’d only hold paper clips. Swen flat and tight .

Yes, it’s risky to choose based on what other people like. I have an NRS Ninja and an Astral V8. I like them both and prefer the Ninja overall since my arms do chafe a bit on the Astral and the Ninja has a more secure fit. But the Astral is much lighter and cooler so I always wear it on hot days and in my pack canoe I can’t wear the Ninja because the back pad interferes with the boat’s backband while the high back pad on the Astral doesn’t interfere.


Yes the pockets on the V8 are so tight they could make your fingers bleed but like the OP I don’t care about pockets…my day pack is right in front of me.

V8 doesn’t stay down as well as Hustler shoulder straps are more comfortable also.

The Kokotat looks nice; I’d like to try one. I agree that the V8 doesn’t “stay down” but that doesn’t bother me when paddling and I think the slippery finish helps it feel cooler than my Ninja…but I expect the Ninja would be better for swimming (I don’t go as far offshore as you). As far as strap comfort maybe that’s an individual thing since I had to check my V8 to see if it even has straps. The V8 is noticeably lighter than most PFD’s so at first I didn’t like the Ninja because it felt like wearing a big heavy rubber clam compared to the V8. YMMV

Hi, Drewp, the OP here. Some explanation. I’m looking to “train” on my boat. The OC1 itself is buoyant (it’s helped me out at sea). No more far reaching ocean paddles…but I’m not a “sightseer” either. The OC1 stroke is like a canoe stroke…on both sides. I’d like to train relatively hard. Many pfds look hot (especially if neoprene) AND bulky. Maybe what I’m looking for doesn’t exist. I’m fine with the “inflatable”. I was looking for something that could float me by my deep water dock….getting onto and off of the boat.

I have an older V8 that is great. I recently bought the newer version but will be returning it shortly. The new version rubs the inside of my arms. (I paddle a canoe. It might be fine for a kayak or for swimming.)

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Inflatables seem to be the choice of people on SUPs, although the need to manually inflate them concerns me. If you end up in the water you have enough to do hanging onto a paddle, boat or SUP, and any other loose gear without also inflating a PFD. Unlike other PFDs, an inflatable Type V must be worn at all times, not just be readily available.

Although I have no personal experience with it, the Kokatat MsFit seems very popular. Although marketed for women, both men and women seem to like it.

The inflatable I have is one of those belt type, pull cord, auto inflate with CO2 cartridge. I practiced with it in a pool twice. Sure, there’s variables that could fail….but life is full of chances! It sure is not cumbersome. I might keep something that’ll float me on my dock. Just grab it when I need it. Like I said, due to my accident I can sidestroke and keep above water when I’m moving. Treading water in one place is a different story with a weak right side.

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I have a Vaikobi, which also provides the added benefit of holding a hydration bladder! They come in both a zipper and buckle closure, and they come in several bright colors. It doesn’t feel bulky at all whether I’m in the OC6 or OC1.

Thanks. Has anybody tried this one?
VX RACE PFD LIFE JACKET . Looks nice and non bulky. Some flotation…not great flotation is fine, My main concern is with a bum right arm and hand (I can use it a bit but really have no feeling), could I get the vest on? The left arm/hand is fine.

It’s a Vaikobi

Hi All -

Why does everyone like the bulkier type life jackets?

Up 'til last summer, I kayaked (sprint intervals for exercise) solely on a pond that I can easily swim to shore. I kept a PFD with me but never needed it. Now, I have a new-to-me CD Extreme and want to go to bigger water this coming summer. Keeping with the exercise intent but recognizing the risks of the big lakes/bays, I think I would want something thin, form fitting, and with a wide range of motion. Just reading has led me to the Vaikobi V3 or something similar. Yet you all like the V8 or Hustle(r). The Hustler, in particular, is quite big around the chest/upper stomach area. Seems like that could be a problem in all out paddles?

I do not mean to hijack the thread - I bet the OP is asking himself the same question.



Thanks, looks good to me, and it has D rings.

Yep. OP here. Non bulky and some flotation