Hi there! I’m getting back into kayaking in a big way and my 10 year old extrasport lifejacket finally died. I’m looking for a new PFD, but given the state of the world right now will have to shop online. Any advice on what PFDs would comfortably fit someone with a 30 inch chest, 24 inch waist, and short torso? Doesn’t need to have a lot of bells and whistles. I’m looking for a visible color, like red or orange.
What type of kayaking will you be doing? More recreational with a kayak with a large cockpit & a higher backed seat or open water / sea kayaking with a smaller cockpit, a spray skirt and a back band or low back seat?
Hi Rival51! I have a SeaEagle razorlite 393rl. It’s an open design with a relatively high back. I’m mostly just exploring around lakes and near the coastline.
I’m a Kokatat MSFit fan - Kokatat actually sizes their jackets rather than just makes the straps longer or shorter. The MSFit is meant more for a sea kayak with a backband but their Aries jacket is high backed and might do the trick. It will be tough without trying things on but with some research you can hopefully get close.
Take a look at the Astral V-Eight. I use the blue vest however many posters here think highly of the V-eight with high back seats and for hot weather.
Late to the party here but have a look at the previously mentioned Kokatat Airies. It comes in a XXS/Youth Large. If you have a rack to go through also look to try to find a Salus in XS/S. They have very nice foam.
I’d sure like to see Kokatat offer up their MsFit in an XS. Do an XS run once every 5 years to satisfy the market or offer a custom charge. I’m sure the certification costs aren’t worth it though unfortunately. For example the XXS Aries isn’t certified in Canada but you can custom order one…
I am bigger than you but still considered petite. The best-fitting common PFD I used was a Stohlquist Escape Youth version in the largest Youth size. Their max chest size on the label is conservative, since I’m bigger than that and still fit in it. Ditto for their weight range rating of only 90 lbs max. I made sure it would float me by putting it on and hopping into deep water.
The Kokatat Aries in their largest Youth size would also fit but it is slightly longer than the Stohlquist PFD. I found the Aries not as good for freedom of movement, though still better than with adult size PFDs.
I’m now happily using an XS surf ski buoyancy aid, but these are not nearly as easy to find. I ordered mine without trying it on, trusting the advice of the vendor which was, in fact, excellent.
It’s always best to try them on for yourself if you can. Stohlquist and Kokatat are widely available in the US.
Thanks for all your advice! In person shopping started back up in my town. After some calling around to local stores to see when they would get their life jacket inventory in, I went on an expedition today to try some of your suggestions on. I ended up getting the Stohlquist Betsea in size Petite. I had to settle for blue instead of high-vis, but it’s super comfortable. Here are some of my notes on other PFDs I tried on in case anyone else my size wants the feedback:
- Astral Layla PFD size XS - nice, but the torso was still a bit long. Didn’t let my arms settle naturally at my sides. I had to cinch the side straps as tight as they’d go to get it to not ride up. It would do in a pinch.
- Astral Linda size S/M - 2 inches of extra space even with the sides straps cinched in. Does not have a waist strap to keep it from riding up.
- Kokotat Hustle size XS/S - objectively, fits well. However the yellow color, low-riding oval shape plus the 8 dangling straps conspire to make me look like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It would do in a pinch. Didn’t let my arms settle naturally at my sides, but was more comfortable than the Layla.
- Astral V-8 size S/M - comically large.
- Stohlquist Drifter Youth size Youth L/Adult XS - fits well, very similar to Betsea size Petite but with 11 lbs of flotation instead of 16. It would be a great budget alternative if you’re OK with not as much flotation. Both are rated for people weighing 75-125 Lbs.
Thanks for sharing this info. I am also a petite lady looking for a new PFD. I had been hopeful about the Astral V-8, but it was also much too large for me. I will take a look at some of the others you mention here!
Good info. The Stohlquist Cruiser in XS-S might also be worth trying, lots of adjustment points.
Late to the party, but just to give a few more data points for anyone else reading the list thread, I’ve found PFD selection a bit of an issue this year, availability may drive your decision. We already owned two Stohlquist Youth Escapes, and they’re holding up great. My kids each have one, and one has 2.5 seasons of using it nearly every weekend, April - Oct. They have the all-important pocket (every PFD should have pockets, IMO), and the kids find them very comfortable for dinghy sailing. I don’t know how they’d be for kayaking, in terms of a seat back, but mobility is pretty good.
My wife just bought a Betsea, and like you only found it in blue, in her size (also petite). I noticed the Betsea is sculpted in the chest area, which the youth escapes are not, and she finds it very comfortable trying it in the house. Unfortunately, we have no reports on it from the water yet, we are still under snow here.
My big issue was finding a PFD that worked with my chest. I ended up finding a smoking deal on a like-new Astral Layla at the REI outlet at the end of last season. Now I don’t feel like my boobs have been pushed up to my chin like I did with unisex vests. It’s also cut low on the sides, so there’s no chafing. And I like the front pocket since it fits my phone and earbuds perfectly.
As for colors, mine is purple but I think they also make it in a a bright turquoise shade.