PFD very bright and visible

For kayaking I want a PFD that is really bright and visible during day and even in the evening. I’m actually surprised most PFD are in darker colors. Ideally something like blazing hunter-orange or similar.

Features I need:

  • hold my large phone, keys and wallet (even after sinking)
  • quick-dry
  • comfortable (sweat management, and for moving boat around on land)
  • Coast guard rating (fresh water only)

I’m also wondering how they are sized? I wear "L "shirts and if that means i get an L-PFD I’m male, 5’11"and 175#.

Some searching on amazon found this, but i wonder what else I should look at?
any other features I need? I

From another thread I already heard the Heimdall are good whistles (since this is about safety :-). so don’t need to research that much more unless there are better options. This and the PFD should cover my safety equipment needs.

Quality brand PFDs to check out online are Kokotat, NRS, Astral, Stohlquist. Lots of options for you to see.

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I’m selling a brand new Kokatat Neptune in their bright green color, size M/L. It may or may not meet your needs but the color is certainly worth checking out!

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Good PFD have reflecting strips on them. To me yellow stands out in low light.

Thanks. I browsed through all the brands and the NRS cVest is the brightest of all the brands you mentioned. An orange option is the NRS Chinook OS Fishing PFD but if it isn’t the actual hunters orange, I’m not sure it actually would be more visible.

They also look like what I call paddler-optimized to give the arms free movement. Could you advise if that actually is the case?

Looks like L is my size based on their charts.

I think you will like the Cvest. It is shaped to avoid rubbing on your arms when paddling, comes in a nice high visibility color with some reflective striping, has a good set of pockets. I like mine.

2nd the C Vest. Looks like a good one. If my Astral V8 ever wears out, I’ll give it a look.

Any of those manufactures should have outstanding arm movement on their PFDs. I wear either a 7 year old NRS Chinook (from prior to being fishing oriented) and a 2 or 3 year old Astral Blue Jacket. Both are outstanding for me. The two you are considering should be excellent choices if you get the right fit.

The C Vest is nice. My personal preference is for a full back. See if you can try different vests in your boat to see what works best. Little things can matter like where it rides on your torso and how that interacts with your cockpit rim on torso rotation. Some PFDs have adjustment buckles on the side that can rub on your arms depending on your paddling style. Some vests with mesh backs and/or sides leave the webbing somewhat exposed and that may dig in or chafe your sides.

Kokatat Hustler

Arm movement and the back is higher to clear the cockpit.

Google Photos

Best jacket I ever had. Stays down very comfortable. Way better than a ASTRAL V8

Google Photos


This looks like a nice PFD for rough waters. I should have mentioned, I don’t do whitewater or ocean. Looks like it would be overkill for me. It has 16lb of flotation, like the category II. So I assume the special part are the added features (knife, D-ring, river to tether). Is any of that needed for my boating?

I also was excited about the idea to having the back flotation part to be high above the seat. I don’t know if that really matters since the Hustler seems to have a thin back.

I’m sorry if that sounds ignorant, I know nothing about rescue yet.

Ck out the Astral V 8. Very comfortable and as cool as most PFD get.

Sorry you don’t need the rescue vest. The regular Hustler is great too. Same comfortable fit and doesn’t ride up. My partner loves hers. Material is a tad bit lighter. Nice wide shoulder straps and padded. I had a Astral V8 and sent it back. Found the pockets nearly useable. Not as comfortable and a bit higher.

OK, I think I googled the wrong one. I assume you meant the regular Hustle.

Looks like the most obvious difference to the NRS is that it doesn’t have the high-back flotation.

I realize this is personal preference, but could someone explain if the high-back flotation is better or worse for kayaks? i realize it may depend on the seat. In some scenarios i also may wear that on a normal motor boat, so that may be a consideration.

My (probably wrong) theory is the high back flotation also helps keeping my head afloat when i drift on my back.

The NRS seems to have more pockets. I plan to have my phone, wallet, and keys in the vest (in separate dry bags). Looks like the Hustle only has one large pocket.

No, I don’t have the option to try either in a kayak before buying. So I buy strictly based on theory. Both cost about the same, so that is not a consideration.

String: the V8 only seems to be in orange as brightest color. I’m afraid that is a bit less visible than yellow (I don’t know that for a fact)

The half mesh back PFD’s are to accommodate kayaks with high back seats, which are more typical of sit on tops and fishing boats where paddlers lean back rather than paddle sitting upright.

Type III vests are what most of us use for day sailing, kayaking and canoeing and what the models are that you are looking at.

Only Type I and some Type II have the extra pillow extension behind the head to flip you onto your back in the water. You don’t need that for paddling the lakes and rivers around Madison. Those are mainly for offshore sailing, lifeboats and for children. They get in the way for paddling. Some paddlers use the auto-inflating Type V but they have to be maintained and the CO2 cartridges replaced after deployment. And they are expensive.

Orange is plenty visible in the water. Most naval and maritime emergency equipment is that color.

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Get the brightest one you can find then wear a neon shirt. I wear a long sleeve neon yellow shirt that offers UV protection for my arms. I actually bought it from the web store. Throw on a bright colored hat and and that should help as well. You could also consider mounting a flag on your stern that gives you some added visibility but the flapping in the wind may become annoying.
If you plan on paddling in the evening consider a deck light.
Don’t focus so much on all the extras. Chances are you will never use them anyway. My PFD has one mesh pocket that holds my gloves.
In the end it all boils down to fit and comfort. If it is not comfortable you won’t like it. That applies to all your gear not just a PFD.
A Fox 40 whistle should be loud enough. I have had one on my paddling, fishing and diving gear for over 30 years and have never not been heard.

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Would a high back have disadvantages when not in a SOT? For example, if I sat in a motorboat that has a seat like a car seat, i imagine the highback may bother me.

I do like the pockets of the NRS best so far.

I typically wear a bright yellow shirt. With kayaking being more under the sun, a long-sleeve may not hurt. Maybe orange PFD and yellow shirt covers all the bases. Also good idea to get a yellow or orange sun hat (currently only have light-gray).

I’m not planning on evening kayaking. but on the way back I may take too long and get caught when it gets darker. so for the future i will consider such light. the tiny flags I’ve seen may not be better than wearing bright clothes. but if ever get a light on a stick, may as well add a flag. Probably won’t do that initially.

I plan to never need the safety devices, same way I never plan to use my car’s airbag:-)
Even only doing half of this will put me into the top 1% of visibility of boaters her.

Check with your state’s regulations on things like annual boat registration or launch permits and requirement for lighting. In my state a white light is required on paddle craft by twilight, has to be visible 360 degrees around the boat and must be steady, not flashing. Flashing is a distress signal here.

a good local paddle sports outfitter should be able to let you know what the local regulations might be. Don’t count on big box general sporting goods store clerks to know that stuff.

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