Suggestions for omfortable casual PFD?

-- Last Updated: Apr-10-11 3:13 PM EST --

Hi... I now have a kayak (Advanced Elements 10.5' AdvancedFrame).. now I'm looking for a life vest... but not sure what to look for.

I'm 6'1" and fluctuate between 145-155 pounds. Intending to casually paddle and drift for a few hours, in still or slow gentle waters in temps of 60-80*F. I saw some that have mesh backs and fronts.. they must be cooler.

I need at least 1 closeable pocket for plastic ID cards (doesn't need to be waterproof). Looking to get the PFD for under $45 if possible.

Another part is the sizing. I was on Cabella's site and they have a good number of reviews for some of the PFDs. The one I was reading, people kept saying it is undersized, so get it 1 or 2 sizes larger.

Do all PFD's sizes run small.. or is it depends on the brand?

As with many items, u get what u pay for
Only you can decide what is comfortable enough for your use. A $15 type II horse collar will cover you legally, but most who paddle regularly end up trying out many different paddling-specific models before buying a PFD that fits, is comfortable enough to actually wear for extended periods, and costs closer to a C-note.

You will have to do your own shopping
and find what fits you best. What fits one does not necessarily fit another.

MTI makes good but economical PFD’s.

Look for a waist buckle and make sure you can snug it up so there is no ride up when you are in the water. The last thing you do (not) want to see when you are in the water is the inside of your PFD.

Ergo it should have straps that cinch the sides too.

you have to
try a few out first to see what you like. You can get some cheapies from walmart for 40 that aren’t too bad, or for 50-75 get a fishing or paddling type that leaves more shoulder movement with a couple pockets, but the other two posts where right in that you want something that will cinch up with a couple straps to fit well

Casual PFD
When I want to go casual, I just leave the tie at home.

For formal occasions I go with a bow tie.

cheap doesn’t equal comfortable
I’ve never worn a PFD under $100 that I considered comfortable. I’ve owned several models of MTI and Stohlquist, which are among the better quality mid-range PFD’s and found them all bulky and hot to some extent. My favorites have been Lotus (over $130) and my all time fave, a $100 Astral V-8 which is almost like not wearing one at all for comfort even in hot weather (you can read my review of it on the gear guide.) If you are determined to limit yourself to $45, look for an MTI.

of course
I Always choose bow-tie when kayaking. Otherwise the standard long design takes just too long to dry out.

When it’s very casual, I sometimes dare to wear a clip-on!

I do my shopping online and not easy to get to stores near me, so I’m hoping I can buy one and be happy with it straight-away.

Another part is the sizing. I was on Cabella’s site and they have a good number of reviews for some of the PFDs. The one I was reading, people kept saying it is undersized, so get it 1 or 2 sizes larger.

Do all PFD’s sizes run small… or is it depends on the brand?

depends on brand

– Last Updated: Apr-10-11 3:14 PM EST –

Best to try them on, honestly. I own 5 PFD's at the moment that all fit me (an average sized woman with a 40" chest) -- yet they run from a unisex S/M to a woman's L to a unisex L/XL.

Most people live within driving distance of LL Bean stores -- if there is one near you I would recommend trying to get there to try on some models. I see they have many PFD's on sale today only including the V-8 for $84. Well worth it. If you want to order on line they have cheap or sometimes free shipping and a simple return policy.

I’ve driven throughout Oregon
California, Washington, and from the West Coast to the Midwest, and have NEVER seen an LL Bean store. On the other hand, the original poster is not helping us much by giving no profile. Without a profile we have no idea where he lives or what’s nearby. All of the major online retailers have a return policy as far as I know, so getting something, trying it on, and sending it back if it doesn’t fit will cost him the cost of postage at most. When I’m in doubt I buy two, try them on, and send back the one that doesn’t fit. REI has one on sale for $45 (

There used to be one in Oregon
but perhaps you are just too young to remember.

A clip on
A clip on? Don’t you have a kayak valet?..very big here in the NW. I hear Kokatat is coming out with a formal tux drysuit.

I’m guessing you’re going to need a smaller size than you think.

If you’re 6’1", and 150 pounds, your chest is probably pretty slim. Unlike shirts, which need to fit your arms, torso, etc, PFDs just have to fit around your chest.

I’m 6’ and 180 pounds and wear a size XL or L-tall shirt, but the PFD I wear to the pool (with just a rashguard underneath) is a size XS-S. The vest I use for outdoor paddling (with a drysuit on) is a L-XL Stohlquist.

Probably too old
Is it part of some mall?

a few

– Last Updated: Apr-11-11 12:55 AM EST –

I have it narrowed down to a few -- Stohlquist GetAway, and the NRS Clearwater..
Both have the high back padding (kayak seat), and good ventilation.

If the Stohlquist L/XL fits you, then I'm guessing the S/M is the right size for me for a Stohlquist.

A bit more than $45, but I'll pay a bit more for safety And comfort.

V-8 is high back too
It has the same high mesh back as the Nova and is not as bulky in the front.

It’s too bad most of the catalog sites don’t show rear views of the PFD’s (though the manufacturers sites usually do.)

As for the LL Bean stores, they are usually embedded in sprawling suburban malls anymore. They are only in the NOrtheast but there are REI stores in half the states, including all in the west (except Wyoming) most of the upper midwest, as well as the NE and Mid-Atlantic.

google’s image search finds pretty good pics for the front back and side views, at least of the Stohl Getaway and NRS Clearwater. Clearwater has a good youtube video also.

The V8 would cost a bit more even. So far I’m happy with the stats and reviews of the getaway and the clearwater.

The main visible differences are the total length of the vest, the length of width of the back padding, and the Getway has a nice non-ride-up strap (though don’t know if I’ll really need that).

You guys have way too much crap.

First life vest is a first life vest. Extrasport makes affordable comfortable lifevests with lots of pockets.

Five life vests. A vest for pool sessions. I’m confused.

Ryan L.

Pretty reasonable
chlorine is hard on a PFD.

My under drysuit PFD is larger than my summer PFD, to allow room for fleece under the drysuit.

Of course you start with one but more than one may come to play in the future.

High Back…
V8 or Clearwater… consider that the Astral is a four panel front and the clearwater is a two panel front - people find that this make a difference in fit.