Our Top 5 Best Womens PFD For Kayaking And How To Choose

by Julie | Last Updated:   April 11th, 2022
Our Top 5 Best Womens PFD For Kayaking And How To Choose


Ladies, if you are looking to get into kayaking, or are an experienced kayaker just looking to update your gear then this article is for you. Kayaking is a phenomenal outdoor sport for anyone and everyone. It’s a great exercise that gets you outdoors on the water where it is fun, relaxing, and fulfilling. Plenty of people kayak just for enjoyment and adventure, and fishermen love it too because it’s like a whole new way to fish.

However, when you’re out paddling you want to be safe, and the way you do that is by having a good life vest that fits you comfortably so it doesn’t hinder your paddling or how you sit in your kayak. For women especially it can be hard getting the right kind of life vest because they’re either too big, or too bulky, and can really get in the way.

In this article, we will provide you with our list of the top 5 best women’s life vests for kayaking. We will detail what features we look for that make them stand out from others, and why you should consider one of these as the best life jacket to keep you safe and comfortable the next time you’re out kayaking.

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

Reviewing The 5 Best Womens PFD For Kayaking

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports CGA Life Vest

The Onyx Movevent Dynamic Paddle Life Vest is a comfortable and ergonomic life jacket designed specifically for women paddlers. It features adjustable straps for the shoulders with neoprene padding so it doesn’t dig into your skin, large armholes, and mesh panels that offer ventilation to stay cool in hot weather as well as drain water.

This life jacket provides two zippered pockets that also have small mesh panels so that the pockets can drain if they get filled with water. This way if you keep things like snacks, a camera, phone, or car keys in your pocket it won’t hold water. Still, you should be keeping anyone one of those items in a ziplock bag or waterproof case if they aren’t already waterproof.

The zipper assist at the base of the zipper is US Coast Guard approved, and the nylon material features SOLAS grade reflectivity so that you will be visible to other boaters while kayaking. Also featuring foam panels in the life vest vary in size to provide a comfortable custom fit. There is a size chart you can reference to find the appropriate chest measurements to ensure that you can find one that will fit you: XS/S is 28 inches to 36 inches, Medium/Large is 36 inches to 44 inches, and Extra Large/ 2X is 44 inches to 56 inches.

This women’s model PFD comes with several different amenities such as the expandable zippered pockets, reflective material for visibility, mesh on the lower back is designed for higher seats, coast guard approved zip assist, a double crimp and funnel entry, and an attached whistle to provide extra safety precautions.

Pros
  • Comfortable and easy to move in
  • Drains and dries quickly when it gets fully saturated
  • Customers claim that it is perfect for kayaking
Cons
  • Sizing isn’t accurate or comfortable for women with a larger bust. The life jacket doesn’t fit correctly
  • There are no other securing straps to keep the life vest on you if the zipper breaks or fails
  • A few customers have complained of it being too bulky, especially for water sports like kayaking

Onyx Universal Paddle Kayak Life Vest

Here is another great women’s life vest that is also designed to be a comfortable fit for kayaking and other water sports. Designed for optimum paddle performance with a flex-cut configuration that has the foam perforated and tapered so that the front of the life jacket isn’t too bulky and thick, which makes it easier for paddling.

This is a low-profile kayaking life vest that is lightweight and provides a custom snug fit. There are 6 adjustment straps: the padded shoulder straps, and 2 side straps on both sides of the life jacket. This allows you to cinch it down to whatever is comfortable and fitting for you.

It also features the half-cool mesh backing that provides much-needed ventilation on those hot summer days on the water. There is a single large pocket on the front for you to store whatever you need to.

This women’s PFD comes in a universal style or oversize style. Between the two they cover almost all women’s body types. The universal fits 30-52 inch chest sizes, while oversize fits 40-60 inch sizes. This is a great type III vest for different paddle sports!

Pros
  • Fits excellently for women of all sizes
  • Customers claim that it is an excellent balance of affordability and quality. Plenty of mobility for paddling
  • It doesn’t rub on your neck
  • The mesh back ensures that it doesn’t ride up when leaning back against your seat
Cons
  • Some customers found it thicker than expected
  • Others have had difficulty with zipping the life vest

Awesafe Adult Watersport Universal Vest

These Awesafe life jackets are another excellent choice when it comes to finding the right flotation devices for you. They have several great features and are made from high-quality materials to offer you the most comfortable and secure fit. Like the previously listed PFDs (personal flotation devices) this one is designed with maximum mobility in mind.

The shoulder straps are made from quality neoprene diving fabric that prevents chaffing and rubbing. There are two additional adjustment straps on the sides so you can cinch them down to your desired fit. For added visibility and safety are the SOLAS reflective straps on both the front and back if the life jacket. The sizes consist of XS/S 28-36 inch chest size, M/L is for 36-44 inch chests, XL/XXL is for 44-56 inch chest sizes.

When it comes to amenities this PFD provides you with two large zippered pockets that have drainage mesh to keep your valuables and materials secure. There is a pocket on the back panel as well. The mesh lower portion of the back is breathable and offers added comfort when sitting in a kayak and prevent ride up.

It is a lightweight and affordable PFD that is ideal for boating, water skiing, kayak fishing, paddling, and more. With safety in mind, the flotation foam of this life vest is designed to keep you in a stable face-up while floating in calm waters.

Pros
  • Customers found this life jacket provides more functions and better quality than others
  • Better placement of the foam and the 2 expandable zippered pockets are excellent for storing your items
  • They look great and are very comfortable
  • Easy to paddle and kayak in
Cons
  • Didn’t hold up well in saltwater
  • Zipper can be difficult to zip up

Stohlquist Women’s Flo Lifejacket

This is a US coast guard approved life vest and one of the best women’s PFDs on this list. What makes this one stand out? It’s overall performance, features, and quality. This is a life jacket specifically for women and is designed with that in mind. If you are looking for the perfect kayak life jacket then this might just be the one.

First, it offers graded sizing which means that it is an appropriate fit for a wider range of users than other life jackets like it. Shaped just for women, with a shortened torso section, smaller cut, and even has supportive inner cups. This is meant to fit snuggly and comfortably to a woman’s body.

Featuring a higher mesh back design than all the other life jackets before it, this gives it more clearance and allows you to sit comfortably in tall-backed seats. Also, there are adjustable chest straps. These cross-chest cinch straps act almost as a harness to make sure that this PFD is a secure fit and won’t cause any ride-up that will make it uncomfortable. The front also sports two spacious pockets to fit any of your small necessities.

It has a sea-level buoyancy rating of 16 pounds and 4 ounces making this type III life jacket excellent for safety and easy swimming ability and mobility. Again this is a life jacket designed specifically to fit women’s bodies and offer the most amount of comfort and safety while kayaking, boating, water skiing, or even whitewater rafting!

Pros
  • Adjusts in all the right places to make a perfect fit
  • The floatation pad in the back ensures that you can sit all the way back in your seat and still be comfortable
  • Performs great for whitewater rafting and the mesh back allows for excellent breathability
  • Customers say that the pockets are really convenient and work great
Cons
  • The zipper may be a little difficult to zip up
  • A couple of customers say that it’s a bit too bulky

Yukon Sport Paddle Life Vest

If you’re looking to stay cool and comfortable, then this may be the life jacket for you. The Yukon Sport is a little different from the rest of the women’s life jackets on this list. It covers all the basics but with not quite as many amenities and perks as the other ones. But sometimes simpler is much better.

This life jacket features a segmented body and chest shelf that will accommodate any and all users. This hinged and segmented body adds to optimal ventilation and increased ease of motion. The mesh backing also adds more breathability so that you can stay cool in warm weather when you’re paddling. There are drain vents on the sides as well so if you flip or simply go into the water, this life jacket will drain and dry quickly.

The shoulder pads are made from a neoprene material to ensure they’re comfortably cushioned and won’t dig into the skin. It also has a Radical EZ pull side zipper to make it easier when zipping into this PFD. Most of the complaints with the other ones all stated that the zipper could be difficult to do, this one is designed to have less of a problem with that.

There are reflective stripes on the front for added visibility when you are paddling in low light. This is a lightweight performance paddle vest that is designed to do everything you need it to and keep it simple. It does not have any pockets but provides excellent ventilation, arm movability, and a nice snug fit.

Pros
  • Isn’t abrasive on the arms while paddling
  • Comfortable fit even for larger chested women
  • Performs excellently in a kayak
  • Plenty of room in the straps for adjusting as you see fit
  • The offset zipper is much more convenient
Cons
  • No front pockets
  • No reflective stripes on the back
  • Might run a bit large

Our Top Choice

If we had to pick one women’s life jacks to be the best PFD, then that would have to be the Stohlquist Women’s Flo Lifejacket. This one just stood out a bit more compared to all the rest. This is because of its features, amenities, and the way it fits. Customers loved this one for a reason, and there was very little you could say bad about it.

It fits perfectly on any woman’s body with plenty of adjustment in the straps as you need it. The foam panels aren’t too thick and wrap nicely around the body, while the high mesh backing allows for you to sit comfortably without the worry of the life jacket riding up your neck on you.

It is US coast guard approved and features a lightweight and durable construction so that you can wear it time and time again.

There are two large button pockets on the front so you can put any of your small necessities in there. Anything that you prefer to keep on your person while kayaking. It also features supportive inner cups that will make it more comfortable for women.

When it comes to women’s PFDs the Stohlquist Flo Lifejacket is the best women’s life vest on this list. It’ll keep you safe, comfortable, and still have all the ease of motion you need to paddle!

Women’s PFD Buyers Guide: How To Choose

Finding the right life jackets for women can be difficult. None of them fit the same, and some women will fit better into certain life vests than others. That’s why it is important to do your research and look around to find the one that will fit you best. It may also be up to the matter of personal preference.

Some women may want the inner cups for additional support or want additional straps or a waist belt to be able to adjust more or want a life jacket that is easy to zipper. There is no end to the list of personal preferences you may have, which is why we put together a list of the best women’s PFDs that we could find.

How did we put this list together, and what features were we looking for to find the best quality? Let’s go over the criteria we put together to find the best women’s PFD for water sports:

Materials

Material can make a difference and you want your life vests made from a quality material that is durable and comfortable for any water sports you’ll be participating in. The best kind of material you want is either nylon or neoprene, or a mixture of the two.

Nylon is a cheaper material whose filling is usually made from many life jackets. It is still durable and can be comfortable. It is the more affordable option of the two and what you will see most kayakers wearing. They drain and dry quickly and will keep you cool on hot days.

Neoprene life jackets are more expensive, but neoprene material is soft and comfortable. It is the same material that divers have on their wet suits. These kinds of life jackets can be a little heavier and sometimes hold water a little longer, but if it is mixed with a mesh back or sides then that will add ventilation and extra drainage.

You can also find mixtures where the life jacket is primarily made of nylon but the shoulder straps are neoprene to add extra comfort and softness so they don’t dig into your skin or rub too much.

Size

Size is important because you want to find the right fitting PFD for your body. Not all life jackets run the same, just like with clothes some run small or some run large. That is why you should look at not only the sizing chart provided to make sure you get the right chest measurements, but the reviews as well because that is where people will tell you if they tend to run large or small.

Also, knowing how much you can adjust the straps on it make a difference as well. You want a life jacket that allows you room for adjustment as your own body will fluctuate through the years, so find one that fits you not just at the time, but in the future. This is necessary for the longevity of this important piece of kayaking gear.

Features

The quality of life features and amenities that come with picking out life jackets can be the deciding factor for some people. These consist of things like waist belts, chest straps, pockets, mesh, and more. Why do you want these kinds of features? Because they make your life easier and more comfortable when you are out kayaking, canoeing, or even paddleboarding.

Having pockets that you can keep your smaller necessities in like your phone, car keys, camera, snacks, or sunscreen offers a bit of convenience when you can easily access them instead of having to dig through your pack or open a compartment on your kayak.

In the case of waist belts and chest straps, sometimes it’s just better and more secure to have more straps. Having more straps means you have more ways to adjust your PFD to find that perfect fit.

The position or make of the foam paneling can make a difference too because some may prefer the flotation positioned low on their body because it could make it easier for paddling, or having an anatomically sculpted front panel will make it slimmer, more comfortable, and a good snug fit.

Finally, the mesh back whether it is positioned high or low is just a great feature because it will help you to stay cool in warm weather by giving your life vest more breathability. Also, it will sit more comfortably against high backing seats.

When it comes to finding the right women’s PFD these are all features you should look for.

Conclusion: Why Is Wearing A PFD So Important?

Everyone knows the answer to this question, but that doesn’t mean everyone takes it seriously and does what they are supposed to. Your personal floatation device (PFD) is made to keep you safe in the case of an emergency or accident. If you are in a situation where maybe you roll or flip your kayak, your life jacket is the thing that will save your life. It helps you float and will keep your head above water.

People love to have fun on the water and this means accidents could happen, especially if you’re drinking, but even if you are not. There is always the potential of something happening like falling and hitting your head on something whether on the surface or underwater and you end up in the water, you could drown. As long as you wear your life vest the chances of you drowning are cut way down.

Think about children, not all of them know how to swim, so it is imperative that they have their life jackets on at all times whenever they are near the water. Most parents know this and follow it to a “T” because they are worried. Why not do the same for yourself, just because you are an adult and thus may know how to swim or touch the bottom, does not mean there is any less chance of an accident occurring where you might drown.

So, do your research and find the right life vest for you so that you can be prepared and comfortable while participating and a variety of water sports.

Be smart and be safe on the water. Wear your life jacket!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of PFD is best for kayaking?

As in our list above: type III life jackets are the best and most commonly used for kayaking. Type III is what you see people wearing in most water sports. This kind of life jacket is best in calm or inland waters, and when there is a chance of quick rescue. That said, it does not have the capability to turn an unconscious person over onto their back so they are face-up.

They are best for kayaking because many kayakers will be in calm, inland waters, and when incidents occur it is simply they have accidentally roller their kayak. This life jacket still ensures you are floated to the surface quickly and keeps you there so you can re-orient yourself in this kind of situation.

What is the most comfortable women’s PFD for kayaking?

As per our choice for best women’s PFDs that would be the Stohlquist Women’s Flo Lifejacket. Stohlquist makes life jackets for everyone as well, not just women, and they are very high quality and very highly rated. They are comfortable, not too bulky, and allow optimal mobility for paddling. They also feature pockets, chest cinch straps, and a high mesh backing which are all quality of life features that make your paddle trip easier and more enjoyable.

Do you need a special life vest for kayaking?

The simple answer is no. You really don’t need a special life vest to go kayaking, you can use any life jacket, just not all of them will be the most comfortable or easy to move in. The importance here is to always wear your life jacket when you’re kayaking because being safe takes precedence over being comfortable.

If you are new to kayaking then it is good to look up different life jackets so that you can get a feel for what you may want and what would work best for you. If you have friends that are into kayaking then ask them so they can steer you in the right direction as well. If this is going to be a sport that you regularly participate in, then it would be well worth your time and money to find a life jacket that fits you and is comfortable to sit and paddle in.

Are inflatable PFDs good for kayaking?

Yes, as we stated above, any PFD is a good one to use as long as it keeps you safe and is coast guard approved. Inflatable PFDs are used most by fishermen and kayakers. They are convenient because they are significantly less bulky and more form-fitting because they are essentially flat until they are inflated. They don’t offer you all the perks of pockets, mesh, and various adjusting straps, but they are simple and don’t take up nearly as much room. Do be aware they tend to be far more expensive!

I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.