Kayaking & Paddling Lifejackets

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How To Choose A Kayak Lifejacket or Kayaking PFD

The most important factor when choosing the right kayak lifejacket, also known as a kayaking PFD, is fit and comfort! A kayak PFD is built specific to paddling and is designed with large armholes to keep the bulk of the flotation away from the shoulders and upper chest. This gives a paddler the fullest range of arm and upper body motion when wearing the PFD while kayaking. Many kayak PFD vests and lifejackets also include convenient features like zipper pockets for gear storage, and pouches for hydration bladders that can be mounted on the back of the PFD. It's important to have the right safety gear when out on the water kayaking, and a good PFD is no exception. Make sure you take the time to find the perfect kayak PFD for your next paddling adventure.

PFD Construction

Nylon is perhaps the most common PFD shell material because it is a tough, lightweight synthetic polymer. Relatively inexpensive to purchase, nylon life jackets are extremely durable and easy to clean. Though long-lasting, a nylon PFD is not smooth to the touch and can cause chafing around the neck or arm area after extended wear times. Neoprene is also a synthetic polymer used on some PFDs, but it’s constructed to have a softer feel and fit more comfortably around the body. Contoured fit, breathability, and more flexibility rank high on the list of pros, but a neoprene life jacket will often cost a little more as well. BioLite material looks and feels soft like neoprene, but it’s lighter weight since it contains no rubber foam. During construction, there is no lamination process or Volatile Organic Compounds, making this breathable material more environmentally friendly to produce.

PFD Care and Maintenance

Keeping your PFD properly cleaned and stored will ensure a longer life. Plus, kayakers can venture out in confidence knowing their PFD is in good condition and able to provide necessary protection in the event of an emergency. Always check life jackets before each paddling session. If any PFD show signs of deterioration, they should be discarded and replaced immediately. Lifejacket hardware and straps should be in good shape and firmly attached to the PFD. No significant tears or rips should be present on the life vest. Labels stating USCG approval ratings should be readable on all PFDs. Inspect CO2 cartridges of inflatable PFD vests to ensure they haven’t been discharged. Don’t use a PFD as a kneeling pad or seat as this will jeopardize its flotation characteristics. Don’t use harsh detergents or oils for cleaning your kayak lifejacket. Don’t sew any patches or monograms to your life jacket. Rinse PFD vests thoroughly with fresh water when you're done kayaking. Very mild detergents and a soft brush may be used to help loosen dirt and other stains. Allow all life jackets to completely air-dry before storage. Store your kayak PFD in an area with good ventilation to prevent mold and mildew formations.

Don't forget to check out our huge selection of kayak clothing, kayak drysuits, drytops, paddling jackets, and wetsuit. We carry the top brands including Kokatat, Stohlquist, and NRS.