What do I need in a New Kayaking PFD

How do you choose a new kayaking lifejacket?

I am looking for a new kayaking lifejacket. The hunt is on. I’ve had the same PFD from Kokatat for years, I love it, but all of the foam has been broken down over the last few years and is sort of squidging to the bottom. It looks like I don’t care about flotation when I wear it, so it’s time to give it up. They aren’t making the one I used to wear, so now I have to look for a new one.

A lifejacket is a very personal thing, you have to wear it all the time, and it has to fit, carry some gear and not get in the way. This is probably the most important piece of gear apart from, boat, paddle or skirt in my opinion.

So how do you choose a new PFD?

My criteria for a new kayaking PFD/Lifejacket is as follows:

  • low profile
  • good fit
  • minimal ride up when in the water
  • A few pockets to store snacks and my waterproof camera

To me a lifejacket is something you have to wear because it’s foolish to go without. So I try to make it as slim, low profile, and non-bulky as I can. I have tons of gear to put on that I need for coaching, warmth, and self-preservation, the Lifejacket is the one that always goes, so I try to think of it more as second skin than a daypack.

Here are few things that I am not considering in the new lifejacket and the reason why:

  • Integrated tow system. I have my own towbelt, and I like having a belt I can drop rather than a lifejacket system.
  • Super-pockety lifejackets. I really don’t need that much space, I would rather have a slimmer profile for rescues, forward stroke, and all of my efforts than to have 6 bulky pockets I may use 1/3 of the time.
  • O2 Lifejackets. I looked at them. And they seem to be mucho-expensive. Though Jeff Allen swears by them.

Here are a few of the Lifejackets, life-preserver, PFDs what have you that I am considering. (why did the coast guard have to change the designation from PFD to lifejacket again?….

Orbit Tour From Kokatat
The Orbit Tour from Kokatat , I tried on a Canoecopia felt great and seems to fit the bill, slim low profile and a couple of decent pockets, One for a radio one for the camera, done!

Ronin PFD Kokatat
The Ronin from Kokatat seems great, but it was a little bulky. But slightly better color choices, and better pocket options, but still a little too big.

Astral Willis PFD
The Astral Willis Buoyancy Aid seems to fit the low-profile, but I don’t see any pockets? Anyone have one or tried one on, send me a comment.

If anyone else knows of great lifejackets that fit the bill I haven’t considered send them along with links man, I really need the help.


  1. Tha Captain says…

    Make your own, Keith.

    I don’t think you could do any worse than what is on offer.

    Kokatat make great kit but their lifejackets need a major make over. Astral need to go sea kayak a little more and try a little less.

    Stolhquist have some nice ww jackets, once you remove half the foam.


    It’s always been a lifejacket.

    • Yeah I haven't see a lot of DIY lifejackets. I am betting someone has, I would love to see pictures of some homemade lifejackets. Somehow I would trust a home made lifejacket more than a homemade roof rack!

      500 Ply Cordura, High density foam, reflective tape, canvas straps, and buckles. Plus I love kokatat colors, bright and visible, but I would like to see a few more choices. How about a nice green, or a few shades of blue!