Choose The Best PFD For Recreational Kayaking: Size & Style Guide For Beginners

Feb 24, 2024

A personal flotation device (PFD) is essential to keep yourself safe in the water on your kayaking adventures. Kayaking Nation explains how to choose the best PFD for optimal safety and comfort!

Even if you’re a seasoned paddler, there is no excuse for not wearing a PFD when out on the water. We’ve all heard the saying ‘safety first’ and this should be your top priority, no matter what. Water can be unpredictable and, when accidents happen, it’s important to stay afloat! The right PFD can save your life, but which one should you choose?

Discover the best PFDs to suit your kayaking needs at

In its helpful guide, Kayaking Nation addresses the importance of personal flotation devices (PFDs) for ensuring your safety during kayaking activities. Providing information on the different types of PFD available, Kayaking Nation helps you make more informed decisions when choosing your next flotation device.

Think you don't need a PFD? Think again!

According to a 2021 study by Kayak Scout, there were 154 deaths relating to canoeing/kayaking accidents in this year alone. With accidents on the rise, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) now certifies and regulates all PFDs to ensure their effectiveness in various activities, including kayaking. While there is currently no law forcing you to wear one, it would be crazy not to put your safety first - a PFD can be the difference between life and death.

Selecting the Best PFD for Kayaking

As explained in the guide, kayakers should opt for a Type III or V PFD as these have been designed specifically with kayaking in mind. “Designed for comfort and freedom of movement during water activities like kayaking, these PFDs have less buoyancy than Type II but offer the same likelihood of turning an unconscious wearer face-up,” says Kayaking Nation.

With safety and comfort at the forefront, you should ensure you select the correct size PFD by accurately measuring your chest circumference. This is not the time for guesswork! The flotation device should fit snugly without restricting movement, states the guide, and should not be able to ride up the body. With a range of styles to choose from, including front-zip, side-zip and over-the-head types, you can select the best option to suit your body shape and mobility.

Kayaking Nation suggests opting for a PFD with adjustable straps to ensure a secure fit and recommends testing its movability before entering the water. Bright colors are recommended for visibility in an emergency, as well as rescue features such as whistles, strobe attachments and rescue tethers.

The guide explains how different PFDs cater to different kayaking activities, advising you to select your device based on its intended use. For example, fishing PFDs will require ample storage whereas sea kayaking PFDs will need to be durable and reflective for increased visibility in open water.

Care & Maintenance of PFDs

Kayaking Nation also provides tips for the care and maintenance of PFDs, from cleaning and storage to inspection and replacement. A spokesperson for the company said: “Timely replacement of any damaged equipment is essential for maintaining the highest level of safety. If your PFD shows signs of wear or damage, or if it no longer provides adequate buoyancy, it is time to invest in a new one. Regular care and maintenance, combined with vigilant inspections, will ensure that your PFD remains reliable and effective during your kayaking adventures.”

Ensure your safety when out on the water with a PFD. For help choosing yours, go to

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