How to Choose the Right Life Jacket for Kayaking

In the world of kayaking, accidents happen. A life jacket will keep you safe and afloat before people come to help you. It should be comfortable so it won’t ride up or pinch when wet – which can result in chafing and discomfort.

Here’s what kayakers should look out for when choosing a life jacket for a kayaking trip.

1. Buoyancy

This is the amount of upward force that keeps you afloat. The more buoyant it is, the higher your head will remain above the water.

To check for this, try on the jacket and hang your arms loosely at your sides. The life jacket should hold you up high enough so that when you tilt forward in a sitting position, your head is above the surface of the water.

2. Type of Paddling

The demands placed on life jackets differs depending on what type of paddling you do. For example: Sea and white-water river kayaking requires jackets that can withstand abrasion from rocks and other solid objects. These models have double layers which makes them heavier than regular vests.

Recreational kayaking in protected waters requires lightweight models that are easy to paddle in and sit comfortably.

3. Fit and Comfort

If it’s too tight or too loose, it could be dangerous. A loose or ill-fitting life jacket will shift around as you paddle. This can make it hard to swim and keep your head above water while sitting in an overturned kayak.

If it’s not snug enough to stay put when upside down, you may end up with your face submerged in water when you capsize.

4. Convenience and Usability

A life jacket that is too hard to put on could mean the difference between staying safe and drowning. Jackets with complicated closures, drawstrings, tabs and zippers are difficult to manage if you have limited mobility or are wearing bulky clothing.

Look for a model with an easy-to-use quick-release buckle that opens instantly using one hand.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when buying a life jacket for kayaking. However, before you make up your mind it’s worth checking out reviews from other kayakers online as well as asking friends what they recommend.