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The Best Life Jackets For Inflatable Boats And Kayaks

Did you know that you need a life jacket whenever you’re out on the water, even if you’re in an inflatable boat or a kayak? It’s true. The same laws regarding life jackets that apply to traditional boats also apply to these vessels.

Not only do you need a life jacket, but you need one that fits and is comfortable. It needs to allow you to move around comfortably so you can do everything you want to do while on your boat, while still providing safety in case of an accident.

The Best Life Jackets For Inflatable Boats And Kayaks

Finding the right life jacket can be tough, but we are here for you. Below, you will find our favorite life jackets for use on inflatable boats and kayaks. Choose one, make sure it fits, and get out on the water to enjoy yourself soon?

Air up an inflatable boat using a foot pump and an electric pump video

Life Jacket Reviews

These are the life jackets that we prefer for use on inflatable boats or kayaks. Choose the one that appeals to you or that best suits your needs, then get yourself out on the water ASAP.

1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

Onyx 122200-600-020-18 Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Vest Adult Purple XS/SM

This life jacket was designed for kayaking and other paddle sports. However, it also works extremely well in other marine situations, such as on an inflatable boat.

The MoveVent features an intuitive design that is both form-fitting and flexible. It won’t get in your way while you are fishing, paddling, or just moving around on your boat.

It’s also supporting, featuring bubble-filled padding on the upper back and a mesh arch support for the lower back. These allow it to help you stay more comfortable when you’re out on the water all day.

Narrow, neoprene shoulder straps, as well as adjustable, open sides, add to your mobility out on the water. Whether you’re paddling or fishing, you’ll be able to move your arms with ease.

The MoveVent is made from ripstop nylon and utilizes oxford construction techniques. These make it extremely durable and help you get a long life out of your investment.

What we like

  • The MoveVent offers maximal flotation and mobility for a vest of this type.
  • The life jacket offers safety features, like SOLAS-grade reflective patches and an attached whistle.
  • Creature comforts on this jacket include a zip-assist loop, a drying look, and a zippered pocket with its own mesh drainage.
  • You can wear this life jacket on a kayak or an inflatable boat, or any other time you’re out on the water.

What we don’t like

  • The life jacket does fit large, so you may need to experiment with sizes before you find the one that is right for you.

2. NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD

NRS cVest Type III PFD Adjustable Adult Sea Kayak Life Jacket Vest with Mesh Back, Lime, L/XL

The cVest is another life jacket that, while designed for kayaking and other paddle sports, could be used by anyone who is out on the water. The only thing we wouldn’t recommend it for is use on commercial vessels.

The cVest features flotation that is oriented high on your back, so it won’t interfere with your kayak’s seat. The lower back section features a mesh panel that will offer optimal ventilation no matter how long you’re out on the water.

Six adjustment points mean that you can tailor this life jacket to your needs. Tighten it here, loosen it there, and get the best fit that you’ve ever had from a life jacket.

High-grade ripstop nylon makes this life jacket hard to damage and a variety of storage options mean that you can have everything you need at your fingertips. Stay organized so you can enjoy the water even more!

What we like

  • The cVest is a solid all-around life jacket for kayaking, inflatable boats, and more.
  • Lash tabs, D-rings, and multiple zippered pockets allow you to carry more while wearing this vest than what most life jackets allow.
  • The cVest marries freedom of movement with optimal safety features, giving you the best of both worlds.
  • Multiple adjustment points mean that one of these life vests could fit a number of different people.

What we don’t like

  • While the high placement of flotation foam allows this life jacket to fit in most kayaking seats, it is uncomfortable for some people to wear.

3. Astral Ronny Life Jacket

Astral Ronny Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing, and Touring Kayaking, Ocean Blue, L/XL

The Astral Ronny is designed to fit into small kayak seats and allow for free movement, all while providing the water safety you need. It features a mesh base inside the jacket that helps you stay cool, no matter how long or how hard you paddle.

Unlike some of the other vests we’ve mentioned, the Ronny features thin foam all the way down the back of the vest. If having most of the flotation up top is uncomfortable for you, this may be a better option.

Freedom of motion is the name of the game with the Ronny. Its front panel sits lower on the body, in contrast to some other, similar life jackets. The shoulder straps are narrow and light, so they should not get in your way.

The vest won’t ride up near your face, either. The whole thing is fully adjustable, so you can make it sit on your body in a way that is comfortable for you. It features pockets, an attached whistle, and extremely durable construction.

What we like

  • If you get annoyed when life jackets ride up by your neck or face, this may be the solution you’ve been looking for.
  • The attached whistle makes the vest even safer because you can call for help even if you can’t scream.
  • Foam all the way down the back makes for a more even construction and will be more comfortable for some people, and it does not compromise the functionality of the vest.
  • The vest is PVC-free and, whenever possible, made of reused and recycled materials.

What we don’t like

  • While it has ample pockets, the vest does not feature a single D-ring. You cannot attach anything to the vest this way, which may limit the number of resources you can have to hand while wearing it.

4. Stohlquist Flo Women’s Life Jacket

Some women find that traditional life jackets just don’t work for them. If this is you, then take a look at the Stohlquist Flo Women’s Life Jacket. It is designed with your body and your particular needs in mind!

Stohlquist Flo Women's PFD Mango M/L

Specifically, the Flo features a smaller cut, supportive inner cups, a shortened torso, and a different-shaped middle section. Female paddles report that these changes make a huge difference and keep them more comfortable out on the water.

This vest doesn’t sacrifice quality. It features top-of-the-line ripstop nylon, so it will not tear or get punctured easily. It offers the same nylon lower-back section that we have seen featured in other vests so that it will not interfere with a kayak’s seat.

Fully adjustable shoulder straps allow it to fit a variety of bodies while remaining both snug and comfortable. An inner mesh lining, combined with lightweight PE foam, will help you stay cool no matter how long you paddle or how hot it is outside.

What we like

  • This life jacket is tailored for women and it shows, given the number of women who love this option.
  • The Flo is an extremely durable life jacket, standing up to testing time and time again.
  • It’s easy to overheat in a life jacket, but not in the Flo. It will keep you cool throughout all of your paddling adventures
  • The Flo, while designed for kayaking, is a great multi-purpose life jacket for women.

What we don’t like

  • Storage on the Flo is limited and the pockets it does have close with snaps instead of velcro or a zipper.

5. Stohlquist Nemo Child Life Jacket

Children need life jackets that are fitted for their bodies and suited for their needs. The Stohlquist Nemo is both.

Stohlquist Child Lifejacket (PFD)-Aqua/Pink-Child

When you’re buying a life jacket for a child, you want one that your child will love. The Nemo allows for free movement, is comfortable both inside and outside of the water, and provides all the protection you’ve been looking for.

The Nemo features a double collar. This puts flotation where your child needs it most and also provides a comfortable place for their head to rest while they are floating in the water. It prevents extra motion while in the water, too, and keeps the child face-up until they can be rescued.

Finally, the collar features a large handle that is easy to grasp. If you ever need to pull your child back on land or back on board a kayak or inflatable boat, this handle makes them easy to grab so you can save them.

What we like

  • Kids love this life jacket and are more than willing to wear it when they are in and around the water.
  • This life jacket is more comfortable when floating than some, with the collar acting almost as a pillow for the head.
  • The grab-handle makes hauling a child out of the water or up a ladder easier than ever.
  • The Nemo is durable and can stand up to your child’s hardest playing.

What we don’t like

  • The strap that goes between the legs may not fit children who are tall for their age and weight.

6. Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket, Blue

Onyx also makes a superb inflatable life jacket. The A/M 24 is perfect for kayakers and inflatable boaters who are older than 16 and who are very confident in the water. Just strap on the padded harness and know that you’ll be safe if you fall in the water.

The A/M-24 can be operated either automatically or manually. If the jacket senses that it has been submerged, it will automatically inflate. If you ever feel unsafe and you want the jacket inflated, simply pull the red handle and the jacket will inflate instantly.

You can also choose to set the jacket to manual inflation only. This is only recommended for people who are extremely confident when on the water or those who only plan to be in waters shallow enough for them to touch the ground.

The A/M-24 is durable and extremely lightweight. It will help you stay cool and fit into any kayak or boat that you want to use. If the inflatable is your best choice, this is the life jacket for your next adventure.

What we like

  • Automatic inflation options mean you never have to worry about what will happen if you become disoriented or unconscious in the water.
  • Manual inflation allows you to control when you get help and when you simply swim back to your watercraft.
  • This life jacket will fit anywhere, including kayak seats and other small spaces.
  • These life jackets can last for a long time as they are difficult to damage or harm.

What we don’t like

  • While the inflation device is easy to rearm, it does mean purchasing a new rearming kit. An accidental submersion and ensuring automatic inflation can render the vest useless until it gets rearmed properly.

Conclusion

Our top choice when it comes to the best life jacket for an inflatable kayak or another inflatable boat is the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest. It is reasonably and competitively priced and offers most water aficionados everything they need in a life jacket.

From the large armholes to the lower back support, this is a comfortable vest. It’s also fully functional and, when sized and work properly, could save your life.

If you’re looking for the best life jacket to wear on an inflatable kayak or another inflatable boat, look no further than the Onyx MoveVent today.

Women who want a life jacket specific to their bodies should look at the Stohlquist Flo Women’s Life Jacket. If you’re buying for a child, consider the Stohlquist Nemo first. And if you want an inflatable life jacket, you can’t get one better than the Onyx A/M-24.

Once you’ve purchased your life jacket and sized it appropriately, nothing is stopping you from going out on the water soon. Remember to wear your new life vest and have a great time!


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