life jackets paddle boarding

11 Best Life Jackets For Paddle Boarding [2021 Update]

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Hey Adventure Junkies! It is essential to wear life jackets whenever you are out on the water for paddle boarding. But, how do you pick the best life jackets for paddle boarding that fit you? 

If you are like me, you want a paddle board life vest that keeps you safe, comfortable, and meets your needs, but also looks cool, right?

With so many choices in the market,  it is pretty challenging to find the one that fits you.

But, do not worry! Paddle boarding enthusiast  WWB writer Najlaa has got you covered with the 11 best life jackets for paddle boarding and important features to consider when looking for the best PFD for paddle boarding.

The 11 Best Life Jackets for Paddle Boarding

  1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
  2. Stohlquist Edge Life Vest
  3. NRS Ninja Life Jacket
  4. Onyx M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack
  5. Astral GreenJacket Life Jacket
  6.  Astral YTV Life Jacket
  7. NRS Women’s Siren Kayak Life Jacket
  8. Stearn 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack
  9. NRS Vapor PFD
  10. Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
  11. Stearn Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest

DISCLOSURE

Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.

life jackets paddle boarding

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1.Best Budget Paddle Boarding Jacket: Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

This life jacket is one of the best paddle board life jackets currently available in the market at a reasonable price. The design of Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is specifically for comfort and usability.

Many have said that this jacket is one of the most comfortable life jackets they have ever worn. 

Built from heavy-duty nylon material, complete with floatation foam and neoprene shoulder pads, making them lightweight and flexible life jackets that fit your body.

Along with the jacket, it comes with back and front mesh that offers you more breathable and fresh wearing. Hence, making the perfect paddle board PFD (personal floating device) that provides comfort.

In terms of security, this is a type III USCG (US Coast Guard) approved vest equipped with a SOLAS grade reflective to increase the jacket visibility and safety whistle for emergencies.

The only downside of this jacket is that the pocket is way too small. But, it is better than not having one at all. 

Pros:

  • Mesh panels that provide proper airflow and comfort
  • SOLAS grade reflective that provides extra visibility on the jacket.
  • Attach with the safety whistle
  • Suitable for various watersports
  • Budget-friendly
  • Attractive design

Cons:

  • The zipper pocket is too small

2.Stohlquist Edge Life Vest

Another outstanding SUP life jacket is from Stohlquist Edge

With an ergonomic Wrapture design, a 4-way shoulder adjuster, wide armholes, and mesh sides maximize comfort and unparalleled mobility all through the day.

This jacket is one of the most versatile life jackets for paddle boarding

Since it is a type III life jacket, this jacket is suitable to use for all watersports. 

The Edge also comes in graded sizes, which helps in providing you with a life jacket that fits you perfectly. However, to some peddlers, they feel this jacket is pretty small and fit for slimmer people. 

So, it is advisable for you to size up if you are unsure of the size.

The jacket also includes 3M reflective accents to increase visibility in case of any unexpected occurrences. Furthermore, there is a roomy top-loading pocket at the front, which is pretty handy in keeping your belongings. 

Pros:

  • Comfortable and high mobility
  • 3M Reflective accents to increase visibility
  • Large top-loading pocket
  • Versatile life jacket

Cons:

  • Sizes run small (need to choose one size bigger)

3.NRS Ninja Life Jacket

NRS Ninja is a perfect USCG approved paddle boarding jacket that fits adults with shorter torsos or kids that have grown out of the youth jacket range.

Many experienced paddlers and kayakers love this life jacket since it provides plenty of comfort and mobility that makes their paddling easier with its soft PVC-free floatation foam panels.

With its six adjustment points, this life jacket will offer a custom and secure fit according to your size, which prevents the jacket from slipping out from your body.

They also come with breathable AirMesh fabrics on the shoulder and inner panels to provide ventilation to the whole jacket.

The neon colour option not only makes this paddle board buoyancy aid attractive but also easy to spot when you are out on the water.

Pros:

  • Adjustable according to your body size
  • Perfect for people with short torsos
  • AirMesh fabrics provide good ventilation 
  • Attractive colour options
  • Larger front pocket 

Cons:

  • It can be bulky for some people

4.Best Paddle Board Life Jacket Belt: Onyx M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack

If you are looking for the best life belts for paddle boarding, you should check out for Onyx M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack.

This USCG-approved type V PFD is excellent for people who prefer a life jacket that provides freedom with their movements (like me!). 

Besides that, this life belt is so lightweight that you barely notice it around your waist. 

Onyx life belts only come in a size that fits waist up to 52 inches and chest between 30 to 52 inches. Therefore, it is suitable for any paddlers that are over 80 pounds and above 16 years old.

This life jacket inflated manually. In case of emergency,  pull the bright yellow cord sitting at the side of the belt to activate the CO2 cartridge. Once inflated, it can provide additional buoyancy of up to 26.5lbs, and it sits closer to your chin to keep your head afloat.

There is also an oral inflation tube available on the life belt to provide extra buoyancy.

Though it does not have a pocket, it does come with a D-ring attachment to attach your key, whistle, or any small accessories. 

Pros:

  • No restriction in movement
  • Very lightweight and comfortable
  • Suitable for both men and women
  • Perfect for the summer season

Cons:

  • Only come with one CO2 cartridge 
  • Not suitable for non-swimmers

5.Astral GreenJacket Life Jacket

This life vest is one of the most expensive life jackets for paddle boarding. But, if you look at the overall quality, Astral GreenJacket is worth owning if you have an extra budget.

This life jacket is chosen by the world’s best paddlers and kayakers as the top buoyancy aid for paddle boarding since it has outstanding safety features and comfort

Especially for rescuers or those who prefer paddling in harsh conditions, this would be an excellent choice for them.

The design and construction of the Astral life jacket are pretty spectacular. Made with 200 and 500 Denier Cordura Nylon with PVC-Free Gaia and PE-foam makes it a very durable and environment-friendly life jacket. 

Moreover, it is also a Type III USCG approved jacket with a buoyancy rating of 16.4lbs. 

Hence, it means that it will keep you afloat even in rough conditions. It also has a two-panel fit system that helps you to provide comfort and mobility throughout the day.

In addition, the jacket comes with multiple pocket compartments, rope storage, web toe storage, and a quick-release rescue harness which is perfect for rescuers.

However, that extra storage does come with a price where it can be bulky for some. Also, it can cause difficulty when climbing a boat, particularly for short people.

Pros:

  • Chosen by the world’s best paddlers and kayakers
  • High durability and environment-friendly
  • Comfortable with maximum mobility
  • Suitable for rescuers
  • Multiple storage compartments

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • It can be bulky for some people
  • It can be uncomfortable for women

6.Best Mid-range Life Jackets for Paddle Boarding: Astral YTV Life Jacket

One of the top mid-range paddle board PFD is the Astral YTV life jacket. In addition, it is also famous as one of the most trendy life jackets for paddle boarding due to its exciting colours.

This life jacket meant to last for many adventurers as a Type V pullover made from 200 x 400 Denier Ripstop Nylon

On top of that, its heavy-duty nylon liner promotes better heat and water absorption. Thus, it offers lighter and warmer wear.

Its excellent design made this life jacket super lightweight ( only 1.76lbs)

Featuring a torso lock fit, it will ensure you snug and proper fit without ruining the comfort of the entire paddle boarding experience. 

Likewise, on colder days, you can use the two front zipper pockets to warm up your hands as well as stashing snacks or essential items.

Pros:

  • Super lightweight and comfort
  • Easy adjustable to fit your body size
  • Build to last long
  • Suitable for colder days
  • Exciting colours

Cons:

  • Pullover might be difficult for some
  • Small pockets

7.Best Women’s Life Jacket For Paddle Boarding: NRS Women’s Siren Kayak Life Jacket

The NRS Siren is an impressive women’s life vest for paddle boarding that is designed to fit women.

The issue that most women face with a life jacket is that they always feel tight and uncomfortable around the chest area.

Unlike most life vests, the Siren design comes with six-panel soft foam that makes this life jacket very comfortable to wear as it follows the shape of your body.

The large armhole helps in providing plenty of chest room for freedom of motion.

 Hence, this makes it a great women’s paddle board life vest.

The adjustable padded shoulder and side straps offer a secure fit to ensure the jacket stays. Meanwhile, the reflective accent provides extra visibility for extra safety.

On top of that, the life jacket also comes with inner mesh panels. These mesh panels are excellent in keeping you cool and fresh throughout the day, especially during kayaking.

There is also a front zipper pocket included on the jacket. But, the size is too small to fit a mobile phone. Yet, you can still keep some money or keys easily.

Pros:

  • Design for women
  • Comfortable and snug fit
  • Maximum mobility 
  • Plenty of chest room
  • Type III USCG approved

Cons:

  • Only one pocket
  • Pocket size is too small

8.Stearn 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack

The Stearn 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack is another exceptional life belt for paddle boarding. 

Since it has a low-profile and compact design, this Type V life belt is perfect for paddlers who hate to wear a traditional life vest. The reason is that it provides ultimate freedom to paddlers. 

Hence, it will not interfere with paddling your board.

Besides that, this life vest is so easy to use. In case of emergency, you just need to pull the cord, and it will immediately inflate. 

Plus, it has an adjustable neck strap that provides better stability when you are in the water.

After using the life belt, you need to rearm the belt with a CO2 rearming kit to reuse it. Otherwise, you need to inflate it manually. 

This PFD comes in a universal size that can fit adults that are over 80lbs and with a chest size between 30 and 52 inches. It also comes in attractive bright colours that for sure help to increase visibility.

Pros:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Unlimited mobility
  • Easy to use
  • Adjustable neck strap for stability
  • Attractive colour options

Cons:

  • A little pricey
  • Not suitable for non-swimmers and kids

9.NRS Vapor PFD

If you are tall and have a narrow torso, then NRS Vapor PFD might be the one for you.

The Vapor is a Type III USCG approved life jacket. It comes with a six-panel design with ultra-soft foams that keep the jacket lightweight and provide a smooth wrap to your torso for a snug fit.

Plus, it is constructed with low-cut sides to create space for maximum movement, particularly for taller paddlers. 

Apart from that, this paddle board buoyancy aid is made from high durability fabrics together with a reflective accent to increase visibility. Padded shoulder straps also included for soft and secure wear. 

All these make the Vapor an amazing PFD. But, it is pretty disappointing that the new Vapor life jacket no longer has a hand warmer pouch and zipper pockets. Otherwise, it will be excellent life jackets for paddle boarding. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight and snug fit
  • Provide maximum movement
  • Great for taller people 
  • Multiple colour options

Cons:

  • They removed the hand warmer pouch and zipper pockets
  • Size runs small 

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

You will be amazed by some of the features of the Onyx A/M-24 life jacket.

This SUP life jacket equipped with the ability to convert from automatic/manual to manual only inflation. 

This feature is famous among paddlers. The reason is that they can turn on/off the auto/manual inflation based on the activities they are doing. While some activities might require auto inflation, others are just fine with manual inflation.

For auto inflation, the PFD will automatically inflate upon immersion in water. However, manual inflation requires you to pull the Jerk to Inflate handle to activate it.

Thanks to its low profile design, it offers fresh and airy wear to paddlers, even in warm weather.

Aside from that, included with the PFD is stretchable flex-back, which helps in giving you comfort and fit various body types that are over 80 lbs.

Like most life jackets for paddle boarding, this jacket also has reflective piping features that provide visibility for extra safety and some small pockets that fit CO2 canisters.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and comfortable 
  • Quick inflation when triggered
  • Made from high durability material
  • Pockets to store extra CO2
  • Suitable for any watersports
  • Type V USCG approved

Cons:

  • Rearming kits is pretty costly
  • Not suitable for non-swimmers
  • Not for kids under 16 years old

11.Stearn Adult Watersport Classic Series Vest

Are you on a tight budget? But looking for a life jacket for paddle boarding that is flexible and comfy, look no further for this Type I life jacket, the Stearn Classic Series.

Despite their basic features and classic looks, the PFD gets the job done by keeping you safe out on the water. 

Besides that, it has been so popular among paddlers for many years due to its incredible durability.   

Although, you may find the jacket is not the best life jacket for paddle boarding. Yet, it is still great for beginner paddle boarders and also suits all watersports.

The Stearns life jacket comes in a universal size that includes four adjustable straps, which can fit most people.  But, if you are big, tall, or somewhat thin, you might need to consider other options.

As a whole, this is a great budget-friendly life jacket that is good for keeping you safe.

Pros:

  • Great for non-swimmers 
  • Budget-friendly
  • Incredible durability
  • Flexible for all watersports

Cons:

  • Limited size range

Why Do You Need Life Jackets for Paddle Boarding?

A straightforward answer is life jackets save lives! 

As reported by the UL (Safety Organization), more than 80% of drowning victims reported were NOT wearing a life jacket. It showed the victims could have been saved had they been wearing a life jacket.

Although a life jacket does not guarantee 100% effectiveness in saving you from drowning, it is by far the best thing you can do to protect yourself when you are out on the water.

Knowing how to swim is not a reason for you not to wear one. The reason is that even the best swimmers do get into trouble when something unexpected happens.

An accident is an unforeseen event that can happen anytime. Hence, always wear your life jacket whenever you are on or near the water. Especially for paddle boarders, since they tend to paddle to remote areas far from the rescue resources.

You never know when some bad luck might have reached you if you were not wearing a life jacket.

Five Types of Life Jackets 

There are five types of life jacket classifications that you need to know to help you decide which life jacket is best for your needs. 

Here are the quick bullet points for each type of life jacket:

Type I Life Jacket

  • Standard life jacket
  • Suitable for all water conditions
  • Commonly use on offshore vessels 
  • Bulky with lots of foam to provide insulation
  • Minimum buoyancy of 22lbs and  it helps to keep your head and upper torsos high above the water
  • Come in a bright colour for visibility
  • One size for all

Type II Life Jacket

  • Simple design that fits over the head that includes with adjustable strap
  • Not suitable for rough waters – Meant for near-shore condition
  • Require you to thread water to keep your head above water
  • Minimum buoyancy of 15.5lbs 
  • Typically used by kayakers, wakeboarders, and boaters
  • Great for experienced swimmers

Type III Life Jacket

  • Comfortable than Type I and II
  • Less floatation capability than Type I (minimum buoyancy 15.5lbs)
  • Design to let wearer float vertically with their head above the water
  • Meant for inshore usage where rescue will be quick 
  • Best for experienced swimmers
  • Usually used as a cold-weather jacket, belt or fishing vest
  • Come with pockets

Type IV Life Jacket

  • Known as throwable PFD
  • Not meant to be worn
  • Used to tossed to individuals who have fallen overboard or lost the ability to swim
  • An example of Type IV is ring buoy
  • Commonly found on passenger ferries or ships
  • Minimum buoyancy of 16.5lbs to 18lbs

Type V Life Jacket

  • Hybrid of all PFD
  • Inflatable with a CO2 cartridge
  • Available in manual or automatic inflation
  • Come with a backup inflation tube
  • Super lightweight, breathable and high mobility
  • Popular among paddle boarders, fishermen and ship’s crew
  • Not suitable for non-swimmers

Things To Consider When Buying Life Jackets for Paddle Boarding

Now that you know about the type of life jacket. Let us talk about what you need to consider when buying the best PFD for paddle boarding that suits you.

Buoyancy

The most crucial feature of a life jacket is it can keep you afloat when in the water. Each life jacket that is available on the market will have a different range of buoyancy levels.

That is why you need to check the specs provided by the manufacturer to ensure that they can support your body size and type.

Do include your swimming level as well when finding a SUP life jacket that fits you. You do not want to have a low buoyancy level life jacket if you are not an experienced swimmer.

Comfort, Mobility and Flexibility

Aside from keeping yourself afloat, your life jacket should be comfortable with high mobility and flexibility.

If your life jacket is unable to provide comfort and freedom of motion to you, for sure, you will end up not wearing it. Hence, defeating the purpose of having a life jacket.

Look for life jackets for paddle boarding that have good ventilation and well fitted so that you will have comfy and pleasant wear all through the day. 

Sizing and Fit

Getting the right size is also one of the important factors in choosing the best paddle boarding jacket. 

In choosing the right size, you need to consider your weight, chest size and waist size.

If your jacket is too loose, it will not keep your head above the water. Also, there is a high chance that you will be slipping out of the jacket. Thus, jeopardize your safety.

Put 3 of your fingers between the jacket and your shoulder. If your fingers can fit, then this means your jacket is too big.

When two buckles do not meet the two ends or the fastener is too uncomfortable, this means that your jacket is TOO small. As a result, it will cause you discomfort and an inability to move freely.

Although most paddle board PFD come with adjustable straps. It does not guarantee a good fit. Therefore, you should try it out first before you decide to purchase it. 

A perfect life jacket size is something that fits well, snugly, and does not restrict your movement. 

So do not be overwhelmed with all the sizing options available in the market. Pick something necessary and comfortable for your usage.

Paddle Board Life Jacket Requirement

According to the USCG SUP life jacket requirement, all paddlers over 13 years old must wear a USCG-approved PFD when out on the water. 

This indicates paddlers need to wear a life jacket where the quality and the spec of the jackets follow the USCG standard to ensure the safety of the paddlers.

Therefore, ensure you pick the one approved by USCG when buying a life jacket for paddle boarding. 

Inflation Method

If you opt for a Type V life vest, you should consider getting an automatic inflation life vest. It works like an airbag, where once it hits the water, it will inflate immediately. 

A great feature to have in case of emergency and the paddler loses their consciousness.

It also comes with a manual method and backup inflation tube in case the automatic inflation fails. 

Colour

Bright colour is a great feature to have in a life vest since it increases visibility. Furthermore, it helps rescuers locate your whereabouts in case of an emergency.

So, when choosing life jackets for paddle boarding, do pick one in bright colour.

Budget

Investing in good quality life jackets for paddle boarding is an investment for your safety. It is no point to have a cheap life jacket if it does not serve its purpose.

Still, there are lots of good quality and USCG-approved life jackets available under USD100

All you need to do is to find the best life jacket that you will always wear. The PFDs listed above are good options that you can choose from.

Life Vest Vs. Inflatable Belt 

If you are not a good swimmer or have just started paddle boarding, opt for a life vest instead of an inflatable belt. They are made with buoyant foam to ensure that you are kept afloat in any conditions you are in. 

Also, you do not have to bother to inflate the PFD manually. Thus, it is safer than an inflatable jacket.

However, an inflatable belt can be the one for you if you are an experienced swimmer and prefer something that has less restriction.

In short, regardless of the type of paddle board PFD you choose, a comfortable life jacket that you will always wear is what matters. The last thing you want is to be in an emergency condition without a PFD that can save your life.

How Much Does A Life Jacket Cost?

Depending on the life jacket quality and features, the cost of a life jacket varies. A high-quality life jacket usually can cost you from USD100 up to USD300+. 

Yet, if you are on a budget, you can still own a good quality life jacket with enough durability and reliability at a cost below USD100.

Be as it may, it all comes to your budget preferences. If you have the budget and are willing to invest more, why not opt for a high-quality life jacket for your safety.

Should You Wear A Life Jacket When Paddle Boarding?

life jackets paddle boarding

Well, it depends on the location you are planning to paddle. 

You should wear a life jacket if you paddle outside swimming, bathing, and surfing zones.

The aforementioned is a regulation from USCG that you must comply with since USCG recognizes paddle boarding as vessels.

As a general rule, always wear your paddleboard life vest whenever you are out paddling.

What Is The Best Buoyancy Aid For Paddle Boarding?

The best buoyancy aid for paddle boarding is something that can provide you safety, comfort and meet your needs. 

You need to know your purpose to identify the features that you require for your PFD. 

Once you get that, it will be easy to search for the best life jackets for paddle boarding that fits your needs.

Even so, Type III and V paddle board PFD are the most popular buoyancy aid among paddlers. They not only provide safety but also comfort to paddlers. 

Both PFD types have low profile designs that will not limit arm and torso movement. A feature that most paddlers love since it allows the paddlers to move freely.

Life Jackets Maintenance Tips

A failed life jacket can be life-threatening. It is vital to have regular maintenance on your life jacket to ensure all parts of the jacket are in excellent condition.

Therefore, prevent any unwanted accidents caused by malfunctioning life vests.

Here are some tips for maintaining your SUP life jacket:

  • Create a maintenance written record whenever you check and service your life jacket.
  • Always check your life jacket before boating to ensure it is in good condition.
  • Check for any visible sign of wear and tear.
  • Ensure all the buckles and straps are in good condition.
  • Ensure that the buoyancy materials are not lumpy, leak, mildew, or hardened. 
  • If there is any sign of deterioration, discard and replace it with a new life jacket.
  • Ensure all the labels are intact and do not remove them from the life jacket, especially USCG approved labels.
  • Avoid using a life jacket as a kneeling pad or boat fender since it will damage the life jacket buoyancy foam.
  • Always rinse your life jacket with fresh water to remove the saltwater after your paddling activity.
  • Avoid using harsh detergent when washing as it can also damage the life jacket.
  • Always store your PFD in good ventilation storage away from dampness and direct sunlight.
  • Ensure the life jacket is completely dry before keeping them in storage to avoid the development of mould and foul smell.
  • Avoid using direct heat appliances such as a hairdryer to dry your life jacket since it will damage the PFD.

For an inflatable life jacket, there are additional parts that you need to maintain. And they need more frequent maintenance than non-inflatable life jackets to ensure they are fully functioning. 

  • Ensure that all inflatable life jacket components are equipped and are not expired.
  • Inspect the inflation system and oral inflation tube every two months. Inflate the bladder using the oral pipe and leave it overnight. If the bladder loses pressure, then it means you need to send your life vest for service.
  • Immediately replace the used CO2 with a new one to avoid you wearing your PFD with an empty CO2.
  • Remove the CO2 cylinder properly when about to inspect the CO2 cartridge.
  • Inspect for any corrosion at the CO2 cylinder. Replace the cylinder with a new one if there is any sign of rust.
  • Ensure to secure the CO2 cylinder firmly without over-tightening after you have finished inspecting.
  • Repack the life vest as per the manufacturer’s manual.
  • Make sure that the pull-cord is accessible and is not stuck when worn.

Final Thought

In general, wearing a life jacket is a must when paddle boarding. Although every country will have different requirements, you should wear them whenever you are out to paddle.

The 11 best life jackets for paddle boarding listed above meant to help you find the ones that can keep you safe while paddle boarding.

So, no matter what type or brand of life jacket you choose, it all comes to your comfort and needs. All life jackets are for safety, but which is the one that works best for you?

11 Best Life Jackets For Paddle Boarding

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