I’ve evaluated the best PFDs for SUP, including the best models for people, children, and pets, to help you sort through the confusion. You may use this information to determine the best PFDs for SUP and the safest choice for you.
In general, stand-up paddleboarding is seen to be secure. However, because it involves water, anything may still go wrong. Wearing a PFD is required at all times while paddling. Personal flotation devices, or PFDs, exist in a variety of sizes and designs. Different styles and ranking systems might be confusing. The most crucial factor is safety, but you also want to be able to paddle comfortably.
Best PFDs for SUP – Quick Comparison
|Product image||Product name||Editor's rating||Price|
|Onyx MoveVent||4.9||See pricing details|
|Stohlquist||4.8||See pricing details|
|Onyx Manual||4.8||See pricing details|
|A/M-24||4.7||See pricing details|
|NRS||4.7||See pricing details|
|DRIFT||4.7||See pricing details|
|Mustang||4.6||See pricing details|
Top 7 Best PFDs for SUP Review
1. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports CGA Life Vest
With plenty of mesh, a light, body-conforming foam core, and adjustable shoulder straps cushioned with neoprene comfort cushions, this Coast Guard-certified Type III PFD from Onyx Outdoor delivers a highly breathable, comfortable-yet-snug fit.
The life vest comes with a connected safety whistle, and it has zippered pockets with mesh drainage for storing goods. It also has a lash tab for attaching accessories. Additionally, the SOLAS-grade reflectivity improves your visibility when you’re out on the water.
2. Stohlquist Fit Youth Life Jacket, Fully Adjustable for Children, High Mobility PFD, Lightweight Buoyancy Foam
Finding the best life jacket for teenagers might be challenging. The fabric must be comfortable and the fit must be perfect for them to keep it on. My #1 suggestion if you’re searching for a PFD that your young paddler will like to wear is the Stohlquist Youth Fit. It is not limiting and gives the paddler freedom of movement.
Along with other water activities, stand up paddle boarding is great there. The three-buckle entrance makes it simple to put on the Stohlquist youth life vest. It includes high seatbacks and a thin mesh back panel for comfort. The USCG has authorized this Type III paddle board life jacket. There are two sizes, one for children 50 to 90 pounds and the other for adolescents 75 to 125 pounds.
The Stohlquist Youth Fit’s contoured fit and paddling-friendly construction make it ideal for paddling activities. While it might be challenging to find a life jacket that fits all children, the Youth Fit does a respectable job of accommodating a variety of shapes and sizes. You may purchase black, lime, blue, and red variations that make it simple to find your youngster on (or in) the water. All the features you want at a very affordable cost.
This vest sometimes shifts up around the neck if your child leaps into the water because of the huge armholes. When it comes to durability, you get what you paid for. Since this jacket isn’t the strongest, it’s best to just wear it sometimes.
3. Onyx Manual Inflatable Belt Pack Life Jacket for Men and Women (PFD)
The cheapest, smallest, and the lightest alternative is the Onyx M-16. This one is so low profile that you won’t even notice wearing it. It includes a 52″ waist strap that is adjustable and has a 1″ buckle. This PFD requires manual inflation, which means you have to pull the little tab to release the air. Once inflated, it will give 17 lbs of buoyancy and accommodate chest sizes ranging from 30″ to 52″.
An oral tube is also available, which may be used to boost buoyancy up to 26.5 lbs. On the side, there is a little D-ring that may be used to hang a dry bag, a water bottle, or any other lightweight item you need to pack. It is classified as a Type III life jacket, which is best utilized in situations when there is a high likelihood of a good rescue.
The main benefit of a Type III PFD is that it is often among the most comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and I would think that the M-16 is a good example of this. A Type III flotation device’s major drawback is that it won’t support your head as effectively, so if you’re unconscious or in choppy water, the waves may cover your face.
This PFD works well for SUP racing since it is so undetectable. But it’s also great for leisurely paddling on calm water, particularly when you’re not by yourself. It is quite well-liked by paddle boarders. Every time it is used, the C02 cylinder has to be changed. The rearming equipment may be purchased separately for around $20.
4. A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket from Absolute Outdoor
I first purchased the Onyx A/M 24 life jacket for kayaking since it is SO comfy in comparison to a typical bulky PFD, and I wear it often for kayaking. However, I also used it often when stand-up paddling in the water. In circumstances when the water is rougher and rescue may take longer, I enjoy this PFD.
Unlike belt packs, which need manual inflation while immersed in water, this one automatically inflates when you are submerged. When kayaking in more challenging circumstances, I like the security of automatic inflation. Although it isn’t as discreet as belt packs, it is still quite comfortable and doesn’t become too hot in the sun.
The Onyx life jackets also seem to last a very long time. They are really nicely constructed. Even after extensive usage, mine still seems to be fresh new. I also have the A/M 24 Deluxe Version I initially purchased for my partner to utilize. With the exception of having a zippered pocket on either side, it is nearly identical.
Small stuff like a phone, a camera, food, etc. fit well in the pockets and have proved to be quite practical. It all depends on whether you think the extra pockets are worth the price increase that the increased pockets cause. This life jacket is great if you like boating or other water sports since it can be used for all of these activities.
Although it automatically inflates when immersed in water, it may also be manually inflated using the oral tube. It has a minimum buoyancy of 22.5 lbs. I’ve loaned this life jacket to a number of friends who are both men and women and come in all shapes and sizes. It appears to suit almost every body shape nicely and is readily customizable.
5. NRS Ninja Kayak Life Jacket (PFD)
Due to its amazingly low profile, the NRS Ninja Kayak Lifejacket is perfect for stand-up paddleboarding. This Type III vest, which provides 16.5 pounds of buoyancy, allows you fastidious control over fit thanks to no less than six adjustment points.
AirMesh shoulder straps and inner panels provide exceptional ventilation, while the floating front panel increases adjustability. The front clamshell pocket with compartments and a zipper could be the cherry on top. Hey, it might even hold your favorite cold drink!
6. DRIFT Life Jacket, Unisex, CO2 Included, Inflatable PFD Belt Pack, U.S. Coast Guard Approved
Here is a great manual inflatable PFD option that provides the excellent paddleboard range of motion. This DRIFT belt pack provides a robust 29.5 pounds of float when the secondary oral inflator is loaded in addition to the 16.5 pounds of buoyancy it provides with its pull-tab CO2-inflated chamber. The DRIFT Unisex Belt Pack Inflatable Life Jacket comes with a neoprene backing and is equipped with D-rings for accessory connection. It accommodates waist sizes from 24 to 52 inches.
7. Mustang Survival Sailing Life Vest with Harness and Auto-Inflate PFD, Adult Sailing Equipment
Here is a PFD that automatically inflates and may be used with stand-up paddling, especially for experienced paddlers on calm seas. This PFD, which has a Type II rating and is primarily marketed to sailors, uses Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT), which only inflates when immersed and subjected to four inches or more of water pressure. It provides a remarkable 38 pounds of buoyancy. This is an easy-to-wear piece of insurance for your on-the-water excursions, complete with a neoprene “Comfort Collar,” a safety whistle, and SOLAS luminous tape.
How To Choose The Best PFDs For SUP? Buying Guide
Wearing a vest, jacket, or hip belt when paddle boarding is known as a PFD (personal floatation device, or SUP). In an emergency, a PFD improves your chances of survival by helping you stay afloat. “Life jacket” and “PFD” are often used interchangeably.
To guarantee that an unconscious person floats on their back with their airway open, a life jacket is technically a buoyancy aid with neck support. But nowadays, a lot of people call any buoyancy device worn like a vest a “life jacket”. A PFD is a crucial safety tool that can well save your life. It’s crucial to get one that fits properly, has the right amount of buoyancy, and you’ll really wear!
The Life Jacket’s Design: Is It Comfortable?
Your paddling experiences are going to be ruined by an uncomfortable life jacket. You want clothing that you can put on and leave on for extended periods of time. The ideal life jacket should fit comfortably around your body and provide you the freedom to move around and paddle. Get one with a thin back panel if you want to spend a lot of time sitting so you can relax on your seat. This is particularly crucial if your SUP kayak seat has a high back.
Does the PFD Size Fit You?
In order to choose a paddle boarding life jacket that fits you adequately, take into account your weight, waist, and chest measurements. To be honest, finding the right size PFD for an adult might be challenging. Given that size varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, even knowing your physical dimensions may not be sufficient. The best thing to do is put it on. It shouldn’t slip up to your ears and the fit should be snug but not tight. All you need to know when purchasing a life jacket for a child is their body weight.
Do You Want a Suspender Harness, a Life Vest, or a PFD Belt?
Do you favor a life vest, a harness, or a belt PFD? Each one is great for stand-up paddling. Therefore, it depends on your own tastes and your preferred SUP activity. If you believe a vest would be too cumbersome for leisure paddling, you might pick a belt PFD or a harness. Because of the storage choices that life vests provide, you may desire one for fishing.
Is the Material Durable?
The material used to make life jackets should be good, hygienic, and long-lasting. Both nylon and neoprene are great materials since they are durable, dependable, and fast to dry. You want a material that feels good against your skin and will endure for a long time. Also, keep in mind that you will be using it in the water, so it has to dry quickly. Neoprene and nylon are the most often used materials for SUP PFDs. They’re the best since they’re cozy, strong, and fast to dry.
You should be able to stay afloat with the stand up paddle PFD you pick. Despite the fact that the minimal buoyancy needed for certain PFD types may appear modest, you weigh far less underwater. A buoyancy of 17 pounds is more than sufficient for the typical individual.
A USCG-approved life jacket should be purchased, and PFD kinds should be taken into consideration. Choose a kind that is suited for the paddling environment you will be in. With the exception of the dog vest, all of the PFDs in this roundup have USCG approval.
Usability: Is It Quick to Inflate in an Emergency?
A PFD for stand-up paddling doesn’t have to be difficult. Every time someone wants to put on, take off, or modify their life jacket, they shouldn’t have to battle. As long as they function properly, basic zip and/or buckle straps are good. If it has any connection points for paddleboarding gear, these have to be simple to use as well. Of course, the ease with which it can be inflated in an emergency is the most crucial factor.
Stand up paddle boarding, as you have seen PFDs are available in a variety of designs, including vests, harnesses, and belts. All of them are acceptable. It depends on your intended paddling location and activities. For instance, anglers will benefit more from a vest due to the added storage. A belt PFD may be preferred for paddlers competing in SUP races since it won’t get in the way.
Classification of Life Jackets – What Level of Buoyancy Is Required?
Both inflatable and “inherently buoyant” PFDs are available. Foam jackets that are naturally buoyant don’t need inflation. They are thus a safer choice for kids, those who can’t swim, and people in desperate survival circumstances. PFDs are inflated either automatically or manually by the user. If you accidentally fall into the water while wearing an automatic-inflating life jacket, you will need to change the gas cartridge before using it again. Due to this, the majority of SUP boarders choose manually inflated PFDs.
Types of PFDs
In relation to life jackets, it’s important to remember that not all PFDs are life jackets and that not all life jackets are PFDs. A life jacket flips the wearer face-up in the water so they may breathe even if they are asleep or paralyzed. While all PFDs are intended to provide the wearer more buoyancy in the water, not all of them are built to achieve this.
There are five distinct kinds of PFDs according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which oversees PFD use in the country. Different designs and, to some degree, buoyancy ratings are indicated by these categories. Flotation, also known as buoyancy, is the force (measured in pounds) required to maintain a PFD wearer’s head and chin above the water.
Adults only need around seven to twelve pounds of buoyancy to maintain their heads above the water, therefore it doesn’t take much. Varied PFD design designs (which we’ll discuss after going through the PFD classes) give different minimum levels of flotation, and buoyancy relies on a number of variables.
The typical stand-up paddleboarder will probably choose a Type II or Type III PFD. One thing to think about is buoyancy, along with wearability and comfort. Although Type II PFDs give a great deal more comfort and mobility than Offshore Life Jackets, they tend to be larger than Type III PFDs, hence paddlers in calm seas with quick rescue accessible often choose the latter.
But in this instance, we must clarify the distinction between inflatable PFDs and PFDs that are naturally buoyant. The most popular are the naturally buoyant types, sometimes known as “normal PFDs.” Since they are made of foam or a similar “floaty” substance, providing lift in the water doesn’t need any particular deployment. With a pull of a rope or automatically when submerged, inflatable PFDs inflate.
In addition to being far cooler than their naturally buoyant equivalents, which cover a larger portion of your body at all times, inflatable PFDs are unobtrusive to wear and don’t restrict your paddling motion. This is because they are quite tiny when deflated. As a result, an inflated Type II PFD is less constricting and cumbersome than a normal one.
Given that you must change their CO2 cartridges, inflatable PFDs need more maintenance than regular ones. Additionally, they lack the pockets that PFDs that are naturally buoyant have, which are clearly useful for storing stuff. There are also so-called “hybrid” PFDs on the market now that combine features of inflatable and naturally buoyant PFDs. These may be rather expensive.
Given that you move about a little more than in seated watersports, inflatable PFDs and lighter Type III PFDs, in general, are appealing for stand-up paddleboarding; range-of-motion is essential. However, if you decide to use an inflatable, you should normally choose a manual kind since paddleboarding requires you to often dip yourself in the water, which makes automated PFDs inconvenient. Having said that, the automated inflator we’ll discuss in the section after this one could work well for calm seas or for experienced paddleboarders who don’t often fall off.
The PFD classes established by the U.S. Coast Guard are summarized as follows:
PFDs of Type I
These “Offshore Life Jackets,” as the Coast Guard refers to them, provide the best protection for someone who falls into the water. They are the PFD of choice for anybody heading into choppy, isolated waters, especially the open ocean, where rescue may be a protracted operation, with a minimum of 22 pounds of buoyancy—inflatable Type I PFDs give 33 pounds of float. Given that they cause the user to be face-up in the water, Type I PFDs qualify as life jackets.
Type II PFDs
Although inflatable versions have the same minimum buoyancy as their Type I counterparts—33 pounds—these “Nearshore Buoyant Vests” give a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds. PFDs of Type II are designed for boating and water activities in interior environments and calmer waterways where help is anticipated to arrive reasonably quickly. Not all Type II PFDs are life jackets, although some of them are.
PFDs of Type III
The typical PFDs chosen by many paddlers in a typical calm, accessible waterways are Type IIIs, sometimes known as “Flotation Aids” by the Coast Guard. They may be branded for certain activities, such as paddlesports, and provide a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds.
Type IV PFDs
The ring buoys, pillows, and other emergency flotation devices that are tossed to individuals in trouble in the water rather than being worn fall under this category.
PFDs of Type V
The most specialized wearing PFDs, such as deck suits, commercial whitewater vests, and hybrid inflatable PFDs, are referred to as “Special Use Devices.” They provide at least 15.5 pounds of buoyancy.
Basically, this is a vest containing floating foam. The most typical kind of PFD is this one. Life vests often contain accessory connection points and zippered compartments despite their tendency to be bulky. They are thus great for fishing. They don’t need inflation, which is an additional benefit. If your vest is properly fitting, it will keep you floating in the event that you fall into the water.
As an inflated PFD, a suspender harness is used. It only inflates when you fall into the water, so it’s not as big and unwieldy as a life jacket. Either manual or automated inflation is possible. If there is an emergency, you pull a cable to manually inflate your PFD. If the PFD is automated, it will automatically inflate when immersed.
If you are unable to pull the rope for whatever reason, an automated suspender harness may really save your life. However, falling in the water is a common occurrence while SUP and is not necessarily a serious issue. With a PFD that automatically inflates, you’ll go through a lot of CO2 cartridges if you often wind yourself in the water.
The best choice for paddle boarding is this since it has no impact on how you paddle. A PFD belt does not obstruct you in any way. Pull the string to deflate your PFD if you fall into the water.
How Can I Stay Safe While Paddleboarding With SUP PFDs?
There are a few ways to be sure the PFD you choose will really deliver on safety while you’re out stand-up paddleboarding. To start, search for the U.S. Coast Guard certification to ensure that the product is of a high caliber and meets all requirements.
Additionally, it’s critical that your PFD fits correctly; otherwise, it won’t be any use to you. If at all possible, try on your PFD while wearing the clothes you will be paddling in since clothing affects both your buoyancy and the lift your PFD will offer. Chest size is the main deciding factor for PFD fitting for adult paddlers. The importance of weight is greater for kids.
A PFD should always be tested in shallow water. The PFD’s useful buoyancy is evaluated by letting your body drift and float while cocking your head back: Be careful to breathe freely and easily while keeping your chin above the water. Try a more buoyant model or choose a different one if the water is too near to your mouth for comfort.
Having a friend pull up on the shoulders of the PFD while you’re wearing it is another approach to check fit in or out of the water. Try again if the PFD slips up over your face and tighten it this time. You must reduce if it keeps rising too quickly. Regarding maintenance and care, let your PFD completely dry before storing it, and do so away from direct sunlight in a dry, well-ventilated area.
Let’s briefly go over a few additional crucial factors in relation to safety. Some of the PFDs we highlighted include built-in safety whistles, but if not, you should absolutely have one on your own. This handy device may help you broadcast your position and your distress if things start to go south, so don’t ignore it.
Also think about a paddleboard leash that attaches to your ankle to keep you connected to your board. That leash provides you a possible lifeline in case you find yourself in the water hurt or exhausted and need that floating platform to drag out on top of keeping hold of your investment.
When venturing out on stand-up paddleboarding, not only the selection of the proper flotation device matters, but also the thoughtful consideration of all associated gear. This includes everything from the type of seat you choose to the paddles and additional fittings.
Each element contributes to making your time on the water an enjoyable pursuit. For example, the best kayak seat acts as more than just a place to sit. It provides the support and comfort needed during extended paddling, offering the same level of assurance and balance that a carefully picked personal flotation device would give to ensure you float and stay safe.
Put on a Leash
Purchase a first-rate leash that is pleasant for your dog. A leash’s main function is to make sure that if you fall off, you stay attached to your paddle board. Your board may leave you stuck in no time. You wouldn’t want to find yourself in this circumstance.
Determine Your Skill Level
When it comes to SUP and water in general, it is simple to overestimate your abilities. But avoid harsh circumstances if you are a novice paddle boarder. Be careful that you only take on what you can manage.
Water and Weather Situations
This is particularly crucial if you’re traveling to a rural location or an unfamiliar location. Examine the temperature, waves, currents, wind, and other variables. If you’ve never been there before, talk to some local paddlers.
A safety measure is to shield oneself from the sun. Avoid taking a chance on sunburn. Apply sufficient sunscreen and reapply if you go swimming.
FAQs about PFDs For SUP
On a stand-up paddle board, is a life jacket required?
You do. When paddle boarding, your safety should always come first. In addition, paddle boards are required by law to have life jackets. When using a paddleboard, anybody less than 13 must wear a life jacket that has been certified by the USCG. The USCG rules mandate this. The stand up paddle board requires a PFD for everyone else. (However, you need to make it a personal habit to wear yours at all times.)
Which Is Better for SUP Beginners: Life Vest or Inflatable Belt?
Beginners of SUP should consider a life vest. When you fall into the water wearing an inflatable belt, you must re-inflate it. This indicates that strong swimmers are better suited for it. A life jacket does not need inflation. It will keep you floating as long as you are wearing it when you fall in.
Should a Paddle Board User Wear a PFD?
You do, you do. It is both a legal requirement and a crucial safety item. Go paddling just with one.
How Do Belt PFDs Operate?
The CO2 cartridge in your belt PFD ignites when you pull the rope, immediately inflating the flotation device.
Are Inflatable Life Jackets Reusable?
Inflatable life jackets may really be utilized again. You will need to purchase a rearming kit and install an additional CO2 cartridge if you want to inflate yours.
How Should I Maintain My Stand-Up Paddle PFD?
The same maintenance requirements apply to stand-up paddle boards and flotation equipment. Comparatively speaking, traditional life jackets are simpler to maintain than inflatable ones. Your PFD should be washed in fresh water after each paddle session, then dried outside.
Examine the life jacket for any rips so you don’t bring a damaged one the next time you go boating. You need to buy a new CO2 cylinder if you inflated your inflatable PFD. Typically, manufacturers will provide guidelines on how to accomplish this.
Is Paddleboarding Without a Life Jacket Illegal?
Every paddler, age 13 or older, is required by USCG laws to paddleboard while wearing a life jacket that has been authorized by the Coast Guard. But it’s not required that you do. All paddlers under the age of 13 must wear PFDs. Learn more about the standards for paddle board life jackets. When worn, a PFD is only functional. You are thus requested to wear it even if it is not compulsory.
Can You Drown While Wearing a Life Vest?
Although it is uncommon, it is possible to drown while wearing a PFD. Typically, this occurs when the paddler gets caught underneath and unable to escape. Or when they lose consciousness and are unable to maintain their face above water. Wearing a life vest helps save lives in several different situations. Wear one all the time.
As a result
For every member of the family, even your four-legged companions, we provide a model of our best paddle board life jackets. Choosing a PFD for a stand-up paddle board is simple. You can make a wise choice as long as you know what to look for. Avoid being caught without a PFD. Choose one of the best PFDs for SUP listed above to try paddle boarding safely.