How to Find the Best Kayak Life Vest for Women

How to Find the Best Kayak Life Vest for Women
While there is a certain amount of subjective opinion involved in the quest for the "best" kayak life vest, the choice ultimately comes down to a question of sufficient flotation and fit. A kayaking life vest should be stamped as Class III if you're kayaking in relatively flat, calm water or using a hardshell kayak. If you're kayaking in harder rapids or are very heavy, you'll need a more robust Class V life vest. A kayaking life vest should stay snugly in place once you've adjusted it, in spite of any movement on your part.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Check inside the life vest you're about to try on--or on the label--to make sure it's rated a Class III flotation device if you're paddling only light rapids or using a hardshell kayak, or Class V if you paddle high whitewater or are very heavy. (CE: See Reference 1, scroll down to the article)
Step 2
Make sure you have all your typical kayaking gear on before you try on the life vest--it should always be worn as the outermost layer.
Step 3
Fasten all buckles and belts and tighten all straps to make sure the life vest fits as well as it can. Lift your arms all the way out to the side, then overhead. Mimic a paddling motion. You're looking for a vest that doesn't restrict your motion or cause any discomfort.
Step 4
Hold your arms straight out to the side, then have someone slip their fingers under the shoulders of your vest and lift straight up. The vest should stay snug against your shoulders. If it doesn't, tighten the straps.
Step 5
Tug and pull on the vest from all other angles; it should stay firmly in place on your body.

Tips & Warnings

While there are numerous women specific models of kayaking life vests built to conform to the shape of a woman's body, don't be afraid to try on men's vests too in your search for the best fit.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.