Choosing the right life jacket/vest for kayakfishing


Every Kayak Angler knows how important it is to wear a PFD (life vest). It can safe our life in a case of emergency.

I would like to show you the pros and cons of the 3 main types that were used when it comes to kayak fishing. At first we will take a look on automatic life vests, followed by manual vests and last but not least the solid vests. All of them can be used for kayak Fishing but there are a lot of differences between them.

Automatic vests:

They were mostly used on motorboats.

This kind of PFD is self inflating. An integrated CO2 cartridge inflates the vest. This can be activated automatically by a chemical reaction of a water sensitive pill with water or manually by pulling on a rope/handle. It can take up to 5 seconds in the water till the automatic mechanism starts with filling up the vest. If both mechanisms don’t work, it’s possible to pump up the vest thru a mouth piece.

These type of life vests should be inspected and get a maintenance every 2 years to ensure the functionality of both mechanisms.

It’s important to choose the right buoyancy between 150 n and 275 n (depending on what kind of clothes you wear).

An automatic life vest has an integrated fainting protection, which always will turn you on your back, to prevent drowning.

The fainting protection is very helpful when getting unconscious, but it can be very tricky to get back into the kayak with an inflated automatic PFD.

Another con of this kind of PFD is, that you need to reset the mechanisms, put in a new gas cartridge and a new pill after taking an unintended bath.

It’s also possible to put in an automatic blocker into this type of life vest. It depends on which model you got: some vests will have them included others don’t – but you can buy them for nearly every automatic vest as a accessory I think.

Manual vests:

These ones are nearly the same as the automatic vests. They do have a gas cartridge and a pulling rope to inflate. The only thing that makes this kind different is the missing automatic mechanism.

As far as I know, those vests are just available with a buoyancy of 150 n.

They also come with an integrated fainting protection, which will appear after triggering the manual mechanism by pulling the rope.

The greatest advantage of a manual compared to the automatic vest is that you can decide the moment of the inflation by yourself or you renounce it if the situation allows it.

This fact makes it much easier for us to turn or get back into the kayak, like a solid vest.

A manual vest is a good alternative for the warmer month of the year. It’s also very recommendable in the colder seasons in combination with a drysuit.

Solid vests:

Most of the people will think of those old and bulky yellow or red life jackets now…

But: There are a lot of really good and comfortable models that are made for the whitewater, touring or sailing market. Meanwhile there are also a lot PFDs which were designed for kayak fishing and sit-on-top kayaks. In terms of design and functionality, the choice is literally endless.

The buoyancy varies between 50 and 100 n, depending on the model.

In case of the low buoyancy (compared to the other PFDs) it’s not recommendable to use this vests in the winter time in combination with bulky and heavy winter clothing. It workes pretty well during the somer time with light clothing or during the winter time in combination with a drysuit. This type of PFD is the most used when it comes to kayak fishing.

Important to know: this kind of vests doesn’t have any fainting protection, which helps us a lot when we are in need to re enter into the kayak.

Another good thing is, that this kind of live vest doesn’t need any maintenance and there is no need to change parts of it after taking a bath – you can continue fishing directly after your incident (if you stay dry or have changed your cloth).

For me a solid vest is the most comfortable kind to use and I use them much rather than a automatic or a manual vest. You should always be aware of the lack of fainting protection when you use this kind!

I hope this short article will help you to get an overview of the 3 different categories of PFDs.

Text Hendrik Dierks Yak´n Roll Fishing