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Best Life Jackets for Fishing

Whether you’re a novice or an expert, fishing is an experience that heavily relies on having the right gear.

fishing life jackets

A good life jacket for fishing not only can protect you from danger, but it also can hold your tools and keep you comfortable on the water.

Use our product reviews to help you make an educated decision about which of the many available life jacket types is the best fishing life vest for your needs.

12 Best Fishing Life Jackets

  1. NRS Chinook Fishing PFD
  2. Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest
  3. Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device
  4. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
  5. Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility USCG Approved Life Jackets
  6. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest
  7. ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket
  8. ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx M-24 Manual Inflatable Vest
  9. AIRHEAD Type II Adult Keyhole
  10. O’Brien Men’s Biolite Traditional Life Jacket
  11. Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing and Touring Kayaking
  12. Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

This US Coast Guard approved type III flotation device comes in sleek charcoal, vibrant orange, camouflage green, and standard black.

NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

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It uses eight adjustment points for an entirely customizable fit. This means the jacket can fit over bulky coats during the winter months or just a t-shirt when in the sun.

Product Features:

  • Mesh lower back
  • Front-entry design
  • Eight adjustment points
  • Foam flotation
  • Coil tool retractor for tool attachment
  • Rear D-ring for attaching a net
  • Strobe holder loop
  • Rod holder loops
  • Knife lash tab
  • 16.5 lbs
  • US Coast Guard approved type III flotation device

Pros:

  • Numerous holder loops and D-rings for tool attachments
  • Eight adjustment points and front-entry design for comfort and close fit

Cons:

  • Pricier than other adult life jackets on the market

The Verdict:

The myriad holder loops and D-rings make this the perfect life jacket for kayak fishing or fly fishing. It is easy to reach for any tool you may need while staying safe and secure in your state-of-the-art flotation device. 


Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

This simple but classic kayak PFD is US Coast Guard approved. Its durable three-buckle design comes in blue or red. This vest is easy to put on and fits comfortably. It is lightweight and portable for long fishing trips.

Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

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Product Features:

  • Nylon build
  • Three-buckle adjustments
  • Open-side construction
  • US Coast Guard approved

Pros:

  • More affordable than other inflatable life jackets on the market
  • Simple design for ease of use and longevity

Cons:

  • Lacks holder loops and sophisticated attachments

The Verdict:

This affordable life jacket is perfect for casual fishermen who want a functional, durable jacket without having to make a huge investment. It keeps people safe and secure without all the unnecessary accessories of a more expensive life jacket.


Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Flotation Device

This high-end flotation device comes in cactus green. Its nylon build with a Cordura shell and oxford liner makes it comfortable, breathable, and durable. With zip compartments and holder loops, you can fit any tool you need within arm’s reach.

Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Flotation Device

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Product Features:

  • Nylon build
  • 500 denier Cordura shell
  • 200 denier oxford liner
  • Neoprene padded shoulders
  • Open side construction
  • Easy to wash
  • Holder loops for attachable accessories

Pros:

  • Comfortable design for maximum ventilation
  • Multiple loops for easy tool access

Cons:

  • It is a fairly bulky jacket that can get heavy if weighed down by tools

The Verdict:

This sturdy vest is ideal for expert fishers. If you find yourself dissatisfied with the tool space on your current kayak life jacket, this is the perfect choice for you. It is also great for long days due to its comfortable design. The only downside is the bulk, which can be combated by attaching fewer tools. 


ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

This versatile fishing life jacket comes in orange, purple, and yellow. Its subtle color-pop design makes it a sleek and professional vest for heavy-duty fishing.

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

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With SOLAS grade reflective material and neoprene comfort pads for the shoulder area, this life jacket is ideal for safety and comfort.

Product Features:

  • Flotation foam build
  • SOLAS grade reflective material
  • 200 denier nylon ripstop
  • Nylon oxford
  • Lash tab for additional accessories
  • Lower-back mesh
  • Shoulder adjustments
  • Neoprene comfort pads for shoulders
  • Expandable zipper pockets
  • Durable nylon fabric
  • Zip assist loop
  • US Coast Guard approved type III life jacket

Pros:

  • Numerous holder loops, zipper pockets, and D-rings for tool attachments
  • SOLAS grade reflective material for safety and visibility

Cons:

  • The complex build may be too complicated for novice fishermen

The Verdict:

The ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest is ideal for intermediate to expert fishermen who want a heavily equipped life jacket. It can handle all your tools, but it is lightweight and compact for long days on the lake.


Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility USCG Approved Life Jackets

This life jacket comes in five vibrant colors for maximum visibility. Users can choose between neon orange, neon yellow, purple, red, and white.

Hardcore Water Sports High Visibility USCG Approved Life Jackets

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The adult and kids fishing vests are Coast Guard approved, meaning it is guaranteed to keep you safely afloat in an emergency. Its open sides are ventilated to keep you cool while you’re under the blazing hot sun.

Product Features:

  • Coast Guard approved type III personal flotation device
  • Open sides for ventilation
  • High-quality polyester Cordura fabric
  • Closed-cell PE foam
  • 1-inch adjustable straps
  • Quick-release buckles

Pros:

  • Easy adjustment and quick release for a customizable fit
  • High-quality construction for a durable build and comfortable fit

Cons:

  • No holder loops or D-rings for tool attachments

The Verdict:

This vest is high-quality, vibrant, durable, and comfortable. It is great for long fishing trips where any slight discomfort can worsen over time. It doesn’t have any pockets or loops for tools and accessories, meaning you’ll have to carry those beside you in a box or bag. If you want a vest more for comfort and safety than fishing utility, this is ideal for you.


O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest

This state-of-the-art life jacket comes in black, graphite, red, and white. The cutting-edge design makes it an effective flotation device that is portable and less bulky than other vests. The vest’s polyester shell helps it stand up against the elements.

O'Neill Men's Superlite USCG Life Vest

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Product Features:

  • US Coast Guard approved
  • Minimal bulk design
  • Durable coated polyester shell
  • Polyethylene foam

Pros:

  • Durable and lightweight material for a comfortable and long-lasting fit

Cons:

  • No tool attachments like holder loops or mesh pockets

The Verdict:

This vest doesn’t have the tool attachments that many fishermen look for in a life jacket, but it is durable and effective. Anyone who wants a lightweight jacket that isn’t too bulky can benefit from this flotation device.


ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

This multi-colored life jacket is visible and durable. Its assortment of effective pockets is great for storing tools. This is especially the case for its push-button drop-down tray pocket for easy access to tools without the hassle of zippers or the ineffectiveness of wet Velcro.

ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

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Product Features:

  • Holder loops for tool attachments
  • Closed pockets for sets
  • Sunglasses hook
  • Zippered fleece-lined compartment
  • Zipped-front design for ease of use
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Shoulder strap padding for comfort

Pros:

  • Multiple compartments for easy tool storage and access
  • Padding makes this vest comfortable and durable

Cons:

  • Only one color choice

The Verdict:

Experienced fishermen love this vest’s easy access to tools with the one-button drop-down tray. With plenty of high-quality storage pockets, this vest can hold everything you need for a long day of fishing.


 

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx M-24 Manual Inflatable Vest

Like many US Coast Guard-approved life jackets, this device comes in blue, red, and Realtree Max-5 color choices.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx M-24 Manual Inflatable Vest

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Its neoprene neckline and groundbreaking lightweight composition make it great for long days on the lake. The manual inflation and backup oral inflation make this a fast, easy, and safe solution to fishing emergencies.

Product Features:

  • US Coast Guard approved Type V life jacket with Type III performance
  • Neoprene neckline for comfort
  • 300 denier polyester
  • Manually inflates with easy-access handle
  • Backup oral inflation

Pros:

  • Neoprene neckline and air mesh comfort pad make this a comfortable fit kayak life vest
  • Two inflation options are great in case of emergencies

Cons:

  • Because it is so lightweight, it does not have tool compartments

The Verdict:

Experienced swimmers who don’t want to lug around a massive and bulky inflatable life vest on the water may benefit from this compact style. The product’s simple strap and waist wrap design easily distribute bulk for a sleek construction.


AIRHEAD Type II Adult Keyhole

The AIRHEAD Type II Adult Keyhole is a classic life jacket design. It uses one adjustable belt strap to tighten the vest around the user’s neck, and it comes in a highly visible orange design. The nylon fabric is durable, and the overall design is lightweight and easily portable.

AIRHEAD Type II Adult Keyhole

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Product Features:

  • Nylon fabric
  • Adjustable belt
  • Lightweight

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Lightweight construction makes it easy to wear and transport

Cons:

  • Simplistic design lacks compartments or additional adjustments

The Verdict:

This simple vest is perfect for fishing trips with lots of people. Load the boat up with these effective vests for easy and safe use. While it lacks comfort pads or customizable adjustments, it is an effective and easy-to-use fishing life vest for any level of fishing and swimming experience.


O’Brien Men’s Biolite Traditional Life Jacket

This versatile life jacket comes in five vibrant and visible colors. You can choose between black, red, blue, green, and cyan. All five colors come with an eco-friendly alternative to neoprene, allowing for maximum comfort and breathability.

O'Brien Men's Biolite Traditional Life Jacket

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Product Features:

  • BioLite construction for eco-friendly comfort
  • Front hinge
  • Wide armholes
  • Zip closure
  • Two adjustable belts
  • PWC lanyard attachment ring
  • US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD

Pros:

  • Armholes and front hinge for ease of movement
  • Several colors to choose from

Cons:

  • No holder loops or compartments for tool attachments

The Verdict:

Users can expect a sleek and comfortable fit with this high-end life jacket. It does its job of keeping people afloat without being bulky. This makes it appealing for long fishing trips where comfort is important. 


Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing and Touring Kayaking

This vest comes in blue, burnt orange, glacier blue, ocean blue, and orange. Its composition and design make it a combination of comfort, style, and functionality. It is US Coast Guard approved and perfect for safety and security.

Astral V-Eight Life Jacket PFD for Recreation, Fishing and Touring Kayaking

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Product Features:

  • PE foam insert
  • EVA foam insert
  • Adjustable side buckles
  • Airescape system for breathability
  • 200 x 400 shell made of ripstop nylon and denier
  • Mesh liner made of polyester
  • PolyPro webbing
  • Self-locking vision teeth
  • PVC-free
  • US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly and PVC-free
  • Foam PE and EVA inserts for a comfortable fit
  • Zipper pockets for easy tool storage

Cons:

  • No holder loops for easy access

The Verdict:

Users of this women’s life vest enjoy the balance between lightweight breathable comfort and expert features like storage and adjustability. It is ideal for anyone from novice to expert fisherman.


Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

This high-end men’s life vest is one of the most breathable constructions on the market. Its full mesh backing and wide armholes make it perfect for keeping cool on hot summer days. It uses a collared neckline for comfort.

Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest

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Product Features:

  • Zipped compartments
  • Two buckle adjustment
  • Mesh back for breathability
  • Collared comfort neckline

Pros:

  • Breathable, lightweight design for comfort and temperature control
  • Two buckles for tailored adjustability

Cons:

  • No holder loops for easy tool access

The Verdict:

This durable vest is a favorite among frequent fishers as it has room for useful tools and some adjustment features without becoming bulky and uncomfortable. It is a great blend of some of the market’s best features without trying to do too much.


Buyers Guide – What to Look for When Buying Life Jackets for Fishing

Buying a life jacket for fishing is an investment. The type of vest you buy can impact your experience out on the water. It is important to consider the benefits and detriments of each type of life jacket to know which one is best for your experience. Here are some of the qualities and features to consider when selecting a life vest.

How Do I Know It’s Safe?

Safety is the most important feature of your PFD. This is especially true for the best toddler life jacket. The best life vests on the market are US Coast Guard approved. It is important to look for this qualification when deciding which life vest to bring home with you. While it may be tempting to buy a cheaper option that is not USCG approved, these can be incredibly dangerous in the event of an emergency.

Besides USCG approval, look for vests that are designed to turn users face-up in the event of an emergency. SOLAS grade reflective material is another safety feature to consider. This material helps with visibility and can help avoid accidents with boats, or it can draw attention to your presence in case of emergency.

The final safety consideration is adjustability. Vests that bunch up in one area or fit too tightly around the neck can be a major safety hazard, as well as vests that are big enough to fall off or too small to handle someone’s size. Be sure to look for adjustable shoulder, side, and back straps for maximum safety.

Which Life Vests Are the Best for Comfort?

Comfort is a major factor to consider when selecting your jacket. This is especially true for long, full-day or multi-day fishing trips. The best vests in terms of comfort are neoprene or BioLite. These padding options offer cushioning for pressure areas like shoulders and neck. BioLite is a more eco-friendly version of the standard neoprene foam padding.

Breathable designs like mesh backing and open sides make fishing life jackets better and more comfortable on hot sunny days. Rather than sweating through thick, heavy fabric, these designs allow users to feel the breeze easily and stay cool.

How Do I Store My Tools?

There are myriad types of sophisticated designs that allow users to store their fishing tools on their life vests. Here are some of the most innovative methods available:

  • D-ring
  • Holder loop
  • Sunglasses loop
  • Push-button drop-down tray
  • Zipper compartments

It is important to consider that you will likely get your vest wet on a trip, so consider a mesh-drainage pocket. That way, you can easily place wet tools in a pocket that will drain and ventilate well.

What Are the Materials Used in Life Vests?

There are dozens of fabrics, materials, and foams that make up the components of different PFD types. It is important to know about these to make an informed decision when purchasing one.

Nylon vs Polyester

Nylon and polyester are both strong materials. They are often used as a protective shell or external fabric on the life vest. 

Nylon tends to be stronger than polyester, but they are both abrasion, oil, flame, and chemical-resistant. Polyester is more heat-resistant than nylon. 

They both stand up well to outdoor elements, making them both great choices for life vest material.

Neoprene vs BioLite

Both of these materials are typically included for comfort purchases. They make up the shoulder or neck padding that makes the life vest into a more comfortable fit. 

Neoprene is a synthetic rubber that is flexible, durable, and resistant, making it ideal for outdoor activity. BioLite is a more eco-friendly alternative to this common material.

Polypro vs Mesh

Polypro is a highly breathable material that has moisture-wicking and stretching capabilities. It is a great addition to any PFD as it keeps the garment dry and breathable. 

Mesh achieves a similar effect. While it is not moisture-wicking, it does not retain as much heavy water in the same way another fabric might. It is also breathable and makes staying cool on the water easy.

Final Thoughts

There are thousands of quality personal flotation devices available on the market in all price ranges and feature preferences. There are even thousands of dog life jackets available, so the market is saturated. Use this buyers’ guide to help you parse which of our top twelve life vests is the best for your needs. 

Determine which qualities are important to you so that you can invest in the device that is tailored to your individual needs.

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