Kayaking PFD & Buoyancy Aids

A kayaking PFD (personal flotation device) is much like a life vest and gives the desired buoyancy to stay afloat.

Kayaking PFD

PFDs are a requirement in most states, with the U.S. Coast Guard stating the operators of human-powered watercraft must have a life vest on-board and preferably wearing and in use.

How to choose a PFD

Here are several tips to help choose the right PFD for the paddling adventure:


The process of choosing the right size of personal flotation device relates to the chest size for the adult kayaker, and not the body weight (which is used to determine the size for a child).

A preferred PFD should give a comfortable yet tight fit that isn’t likely to interfere with the constant movement of paddling. It helps to try on the PFD when wearing clothing similar to the kayaking gear to ensure the best fit and feel is achieved.

A PFD is manufactured in unisex or women-specific styles. It generally benefits for the women to look at the specific PFD designed to fit the female shape. Variations in design include styles for longer torsos and contoured cups to match the large bust lines.

Personal flotation devices vary with the different brands and models. Foam placement and design can differ to fit the different shapes and contours of the body. Proper foam placement is desirable to ensure the right comfort is in place.

Plus, a PFD with multiple straps makes it easier to adapt the fit to get the most comfort and support.


Kayak safety is essential when it comes to young children. For proper safety it is a requirement for children to wear a proper sized PFD when out paddling.

A PFD for children should give a precise match to avoid issues with it lifting over the child’s head. Don’t be tempted to buy a slighter larger size to make it last longer because it isn’t able to give the desired safety benefits.

The right size for a child relates to the actual weight. For instance an infant sized PFD is designed the fit the child weighing 8-30-lbs, a child sized PFD is 30-50-lbs, and a youth PFD is 50-90-lbs.

A PFD for a small child should include features like a crotch strap to ensure the life vest is kept in place, an easy to retrieve grab handle, and extra support for the head area.

When the PFD starts to reach the youth-size, it is close to resembling the adult personal floatation device and includes the straps to adjust to give the precise fit.


Dog PFDs are a practical and safety piece of kayaking equipment to ensure the dog is able to fully enjoy itself on the water.

Dog life vests aren’t a requirement nor USCG certified, but still give extra reassurance for the dog that is not entirely confident away from shore.

A preferred dog PFD should have a low-profile design with an easy-release buckle and top-handle for ease in lifting the dog from the river or lake.

Other Tips

  • Avoid using the PFD as a seat cushion or kneeling pad
  • Give the kayaking PFD time to completely dry before placing in storage
  • A well-vented space should be used for storage
  • A direct heat source shouldn’t be used to dry the personal floatation device