Life Jacket and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) Comparison Tables 2019
There are a lot of data points with life jackets and personal flotation devices - sizes, flotation, rating type, weight, straps, buckles - to name a few. The tables below summarize the data we gathered in our research to find our top life jackets and PFDs. With an initial list of more than 25 PFDs, we narrowed it down to a top 5 list of the best life jackets and PFDs, based on reviews from professional testers, reputable gear review sites, personal use, input from adventurers, and poring through hundreds of reviews.
See the Comparison Tables
The table below summarizes the Treeline Award, US Coast Guard rating, flotation rating, size range, and weight.
Life Jacket and PFD Buckles, Pockets, Straps, materials, and safety features
Below we summarize the pockets, buckles, straps, materials, and safety features of our top life jacket and PFD picks. Sort the table if you’re looking for a specific set up.
|PFD||FRONT ZIP / OVERHEAD / SIDE ZIP / FRONT BUCKLE||# OF POCKETS||# OF BUCKLES||# OF ADJUSTABLE STRAPS||MATERIALS||RESCUE-SPECIFIC SAFETY FEATURES|
|Side buckle||1||2||6 (4 side, 2 shoulder)||200-denier nylon, fleece liner for hands||Reflective NRS symbol on the front and back for extra visibility|
|8 (4 side, 2 chest, 2 shoulder)||7||0||8 (2 shoulder, 2 chest, 4 side)||200 denier oxford liner, and eco-conscious Gaia foam||Reflective symbol on the front and back for extra visibility|
|Overhead||3 (1 big front, 2 back side)||1 (safety)||9 (6 side, 2 chest, 1 safety belt)||Foam Insert: PVC Free Gaia®& PE Foam, Shell Fabric: 500 Denier Cordura Nylon, Liner Fabric: 200 Denier High Tenacity Nylon||Rescue ring, Quick Release harness: Clamshell front pocket with multiple compartments and rope storage pockets; Quick release rescuer's harness tack stitched in (can attach a tow rope); Reflective accents for extra visibility.|
|1/4 zip||1||1 (front pocket)||6 (4 side, 2 shoulder)||Foam Insert: Organic Kapok and PVC Free Gaig and PE Foam; Shell Fabric: 200x400 denier Ripstop Nylon; Liner Fabric: 200 Denier High Tenacity Nylon; Webbing: Polypro||None|
|Front Buckle||N/A||3||3||200 denier nylon oxford shell||None|
PFD and Life Jacket recommendations, pros and cons, Fakespot Grade
See the websites which recommend each of our picks, the pros and cons of each PFD, and the Fakespot grade.
|PFD||RECOMMENDED BY (SITES + RANKINGS)||PROS||CONS||FAKESPOT GRADE|
|NRS (4.6/5), Paddling (4.7/5), Trailspace (4/5), OutdoorPlay (4/5), Backcountry (4.5/5), Moosejaw (4.7/5), CKS (5/5), Walmart (4.8/5), Amazon (4.5/5), Kayak Guru (#4/9, Best PFDs for 2019)||Low profile, works with ladies with large boobs, big pocket, very adjustable||Overhead entry/side buckle, Can ride up when sitting low in a kayak||A|
|Adventure Junkies (Best for all around kayak fishing), Amazon (4.5/5), Yakangler (4.7/5), Lifejacketadvisor (#1), FishingKayaksGuide (5/5)||Graded Sizing™ provides a better, more appropriate fit for all body types||Rides up on some users while sitting down/swimming.||A|
|Backcountry.com (5.0), Amazon (4.5/5), Astral (4.8/5), Outdoorplay (1 review, 4/5), Coloradokayak (4.5/5), Mtnweekly (4.5/5), Diverightinscuba (9.4/10), Whitewatercanoecenter (1 review, 5/5)||Earth friendly (recycled, no toxic PVC), top rated safety, lifetime guarantee||Bulky in the front, not good for ladies with big boobs, pricepoint. The knife attachment point is on the outside of the pocket, prominent, easy to catch.||N/A (Not enough Amazon reviews)|
|Amazon (4.8/5), Backcountry (5/5), NRS (3.7/5), REI (3/5),||Great boob fit, comfortable material, not super bulky, easy side zip to get into||Knife holder placement||B|
|Lifejacketpro (Best Cheap LJ), Amazon (4.3/5), Wirecutter (Budget Pick),||US Coast Guard-approved, Soft and durable nylon shell and lightweight PE flotation foam.||Only two sizes, not super comfy, can wear out quickly||A|
Didn’t Make the Cut
Some of the PFDs we reviewed didn’t make the cut and fell short of the criteria we set, even though they are still popular models.
|PFD||REASON IT WASN'T A WINNER||TYPE||OTHER REVIEWERS WHO LIKED IT||WEIGHT (lbs)|
|Shoulder straps can rub; D-rating on FakeSpot for Amazon reviews||III||Wirecutter (Best LJ for Most Watersports), NRS (4.6/5), Amazon (4.8/5)||1.9|
|Could be bulky, hooks could catch on shirt while paddling because of placement, knife attachment should be angled so longer knives can still access pockets.||III||Outside Pursuits (Best LJ for Fishing), Amazon (4.9/5), Wirecutter (Also Great/Runner Up)||2.0|
|Price||III||Adventure Junkies (Best Overall), Dicks Sporting Goods (4.5/5), Amazon (4.2/5), West Marine (4.7/5)||1.7|
|F-rating on FakeSpot for Amazon reviews; Not for short torsos if you have a high seat back. Tendency to slide up on smaller frames;||III||Outside Pursuits (Best LJ for Flatwater Kayaking), Amazon (4.7/5),||1.3|
|Bulky in the front (pocket), knife sticks out on the front, have to undo the safety belt every time to get a true side entry; F-rating on FakeSpot (too few reviews)||V||Backcountry.com (4.5), NRS (4.9/5), Padling (5/5), Amazon (4.8/5), Outdoor Play (4/5), Backcountry (4.5/5),||3.0|
|Very minimalist, some didn't like the tiny front pocket.||III||Backcountry.com (4.5), Paddling.com (4.5/8), REI (4.7/5), AJ (Best Budget)||2.0|
|Bulky, not a fan of hand pockets||V||Amazon (4.6/5), Outdoor Play (4/5), Moosejaw (5/5),||2.7|
|Bulky||III||Wirecutter (Upgrade Pick),||2.0|
|Older model that is hard to find; B-rating on FakeSpot||III||Backcountry.com (4.5), Amazon (4.6/5), Backpacker (Best fitting PFD),||2.3|
|C-rating on FakeSpot for Amazon reviews; Bulky, doesn't fit smaller frames well||III||Globosurfer (Editors Choice, 4.5/5), Lifejacketpro (#4), Amazon (4.5/5),||2.0|
|F-rating on FakeSpot for Amazon reviews; Bulky, short, not for those looking for a slimmer profile||III||Lifejacketadvisor (#1), Amazon (4.4/5), Globosurfer (#1 for women, 5/5),||1.4|