Fishing PFD: Life Vests That Won’t Put You in a Bind

When you’re on the river, you shouldn’t have to trade safety for comfort. We tested three personal flotation devices for safety and mobility.

Ever packed a bulky, uncomfortable life jacket with no intent of using it?

You’re not alone. We tested three personal flotation devices (PFDs) that are pushing the boundaries in comfort, maneuverability, and design. Our main interest was to test whether or not these PFDs stayed out of the way on a long day of fly fishing.

The three PFDs detailed below address these issues for the active angler.

Best PFDs to Keep You Afloat

Kokatat Leviathan: $159

Kokatat claims this vest — boasting 14 pockets, a fleece hand warmer, and a durable 210 high-tenacity ripstop nylon shell — is the “ultimate kayak fishing life vest.” And we have a hard time disagreeing. Safety and purpose coupled with range of motion make the Leviathan a great buy for any active boat fisher.

On the water, the Leviathan is everything but a monster. Body-mapped Gaia foam panels provide support throughout the day. The pockets on this sleek vest utilize space well while alleviating any worry of catching the line midcast. Similarly, the adjustable side straps won’t get in the way. This vest was barely noticeable on the water.

Kokatat did an awesome job of marrying safety with function in the Leviathan. If you’re looking for a tackle vest and life jacket wrapped into one, the Kokatat Leviathan is for you.

Old Town Lure Angler: $119

At first glance, the Lure Angler doesn’t look like a PFD. The main feature is the notable high-back construction. This life vest also accommodates lure and fly fishers alike, with zippered and stretchy mesh pockets on both sides for maximum storage.

The Lure Angler brings an AirComfort System that allows breathability and variability in the lower back. Three adjustable lower back straps and individual shoulder straps allow for ultimate comfort and fit. Likewise, the unique high-back construction ensures movement is not compromised. Sitting on a canoe or raft for hours on end can get uncomfortable, but this type of construction allowed me to sit back and enjoy the day on the slower parts of the float.

The high-back construction makes this vest a good pick for a full day of fishing. And the adjustable straps allow this vest to work just as hard as you do. At $119, this is also the most modest price point of the bunch.

Ringo Astral: $150

Don’t be surprised if you have to look over the Astral more than once. This PFD is the sleekest option we found for an active angler.

What this vest lacks in size it makes up for in durability. The tri-panel, three-quarter front zip allows for ease of entry while the slim design is bolstered by YKK Vislon Zippers and Acetal buckles to withstand the open water.

This vest is forgettable when it’s on, and that’s a good thing. The minimalist design allowed for full maneuverability on the raft. Furthermore, the front of the vest holds a multitude of pockets for fishing gear and personal belongings. At one point in the ride, I threw a windbreaker on.  Even with added layers, this vest presented little obstruction throughout the day.

Final Thoughts on PFDs

These PFDs are great options for anyone looking to push their fishing limits on the water. And there’s relief in knowing that range of motion no longer has to trump safety. Let us know your go-to PFD for safety and comfort in the field, and check these out if you’re in the market.