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Here is my selection of the best life jackets or PFDs for Packrafting and Kayaking (and also some accessories). The life jackets in this blog post are also suitable for Kayaking. In fact, they have probably been designed with Kayakers in mind as I have not heard about specific packrafting life jackets yet (nor do I think there would be much of a difference). I have only tested the Astral Designs YTV, V-Eight and Green Jacket myself. Please note that it is your own risk which PFD you select and where you paddle with it.
Weight comparison table
|PFD (click to check price)||Weight (in grams)|
|Astral Designs V-Eight||563|
|Astral Designs Sea Wolf||766|
|Astral Designs YTV*||794|
|NRS Ninja PFD||884|
|Astral Designs Green Jacket||1315|
Astral Designs Sea Wolf
Weight: 766 grams
If you need a PFD where you can store a lot of stuff in it then you should have a look at the Astral Sea Wolf PFD. The Astral Sea Wolf PFD has a large front storage compartment where you can store your phone or snacks while paddling. It’s a little heavier than the other PFD’s in this list but on a long paddling day this PFD could be useful.
You can get the Astral Designs Sea Wolf on Amazon*.
Astral Designs V-Eight
Weight: 563 grams
The Astral Designs V-Eight has 2 zippered front pockets and made for the summer. The air can flow straight through the mesh to your skin which makes paddling with this jacket a more pleasant activity during the warmer months. The backside of the V-Eight does also not interfere with your packraft seat. The V-Eight also has a quick access knife tab.
You can get the Astral Designs V-Eight on Amazon*.
NRS Ninja PFD
Weight: 884 grams
The NRS Ninja PFD is a lightweight PFD from NRS which comes in a simplified design similar to the Astral Designs YTV PFD.
You can get the NRS Ninja PFD on Amazon*.
Astral Designs Green Jacket
Weight: 1315 grams
The Astral Designs Green Jacket is one of the best and feature-rich PFDs on the market. I bought it myself when I signed up for a Whitewater Rescue Course and I found it really good. The downside of this PFD is the weight. So if you are into ultralight packrafting then you might have a look at lighter models.
Astral Designs YTV
Weight: 794 grams
The Astral Designs YTV is a great choice if you want to have a minimalistic life jacket. They classify the Astral Designs YTV as a Type V jacket by the US Coast Guard. It also has 2 zippered front pockets.
You can find the Astral Designs YTV on Amazon*.
Weight: 877 grams
Palm FX is another PFD that offers plenty of storage room for long packrafting trips. It also features failsafe shoulder straps and passed ISO 12402-5 (water sports) and ISO 12402-6 (paddlesport) standards.
You can find the Palm FX on Amazon*.
NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag
You can attach the NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag to your packraft and quickly access it if you need it.
You can find the NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag on Amazon*.
NRS Co-Pilot River Knife
The NRS Co-Pilot River Knife is the shorter version of the NRS Pilot Knife.
You can find the NRS Co-Pilot River Knife on Amazon*.
NRS Pilot River Knife
The NRS Pilot River Knife can be attached to the front of the Astral Designs YTV and V-Eight. The knife might be handy if you get stuff somewhere or if you need to help someone.
You can find the NRS Pilot River Knife on Amazon*.
Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties
The Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties protects your feet when you walk in the river and also helps somewhat to keep your feet warm.
You can find the Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties on Amazon*.
How to choose the best PFD?
The best PFD for your next packrafting adventure depends on where you are planning to packraft.
Are you planning to packraft in a strong rapid then you probably need a more capable PFD than packrafting on a calm lake?
Also when you plan to packraft in the open sea you should look for a PFD which can also handle stormy sea conditions as the weather can also change quickly on the sea.
You should always check the weather before you go packrafting on the sea. Packrafts are actually not meant to be used on the sea but we have also paddled on the Baltic Sea in Finland and it worked quite well with our Windpaddle sail.
PFD’s are categorized by pfdma.org into different classes (USCG and State Law Enforcement agencies require and/or recommend different Types of lifejackets for different applications) and I would recommend reading through the pfdma.org pages to make sure that you select the right one if you live in the U.S.
I am usually wearing a dry suit when we go packrafting and we would rate the difficulty of the river which we are usually paddling between class 2 and class 3.
The following PFD’s are light and can also be carried with your backpack like the HMG Porter 4400 which is our go-to packrafting backpack.
We would not recommend inflatable PFD’s.
They are not that bulky as regular PFD’s but we don’t feel that they are that safe like regular PFD’s.
However, if you are still interested in an inflatable PFD then you could probably have a look into the MTI Fuid 2.0*.
Wearing a PFD need not be a burden. The latest PFD’s are quite stylish and we hope that we could give you some good ideas on which PFD you could get for yourself.
We are currently wearing the Palm Alpha and the Astral Designs YTV PFDs. The Astral Designs V-Eight life jacket was also popular among a few paddlers who took part in the Swedish Packrafting Round-Up 2016.
It’s probably a good idea to invest a bit of money into a good PFD if you plan to go packrafting frequently. Safety goes first!