Here is my selection of the best life jackets or PFDs for Packrafting and Kayaking in 2019.
As we are frequently on packrafting trips we are always interested to find new packrafting gear like. We also review sometimes PFDs such as the Alpha PFD from Palm.
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 that there would be much of a difference).
Weight comparison table
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 back side of the V-Eight does also not interfere with your packraft seat. The V-Eight also has a quick access knife tab.
Astral Designs YTV
Weight: 794 grams
The Astral Designs YTV is a great choice if you want to have a minimalistic life jacket.
The Astral Designs YTV is classified as a Type V jacket by the US Coast Guard. It also has 2 zippered front pockets.
NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag
You can attache the NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag on your packraft and quick access it if you need it.
Weight: 607 grams
The Palm Alpha is one of the lightest white water life jackets on the market.
It does not has any special features but a small pocket on the inside part.
The Palm Alpha also passed the ISO 12402-5 (water sports) and ISO 12402-6 (paddlesport) standards.
Weight: 877 grams
Palm FX is another PFD which offers plenty or 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.
NRS Co-Pilot River Knife
The NRS Co-Pilot River Knife is the shorter version of the NRS Pilot Knife.
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 quite handy if you get stuff somewhere or if you need to help someone.
Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties
The Sea to Summit Ultra Flex Booties protect your feet when you walk in the river and also helps somewhat to keep your feet warm.
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 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.
Of course, you should always check the weather conditions 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 categorised 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 to read through the pfdma.org pages to make sure that you select the right one if you live in the U.S.
We are usually wearing a dry suite 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 quite 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.
Of course they are not that bulky than 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 does not need to be a burden. The latest PFD’s are quite stylish and we hope that we were able to 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 quite popular among a few paddlers who participated in the Swedish Packrafting Round-Up 2016.
It’s probably a good idea to invest a bit money into a good PFD if you plan to go packrafting frequently. Safety goes first!
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