You can’t go out with your SUP or kayak without wearing the proper safety equipment. Buoyancy aids are essential whether you’re speed racing, touring, fishing, or doing Yoga on your SUP.
However, you have to find out the right one for your needs.
That’s where this guide comes into play. We’ll break down the critical factors of choosing a life jacket that fits your purposes. Secondly, we’ll analyse five of the best buoyancy aids, again focusing on your needs first.
Keep reading below.
What to Look for in Sup Life Jackets
It’s no news that you should choose suitable products that help solve your problems, not make your life worse. So, let’s see which life jacket you should choose according to your needs:
Types of Buoyancy Aids
You should choose a comfortable vest according to the activity you do most often:
- Recreational paddling: You need a simple life jacket without too many bells and whistles. Focus on the comfortable fit and weight range. Usually, rec buoyancy aids are available in sizes for the whole family.
- Touring: You need more pockets and features to carry gear and stay safe during longer trips. For instance, touring life jackets have low-profile pockets, large enough to fit even a radio.
- Whitewater paddling: As you’re speeding down mountain torrents, you’ll want to make sure your buoyancy aid keeps you safe. So, look for life jackets with:
- Extra float
- Large pockets for safety equipment
- Rescue features (e.g., harness, sturdy buckles)
- Quick-release safety chest belt
- Paddleboarding: The best buoyancy aid for paddleboarding is low-profile because you’ll want to climb back on your SUP quickly if you fall in the water.
The life jacket’s fit is one of the essential factors to consider regardless of the paddling adventure you’re setting on. Here are some tips:
- Make sure the jacket’s secure without feeling too tight.
- Choose a zip or buckle buoyancy aid instead of a pull-over vest if time is of the essence for you.
- Consider a customised women’s life jacket if you have a higher bust-to-waist ratio.
Your Needs and Experience
For example, even though generally rec paddling vests have fewer bells and whistles than touring jackets, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a buoyancy aid with pockets.
These pockets are great for your essentials, like snacks or a phone.
Also, consider your experience level.
Sure, rec paddling is reasonably safe, but beginners tend to fall in the water a lot. If that’s your case, consider a low-profile paddling vest because you want to climb up on your SUP again fast.
Next, analyse your raft.
Kayaks and inflatable boats have plush seats designed to offer you complete support. A padded life jacket may push into your spine and make you uncomfortable during a more extended tour.
Luckily, buoyancy aid manufacturers found an excellent solution: a lumbar-cut design. Thus, the best life jacket for kayaking won’t get in the way but still keep you safe if you manage to fall in the water.
Best Buoyancy Aids
If you read the section above, you have an excellent place to start your quest for the right life jacket. We’ll help you further, as we analyse five of the best sup life jackets through below:
Typhoon Yalu Wave Buoyancy Aid: Best for Rec Paddling
- Ergonomic cut with CE approved foam panels front and back for maximum comfort and buoyancy.
- Robust fully adjustable shoulder and waist webbing straps for individual fit.
- Front Zipper ( see images which show front and back of jacket). Quick release front clasp. Durable...
Thanks to its ergonomic cut, this buoyancy aid is one of the best life jackets for kayaking and SUP-ing. That means you won’t feel any chaffing under your armpits or back of the neck.
Besides, this high-trapeze design allows you to move your arms freely and paddle easily.
That means the Typhoon Yalu Wave Buoyancy Aid fits different activities, including dinghy sailing, canoeing and kayaking.
You can also notice the adjustable shoulder and waist webbing straps. These straps allow you to tighten the life jacket however you need to fit your body shape.
So, the simple, no-pocket ergonomic cut plus the easily-adjustable design point to this conclusion:
Typhoon Yalu Wave Buoyancy Aid is best for recreational SUP-ing for the whole family.
On the downside, this vest might not feel comfortable leaning onto a kayak seat for long periods. Also, the lack of mesh might make the vest feel somewhat warmer than you’d like.
Jobe 50 Newton Bodywarmer Men Midnight Blue: Best Warm Vest for Fishing and Sailing
- 50N ISO-certified (buoyancy aid)
- Comfort and fit of a casual bodywarmer. Strong and light weight nylon. Strong YKK zipper. Always a...
- Front zipper for fast entry. Safety D-ring for attaching an emergency cord
This vest has a slim and sleek design, but it’s not technically a life jacket. On the other hand, it depends what you’re getting it for.
If you plan to do some fishing on calm waters or take your family out sailing on a boat, Jobe 50 is the right choice.
The vest will keep you warm and won’t push into your back when you’re leaning into a chair. You can also find it in plus sizes if you need additional comfort.
Besides, it’s one of the safest vests in this category.
For one, it has a 50N ISO certification, which means it can act as a buoyancy aid. Secondly, you can use the D-ring to attach an emergency cord to it.
And once you get back to your ship, the Jobe 50 Bodywarmer will dry quickly thanks to its water drainage system.
Spinlock Alto 75N PFD Belt: Best Versatile for Watersports
- Designed for a range of watersports, the ALTO is a lightweight, compact, inflatable flotation device...
- Manually operated, the inflatable tube is released from the waist pack and then supports the user...
- Huge 75N Buoyancy
Spinlock Alto 75N PFD Belt is one of the best buoyancy aids for various watersports. Therefore, this device is just a belt that you can wear front or back, inflating it when you need it.
That means you have extreme freedom of movement with your upper body and core. You can twist, turn however you need to while you’re on your adventure.
Secondly, you won’t get warm. After all, this is just a belt that you’ll wear around your middle.
Another advantage is wearing whatever equipment you want during your trip. For example, you can wear a diving costume or warmer clothes.
Of course, you can also wear the belt in front and lean back to your kayak seat while you’re fishing. You can even do Yoga while wearing the Spinlock Alto.
Now that we’ve analysed its versatility, what about the way it works?
Well, Spinlock Alto has 75N buoyancy, keeping you afloat safely in different conditions. You’ll be able to activate it seamlessly, placing it under your arms and around your chest for reliable support.
However, you’ll notice that the Spinlock Alto isn’t tied to your body after you inflate it. Also, there’s that time you spend inflating it.
These two things tell us one thing:
You can’t wear it in rapid waters, high waves, or inclement weather. These conditions require you to wear a life jacket that’s tightly fastened to your body and has other safety features.
Typhoon Amrock XT Buoyancy Jacket: Best for Paddleboarding and Sailing
- BS EN ISO 12402 and CE Approved 50n Buoyancy with ergonomic design to aid in flexibility and...
- Fully adjustable buckled waist belt with a quick release front clasp. Adjustable shoulder pads for a...
- Detachable double crotch strap for added safety and prevents jacket riding up
This Typhoon Amrock XT Jacket is best for paddleboarding and sailing. Notice its ergonomic design that allows you to comfortably move your arms and upper body.
Apart from this freedom of movement, Amrock XT is easy to fit.
The waist belt and shoulder pads are both highly adjustable, meaning you can find the right fit for your size. There’s even a zip-up pocket for your smaller essentials.
On the downside, you can’t use this vest for whitewater paddling or touring because:
Amrock XT has 50N buoyancy, which might not be enough when you’ve fallen in a mountain torrent. Also, the single pocket can’t hold a radio or other survival essentials.
Sure, there’s the detachable double-crotch strap for extra safety, but that’s the only safety feature you get, and it’s mainly useful for water sports.
Helly Hansen Sport II Buoyancy Aid: Best for Inshore Water Sports or Swimming
- Helly Hansen Sport II is a unisex Buoyancy Aid that is classically designed/Feel stylish and secure...
- Buoyancy Aid features a front buckle and adjustable bottom hem to help keep the vest in place while...
- Easy to use design allows for a quick set up time meaning more time in the water buoyancy for a safe...
Helly Hanses Sport II is one of the best affordable vests on the market. The first clue is the price, of course.
Secondly, it’s a secure, comfortable piece of equipment.
You can tie this vest in place with a front buckle and zipper, but you can also tighten it around your chest and hips, thanks to two laces. As a result, this unisex vest fits different body shapes comfortably.
Besides, the Helly Hansen Sport II best features an adjustable bottom hem.
Adjust the hem to keep the vest more secure while you’re yachting, surfing, or paddleboarding.
Yes, you’ll be able to do all of these sports because (a) the vest is comfortable as we proved above and (b) it’s very slim. That means you’ll be able to move comfortably and have complete flexibility of movement.
However, the Helly Hansen Sport II isn’t best for whitewater paddling because it’s not highly safe, and it doesn’t have an extra float. The company recommends it for sailing, fishing, swimming and snorkelling.
Here’s the problem:
A fishing or touring jacket would better have more pockets than zero. That’s why we recommend it for inshore water sports or swimming.
After reading this article, you know why it’s essential to follow your needs when choosing a buoyancy aid. Not all vests are created equal, and neither are personality types.
So, before choosing, consider the type of paddling you’ll do, where, in what weather, how often, the risks you’re facing, and the equipment you need. That said, here’s a quick reminder of the best life jackets we discussed above:
- Typhoon Yalu Wave: Best for rec paddling
- Jobe 50 Newton Bodywarmer: Best warm vest for fishing and sailing
- Spinlock Alto 75N PFD Belt: Best versatile for watersports
- Typhoon Amrock XT: Best for paddleboarding and sailing
- Helly Hansen Sport II: Best for inshore water sports or swimming