Fishing may have risks if you don’t do it properly. As an angler, you have to prioritize safety over anything. Even if you know how to swim or know that you’re quite good at it, you still need a life jacket.
All anglers should wear life jackets. However, keep in mind that not all life vests are appropriate for fishing. The best life vest for you should allow easy movement so that you can fish properly.
Aside from that, think about the water conditions you’ll be fishing in. There are lifejackets in the market that suit many types of water conditions. But worry not!
You can learn about the most reviewed personal floatation devices and their key features. It’s up to you if it fits your fishing style.
Here are the best life jackets to buy!
Our Top Picks
Best Life Jackets
Here are top picks for coast guard approved jackets you can choose from:
1. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
Best Life Jacket for Anglers
- Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
- Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
- SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
- It easily conforms to your body
- Allows a lot of ventilation to keep you cool
- Built with adjustable neoprene comfort pads in the shoulders
- Zipper closure for easy wearing and removal
- Features SOLAS-grade reflective material to maximize visibility
- Expandable zipper pockets
This US Coast Guard-approved vest allows maximum comfort and safety for its users. The vest stays in place while you paddle or reach over to get your rods or equipment. The expandable zippered pocket is a great feat for storing small items.
2. Stohlquist Adult FIT High Mobility Life Jacket
Best-One Size Fits All Vest
- FEEL THE MOVEMENT - High mobility, non-restrictive cut....
- INNOVATION MEANS BETTER - All foam corners are rounded and...
- COAST GUARD APPROVED - Safety is our number one concern for...
- Universal sizing
- Great capacity for all body types
- 200-denier nylon design for the outer shell and liner
This USCG-approved vest is known as one of the best universal vests. If you’re starting fishing, then this vest might be the best for you. It is also equipped with thinner back panels to provide maximum mobility on high seatbacks.
3. O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Vest
Best Budget Life Jacket
- USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device (Type III); Perfect...
- Designed to fit snug for your safety. Minimal bulk design...
- Anatomically cut lightweight polyethylene foam flotation...
- Designed to be snug fit
- Allows full mobility using minimal bulk design
- Utilizes Lightweight Polyethylene Foam
- Overlock Stitched-Design
This vest is known to be one of the best budget life jackets. If you’re on a tight budget but still want to have a USCG-approved vest, then you might want to check this out. The vest is also installed with a quad buckle system for extra tightness no matter what body type.
4. O’Neill Men’s Assault USCG Vest
Best Lightweight Vest
- USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device; Perfect for Wake...
- Minimal Bulk Design Allows Full Mobility, While Anatomical...
- NytroLite Foam: 3x Lighter, 10% More Buoyant, and Absorbs...
- Features a concealed dual belt system
- Includes integrated lumbar pad for your core
- Designed with a lightweight fluid foam neoprene shell
- Enables full mobility with no restricted movement
This O’Neill lightweight vest is great for anglers who go river fishing. Multitasking won’t be a problem for its users. You won’t have to worry about your vest hindering your movements when you’re reeling in fast or have to paddle for some time. This is also a notable vest for water skiing.
5. Stohlquist Fisherman Fishing Kayak Life Jacket
Best High Budget Life Vest
- GRADED SIZING - Stohlquist's Graded Sizing offers the best...
- CROSS-CHEST CINCH - The innovative Cross-Chest Cinch...
- BREATHABILITY & MOBILITY - Open sides, with adjustable mesh...
- Includes dual drop-down pouch pockets (for tool hangers and mesh inside pockets)
- Features the Cordura nylon shell that resists UV and abrasion
- Eco-friendly Gaia™ PVC-free foam
If you’re an angler looking for the right life vest, then you might want to consider this. This floatation device was specially designed for anglers. It features special loops that let you secure your rod quickly.
This is extremely helpful by the time you release a fish or retrieve an anchor. It also comes with multiple tool hangers for your tools, like nippers and the best fishing pliers.
6. Stearns Child Hydroprene Vest
Best Vest for Children
- US Coast Guard-approved life jacket
- Soft, flexible Hydroprene shell and Crosstech PE foam
- Ergonomic design for enhanced ease of movement
- Crosstech PE foam inserts – flexible foam
- Includes front zipper closure and adjustable straps
- Comfortable vest for your child with a leg strap
- Inherently buoyant
This vest is USCG-approved, and parents love to purchase it for their children. If you want to bring your child to your fishing trip, then you might want to consider getting them this vest. It has a soft and flexible hydropene shell.
7. Stohlquist Men’s Trekker Life Jacket
Best Ergonomic Vest
- Offers a comfortable and secure fit without movement restrictions
- Ergonomic ‘wrapture’ that shapes the vest and contours to the wearer’s body shape
- Includes large pockets
- Reflective accents
This Stohlquist PFD is great if you’re looking for the most comfortable fit when fishing. It is also designed with large zippered pockets and adjustable side belts.
8. West Marine Coastal Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket
Best for All-Day Wearing
- Automatically inflates
- Offers maximum comfort and mobility
- Not for beginners or non-swimmers
- Great for fishing in calm waters
- Low profile design shoulder straps
This automatic inflatable jacket is great for fishing all day. However, it does have its disadvantages. If you’re not well-experienced in swimming or you have a weak physique, then this vest is not for you. Even if you can swim, this vest is still best used in calm water and never for deep-sea fishing.
9. Revere Lifejackets Comfort Max Inflatable PFDs
Best Automatic Personal Floatation Device
- It can be used automatically or manually with a given guide
- Built with exterior inflation system access flap
- Maximum comfort for the user’s neck
This Revere PFD is a great option for when you’re near a port or within calm water. This is also a great vest for fly fishing.
What Should I Look For When Buying Life Jackets
If you’re looking for adult life jackets, here’s what you should take note of:
The jacket weight capacity is important in determining if you can float by the time you’re in the water.
Always check the jacket’s capacity and see if you are fit to wear it or not. Always change jackets if you’ve gained weight and you think that your jacket cannot hold your weight anymore.
The size of your jacket will affect the probability of your vest being removed once you fall overboard.
To check if your buoyancy aid is the proper size, put the jacket on and lift it from your shoulders. If you can move around in the jacket, it’s either too big or too loose.
The best design should fit your fishing style since it also affects your mobility and constant wear.
You should consider that you should get a great jacket for that type of fishing if you’re into kayak fishing. A great jacket also has multiple pockets or spacious pockets for storage and has reflective piping. Security straps and adjustable side straps are also great for a vest. A belt pack is great for children.
A great jacket depends on the materials.
Some materials can help in retaining body heat. Some materials do not help in assisting the wearer face up when in water.
FAQs About Life Vests
What makes PFDs different from life jackets?
Lifejackets are bigger and less comfortable to wear since they are designed to be a life preserver, and comfort for the user comes second. Personal flotation devices are designed to find a balance between keeping wearers safe while still letting them move freely. As a result, PFDs are much less bulky, and the buoyant area that keeps wearers afloat is more evenly distributed.
Is it possible to drown with a life jacket?
Yes, it is possible to drown even if you are wearing a life jacket. There has been a significant number of paddlers who lost their lives because of ‘entrapment’. The paddler may not escape because of the strong pressure and can result in death even with a life jacket.
How reliable are life jackets?
Not all US Coast Guard Approved vests perform the same way. Some will turn a person face up if they become unconscious, while others will not. All infants and young children should wear a life jacket authorized by the U.S. Coast Guard that has a collar to support the child’s head and an adjustable crotch strap.
Getting the proper fit for your life jacket is very crucial. You have to take your time choosing the right life jacket if you want to maximize its effectiveness. Take note of these and see if you found the perfect personal flotation device for you.