Stay Afloat – The Best Life Jackets for Boats

Maya Brown

September 14, 2023


It’s undeniable that the thrill of fishing – catching a giant bass, enjoying a sunny day on the water, and admiring nature’s beauty – is unparalleled. But even with all its excitement, there’s no denying that safety should always come first, and having one of the best life jackets for boats by your side is vital for your well-being at sea. So, let’s dive deep into the items that keep you afloat and find the right jacket to provide you comfort and peace of mind anywhere you go.

The personal flotation devices I’ll review were designed by Stohlquist, NRS, and Astral, all reputable brands specializing in a wide range of outdoor gear, especially for boating and kayaking. While you can’t go wrong with any of these options, there are some things you need to take into account to ensure you invest in the safety jacket that fits your specific needs the best.

What Are Life Jackets?

Even beginner anglers understand that there’s a lot of unpredictability at play when you’re enjoying outdoor activities. Water can be especially unpredictable, whether you’re fishing at night or on a bright summer day. That’s why safety gear is essential, and life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFDs), are considered necessary equipment for anyone who’s planning to go on some boating adventures anytime soon.

These devices are typically made from durable materials and feature adjustable straps or buckles to secure them around the wearer’s torso. Worn like that, this safety equipment will help individuals stay afloat in water and increase their chances of survival in aquatic emergencies. They are specifically engineered to provide buoyancy and keep a person’s head above water, even if unconscious.

There are three common types of PFDs:

  • Inherently buoyant – made from materials such as foam, these devices are designed to provide flotation without the need for any inflation mechanism,
  • Inflatable – they have chambers that can be manually or automatically inflated with gas when needed,
  • Hybrid – combines the features of the aforementioned types.

Why Do You Need to Invest in a Good Lifecket?

Life jackets are widely used in water-related activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, and water sports, as well as by professionals in the maritime and aviation industries. So, no matter what your preferred fishing technique is, investing in this high-quality safety gear is crucial for several reasons.

First things first, it ensures superior safety and protection in water-related activities, even in the most dangerous emergencies. A well-made device is constructed from durable materials, making it long-lasting and offering a secure and comfortable fit. All in all, by investing in a good-quality life jacket, you’re investing in your safety and that of your loved ones, ensuring peace of mind and confidence while enjoying your aquatic pursuits.

A young girl fishing on a boat
This essential gear will ensure the safety of you and everyone you bring on your trips

The Stohlquist Fisherman Life Jacket Will Ensure Your Safety for Years to Come

Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, the high-performance Stohlquist Fisherman Lifejacket is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of fishing enthusiasts. No matter their preferred angling style or target fish species. This handy device will not only help you stay safe during your trips, but it’s also ideal for storing and easily accessing all your essentials, including fly fishing equipment such as tippet lines and lightweight lures.

Better yet, if you’re looking for the best life jackets for young kids on boats, this brand offers quality options too – my personal favorite is the Stohlquist Kids Life Jacket, which is, like its adult version, approved by the US Coast Guard.

Key Features of The Stohlquist Fisherman

The Stohlquist safety jacket boasts a rugged and durable construction, utilizing tough nylon fabrics that can withstand the rigors of any outdoor adventure. With its innovative and ergonomic design, it offers maximum comfort and freedom of movement, allowing you to focus on reeling in even the biggest saltwater species from your boat.

Here are the main features of this handy safety device:

Material Polyethylene Foam
Available Sizes XS, M, L, XL, XXL
Flotation 16.3 lbs
Number of Pockets 7
Adjustable Straps 8
Price $108

Pros and Cons of The Stohlquist Fisherman

Besides being specifically designed for fishing, the product’s biggest advantage is probably the fact that it’s a great value-for-money choice. For a price tag of just over $100, you might be surprised that’s the case. However, in the category of high-quality flotation devices, this is quite a steal, especially considering the wide array of available sizes and its overall performance.

While this life jacket offers great shoulder mobility, it seems like there is room for improvement in the overall ergonomic design. Actually, the Stohlquist leans more towards functionality rather than pure comfort. But when it comes to safety, functionality is definitely the most important thing – however, those interested in extended fishing sessions might want to take this into consideration.

Customer Reviews of The Stohlquist Fisherman

The Stohlquist flotation device has garnered excellent customer reviews over the years, with most fishermen being particularly impressed by the overall convenience and low-profile nature of the pockets. They also appreciated the availability of a variety of sizes, ensuring a proper fit for anglers of all shapes and sizes.

While most users found it functional and comfortable, some mentioned the same thing I saw as the only downside of this product – it might lack a bit of comfort-focused design. However, it’s still commended for its mobility and adjustable straps, meaning you won’t exactly break your back having this thing on and staying a few hours longer out on the water.

Inshore fishing rod on a boat
Water can be unpredictable, so it's important to invest in some quality safety gear

The NRS Vapor Kayak Life Jacket Is Another Great Value-For-Money Choice

If you liked the previous flotation device but would like to save a couple of bucks on the side for your baits and lures, there is another great value-for-money option – the NRS Vapor Kayak Lifejacket. With its wide range of sizes, affordable price, and smart safety design, this is a reliable and versatile flotation device that will let you have peace of mind in various water activities.

Key Features of The NRS Vapor Kayak

The low-profile design of this NRS Vapor life jacket is a standout feature, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of activities such as kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and boating. This eliminated the need to purchase separate PFDs if you like to undertake some kayaking or other water-based activities in addition to your fishing trips.

Here are the specifications of this particular flotation device:

Material Nylon Foam
Available Sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL
Flotation 16.5 lbs
Number of Pockets 0
Adjustable Straps 6
Price $95

Pros and Cons of The NRS Vapor Kayak

The biggest advantage of this particular flotation device is probably its enhanced versatility, not only when it comes to different activities but also in terms of available sizes. Thanks to its two waist straps on either side and adjustable shoulder straps, this PFD is able to fit different body types and simplifies the process of finding the right fit compared to other available options.

If you’re looking to save a few extra bucks and get the comfortability that the previous product might lack, the NRS safety jacket is definitely worth considering. However, it’s important to underline that the model lacks pockets, which might be highly useful for storing various items such as fish hooks, baits, and lures. At the end of the day, it comes down to your specific requirements.

Customer Reviews of The NRS Vapor Kayak

The NRS Vapor stands as one of the best-rated flotation devices, with plenty of customers praising its versatility and performance across a wide range of activities. Moreover, they particularly commend the ease of putting it on and taking it off, bringing convenience no matter where you plan on going.

As most negative reviews are about ordering the wrong size, it’s safe to say that customers haven’t experienced any crucial inconveniences. If you just make sure to double-check your order, a comfortable PFD that offers outstanding performance across different water-based pursuits will be delivered right to your door.

Man kayaking in a river during the sunset
Kayaking, canoeing, boating - no matter your preference, you'll have peace of mind

The Astral BlueJacket Life Jacket Is the Best Overall Flotation Device Available on the Market

If you’re willing to invest, your investment will surely pay off tenfold with the Astral BlueJacket Life Jacket. It shares several benefits with its flotation sister, the Astral GreenJacket Life Jacket, which is widely considered the best PFD available on the market but with a slightly lower Coast Guard certification, which is still pretty outstanding compared to most PFDs.

Key Features of The Astral BlueJacket

Being Type III PFD, the BlueJacket shares plenty of advantages with its counterpart while skipping on rescue belts and excessive flotation required for every activity. To put it simply – no matter the lower grade, it’s still an outstanding flotation device that will ensure you all the safety you could possibly need during your boating trips.

Here are the main features of the Astral BlueJacket PFD:

Material Nylon Foam
Available Sizes S/M, M/L, L/XL
Flotation 16.4 lbs
Number of Pockets 3
Adjustable Straps 8
Price $260

Pros and Cons of The Astral BlueJacket

When it comes to benefits, there’s plenty to say about this particular product, from the comfort it offers to the outstanding performance in both freshwater and saltwater environments. The biggest advantage that makes this PFD stand out from the rest is definitely the fact that a hydration sleeve is incorporated into the design.

On the other hand, there’s not much to say about this safety jacket in terms of downsides. Obviously, for a price of around $260, this is quite an investment, but that’s about it. If you’re willing to invest, you’ll have a high-quality safety device in your boating equipment that’ll surely serve you well for years to come.

Customer Reviews of The Astral BlueJacket

Customers couldn’t express enough praise for this particular product, giving it all-around great ratings and leaving very positive reviews. It seems like the best aspect of this particular product is its compatibility with a wide array of water-based activities while still not compromising on quality and performance. In that regard, this product literally has no negative reviews on Amazon.

Grandfather and children wearing life jackets on a boat
With the Astral PFDs, you can rest easy knowing that everyone is safe and secure

How to Choose the Best Life Jackets for Boats

The dynamic nature of being on the water, combined with various unpredictable factors and challenges, entails adherence to safety practices. With so many PFDs available in today’s market, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you.

To ensure a perfect match, here are the most important aspects you need to consider:

Proper Buoyancy

It’s crucial to look for safety jackets that meet the Coast Guard’s approved buoyancy rating, as do all of the PFDs reviewed above. Different types offer varying levels of buoyancy, so consider the specific requirements based on your boating needs.

Comfort and Fit

The perfect safety jacket should allow for freedom of movement while boating. So, look for adjustable straps or buckles, as they help to accommodate different body sizes and shapes. Prioritize comfort, as a well-fitting PFD is more likely to be worn consistently.

Safety Features

Look for reflective elements that enhance visibility in low-light conditions or whistle attachments that can be used to signal for help in emergency situations. Some safety jackets might also have additional features such as pockets or built-in harnesses.

Additional Tips Before Buying the Product

Before you go ahead and make your final purchase, I want to leave you with a few additional tips. First, take your time and make sure you research and compare different options, as this will ensure that you’re making a well-informed decision. Also, don’t be lazy to go through reviews and seek recommendations from trusted sources – trust me, it will provide you with plenty of valuable insight.

It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry – Get Your PFD and Enjoy Stress-Free Boating

All in all, staying safe on the boat is important, and one of the most crucial parts of that whole ordeal is finding high-quality safety jackets for each individual. Whether you are fishing, sailing, jet skiing, or wakeboarding – wearing PFDs can make all the difference if things go awry. Remember, when it comes to boating, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.