Finding a kayaking PFD that fits your body right is essential to staying safe and getting the most enjoyment out of your time on the water.

For women, that may mean finding a PFD that is designed specifically for their bodies. This guide will offer advice on whether it’s worth getting a women’s PFD and round up some of the best women’s kayaking PFDs currently available on the market.

Best women's kayaking pfd

Quick Answer: The Best Women’s PFDs for Kayaking

  1. Stohlquist Flo
  2. Stohlquist Betsea
  3. Astral Layla
  4. Astral Linda
  5. NRS Zoya

Is a women’s PFD worth it?

Do you even need a women’s kayaking PFD?

The majority of kayaking PFDs on the market are actually considered unisex and are intended to be worn by both men and women. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ideal for women.

Deciding to go for a women’s PFD comes down to one key factor; comfort.

Kayaking PFDs designed specifically for women are a relatively new and it’s surprising that it’s taken so long to catch on. Obviously, women’s bodies are proportioned differently than men, so it only makes sense for them to have their own PFDs.

If you’re on the bustier side you’ll probably find that the contoured foam in a women’s PFD offers you a significantly more comfortable fit. And the same goes for shorter women. Unisex PFDs typically have a larger cut to accommodate men’s larger bodies. This can make for an awkward and uncomfortable fit if you’re on the short side.

Are women’s PFDs more expensive?

If you’re worried about paying extra for a PFD just because it’s designed specifically for women, don’t be. While there probably are some manufacturers that charge a premium, the prices of all our top picks are in line with unisex PFDs of a similar quality.

When you shouldn’t buy a women’s PFD

If you’re just looking for a PFD that looks good, you can certainly find unisex PFDs in more feminine colors, women have been doing it for years.

Taller than average women that are on the petite side won’t benefit as much from a women’s PFD and can probably get away with a unisex model if they desire.

There is one other good reason to go with a traditional PFD over a women’s PFD. If you’ll be sharing your PFD with family or friends that may not be women, it may be better to get something a bit more neutral and just get a unisex model.

What to look for

What to look for in a women’s kayaking PFD

Comfort

Comfort and freedom of movement are the most important qualities in a kayaking PFD. Your PFD won’t do you any good if you leave it at home because you find it too restrictive or uncomfortable to wear.

The US Coast Guard designates 5 different types of PFDs, but most kayakers choose a Type III PFD as they offer the best comfort and the freedom of movement required for effective paddling. They’re designed specifically for paddle sports and have large arm holes and keep the bulk of the flotation away from the arms and shoulders.

Many Type III PFDs have mesh along the lower back area. This not only provides ventilation but also makes for a better fit with the high-backed seats found in most modern kayaks.

The best women’s PFDs will have contoured foam and supportive inner cups, offering a more comfortable fit.

Storage

In most kayaks, storage space is already at a premium. Having some pockets on your PFD can be nice way to keep you essentials in handy reach. Many PFDs also have ‘lash tabs’ which allow you to clip on accessories like an emergency knife or light beacon for paddling in low light conditions.

Keep in mind that adding more pockets and other features generally adds bulk to a PFD. It’s best not to go crazy unless you’ll be doing some longer distance touring and think you’ll make use of them.

Best Women’s PFDs for Kayaking

Best Women’s PFDs for Kayaking

Stohlquist Flo

Overall Score: (4.6/5)

Stohlquist Women's Flo Life Jacket/Personal Floatation Device

Specifications:

USCG Classification: Type III

Flotation rating: 16 lbs 4 oz

Material: 240 denier nylon

Features:

Comfort:

Durability:

Value:

Best for: Recreational paddlers that want exceptional comfort but don’t want to break the bank.

 from $93.52

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-07-20 at 17:14 – Details)

Review

Stohlquist has several different PFDs designed specifically for women with the Flo being one of their most popular. It’s geared towards recreational paddlers that are primarily concerned with comfort and don’t necessarily need a ton of storage space.

The Flo has a total of eight adjustment points so you can dial in the right fit for any body type. Two of the eight are the cross-chest cinch straps, which help prevent it from riding up throughout the day.

While it doesn’t have an excessive amount of storage space, it does have two large bellows pockets. The nice thing about the bellows pockets is they can expand to hold quite a bit of gear, but sit relatively flat when empty. It’s a nice touch that helps minimize bulk.

The Flo is made out of a lighter 240 denier nylon that prevents it from feeling stiff. It’s a durable material but isn’t quite as tough as the material used in other PFDs intended for serious touring.

The Flo utilizes Stohlquist’s ergonomic Wrapture shaped torso, which uses pre-shaped foam and foam of various thicknesses to provide a very comfortable fit. On top of that, it also has contoured inner cups that are designed to wrap rather that crush your torso. The mesh along the lower back means it also works well with a high-backed kayak seat.

Stohlquist Betsea

Overall Score: (4.6/5)

Stohlquist Women's Betsea Personal Floatation Device

Specifications:

USCG Classification: Type III

Flotation rating: 16 lbs 10 oz

Material: 500 denier nylon (Cordura)

Features:

Comfort:

Durability:

Value:

Best for: Women that do a lot of touring and need higher performance from their PFD.

 from $99.95

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-07-21 at 08:24 – Details)

Review

The Betsea is another solid women’s PFD from Stohlquist. Where the Flo is intended for recreational paddling, the Betsea is built for more demanding touring conditions.

Like the Flo, it has the same ergonomically shaped Wrapture foam and inner cups that help offer an exceptionally comfortable fit for women. It also has the same eight adjustment points so you can customize the fit to your body.

The Betsea sets itself apart with added durability and extra storage features.

It’s made with a very tough 500 denier nylon, so it should stand up to wear and tear significantly better than the Flo. It has more secure zipper pockets rather than button pockets and the Betsea also includes two lined hand-warmer pockets, which are a welcomed additions for paddling in cooler weather.

The two lash tabs are nice additions that allow you to clip on accessories like an emergency knife or strobe light for paddling in low light conditions.

One point worth noting is that the Betsea doesn’t have mesh along the lower back area, so it’s probably not the best choice if you have a high-backed seat. Touring kayaks generally have shorter seats than recreational kayaks, so if you have one, it may not be an issue. All the same, it’s still worth being aware of.

 

Astral Layla

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Astral Layla - Women's

Specifications:

USCG Classification: Type III

Flotation rating: 16 lbs 5 oz

Material: 200 x 400 denier nylon

Features:

Comfort:

Durability:

Value:

Best for

 from $112.67

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2018-06-05 at 22:11 – Details)

Review

The Astral Layla has a unique 3/4 zip entry method which, according to Astral, provides a better fit for women compared to the standard front zip used by most PFDs.

Like the most comfortable women’s PFDs, the Astral has built-in cups and hinged princess seams that accommodate a feminine form.

Another unique aspect about the Layla is that it is PVC-free and uses organic plant-based Kapok foam for the front panel. Not only is it very soft and conforms well to your body, it’s also sustainable and a nice feature to have if you’re concerned about chemicals that may be present in other foams.

Rather than the usual side pockets, the Layla has one large center pocket, which expands to provide a good amount of space and also has a lash tab for clipping on accessories.

The foam on the back panel extends all the way down, so the Layla may not be the best option if your kayak has a high-backed seat.

Astral Linda

Overall Score: (4.3/5)

Astral Designs Linda Women's Life Jacket

Specifications:

USCG Classification: Type III

Flotation rating: 16 lbs

Material: 200 denier nylon

Features:

Comfort:

Durability:

Value:

Features

Best for

 from $82.80

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-27 at 18:13 – Details)

Review

The Linda is our top pick for women that like to a bit of kayak fishing from time to time. While it’s not exclusively a fishing PFD – it’s great for casual recreational paddling – its two extra large bellows pockets offer more room than the average women’s PFD and are a great for keeping a small tackle box or extra gear close at hand.

While the Linda doesn’t have a mesh lower back, it’s still designed to work well with the high-backed seats you often find in fishing kayaks. Astral’s Thin-Vent design uses a thin layer of foam along the back so it doesn’t get in the way of your seat. It also includes a mesh vent along the upper back, which is a nice touch for those warmer days.

The Linda also uses articulating and sculpted foam around the torso that provides a better fit for women. The reflective accents are also a nice touch if you end up fishing or paddling in low-light conditions.

NRS Zoya

Overall Score: (4.1/5)

Nrs Women's Zoya Mesh Back Pfd

Specifications:

USCG Classification: Type III

Flotation rating: 16 lbs 8 oz

Material: 400 denier nylon

Features:

Comfort:

Durability:

Value:

Features

Best for

 from $104.95

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-07-20 at 17:14 – Details)

Review

The Zoya is a beautifully designed PFD that minimizes bulk from pockets for a sleeker look.

It does have two zipper pockets, but they sit flat and don’t offer a ton of space. They’re about right for keeping your chapstick, sunscreen, or other small items on hand. It does have a front lash tab and a rear gear loop, so you can still clip on some accessories down the road if you choose.

While it doesn’t have inner cups, the Zoya uses multiple layers of strategically placed foam for flexibility and to help it contour to your body.

It has a total of six adjustment points, so it’s about average in terms of customizing the fit to your body. A nice little touch are the ‘shoulder strap garages’ that allow you tuck away the lose ends of your shoulder straps so they aren’t flapping in the breeze.

The Zoya is designed to work with high-backed seats and has mesh along the lower back. It also has reflective accents on both the front and back, which is great if you’ll be paddling near dusk or dawn.

Wrapping Up

While a big part of choosing a PFD is personal preference, our top pick for best women’s kayaking PFD is the Stohlquist Flo. Its carefully considered design offers excellent comfort for women, which is the most important quality to look for in a PFD. It also happens to be one of the more affordable women’s PFDs on the market, which makes it an easy choice if you’re working with a budget.

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