10 Best PFD for Stand Up Paddle Boarding: SUP Personal Flotation Devices

10 Best PFD for Stand Up Paddle Boarding

In this post we will talk about the best personal flotation device (PFD) for stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Once you get the chance to try stand up paddle boarding, there’s nothing more exciting than to do it again and again! That feeling of getting out on the water and navigating your board by yourself is quite exhilarating.

Despite SUP being a fun sport, it still requires the right gear to keep you safe. Before you get out on the water, you’ll need a personal flotation device, or PFD for short.

The PFD is essential to any water sport as it keeps you afloat in deep waters. If you lose your balance, the PFD will give you enough time to regain your composure and control in the water.

There are 5 different PFD types you must know about before you purchase one for yourself or for your family member. Let’s discuss the various types and classifications of each PFD.

best pfd for stand up paddle boarding

The 5 Types of Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) and Life Jackets

best pfd for stand up paddle boarding

Type I PFD

Type I is a basic type of PFD. They are commonly used on commercial vessels and watercraft over 12 feet in length. Sometimes called offshore life jackets, Type I PFDs are able to be used in all water conditions including rough and secluded water areas where it may take time before rescuers can arrive in the event of an accident.

These vests are a bit bulky, but the added foam and fabric help keep in body heat. Another benefit of Type I vests is that they help keep your head high above the water to regain control and view your surroundings.


type II personal flotation device


Type II PFDs are commonly used on inshore waters or in calmer water areas. They are not the best in rougher waters and should only be used by good swimmers.

These vests may require you to tread water in order to keep your head above water for visibility. This type of life vest is used by wakeboarders, kayakers, boaters, and even paddle boarders where the chance of immediate rescue happens quickly.



Type III PFDtype III personal flotation device

Type III PFDs provide far less flotation capability than a Type I PFD, so Type IIIs should only be used by very good swimmers. This type provides a more comfortable fit than Type I or Type II PFDs.

Type IIIs are commonly worn like a cold season belt, jacket, or a fish-hunting vest. These personal flotation devices are designed to allow the wearer to float vertically, while the face is above water.



type IV personal flotation device


Type IV PFDs are known as throwable PFDs and include devices such as a seat cushion or ring buoy. These personal flotation devices are usually not worn, and they are not to be used for non-swimmers, small children, or for an unconscious person.

An example of a Type IV PFD is a ring buoy, which is an orange, donut-shaped flotation device typically seen outside of the passageways of ferries or ships. They are positioned close by in areas of a vessel for immediate use.


Type V PFD

type V personal flotation device

This type is known as a hybrid of all the aforementioned PFD types. This PFD contains a CO2 cartridge that when pierced releases gas to inflate the device.

Some Type V PFDs are water-activated and will inflate automatically when submerged in water.

The manual units, however, are activated by yanking a pull-tab. Both types of PFDs feature blow-tubes to provide a back-up method of inflation in case the other method fails to work.

Type V PFDs are usually worn by fishermen or crewmen of ships. These personal flotation devices are generally compact and lightweight, and allow the wearer to breathe and move without many hindrances.


How to Choose the Best PFD For Stand Up Paddle Boarding


Identifying the Perfect Type

A common life jacket or vest for recreational SUP is the Type II PFD. Any Type II PFD with a neoprene foam jacket and adjustable buckles and straps would be a wise choice.

If you’re an advanced swimmer and want full comfort and mobility, you can consider a Type V PFD vest. These are probably the least constricting, lightweight and compact wearable floatation devices, allowing you to breathe and move without restriction.

  Get Fitted!

The 3 common sizes of PFDs are Child, Youth, and Adult. Most types and sizes are unisex, but there are also variations specifically designed for men and women. For pets, there are pet-specific sizes as well.

The perfect size of PFD should fit well and snugly. Of course, you’ll want to be able to breathe and move well when you are wearing a PFD, but it shouldn’t be overly loose. If the shoulder part of the vest rises up to your ears, the vest is too big.

The two buckles should meet the two ends and fasten comfortably. If they don’t, then the jacket might be too small.

The same sizing recommendations apply for a pet that will go paddle boarding with you!


  Keep Afloat

Type I and Type II PFDs have an average of 22 pounds of buoyancy for adult sizes and 11 pounds for child sizes. On the other hand, Type V PFDs require an average of 34 pounds of buoyancy.

Just remember that you will weigh less in the water due to buoyancy. So for example, if you weigh 200 pounds, the 22-pound buoyancy can fit you. At the same time, all vests that are Coast Guard approved will carry and float the average body weight.


  Best Material

Not only do you need a snug fit SUP PFD, but you also need a very reliable one. The best material to choose for your PFD is neoprene or any nylon fabric.

Both of these materials enclose the inflatable foam pads well while still providing comfort. These fabrics also allow the water to bead off and keep a long-lasting, durable PFD for your paddle boarding adventures!

Now that you are familiar with the types of personal flotation devices and how to choose one, I will show you the 10 best PFDs used by those who love to SUP.

Almost every sporting goods store provides personal floatation devices. Some PFDs will come in different variations depending on your size, shape, and preferred style.

But despite their differences, one common trait of all PFDs is that they keep you afloat in water and increase your chances of survival in case of an accident.

10 Best PFD for Stand Up Paddle Boarding:

1. Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket contains an ergonomically shaped torso that provides extreme comfort when worn. It also has adjustable shoulders and 4 side pulls that conforms to fit your body.

Further, this PFD is made with reflective accents to increase your visibility in the water. This one’s friendly to all ages as it has sizes from small to large.

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket, Red, Small/Medium
469 Reviews
Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket, Red, Small/Medium
  • Ergonomic WRAPTURETM shaped torso
  • Adjustable shoulders, 4 side pulls and front waist buckle closure
  • Low cut, offset front-zip entry


2. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

The ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest is made with style and purpose. It contains soft foams around the torso and sides to give you comfort while afloat. It also comes with supportive mesh to avoid rising up to your chin while swimming.

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

Even in the dark, this vest is visible enough from a distance to spot the reflective strips. The sizes are a range from X-Small to XX-Large that are form fitting.

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, X-Large/XX-Large, Aqua
7,647 Reviews
ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, X-Large/XX-Large, Aqua
  • Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
  • Shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads
  • SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility


3. Onyx M-16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket PFD

The Onyx M-16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved life jacket that works well with ages 16 years and above. It is a 15 ounce belt that fits both men and women paddleboarders with varying weight sizes.

Onyx m 16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Furthermore, this belt also contains a pull-cord that is bright yellow for instant visibility in case of emergencies.

Onyx m 16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD)
1,074 Reviews
Onyx m 16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD)
  • Extremely low profile
  • 1" buckle and body belt
  • D-ring attachment for small accessories


4. Astral Buoyancy YTV Life Jacket

The Astral Buoyancy YTV Life Jacket is most famous for its stylish and fun colors – from coral baby blue to black trim. But apart from its unique colors, this jacket also comes with unique features. One of those features is its zippered pockets which help heat up your hands during colder days on the water.

Astral YTV Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Touring Kayaking, Sailing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding

It also contains a torso lock which is designed for swimmers who do not want excess straps dangling around. Above all, this jacket is designed to keep you afloat and provide maximum comfort.

Astral YTV Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Touring Kayaking, Sailing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding,...
  • MADE FOR SAFETY: Stay afloat with PVC-free Gaia and PE foam inserts; Buoyancy rating of 16.5 lbs; USCG Type V Approval
  • SECURE FIT: Torso Lock fit platform is easy to adjust, keeps the jacket in place as you move and is a favorite for freestyle kayakers; Pullover style with adjustable side buckles to fit; Weighs only...
  • DURABLE: Made to last for many adventures; 200 x 400 Denier Ripstop Nylon shell and 200 Denier High Tenacity Nylon liner; PolyPro webbing, heavy duty hardware and zippers with Self Locking Vislon...


5. Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Vest

The Stearns Adult Classic Series life vest is US coast guard approved making it a great option for paddle boarding.

Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

It has incredible durability the reason why it stayed around for so many years. With its webbed straps and durable nylon shells, it is assured that this vest will endure many seasons.

Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest, 3000004475, Blue, Universal
5,524 Reviews
Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest, 3000004475, Blue, Universal
  • US coast guard-approved adult life jacket
  • Great for boating, tubing, and swimming
  • Soft polyester shell and durable Crosstech flotation foam


6. Crown Sporting Goods Flotation Device

The top feature of the Crown Sporting Goods Flotation Device vest is its quick-release buckles. This makes it easy to get off when you are back on dry land.

This jacket can fit those over 110 lbs, making it a great life vest for adults and children with large body types. There is also a wide variety of bright colors to choose from.

Crown Sporting Goods Multi-Sport Personal Flotation Device Life Vest with Hi-Visibility Reflective Panels and Threading

Crown Sporting Goods Multi-Sport Personal Flotation Device Life Vest with Hi-Visibility Reflective...
  • SAFETY FIRST: Traditional life vest with unique shoulder safety reflectors and reflective threading
  • WEAR WITH CONFIDENCE: 3 quick-release buckles and 2 leg straps. Oxford cloth and nylon upper layered buoyant foam inner
  • SIZE LARGE: Ideal for 44-48 inch chest and holds between 176-198 lbs. Wide open arm holes and adjustable straps for best fit


7. NRS Vapor PFD

The NRS Vapor PFD vest is narrow-shaped in the upper body of the vest as it is specifically made for taller paddlers with long torsos. However, it still has straps that will make it adjustable to fit any body type.

Generally, it’s reflective light, attachable dive knives sleeves, and lightweight structure make it a very reliable vest for paddlers.

NRS Vapor PFD (Black, S-M)
202 Reviews
NRS Vapor PFD (Black, S-M)
  • Type III US Coast Guard Certification through testing by Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
  • Easy entry, just slip the jacket on and secure 2 side buckles and once adjusted, it fits right every time
  • 4 side and 2 shoulder adjustments for the perfect fit


8. Mouchain Unisex Life Vest

Mounchain Life Vest Women Men Life Jacket Water Sports

This is indeed a great life vest for all occasions and all ages. It can’t only be used for paddle boarding but also for sailing and windsurfing.

The Mounchain Unixex Life Vest contains an adjustable waist and three buckle straps to ensure that it will fit around your body well. The best part of this vest is it’s whistle feature. Which will help to be easily found in the water in case of emergencies.

Mounchain Life Vest Jacket Water Sports for Unisex Adults Children PDF Blue M
  • [Material]: Soft polyester shell and durable EPE flotation foam.
  • [Design]: Ajustable waist design and 3 adjustable breathable buckles.
  • [Occasions]: Suitable for water motorcycling, surfing, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, boats, swimming, or on the beach sports.


9. MTI Adventurewear Headwater High Buoyancy PFD

MTI Adventurewear Headwater High Buoyancy PFD Life Jacket

The MTI Adventurewear Headwater High Buoyancy PFD features hand-warming pockets, adjustable straps, and an air flow mechanism for a very comfortable hug in cold waters.

It also comes with front pockets that will allow you to store accessories like a cell phone, whistle, and other items you might need when out paddleboarding.

MTI Adventurewear Headwater High Buoyancy PFD Life Jacket, Cyber Yellow/Gray, X-Small/Small
  • Durable 500D Cordura nylon construction with generous reflective panels for durability and high visibility
  • Designed for the unique demands of big water paddlers & professionals for high-intensity water work that requires extra buoyancy and strength
  • Four front storage pockets and two fleece-lined hand-warmer pockets


10. Onyx A/M 24 Automatic Vest

This Onyx A/M 24 Automatic Vest  is one of the most commonly used and automatic inflatable vests by paddle boarders in the community.

It contains a harness that is very easy to slip in and out. It also is made with a stretchable back insert that works great in adding comfort while you SUP.

Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
159 Reviews
Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
  • U.S. Coast Guard approved Type V life jacket/Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  • Equipped with utility pockets for a spare CO2 cylinder, waterproof camera or other gear
  • Convertible from automatic/manual to manual only inflation

Compare the Top 10 PFD For Stand Up Paddle Boarding


So, wearing PFD during stand up paddle boarding is a must!

After reading everything we have discussed on PFDs, make sure you find the personal flotation device that will work best for you and your family while keeping you safe during your paddle boarding activities.

Do you know of any other personal flotation devices that come highly recommended?

Don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comments.

Safe Paddling!

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