10 Best PFD for Stand Up Paddle Boarding: SUP Personal Flotation Devices ( 2023 Update )


 10 Best PFD for Stand Up Paddle Boarding 

In this post we will talk about the best 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

[icon icon=”arrow-circle-right”] 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

[icon icon=”arrow-circle-right”] Type II PFD

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.


[icon icon=”arrow-circle-right”] 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

[icon icon=”arrow-circle-right”] Type IV PFD

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.


[icon icon=”arrow-circle-right”] 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.

5 Types of Personal Flotation Devices and Life Jackets


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.


 Compare the Top 10 PFD For Stand Up Paddle Boarding 


 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.


  • Comfortable.
  • Freedom of movement.
  • Pockets for small items ( cell phone, keys, etc).


  • May ride up slightly.
  • Must check for proper size and fit based on height and weight before purchase.

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

Stohlquist Edge Adult PFD Life Jacket - Red, Small/Medium - Easy to Adjust Whitewater PFD, High...
  • GRADED SIZING - Stohlquist's Graded Sizing offers the best fit, and lowest footprint possible, for the widest range of body types. We have fine tuned each individual size, and sculpted the foam...
  • ERGONOMIC WRAPTURE SHAPED TORSO - The ergonomic WRAPTURE shaped torso utilizes reverse articulated foam & convex interior seams to contour to the natural shape of the body and provide a close, low...
  • MAXIMUM COMFORT - Padded, contoured shoulder straps; large arm openings; and a low-cut, offset front-zip entry, along with 4 side pulls, and a front waist buckle closure. Mesh sides also offer maximum...


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.


  • Attractive design.
  • Non-restrictive.
  • Large storage pockets.


  • Maybe uncomfortable fit for women.
  • Bulky
  • May not be good for inexperienced swimmers.

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, Aqua, XL/2XL
  • Soft, lightweight flotation foam
  • Mesh in lower back fits high back seats
  • Attached whistle for safety


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.


  • Attractive lightweight design.
  • Great on hot Summer days when wearing a traditional life vest can be uncomfortable.
  • Comfortable and of good quality.


  • Green indicator pins have to be purchased separately and replaced everytime you pull the lever.
  • Only comes with one CO2 cartridge.
  • Vague instructions on how to operate and use.

ONYX M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack Life Jacket
1,246 Reviews
ONYX M-16 Manual Inflatable Belt Pack Life Jacket
  • Type V life vest belt pack
  • Size: Adult
  • Manual inflatable


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.


  • Lightweight and flexible.
  • Easily adjustable and good fit.
  • Freedom of movement with little hinderance.


  • Not very easy to put on and off due to lack of buckles and zippers.
  • Small pockets. Not big enough for large screen cell phones.

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.


  • Great for inexperienced swimmers.
  • Adjustable straps to fit mostly all body types.
  • Great quality for the price.


  • Depending on torso size. Vest may ride up frequently.
  • Very basic life vest.

Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Vest, USCG Approved Type III Life Jacket with Standard & Oversized...
  • US Coast Guard-approved adult life jacket
  • Great for boating, tubing, swimming, and water sports
  • Soft and durable nylon shell and lightweight PE flotation foam


6. Crown Sporting Goods Flotation Device

The top feature of the No products found. 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.


  • Good value for price.
  • Reflective threading.
  • Nice safety features such as the whistle.


  • Size discrepancies. Need to choose size carefully for proper fit.
  • Front and rear buoyancy differences.

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

No products found.


7. NRS Ninja Type III PFD

NRS Ninja Type III

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

Generally, the NRS Ninja III provides great range of motion while in use. It’s side-entry with 6 adjustment points for customized and a secure fit. The front clamshell pocket has internal organization for essentials and dual-entry zippers make it a very reliable vest for SUP kayak paddlers.


  • Easy to put on.
  • Good flotation while in the water.
  • Comfortable.


  • Might feel bulky to some due to torso length.


8. Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD Life Vest ( 4 Pack )

Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD


This is indeed a great life vest for all occasions and all ages. Has high mobility and a higher placement of upper buckle helps reduce the vest from riding up.

The Stohlquist Fit Adult PDF contains three adjustable buckle straps to ensure that it will fit around your body well. The best part of this vest it has high profile cut-away arms for full movement. It is lightweight at .7 lbs and low bulk for easy storage in your garage or closet.


  • Great value for the price.
  • Good when you have extra guests paddling with you.
  • Good flotation when in the water.


  • Can fit small or short due to torso length.
  • Can ride up often.

Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD Life Vest | Pack of 4 | Coast Guard Approved, Adjustable Size, Unisex,...
  • FEEL THE MOVEMENT - High mobility, non-restrictive cut. Higher placement of upper buckle helps reduce ride up. Thinner back panel to reduce seat back interference
  • INNOVATION MEANS BETTER - All foam corners are rounded and sculpted compared to many 3-buckle PFDs. Box-stitched webbing is also more durable than bar-tac stitching used by other Economy PFDs
  • COAST GUARD APPROVED - Safety is our number one concern for open water explorers. Safe is exactly as you'll feel as this PFD is approved for paddlers over 90 pounds to enjoy paddling, general boating,...


9. MTI Adventurewear Reflex PFD

MTI Adventurewear Reflex PFD Life Jacket

The MTI Adventurewear Reflex PFD is a classic design that fits a wide variety of body sizes and shapes. Eight points of adjustment allow the paddler to easily dial in the perfect fit. Adjustable shoulder straps accommodate for chest thickness and torso length while the six side straps, three on each side, adapt the vest to each specific body shape.

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 paddle boarding.


  • Well made.
  • Nice design.
  • Plenty of pocket storage for phones, keys, etc.


  • Need to carefully check size for appropriate fit.

MTI Adventurewear Reflex PFD Life Jacket, Medium/Large, Mango/Dark Gray
  • Deep V-neck design is comfortable and cool
  • Adjustable shoulder straps allow easy adjustment for torso length and girth
  • Eight points of adjustment provide the perfect Custom fit


10. Onyx A/M 24 Automatic Vest

Onyx A:M-24 Automatic:Manual Inflatable Life Jacket


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.


  • Lightweight with ease of movement.
  • Comfortable when worn.
  • Life vests activate quickly and keeps your head above water.


  • Need to keep buying rearming kits.
  • Maintenance of CO2 cartridge.

Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket, Blue
  • U. S. Coast guard approved type V life jacket/personal flotation device (PFD) with type III performance
  • Automatically inflates upon immersion in water or when the wearer pulls the "jerk to inflate" handle
  • Lightweight, comfortable, slender design keeps you cool in warm weather


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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