How about a PFD for Christmas?

I’m going to see if I can make a gift suggestion for a paddler each day for the next twelve days.  It will be my own version of the “twelve days of Christmas.”

On the first day of December, my true love gave to me, a brand new PFD.

Make sure it fits well.  A PFD (personal flotation device) that fits comfortably is more likely to be worn, and a life jacket can only help to save your life if you’re wearing it.  Even if you have to spend over $100 for a nice life jacket, that will most likely average out to $10 or less per year for the life of the jacket (if the paddler takes care of his/her PFD).

If you are buying a PFD for a woman, consider looking for one that is designed specifically for women taking into account the curves of the bust line and that is cut shorter in the waist since women are generally shorter in the torso than men are.  Life jackets designed for men tend to ride up on women when seated and they may not stay in place when swimming or treading water following a capsize.  The Stohquist Betsea is an example of a women-specific PFD.

Bright colors increase visibility on the water, and look pretty cool, too!  Be bold in your choice of color (although kayak fishermen often choose earth tones and camouflage.

For a recreational kayaker, consider getting a jacket that is designed to accommodate a high seat back.  These life jackets will have mesh or thin foam on the lower portion of the back of the jacket so that it will not interfere with the higher seat backs often found on recreational kayaks.  Consider a Stohlquist Men’s Trekker PFD.

For a sea kayaker or a kayak fisherman, get a jacket with lots of pockets, although the size and type of pockets needed will differ between these two kinds of paddlers.   The Kokatat Outfit or MsFit (women’s model) are both popular life jackets for sea kayakers.

For a whitewater kayaker, consider a pullover style and/or something low profile that doesn’t have a lot of loops and pockets that could get snagged on branches or rocks in the river.  The Stohlquist Edge is a very good option for most whitewater paddlers who don’t need a full-on rescue PFD.

For a stand-up paddler, an inflatable belt style PFD may be appreciated.  Look for one that is designed with SUP paddlers in mind.  They will often have small pockets to store keys or other little items.  The MTI Adventurewear Fluid 2.0 is a good option.

If you are looking to get someone a life jacket as a gift (or for yourself) and have more specific questions that you need answered, feel free to shoot me an email at



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