Whether you’re an experienced angler or a newbie, and you’re using the best inflatable kayak or a cheap plastic model, you need to wear a life vest to protect yourself in the event of a capsize or serious crash. Many seasoned kayakers tend to shun wearing one because some models are too cumbersome, negatively affecting the kayaker as they attempt to paddle through intense white water rapid or fight waves in the ocean. And it’s true, there are some life vests out there that are more of a hassle to wear than anything else. But these days, manufacturers such as Stearns have stepped up their game, creating life jackets that are much thinner, with an improved streamlined design that’s intended specifically for paddlers. What could be better?
Kayakers enjoy feeling the spray of the water and the rays of the sun, so kayaking without a life vest is always very tempting on hot sunny days. But newer life vests like this model by Stearns are available in a wide range of colors and sizes. This vest is flexible and thin and features a very relaxed design compared to the bulkier life jackets of the past.
The Stearns Watersport classic series vest for adults is US Coast Guard approved and the perfect choice for kayakers.
Adult Watersport Life Vest Overview
When you’re out on the water, a life jacket is the most important piece of safety gear you can use. You’ll need to pay special attention to the size of the jacket, ensuring it fits well, and it should be worn whenever you’re in the water. This means you must securely wear it and not just place it over your shoulders because doing so can seriously hinder your ability to swim.
This life jacket is made out of a durable, soft two hundred denier nylon shell. It features lightweight PE floatation foam, four adjustable buckles, and an open-sided design for improved breathability.
Additionally, it’s available in three color options: red, blue, and yellow.
This vest should fit much like a good pair of shoes; comfortable and snug.
Before you hit the water, test out the size to determine if the vest fits correctly. You can test out the fit by hooking your thumbs just under the shoulders and pulling the vest upward. If it’s the right fit, the vest will remain in place and not ride up over the ears.
Because it’s Coast Guard approved you know this vest will fit well. It’s also very comfortable, so you won’t be tempted to take it off when you’re out on the water.
Because this is a kayaking specific life jacket, it features larger armholes which help to keep most of the flotation foam away from the upper chest and shoulders, allowing for full range of motion when you paddle. While you can certainly wear a life jacket that’s not specifically designed with paddling in mind, this model by Stearns will not hinder your movements, which can be very important for kayakers who are paddling in rougher waters.
Life Jacket Safety Tips
Every state has laws regarding life jacket use by children. An adult sized jacket should never be used for a child. While states don’t require adults to wear safety vests while in the water, it’s smart to always carry one with you. In fact, some states have specific laws that require anyone on a floating vessel to have enough life jackets for each person on board, even if they don’t plan to wear it.
Each year, the manufacturer recommends testing the vest for buoyancy and wear. If the vest begins to leak, becomes waterlogged or even faded, it should be replaced right away.
If you’re unsure whether or not the vest is a good fit, try our recommended fit test. You should do this each year as well to accommodate weight loss or gain. If a vest doesn’t fit right, it’s basically worthless.
For more information regarding kayaking accessories and features, you can learn more in our article about how much does kayaking cost.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Equipped with extra-large armholes that allow you to paddle along without interference from the vest itself, this is the perfect choice for the seasoned kayaker who hates the traditional fit and feel of life vests of the past.
This thinner, more modern style will make you forget you’re even wearing one.
Very easy to take on and off, this vest was clearly designed with safety and convenience in mind.
This life vest can be worn by adults who weigh ninety pounds and up.
The vest is also priced affordably.
Cons: There were some kayakers that had complaints in regard to the fit, claiming the vest rode up and hovered near the ears. As we mentioned earlier, this is an issue with the size of the vest, not so much the vest itself. Choosing a loose life jacket is a common mistake and one that can cost you big in a life and death situation. Remember, the vest should fit snug and comfortable, but you don’t want much slack, otherwise, you’ll end up with an ill-fitting vest that can potentially come off in the water, when you need it the most.
Other kayakers claimed the vest was too tight around the neck, but again, this is probably another issue involving size.
Stylish, highly durable, and easy to adjust, this model is everything a life jacket should be and more.
This Stearns life vest is well made, consists of just the right amount of foam so the vest doesn’t feel too bulky and it won’t interfere when you’re paddling. The snug fit ensures this vest will stay on in the event of a capsize or crash, and the buckle design allows you to take it off or put it on quickly. Above all, this is a vest that will work for you when it counts. We gave it a rating of five out of five stars for pricing, accurate fit, and overall quality.
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