A SUP life vest is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can take with you on the water. As you should be wearing it when paddling, it is essential you choose one that fits comfortably. Failure to wear the life jacket correctly could actually impede your ability to swim. It’s wise to look for a SUP life vest that allows easy arm movement and shoulder freedom.
|ONYX MoveVent PFD||$|
|MTI Adventurer PFD||$$$|
|Astral Buoyancy YTV Life Jacket||$$|
|NRS Ninja PFD||$$|
How To Choose An SUP Life Vest
Experienced paddlers lament the fact that modern hi-tech vests fail to match the comfort of older models. However, we believe there are plenty of SUP life jackets available that fit snugly and securely. Here is what you need to consider when buying a vest:
- Comfort: As you could be paddling for hours, how a vest feels is almost as important as how it performs in water. While online shopping is convenient, there is a possibility you won’t find a life vest that fits perfectly. The sizing, cut and flexibility of SUP life vests vary depending on the manufacturer. If possible, pop into a store to try on a vest, learn its dimensions and purchase it online as you will save a lot of money!
- Freedom & Flexibility: To simulate a jacket’s performance in water, grab it by the shoulders and lift it until it jams underneath your armpits. When you turn your head left and right you should not see fabric encased foam. Keep looking if the V-neck of the SUP life jacket goes up against your chin. You should be able to hold your arms at chest height and draw them towards you without the jacket scrunching up.
- Buoyancy: Some SUP life vests have a big flotation device on the chest which is practically worthless by itself. The normal procedure when floating rapids is to get on your back with your feet held high. Therefore, you should be looking for vests with robust back flotation foam.
- Breathability: If you intend on paddling during hot summer days, breathability is an important consideration. While a tight SUP life jacket is safer than a loose fitting one, you’ll need something in between for the sake of comfort. The best vests can be loosened for better air flow on hot days and tightened quickly when danger approaches.
- Ease Of Use: The last thing you want is a life vest that’s hard to put on and impossible to take off. If you are operating in areas with frequent portages, look for a jacket with a zipper on the front.
- Color: Look for a brightly colored vest that makes you easy to spot in water. You never know, this could save your life if you get into trouble.
SUP Life Jackets Reviews
Without further ado, let’s look at three of the most popular vests on the market and see how they perform.
ONYX MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest
The Onyx MoveVent is aptly named. For a cheaper PFD it is designed extremely well. The issue with buying extremely cheap life jackets is they’re usually useless for paddle boarding. The ONYX is only $40 and it was designed with paddle sport users in mind.
For a casual paddler looking for a PFD while out on the ocean the ONYX is a perfect fit.
MTI Adventurer Headwater High Buoyancy PFD Life Jacket
Keeping yourself safe on water isn’t cheap! This life jacket will set you back around $150+ but it is designed for the demands of paddlers in rough waters. It fits your body and has low sides which allow for arm freedom; this is one of the most important aspects of SUP life vests as we mentioned above. It is also very easy to secure as all you have to do is fasten the single side clip while the Z-adjust side straps allow for quick adjustments.
There are a total of eight points of adjustment which almost guarantee a custom fit. There are a total of four front storage pockets with two convenient hand-warmer pockets which are fleece-lined. The vest is made with nylon construction and its reflective panels allow for high visibility while in the water.
A few problems encountered by customers include difficulty zipping up and a lack of D-rings for the loops for the crotch straps. Though this SUP life vest has everything you need, these issues could be sorted out in order to improve existing levels of customer satisfaction.
Unless you’re planning on doing some river paddling or white water SUPing, this life vest is probably a little bit overkill.
Astral Buoyancy YTV Life Jacket
At around $100, this SUP life vest offers good value for money. It is an extremely lightweight vest with a minimalist look and has an extremely clean design. The Astral YTV life jacket has a host of cool features including a Torso Lock design based on previous Astral models. It also offers a ton of arm room and it very easy to put on and take off.
The Rip Stop Nylon material it is made from is much lighter than Cordura and doesn’t absorb as much water. The waist belt is built into the bottom strap without adding extra length and it is 100% free from PVC material. Overall, this is one of the best designed and best performing SUP life jackets we have tried. It has absolutely everything you could possibly want for a safety jacket when paddling and comes highly recommended.
The only down side of the Astral YTV vest is the price point is a little bit high.
NRS Ninja PFD
At around $129, the NRS Ninja is not one of the cheapest SUP life vests available but it is one of the most comfortable. Even after paddling for hours we were able to almost forget the jacket was even on. The innovative design allows for complete freedom of movement and won’t interfere whether you’re rowing, swimming or paddling. There are four side adjustments and two adjustments for the shoulders so you can play with the vest until you get the most comfortable fit.
There is a floating front panel which is designed to adjust to your body’s shape and the quick release buckles on the side ensures it is easy to put on or take off the vest. Despite being very light, the NRS Ninja PFD is made from 500-denier Cordura which is exceedingly durable. Overall, this is a well made SUP life vest that is comfortable, allows for freedom of movement and can withstand wear and tear.
Don’t look at the price when choosing an SUP life jacket, pay attention to the level of comfort, buoyancy, breathability and flexibility of vests instead. The best life vest will give you the peace of mind afforded by good protection but you should sometimes forget you’re wearing it because it is so comfortable.