Best PFD for White Water Rafting

When you’re going river rafting (or kayaking) a good personal flotation device is a must-have. Even when the weather is perfect and you’re going kayaking on a lake, you will still want a PFD. You especially need it when rafting or kayaking on a river. Here we will review our picks for the best personal floatation devices to take out on the river (for rafting, kayaking, or canoeing).

Best PFD for Rafting

  1. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
  2. Astral YTV Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Touring Kayaking, Sailing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  3. Astral Women’s Layla Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Sea, Touring Kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and Fishing
  4. NRS Ninja PFD
  5. Astral Ringo Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Sea, Touring Kayaking, and Stand Up Paddle Boarding

1. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest – Best Cheap Type 3 PFD

 

Product Features

Brand Name: Onyx
Colors: 4 color options
Sizes: Extra small – XXL

If you’re shopping for an extremely affordable type III PFD for white water rafting the Onyx Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Jacket is an excellent choice. This PFD features padded adjustable shoulder straps for comfort, reflective material for visibility, and a mesh zipper pocket to hold your belongings in. This one is made from heavy-duty nylon. It can be used in a variety of recreational water activities such as canoeing, kayaking, or rafting. If you’re unsure of what size to get, be sure to check the size chart in their images which shows the size to purchase based on chest size. They have three sizes which should fit most people.

 

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • Comfortable padding
  • Reflective material for visibility

Cons

  • Though this one is very affordable, it is a little bulkier than more expensive PFD’s.

 

2. Astral YTV Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Touring Kayaking, Sailing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Type V Approved Rafting PFD

Product Features

Brand Name: Astral
Colors: Red, eggplant, coral, black
Sizes: S/M – XL

Our next pick is a type V approved lifejacket that is excellent for kayaking, rafting, and sailing: The Astral YTV Life Jacket. This one has a buoyancy rating for 16.5 lbs which makes it great for almost any adult. The full vest itself is lightweight weighing only 1.76 lbs but is made from durable nylon with PolyPro webbing. The vest features two adjustable side buckles for a secure fit and also has two zipper side pockets and a knife tab on the chest. Overall this is an excellent PFD that comes in three sizes. They also have a size chart in the product description to help you choose the appropriate fit based on your chest size.

 

Pros

  • Type V approved (class 5)
  • Lightweight
  • Two side pockets and a knife tab

Cons

  • Some people don’t like pullover style life vests

 

3. Astral Women’s Layla Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Sea, Touring Kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and Fishing – Astral PFD for Women

 

Product Features

Brand Name: Astral
Colors: Eggplant or blue
Sizes: X-Small – XL

If you’re looking for an excellent river rafting PFD that is designed to fit women the Astral Women’s Layla Life Jacket PFD is an excellent choice. This PFD is type 3 approved and features a buoyancy rating for 16.3 lbs. It is made from durable nylon with a polyester-lycra shell and nylon liner. The PFD is designed to be lightweight weighing in at just about 1.76 pounds. The vest features adjustable side buckles and a front pocket with a divider. Overall this is an excellent women’s PFD that is lightweight and allows unrestricted comfortable movement for going out on the river.

 

Pros

  • Type III approved (class 3)
  • Lightweight and unrestricted
  • Front pocket with divider

Cons

  • This one is for women only, if you’re looking for a men’s PFD you will need to go with another selection

 

4. NRS Ninja PFD – Breathable Comfortable PFD for Rafting and Kayaking

 

Product Features

Brand Name: NRS
Colors: Black, pink, red, charcoal
Sizes: Small/medium – 2XL

If you’re looking for an unrestricted that allows for plenty of arm movement while staying comfortable the NRS Ninja PFD is an excellent choice. This type 3 approved PFD provides 16.5 lbs of flotation and features a pullover side entry with 4 side adjustable straps and 2 shoulder adjustments for an unmatched comfort fit. This one also features a zippered front mesh pocket to store your belongings on your trip. The best things about this life vest are the budget-friendly price and the comfortable unrestricted movement provided by this breathable PFD.

 

Pros

  • Unrestricting and breathable, allows for comfortable movement
  • Type 3 approved
  • Budget-friendly affordable price
  • Front mesh zipper pocket

Cons

  • Some many not like the hassle of having 4 side adjustments and 2 shoulder adjustments

 

5. Astral Ringo Life Jacket PFD for Whitewater, Sea, Touring Kayaking, and Stand Up Paddle Boarding – Best PFD for a Tight Comfortable Fit

 

Product Features

Brand Name: Astral
Colors: Blue or black
Sizes: Small/medium – extra large

Our final pick for an excellent rafting PFD is the Astral Ringo Life Jacket PFD. This is a Type 3 approved PFD that provides 16.3 lbs of buoyancy. The PFD is designed for a comfortable fit featuring a quarter size zip and adjustable side buckles. It is made from polyester and PolyPro webbing. The PFD also has a zippered front pocket with a divider to store your belongings. Overall this PFD is best for a tight and secure fit with the only drawback being that it is a little bit expensive.

 

Pros

  • Comfortable secure fit
  • Type 3 approved
  • Front pocket

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive

 

White Water River Rafting PFD Buying Guide

When you’re shopping online for a personal flotation device, there are a few things you will want to look for

  1. USCG Classification
  2. Buoyancy Rating
  3. Size
  4. Pockets

How to Choose a Good PFD

1. USCG Classification

Life jackets are classified according to different specifications such as buoyancy rating and the type of flotation they provide. For white water rafting and kayaking, you will most commonly see Type III and Type V PFDs used. When shopping for a river rafting PFD make sure to check the classification and make sure it is acceptable for the intended water activity.

2. Buoyancy Rating

The next thing you will want to pay attention to when shopping for a PFD is the buoyancy rating. According to the Life Jacket Association, 15.5 lbs of buoyancy is enough to provide flotation for even a large adult. So we always recommend choosing a PFD with at least 15.5 pounds of buoyancy. Any Type 3 or Type V PFD is required to have a minimum of 15.5 lbs to even receive that rating, so luckily all of the ones we have linked here pass this requirement.

3. Size

Another thing you will want to pay attention to is the size. You will want a PFD that fits securely and comfortably, so it’s important to purchase the right size. Many PFD’s have size charts where you can figure out what size you need based on your own chest size, so pay attention to that so you make sure you are purchasing the right fit.

4. Pockets

Lastly, we always recommend a PFD that has pockets so you can store important items. If you’re going on a river rafting trip wearing pants or a swimsuit that does not have a secure pocket, a life vest with pockets is an excellent way to store essentials, which is why we always look for this feature.

If you’re shopping for a knife to keep in your lash tab check out our review of the best PFD knives.
You can also check out our SUP PFD guide.