A kayak life vest or buoyancy aid is a must have item that all paddlers should have in the kit bag. There's plenty to choose from and most of them will last for years to come. Buy well and buy once.

I’ve worn the same kayak life vest for over 10 years. Buy well and buy once!

Here’s my top choices of the best kayak life vests or 50N buoyancy aids on the market right now

Don’t forget if you’re taking your pet with you, then there’s some create floatation and buoyancies for them too. Best dog lifejackets and cat buoyancy aids


Crewsaver 50N Buoyancy Aid

Specifications: 50N buoyancy | sizes small/medium or medium/large | blue or red

Reason to buy: slim fit very little to snag, front pocket, buckle adjustable sides

Reasons to avoid: some may find the asymmetric zip annoying

This slim buoyancy has adjustable double buckle sides and a handy pocket to the front, suitable for a mobile device or paperwork such as a small route maps. The 50N foam buoyancy is cut low under the arms to give full range of movement for kayaking, dinghy sailing and paddleboarding.

The small pocket at the front is useful for a mobile phone and some keys.


Yak Xipe 60N Buoyancy aid

Specifications: 60N buoyancy | sizes Small/medium, Medium/large, XL | red or blue

Reason to buy: double pockets, adjustable shoulders, double buckle adjustable sides, pocket for hydration pouch

Reasons to avoid: the extra pockets to the front may create too much bulk for some

This 60N yak buoyancy has a few extra features not found in the most basic buoyancies so you can expect to pay a little more for this one.

The Yak Xipe has adjustable shoulders, sides and a waist buckle for extra security of fit.

The double pockets at the front can be used for a variety of things, from electronic devices to maps, snacks and so on.

The low cut sides make this suitable for kayaking, dinghy sailing and paddleboarding.



Specifications: 50N Buoyancy | M -> 50-70 kg / 8-11 Stone – CHEST 77-103cm | M/L -> 70-80Kg / 11-13 Stone – CHEST 89-109cm | L -> 70-90 kg / 13-14 Stone – CHEST  102-115cm | XL -> 90+ kg / 14 Stone + – CHEST 115cm+ | black, red and black, red white and blue, Fluro yellow and red

Reason to buy: highly adjustable, smartly designed, front pocket, great for dinghy sailing and kayaking

Reasons to avoid: Some might not like the over the head method of putting this on

This higher specified buoyancy aid has a softer internal foam making it very comfortable to wear for longer periods of time as the foam conforms to the shape of your chest.  The high cut waist of this life vest makes it easy to move if you use a spray deck

It has a mesh drain, front pocket with a non rusting plastic zip and and a quick-release buckle. The Dinghy Pro also has a waist band with double Velcro closure to prevent riding up, reinforced shoulders and a bottom draw tie.

Baltic Dinghy Pro Buoyancy Jackets also have a 5-year guarantee.


Typhoon Yalu XT 50n Front Zip Buoyancy Aid

Specifications: 50N buoyancy | Sizes S- XL | colourways: Black/blue swirl, black/yellow swirl, black/ lime swirl, black/silver swirl, royal blue/silver swirl

Reason to buy: really streamlined and great for full movement across all sporting activities, adjustable shoulders

Reasons to avoid: doesn’t have any pockets

Easy to put on and off with the front zip, this simple streamlined buoyancy comes an in array of different colour options and is a great choice for those who are dinghy sailing or kayaking in a bit of surf or where pockets aren’t needed and other objects don’t need to be stowed.

It is fully adjustable at the shoulders sides and waist for a great snug fit that will be secure and not slip around while you paddle or move around your kayak during maneuvers. The high waist allows a trapeze belt to be fitted easily.  Or perhaps if you prefer this style of slim and simple buoyancy, there’s space to use a small waist pack to carry your essentials with you if you paddleboard.


Gill Pursuit Buoyancy Aid 

Specifications: 50N buoyancy | S – XXL  + youth | blight yellow, orange, red, black 

Reason to buy: really large front pocket, side zip opening, adjustable waist, shoulders and sides. premium quality

Reasons to avoid: if you don’t like putting a buoyancy over your head then this might annoy you.

This premium quality buoyancy from Gill has adjustable shoulders, sides and waist. The waist belt is a buckle and the side entry has a zip and buckle closure.

It features a large self draining zipped pocket to the front with mesh organiser. it’s pretty voluminous and can fit in a bunch of stuff, like snacks a mobile phone/camera and other little bits.

Across the back of this buoyancy matching the seams is fine reflective piping which gives added security if you paddle after dark.

The Neoprene padding gives a secure fit and is comfortable for day long paddling or sailing. It is suitable for all active water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and sailing. We especially love the bright yellow option for those heading into open water.


Typhoon Amrock XT Buoyancy Jacket

Specifications: 50N buoyancy | S – XL | detachable crotch strap | grey/black, black, red/black, blue/black

Reason to buy: adjustable shoulders, great value for money, good range of sizes, easy buckle closure on the waist

Reasons to avoid: some may find the waist fastening buckle a tiny bit bulky

Easy to put on with the front zip, this buoyancy offers excellent value for money. Fully adjustable buckled waist belt with a quick release front clasp. Adjustable shoulders for a perfect fit and to ensure the length is correct. This buoyancy has a detachable crotch strap too which can be really handy to stop the jacket from riding up if you go for an unintended swim. The small zip up pocket to the front is suitable for a key or small item. Just make sure you put any fancy electric car keys in a waterproof bag as this pocket like all of the others in our buyers guide are designed to get wet and drain water rather than be waterproof.


Each activity type has a unique way of moving or needing to be agile and there’s a best life vest suited to each one. You can read more about my guides to paddleboards for beginners and kayaks where I have carefully selected some great boards and kayaks and a couple of canoes too that might suit someone who wants to get out paddling for the first time. For kayaks and canoes you can read more in my guide here and for paddleboards for beginners, have a look through for something that takes your fancy here


What we look for in a kayak life vest

A buoyancy jacket, buoyancy aid or life vest is a simple device that gives you extra buoyancy in the water. It will not float you in a safety position with your face out of the water like a life jacket does, but it will help you stay afloat and stay closer to the surface of the water. They can give a little warmth too if they are made of foam, but on a hot day this can be a reason why some people are reluctant to wear one.

Buoyancy: Most buoyancy aids offer 50N or 60N of additional buoyancy in the water.

Adjustability: having adjustable shoulders, sides and a waist belt can make a life vest or buoyancy aid much more comfortable and will stay in place better during your sorting activity.

The cut and shape: If you are kayaking, you may require a slightly different shaped lifejacket than if you are dinghy sailing or paddleboarding, Sitting down in a kayak means you will need to avoid too much foam too low down as it will get in the way of your lap. Buyt you will want the arm holes to have plenty of space to move without chafe. For dinghy sailing, you may want a higher cut buoynacy to enable ease of movement around your boat, but you don’t need such large arm cut outs. If you are paddleboarding and will be standing, then a longer cut buoyancy can be worn with the larger surface area of foam, the foam can be thinnner overall, while still giving a minimum of 50N buoyancy. The longer cut buoyancy can be useful when climbing back on to a paddleboard from the water. The arm cut outs for a paddleboarder optimised buoyancy will be large with plenty of room to articulate without chafe.

Visibility: some Buoyancy aids are dark coloured, others are really brightly coloured. Being seen easily, especially if you are in moving water, or the sea will potentially be a benefit to you. On the other hand, Buoyancy aids tend to last a long time and a darker colour is more forgiving for not looking dirty.

Pockets and accessories : If you plan to go off adventuring for long days at a time, then it’s worth considering a buoyancy with a pocket or two. If you are playing in the surf or wizzing around the race markers in a dinghy then pockets are less useful. Some buoyancy aids have clips and surface mounts for lights and other devices such as satellite trackers. These can be useful if you are going to paddle long distances or out of phone signal range.