One of the most important pieces of gear when it comes to SUP safety, a PFD (personal flotation device) is an essential accessory that you should never paddle without. These days, paddleboarding PFDs typically come in the form of inflatable belt packs and more traditional life jackets, and in this 2018 buyer’s guide we’re going to list the best SUP PFD options for adults, kids, and even dogs.
In addition to keeping you safe on the water, wearing a PFD while paddleboarding is required by law in many locations and refusing to use one can result in a hefty fine. While stand up paddle safety awareness has definitely been on the rise in recent years, there are still far too many paddlers who aren’t using one. The million dollar question is, why?
The number one objection that we hear from fellow paddlers when it comes to personal flotation devices is the fact that they are restrictive or uncomfortable to wear. In some cases, this is certainly a valid complaint — some life jackets can interfere with your paddling stroke and feel hot, sticky, and uncomfortable especially in the summertime.
However, there are many lightweight, low-profile SUP PFD options available today that are super comfortable to wear and don’t restrict your range of motion. If you’re looking for the best PFD for SUP, this up-to-date buyer’s guide lists all of our top picks for 2018 — so without further ado, let’s get to it!
SUP PFD/Life Jacket Comparison Chart (2018)
|MTI Vibe||Adult life jacket||USCG Type III||15 lbs 8 oz|
|MTI Fluid 2.0||Adult belt pack||USCG Type III||25 lbs 9 oz|
|MTI 16g Belt Pack||Adult belt pack||USCG Type V||16 lbs 13 oz|
|MTI BOB||Kid's life jacket||USCG Type III||11 lbs 10 oz|
|MTI Youth Livery||Kid's life jacket||USCG Type III||11 lbs 10 oz|
|MTI Child w/ Collar||Kid's life jacket||USCG Type III||7 lbs 14 oz|
|Ruffwear Float Coat||Dog life jacket||n/a||n/a|
|MTI Underdog||Dog life jacket||n/a||n/a|
Reviews of Top-Rated Adult PFDs for SUP
The MTI Vibe is a versatile, low-profile SUP life jacket that can be used for everything from recreational paddling to river running. This lightweight, comfortable SUP life vest is loaded with great features such as a mesh storage pocket, safety whistle, and Daisy chain attachment points. It’s also a fantastic PFD for river SUP enthusiasts, as it integrates nicely with the MTI SUP Leash Release Belt for the ultimate in whitewater safety.
Read our MTI Life Jackets Vibe review for more details on why we believe this is currently the best life jacket for SUP.
MTI Fluid 2.0 Belt Pack
If you’d prefer a smaller personal flotation device that stays out of the way when you’re on the water, MTI’s Fluid 2.0 is the Rolls Royce of inflatable belt pack PFDs. This incredibly well-designed SUP PFD belt offers extreme comfort and features top-shelf build quality, a zippered storage pocket for stashing small accessories, convenient indicator window, and safety whistle.
To learn more about this high-quality inflatable belt pack, be sure to check out our in-depth MTI Life Jackets Fluid 2.0 review.
MTI 16g Belt Pack
A brand new addition to MTI’s 2018 SUP PFD lineup is the MTI Life Jackets 16g Belt Pack. A lighter, more affordable SUP belt PFD than the Fluid 2.0, this is the perfect option for those who favor a more minimalist, lower-profile design. This PFD is currently our favorite inflatable belt pack for SUP fitness workouts as it stays out of the way and is so light that you don’t even realize you have it on. Also, the narrower waist belt is compatible with YETI’s Sidekick Dry, the best waterproof pouch currently on the market. MTI’s new 16g belt PFD is available in two colors: Mango Print (pictured), and Dark Gray.
Best SUP Life Jackets for Kids
Our favorite overall life jacket for children, the full-featured MTI Life Jackets BOB delivers the performance and looks of MTI’s best-selling adult PFDs in a smaller package. Currently available in several great colorways, MTI’s BOB PFD features a comfortable, fully adjustable fit, fleece-lined hand warmer tunnel, reflective trim, and a tethered safety whistle.
A child’s PFD is essential when it comes to kids’ paddleboarding safety, and if you’re looking for the best life jacket for your child, this youth model is our top pick.
MTI Youth Livery
A more affordable, pared-down alternative to the MTI BOB, MTI’s Youth Livery is a lightweight and incredibly versatile kid’s PFD that’s very comfortable to wear. Available in two attractive color schemes, the MTI Youth Livery jacket is an excellent option for those who prefer a simpler design and more budget-friendly price tag.
Unlike the BOB’s pull-over design, the Youth Livery PFD includes a zippered front and the adjustable straps make it incredibly easy to dial in the perfect fit for your child.
MTI Child w/ Collar
The best option for smaller children who are still learning to swim, MTI Life Jackets’ Child w/ Collar PFD is an ultra-comfortable option that features a safety collar that fully supports your child’s head whenever needed. Made from super soft foam and high-quality materials, this kid’s life jacket comes with adjustable crotch and belly straps for a secure fit.
Another feature that we really like about this PFD is the safety grab handle attached to the top of the collar — this gives parents a quick and secure way to handle smaller children when they’re in the water.
Best Dog Life Jackets
Ruffwear Float Coat
Topping our list of this season’s best dog life jackets, the Ruffwear Float Coat is an incredibly well-built doggie PFD that supports your pup’s natural swimming position. Backed by a rock-solid lifetime warranty, the Float Coat comes in several attractive colorways and it’s fully adjustable for maximum comfort. This pup PFD is built like a tank and the top has a tough grab handle that makes it super easy to pull your four-legged friend back onto your board.
Be sure to check out our Ruffwear Float Coat review for more information.
A brand new dog life vest for 2018, the MTI Life Jackets Underdog is another excellent option that will keep your pup safe on your SUP. The design of this doggie PFD places 90% of the effective buoyancy under the life jacket’s neck and chest areas, properly supporting your dog’s natural swimming position. Featuring reflective safety panels, a reinforced top carry handle, and multiple adjustment points for a comfortable, customizable fit, MTI’s Underdog PFD is an excellent option that is slightly more affordable than the Ruffwear Float Coat.