Do You Need A Life Jacket To Kayak? Of Course!

Do You Need A Life Jacket To Kayak

Do you need a life jacket to kayak? The majority of states don’t require adults to wear life jackets, but there are some that do, and the requirements vary from state to state. The answer to this question is that most states do require children under a certain age to wear life jackets. We’ll lay out the reasons why you ought to wear a life jacket while kayaking.

Can You Go Kayaking Without A Life Jacket

Yes, in a nutshell, is the answer to this query. In most places, there won’t be “life jacket police” standing by the shore to check that you’re wearing a PFD before you get in your kayak and start paddling out.

Personal flotation devices, however, should always be at the top of any list of kayak safety gear.

The best way to stop an accidental capsize from becoming more of a problem than just getting wet unexpectedly is to do this. Therefore, is it possible to kayak without a life jacket? Yes. Should you? No, we don’t suggest it.

Is It Illegal To Go Kayaking Without A Life Jacket

Depending on where you primarily kayak, different laws apply.

You should be aware that the policy in your destination country may differ significantly from that in your home country if you travel to explore new coastal or inland waterways.

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) asserts that every state has different laws governing who must wear a PFD and the circumstances under which they are required.

Additionally, they have different rules for what constitutes a violation of the life jacket regulations.

For instance, the law in California specifies that infractions can result in fines of up to $150.

On the stricter side, Missouri’s law stipulates that violations are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum of one year in jail.

That’s a pretty wide spectrum, as you can see, which is why it’s crucial to be knowledgeable about the boating regulations in your area.

Almost all states generally require that personal watercraft (such as kayaks) have enough life jackets for everyone on board. Although not all states mandate it, life jackets must always be within reach in the event of an emergency.

Are life jackets required for kayaking? Your age and the state you’re paddling in will determine what to do.

Do You Need A Life Jacket To Kayak

Why Wear A Life Jacket To Kayak

  • It Saves Lives – Experienced kayakers and swimmers have perished in a number of incidents because they were not wearing life jackets.
  • The Rescue is Easier – The life jacket’s shoulder straps make it much simpler to drag someone back into their kayak. The provision of a life jacket includes this crucial feature.
  • Improved Visibility– Visibility is especially important for your safety if you are kayaking to a location where motorized vessels are also permitted. The majority of life jackets are therefore made with bright colors that increase visibility.
  • Provides Functionality – Most life jackets have roomy pockets where you can store useful fishing equipment like hooks, small baits, and other tools that you want to keep close at hand. Additionally, you can keep accessories and items like your smartphone.
  • It’s Stylish – Because of their technological advancements, life jackets of today can actually be fashionable.

What To Consider When Wearing A Life Jacket To Kayak

When something goes wrong, one should consider the repercussions of not wearing something that could save their life. Following are a few things to think about:

  • Purchase a life jacket that is appropriate for your size and weight.
  • When you are in the water, make sure that it is visible to other people. The most noticeable colors that can be seen from the air or other boats are orange, yellow, and lime green.
  • Fit it closely to your body. Close the straps and fully zip it up. A loose jacket may come off of you or, if it is too loose, fall over your head, especially if you are unconscious.
  • If you get too hot, never remove it. Instead of running the risk of leaving it off, slow down to prevent overheating. If you need to change out of your shirt or paddling jacket, raft up with a companion and have them hold onto your boat.
  • Make it a habit to check the life jacket for excessive wear. To ensure their dependability, check the webbing and stitching. Material that has been exposed to the sun will eventually fail, so be aware of that. If you are found wearing a life jacket that is not in “serviceable condition,” which means it has no rips or tears, you risk receiving a citation.

How To Wear A Life Jacket Properly

Making sure the zipper is fastened (if necessary) and all straps are buckled across the PFD should be your first priority.

The straps shouldn’t be crossed so that they look diagonal when buckled, and they shouldn’t be twisted at any point.

Once the zipper and buckles are fastened, begin by pulling the lowest straps snugly before working your way up to the straps across your shoulders (if necessary).

Even though some life jackets don’t have shoulder straps, you should always take care to secure any straps that are on your PFD.

Grab the shoulder straps and lift them up to see if your PFD is snug enough.

You should continue to tighten your PFD until it is impossible to lift the straps above your ears (as shown in the image above).

By performing this test, you can see what will happen to your life jacket if you accidentally fall into the water.

Too-loose PFDs not only run the risk of completely coming off, but they also make getting back into your kayak much more challenging and uncomfortable.

Read more: Do Life Jackets Expire?

Final Thoughts

Simply put, when it comes to your health while kayaking, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your primary on-the-water safety device is a life jacket. Pick one that fits properly to prevent riding up and to be cozy enough to wear while kayaking all the time. 

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