The 4 Best Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices To Stay Safe On The Water

As I have said many times on this website (and I tell everyone who will listen), safety always comes first. That is why I’m writing another article about safety, this time about the best Stand Up Paddle PFD’s.

Water and weather are unstable and circumstances might change in just an instant. In case this happens and you end up in wilder water it is important that you are prepared.

To shortly remind you of my other blog article you might have read, 7 Tips So You Can Always Paddle Safety

  1. Make sure you can swim well
  2. Always wear a life jacket
  3. Use an ankle cord
  4. Be well prepared
  5. Aware of the environment
  6. Aware of the weather conditions
  7. Take sunset into account

And also always make sure to take the right gear for the current weather conditions, as you can read back on Paddle Board Gear Checklist for All Weather Conditions

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Now as we have discussed the general safety points once again, let us continue with the topic of this article: the very best Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices.

What is a Stand Up Paddle PFD?

The PFD in “Stand Up Paddle PFD” stands for Personal Flotation Device.

A Stand Up Paddle PFD, is an accessory in the shape of a life vest, belt, jacket or even a small package that you can wear out on the water and which will help you stay safe and above water in case you fall in the water. As Stand Up Paddling becomes increasingly popular and more different types or waters are being used it is important to stay safe wherever you go.

As said they come in many shapes and sizes so it can always suit your wishes and activities. When you’re just sitting in a boat a life vest might work perfect for you, but on a paddle board this will be restricting for your movement.

These Stand Up Paddle PFD devices are often made out of neoprene or a nylon fabric, because this keeps out the water and makes sure the product is durable.

And what about when you’re swimming, is there even an option? That is why I will discuss the most important different types of PFD devices below, so you know no matter what, there is always a good safety option for you.

I have already written about the Restube, my personal favorite Stand Up Paddle PFD Device, exentensively and I will discuss this as the first PFD Device on this list too.

So enough introducten, let’s get started with a recap of the Restube PFD.

1. Restube

The Restube is in inflatable PFD Device, not only for Stand Up Paddling but for all water sports. The great thing about the Restube that this life buoy is extremely tiny and can be clipped to your swimming outfit. When needed you can pull the cord and the Restube will inflate in a matter of seconds, so you can be sure to always come to surface.

Personally I do not like wearing a big life vest because it restricts my arms when paddling and on warm days it feels way to hot to have a piece of PVC covering your body. This is why I love the Restube. The small package only weighs about 200 – 270 grams, depending on the version you pick.

Here is a video of me testing the Restube Basic.

When needed you full the cord on your Restube, which will inflate this life bar which you can grab on to so you will always stay above water. The best thing about the Restube is the small size, which makes it the only PFD device on this list that is also suitable for swimmers / triathletes that want to stay safe but can still maintain their swimming speed.

So it is very easy to carry along and you can pick the version (4 different options) that suits you needs best. Whether you are a (kite)surfer, paddle boarder, swimmer of triathlete, this device can suit everyone perfectly.

Another reason I love this device is that compared to all the other PFD devices you can easily throw this PFD device to someone in an emergency, so it does not only help to keep you safe but also others around you.

Be sure to check the Restube Stand Up Paddle PFD to make sure you stay safe on the water without having to carry a big life vest! As you will also see in the next two types of PFD Devices the Restube can be used again after replacing the CO2 cartridge.

2. PFD Belts

Another very handy PFD device for Stand Up Paddling is the PFD Belt. Like the name says you can wear this handy belt around your waist and inflate it when you’re in trouble. Because it is around your waist it is just as easy to carry as the previously mentioned Restube it does not restrict your movement which makes it perfectly suited as a Stand Up Paddle PFD.

The nice thing about these PFD devices that have the look of a fanny pack is that they sometimes also have some storage space in them, so they can replace your waterproof fanny pack. Once the cord is pulled on these PFD belts they inflate and you can secure them around your neck.

The two Onyx PFD Belts below are very popular models and get used by loads of Stand Up Paddle Boarders. As you can see the left version, the M-16, is a bit slimmer but also offers less storage space. The Onyx M-24 on the right offers more storage space but will also be more visible. It also has some padding on the back for extra comfort when wearing it for a long time.

Of course these Stand Up Paddle PFD’s are not made for one time use. Inside the belt there is a CO2 cartridge that makes the belt able to inflate in seconds. When you have used the belt you will need to replace this CO2 cartridge to be able to use it again. Below you can see a video of how the Onyx M-16 Belt can be rearmed and repacked for another use.

The rearming and repacking of the Onyx M-16 PFD Belt

3. PFD Suspender Harness

A suspender harness PFD is also a very good option for Stand Up Paddling as the sides are open. In my personal opinion not as easy as a Restube or a PFD Belt, as it rests on your shoulders, which is not always comfortable when paddling a lot. But compared to a life vest this is obviously a much better choice for going paddle boarding out on the water.

Some of these vests are also available with an extra waterproof pocket to take along your camera or phone on the water. The versions below show an extra D-ring on the front, where you can attach your waterproof dry bag.

I like the reflective design which gives you extra visibility when it gets darker. As you can see you can easily clip it on with the belt and tighten it around your waist so it isn’t too loose.

Just like with the PFD belts these PFD Suspender Harnesses are reusable when replacing the CO2 cartridge this is hidden within the belt.

4. PFD Life Vests

A PFD life vest is of course the most common option as it has been used for ages. These vests will keep you safe and above water and help you float. The examples you see below are often referred to as life vest, but are officially buoyancy aids.

This means they help with flotation, but unlike a PFD device they are not able to keep someone who cannot swim upright in the water. Just never go out on the water if you cannot swim, no matter if it is on a board, a boat or any other vehicle. Take swimming classes first so you will always be able to keep yourself safe.

How to choose a Stand Up Paddle PFD Device

For Stand Up Paddling you need the freedom to fully move your arms without restrictions, so this is why I think the Restube is best for this, followed by the PFD belt and the PFD Suspender harness.

Most PFD Devices are unisex, but there are also some versions that are specifically made for women that fit the female body better. As far as sizes go it is usually pretty general sizes, divided into child, youth and adult. Only when it comes to life jackets or life vests you need a bit more accurate size for a good fit.

Make sure your body does not get too hot and is still able to breathe. Make sure the buckles and/or straps are not too tight but they don’t fall off either. Pick the Stand Up Paddle PFD device that makes you feel most comfortable with what you are

Do not make the mistake of going out without one of these and ending up in a bad situation. In addition it is even mandatory in many countries and states to have a PFD device on you when going out on a vessel like a Stand Up Paddle Board, a kayak or a canoe. Purchasing a PFD will save you the cost of a big fine and keeps you safe at the same time, comparable to bicycle lights.

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Stand Up Paddle PFD Maintenance

Of course you always want to keep your PFD device in the best condition so it keeps working perfectly. As these are neoprene or nylon they do not require a lot of maintenance. Just make sure you always rinse them with some water after use, to make sure the salts from the sea go away or your sweat that has gotten onto it.

After this you can hang it out to dry outside or in a warmer room, of course do not throw these items into the washing machine or dryer to clean them as this will damage them severely!

Always check your PFD devices before going out to make sure there are no tears or rips forming in the material that could cause it to break when rapidly inflated.

Frequently Asked Questions about Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices

What does SUP PFD stand for?

Stand Up Paddle Personal Flotation Device

What types or Personal Flotation Devices are there?

Life vests, PFD suspender harnesses, PFD belts / fanny packs and PFD packs.

Are Stand Up Paddle PFD’s reusable?

Yes, you just need to get a new CO2 Cartridge to use it again

Conclusion Best Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices

As you have seen in this article there are a lot of options you have when it comes to a Stand Up Paddle PFD. This depends for the most part on the type of activity you are performing and of course your personal preference. One PFD is not is not safer then the other, but they are mostly carried differently. All these PFD devices are easily inflated in seconds by pulling the cord.

The life vests in this article are more buoyancy aids than PFD devices and do not inflate, but I would not recommend these for Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the first place.

No matter what you decide to do, always make sure you stay safe on the water and also make sure of the ones you take with you on the water. Even for pets there are some great life jackets out there to keep them safe, if you are planning to go paddle boarding with your dog I would strongly recommend taking a look at those as well.

I wish you lots of safety on all your paddling adventures and hope this guide on Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices can help you out in making a choice to help you in your search for safety.

Do you have any other questions or maybe tips about Stand Up Paddle PFD Devices or about Stand Up Paddling safety in general?

Let me know in the comments and let us exchange inspiration on how to make Stand Up Paddle boarding as safe as possible!

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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)