11 Best Personal Flotation Device Belts of 2021 (Buyers Guide!)

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Choose your personal flotation device as if your life depended on it, because it does.  

Whether you are boating, fishing, paddleboarding or kayaking, or just staying in shape by taking a water aerobics class, having the best personal flotation device belt is vital to your safety and survival.  

You’ll want to have a personal flotation device that doesn’t restrict your movements when enjoying your favorite water sports, and personal flotation device belts are perfect for allowing you a full range of motion in your arms and shoulders. 

These personal flotation device belts do what they were designed to do – keep you afloat during an emergency or a mishap. Even the best swimmers should wear a personal flotation device when boating, paddleboarding or kayaking. 

To make choosing a personal flotation device belt for your favorite water activities easier, we have compiled personal flotation device belt reviews featuring the best such products on the market at a variety of prices. We’ll look at what makes a personal flotation device effective and the best ways to use them. 

The Best Personal Flotation Device Belt Reviews | Editor’s Picks  

Personal flotation device belts come in a range of sizes, styles, and prices for a variety of water sports and activities, so choosing one can be overwhelming. Never fear – we have reviewed a multitude of personal flotation device belts, finding the best options on the market. 

The list below is numbered but is in no particular order and does not indicate rankings. 

1. Best Overall: Onyx Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket 

Approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, this low-profile nylon personal flotation device belt is a Type V life jacket with Type III performance. Onyx designed this flotation belt for paddleboarders 16 years and older and for those weighing 80 pounds or more. It fits a person with chest measurements of 30 to 52 inches and up to a 52-inch waist. 

Its unique design provides safety and protection to paddle boarders and anglers, boaters, and other water sports participants without limiting movement. Its 16-gram CO2 charge provides 17 pounds of buoyancy, and its inflation tube can boost that buoyancy to 26.5 pounds.

Pros: 

  • Designed for ages 16 and older and for waists up to 52 inches 
  • Approved by the U.S. Coast Guard 
  • Well suited for boating, fishing, and paddleboarding 

Cons: 

  • The price of this personal flotation device belt may be over some boaters’ budgets. 

2. Best for Water Aerobics: AQUA Fitness Deluxe Flotation Belt for Water Aerobics 

Water aerobics and pool exercise are excellent ways to burn calories and tone up while not putting a lot of stress on your joints. Wearing a personal flotation device belt while working out in the water is smart, as these optimize balance and safety in shallow or deep water by providing neutral buoyancy.

Designers created this contoured fabric flotation device for less irritation, and its adjustable strap and buckle provide a customized fit. One size will fit most, but this model is recommended for those 14 years and older. 

This AQUA flotation belt consists of chlorine-resistant materials, so this model is excellent for those trying water aerobics, or even water Zumba, in a swimming pool. Make sure to rinse this flotation belt in cold water after using and dry completely. For best results, don’t expose this belt to direct sunlight for long periods of time.  

Pros: 

  • Economically priced 
  • Designed for swimming pool use since it is made from chlorine-resistant materials 
  • One size will fit most. 

Cons: 

  • This lightweight personal flotation device belt may not be the best choice for water sports in lakes or the ocean. 

3. Best for Paddleboarding: NRS Zephyr Inflatable Lifejacket 

This lightweight personal flotation device self-inflates to provide 15.5 pounds of flotation. Designed to stay out of your way when paddleboarding, surfing, or wading, the NRS Zephyr has adjustable straps for a customized fit. 

Made for near-shore and flat water areas, you can easily inflate this belt by pulling the red tab to activate the pressurized CO2. You can purchase replacement CO2 Rearming Kits separately.

Pros: 

  • Slim, lightweight design won’t get in your way while paddleboarding. 
  • Adjustable fit will keep belt snug 
  • Easy to inflate 

Cons: 

  • This belt was among the more expensive personal flotation device belts we reviewed 

4. Best for Swimming: Ejoyous Inflatable Belt 

Designed for swimming as well as fishing, sailing, kayaking, and surfing, the Ejoyous Inflatable Belt is made from high-quality nylon. This durable personal flotation device is washable, and air dries easily. It also includes a whistle as well as reflective tape for safety and visibility. 

When the personal flotation device needs to be activated, just pull the inflation handle. Adjustable straps allow a comfortable fit for different waist sizes. Its lightweight design allows for ease of movement while swimming or wading as well as sailing or surfing. 

Pros: 

  • Designed for swimming, sailing, kayaking, and other water sports 
  • Reflective tape makes you easy to see, even in low-light conditions 
  • Includes a whistle to call for help 

Cons: 

  • Does not include a CO2 cartridge  

5. Best for Aqua Exercise: CNYE Foam Flotation Belt 

For toning or rehabilitation, nothing beats exercising in the water. Muscles get a workout from the resistance water provides, but you aren’t straining your joints. This high-density personal flotation belt lets you get an effective and stress-free aerobic water workout thanks to its buoyancy.

You can use this CNYE belt made from high-quality EVA as a swim training belt. However, this belt is a flotation aid and will not protect against drowning. 

After use, rinse with water and allow to air dry. Store in a dry, well-ventilated place.  

Pros: 

  • Foam flotation belt offers buoyancy for water exercises. 
  • Can also be used as a flotation aid when learning to swim 
  • Durable construction 

Cons: 

  • This option isn’t strong enough to prevent drowning. 

6. Best for Aqua Jogging: Water Gear Runner Flotation Belt 

Running with resistance will burn calories and build strength. The best belt for going for a jog in the swimming pool is the Water Gear Runner Flotation Belt. A fully adjustable nylon belt will sit securely at your waist, even when you’re running or maybe doing water aerobics. 

Designed to keep you upright and stable when moving, the Water Gear Runner Flotation Belt allows for maximum range of motion. Owners of this belt say it’s also effective as a flotation aid when learning to perfect your form when honing swimming skills. Made from closed-cell EVA foam, this belt won’t chip, break or absorb water.   

Pros: 

  • An adjustable snug fit even when running in the water. 
  • Effective as a training aid when improving your swimming strokes 
  • The Water Gear Runner Flotation Belt is durable even with frequent use. 

Cons: 

  • Some owners report that the belt scratches them. 

7. Best for Fishing: Stearns 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack 

Anglers who see personal flotation device belts as an annoyance won’t even notice wearing the Stearns 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack. It’s lightweight, slim, and comfortable to wear, allowing fishermen, along with boaters and paddle boarders, a full range of motion. 

In an emergency, this personal flotation device is easy to activate. Just tug at the activation cord, and your life jacket will inflate immediately. You can adjust the neck strap on this U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for greater stability in the water. You can reuse it by purchasing a rearming kit. 

Pros: 

  • Lightweight and slim style allows for a full range of motion. 
  • Easy to activate during an emergency 
  • Can be reused when a rearming kit is purchased 

Cons: 

  • This Stearns belt was the most expensive option we reviewed 

8. Best for Rehabilitation: AquaJogger Active Belt 

Movement in water is ideal for rehabilitating injured joints and muscles because buoyancy takes the weight off injured areas while the water offers gentle resistance. A personal flotation device belt used in rehabilitation should fasten easily and allow for freedom of movement. This AquaJogger belt is ideal for rehabilitation as it is easy to clip and unclip and is contoured for a comfortable fit.  

Not only those who are on the mend love this belt. Users who need buoyancy as part of their water training for Ironman events and triathlons say it’s an affordable and effective option. It even comes with a booklet of information on how to wear the belt and simple exercises you can do while wearing it. 

Pros: 

  • Easy to fasten and unfasten 
  • Allows for freedom of movement during therapy or a water workout 
  • Comes with an informational booklet including suggested exercises 

Cons: 

  • Some users have complained that the AquaJogger Active Belt can ride up if not tightly fastened. 

9. Best Low-Profile Design: Seachoice Inflatable Waist Belt 

Seachoice packs on-demand protection in a slim, lightweight package that gives a minimalist feeling. You may feel like you’re not wearing a personal flotation device, but in an emergency, its 24g CO2 canister can be activated quickly with a pull of the bright red tab. There’s a backup oral inflation tube as well.

It’s ideal for use while fishing, boating, or paddleboarding since it’s small and light enough to not get in the way.  

This model fits those 107 pounds and heavier and those with chests measuring 30 to 52 inches.  

In an emergency, it quickly inflates its bright yellow airbag, giving you safety and high visibility until help arrives. 

Pros: 

  • Slim profile and lightweight design 
  • Bright yellow airbag for increased visibility 
  • Rapid inflation 

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for those outside their size range 

10. Best for Color Choices: Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Belt 

This Eyson personal flotation device belt comes in five colors – red, yellow, royal blue, navy and black. You’ll find one to match your favorite boating clothes or maybe your paddleboard. This personal flotation belt has large reflectors for high visibility in low-light conditions and is made from nylon, neoprene, and polyester. 

This model washes and air-dries easily to reduce the risk of mold and mildew. It fits youths and adults weighing 240 pounds or less. 

Pros: 

  • Moderately priced among models we reviewed 
  • Widest choice of colors in options studied. 
  • Durable materials and construction 

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for those weighing more than 240 pounds 

11. Best for Versatility: Noa Store Swim Belt  

Every swimmer is different. Having a personal flotation device belt with adjustable buoyancy is handy in training since, as a swimmer grows stronger, they can decrease buoyancy. The Noa Store Swim Belt has six closed-cell foam pieces that you can add or remove to adjust buoyancy. 

The belt will fit up to a 49-inch waist, but those with larger waists can join two belts together and adjust to fit. 

You can wear the foam blocks on the front or back of the waist to provide better balance while in the water and make swimming easier, especially for beginning or intermediate swimmers learning new strokes. 

Pros: 

  • Has six blocks of closed-cell foam that you can add or removed to adjust buoyancy 
  • You can wear the foam blocks on the front or back of the waist. 
  • Fits up to a 49-inch waist, but two belts can be joined together for those with larger waists. 

Cons: 

  • Some owners of this belt say it is too flimsy and doesn’t have enough buoyancy. 

What to Look for in the Best Personal Flotation Device Belt 

Personal flotation device belts range from those that give you added balance and buoyancy when you’re trying a new swimming stroke or doing water aerobics to those that will save your life in an emergency. Here are a few considerations: 

Coast Guard Approval 

When looking for personal flotation device belts online, check to see if they have the U.S. Coast Guard’s approval. This is key for belts used when boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, surfing, or fishing since these activities are done on bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans, rather than in a swimming pool. 

Recommended Use

The product description should also tell you what the intended use is for the personal flotation device belt. The kind of personal flotation device belt you’d wear when sailing along a coastline might not be the one you’d want to wear when doing water aerobics. 

Likewise, the belt that’s perfect for exercising in a swimming pool with your feet touching the bottom would not be the best choice for withstanding ocean waves. 

Type Number

Most personal flotation device belts will have a type number typically ranging from 1-5. 

Type 1 personal flotation devices are best suited for offshore use, such as on a cruise ship. Type 2 personal flotation devices are for recreational use. Most paddleboarders use a Type 3 device because it is lighter and allows for ease of movement. Pool rings are Type 4 personal flotation devices, for example, and Type 5 includes specialty inflatable items. 

Buoyancy

This is the force, measured in pounds, that will keep a person’s head above water. Most adults need about 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy or flotation to stay afloat. Weight, body fat, and clothing can all impact the amount of buoyancy needed.

(We also have our top pickups of Best Buoyancy Water Aerobics Belts for you)

Materials Used

Personal flotation devices come in a variety of materials, from foam to nylon fabric. Some materials will float on their own, while others have to be inflated first.  

Special Features

Some personal flotation device belts include pockets, tabs for attaching whistles, strobe lights or other accessories, ventilation to keep you cooler and bright colors, and reflective tape to improve visibility. 

Benefits of Using a Personal Flotation Device Belt 

An obvious benefit of using a personal flotation device belt while enjoying water sports is that it will prevent injury or even drowning.  

The best personal flotation device is the one you use with ease and comfort in mind. Those who feel constricted by life vests may be more likely to use a personal flotation device belt because it allows for freedom of movement and isn’t as hot or heavy as some vests can be.  

Personal flotation device belts made with closed-cell foam can give you greater stability when enjoying swimming pool-based workouts and therapy. When kayaking, boating, fishing, or paddleboarding, inflatable personal flotation device belts provide a greater degree of safety when inflated during an emergency while not restricting movement. 

Disadvantages of Personal Flotation Device Belts 

While personal flotation device belts are a smart and safe solution in many water recreation scenarios, they’re not always the best option. Consider these potential disadvantages to choosing a PFD belt over an alternative life preserver design.

Some PFD Belts Require Activation

Wearing a personal flotation device belt is better than not wearing any type of personal flotation device. There is a disadvantage in that the ones made for use while boating and other offshore activities have to be activated. 

Activation in the options we reviewed was easy, but the easiest belt to inflate will not work if the wearer is incapacitated. 

If you are knocked unconscious in a boating accident, you will not be able to pull the cord to inflate your personal flotation device belt. If you have a shoulder injury from falling off your paddleboard, will you be able to tread water with one good arm while pulling the cord to inflate your device? 

Proper Wear is Key

Personal flotation device belts are often not worn correctly. Wearing them too loosely or with the pack in the back instead of in front will limit their effectiveness in an emergency. 

When using a personal flotation device belt in a swimming pool for exercise or therapy, you may find that some models ride up during your workout. That can be an issue with belts that those who use vests don’t encounter. 

Not the Right Solution for Every Scenario

Keep in mind that these belts are not designed for use in oceans, rivers, and lakes and will not provide the level of buoyancy to prevent drowning during an accident on the open water. 

Personal flotation device belts add a level of protection, but nothing will replace your caution and awareness while in the water.

(We have other recommendations for activities like water ski at Best Water Ski Floatation Belts)

How to Use a Personal Flotation Device Belt 

Wearing your personal flotation device belt the right way is key to getting the highest degree of safety from it. Designers create these belts to be worn with the pouch in the front and the buckle in the back. Wearing it the other way will require you to spin the belt to inflate the airbag and pull it over your head. During an emergency, you may not remember to do that.  

The smartest choice is to wear your personal flotation device belt any time you are near the water. Accidents can happen on boat docks and landings as easily as they can in the water. 

The U.S. Coast Guard and many states require the use of personal flotation devices while boating or paddleboarding on the water. 

Children should wear personal flotation devices at all times when boating or fishing, or near the water. Belts are best for older children or teens who are more able to react in an emergency.

How to Store a Personal Flotation Device Belt 

Foam personal flotation device belts should be rinsed after use and air-dried completely to prevent mold or mildew from growing while your belt is in storage. Store all personal flotation device belts out of the sun since sunlight can break down fabrics and foam over a prolonged period.  

You should inspect inflatable personal flotation device belts at least once per season. Pay close attention to the CO2 canister to make sure it is ready to inflate. Manually inflate the airbag of your belt at least once a year to check for any leaks.  

Safety Tips 

In 2018, boating accidents resulted in 2,511 injuries and 633 deaths. Of those who died, 77 percent drowned. The vast majority of those who drowned in these accidents were not wearing personal flotation devices. This is why using a personal flotation device while enjoying the water is so important. 

Personal flotation device belts are popular because their minimalist design keeps them out of your way when you’re enjoying water sports. They won’t leave you hot and sweaty as a life vest will on a warm day, so you’re more likely to wear them, putting them close at hand if needed. 

These safety devices only work as well as you wear and maintain them. Storing and inspecting your personal flotation device belt properly, purchasing one that fits, and actually wearing it when you’re in, on, or near the water will bring you the greatest degree of safety and protection.

Here are a few tips to increase the safety and readiness of your personal flotation device. 

Inspect its Condition

Make sure that your personal flotation device is in good condition before use. Checking your personal flotation device belt at least once each season will ensure that you are ready for an emergency. Check for rips and tears as well as for mold and mildew.

If it is inflatable, make sure the CO2 canister is ready for use. Manually inflate the airbag of an inflatable personal flotation device belt to check for any leaks. Inflatable personal flotation device belts should also be rearmed with a fresh CO2 canister after being activated, so it is ready for use again. 

Getting the Best Fit

Fit is important for foam personal flotation device belts. Be sure to pick a size that corresponds to your weight and size and wear it with the straps adjusted for a snug fit. To get the best fit, clip a personal flotation device belt around your waist. It should feel snug but not uncomfortable and should allow freedom of movement without chafing. 

Make sure to wear clothes you would ordinarily wear while boating or participating in other water sports when you try on your personal flotation device belt. This will give you an accurate fit.  

Test it Out

If you are a kayaker, you’ll want to try the personal flotation device belt on and then get in the kayak to see if the seat pushes the belt upward. If possible, try out a personal flotation device belt in a swimming pool to see how it works.  It’s important to know how your personal flotation device belt will function during an emergency. 

Wear Your Personal Flotation Device Belt

A personal flotation device belt provides no safety unless used. Make sure to not only bring it along but wear it whenever you’re participating in water sports. 

Wear Your Belt Correctly

To keep your head above water,  you should wear a personal flotation device belt with the pack in front and the buckle toward the back. The belt should be snug but comfortable.  

Store the PFD Belt Properly

How long your personal flotation device belt lasts depends on its use and care. Rinse and air-dry personal flotation device belts and store them out of direct sunlight. If your PFD needs cleaning, only use gentle soap as instructed by the manufacturer.  

Types of Personal Flotation Device Belts

Both inflatable and foam-type personal flotation device belts are available for purchase for water recreation. All types of personal flotation device belts are worn for safety or to add balance while participating in a water sport such as water aerobics, boating, fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding. 

While the type you choose will vary based on your needs and desired activities, it helps to have an understanding of your options first.

Inflatable PFD Belts

Many inflatable PFD belts have an airbag that inflates with a CO2 canister when activated. This is usually done by pulling a cord. Therefore, your PFD belt is a manually-operated safety device, and it may take some practice before you’re able to activate it safely. 

Most manufacturers aim to promote their belts to water sports enthusiasts, because these devices offer peace of mind while spending time around water. 

Instrinsically Buoyant Belts

Some personal flotation device belts have intrinsic buoyancy. Foam belts are generally designed for pool use, and they are commonly used by individuals who are learning to swim. In a pool, a foam PFD belt can offer enough buoyancy for you to practice swimming strokes without feeling unsupported

However, these types of belts aren’t typically recommended for use on open water. 

When Should You Wear A Personal Flotation Device Belt? 

The best advice is to wear a personal flotation device whenever you are near the water. Boatus.org reports that most boating fatalities happen when the boat is moving slowly or not at all. 

It is especially important to wear a personal flotation device at night; when finding your personal flotation device in an emergency would be difficult and in turbulent waters or rough weather. 

By law, recreational boats must carry functional personal flotation devices for each person on board. You should keep them readily available, not buried inside a locker. Keeping personal flotation devices at hand by wearing them is the best option for all ages. 

In these cases, wearing a personal flotation device belt would put help close at hand if an emergency occurred.

Best Personal Flotation Device Belts of 2021 Comparison Chart

ProductPriceAvailable SizesBest ForProduct Features
Onyx Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket$S/M/LTeen AgeWell suited for boating, fishing, and paddleboarding
AQUA Fitness Deluxe Flotation Belt for Water Aerobics$$$L/XLAdultsEconomically priced , one size will fit most
NRS Zephyr Inflatable Lifejacket$M/L/XLAdultsAdjustable fit will keep belt snug
Easy to inflate
Ejoyous Inflatable Belt$S/M/L/XLAdultsDesigned for swimming, sailing, kayaking, and other water sports
CNYE Foam Flotation Belt$S/M/L/XL/XXLChild and AdultsDurable construction ,used as a flotation aid when learning to swim
Water Gear Runner Flotation Belt$M/L/XL/XXLAdultsAn adjustable snug fit even when running in the water.
Stearns 16 Gram Manual Belt Pack$M/L/XLAdultsEasy to activate during an emergency
Can be reused when a rearming kit is purchased
AquaJogger Active Belt$M/LAdultsEasy to fasten and unfasten
Seachoice Inflatable Waist Belt$M/LAdultsSlim profile and lightweight design , Rapid inflation
Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Belt$S/MAdultsDurable materials and construction
Noa Store Swim Belt $SAdultsHas six blocks of closed-cell foam that you can add or removed to adjust buoyancy

Choosing the Best Personal Flotation Device Belt 

Enjoying the water while staying safe is the goal of everyone who loves water sports and activities.  

Life vests are effective in preventing drownings, but they can be hot and can restrict movement. That can tempt boaters, fishermen, and paddle boarders to take them off, which can be a dangerous mistake in an emergency. 

Personal flotation device belts can be a solution to that problem. They’re lightweight and slim, allowing for ease of movement whether you’re paddling or casting a line. In an emergency, they inflate to keep your head above water until help arrives. 

Foam personal flotation device belts can prevent accidents in the swimming pool during water-based workouts. They can also provide confidence to both beginner and intermediate swimmers. These belts already provide buoyancy, helping wearers keep their balance. 

Consider your water-based activities and whether a personal flotation device belt would be an option for your gear. There are personal flotation device belts designed for your favorite water sports. 

Choosing the right personal flotation device belt for your activities is essential for your enjoyment and safety. We hope this review will help you select the best personal flotation device belt for your needs.  

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