I kayaked recreationally on a lake in upstate New York as a kid and I recently purchased a used kayak to try the sport out again with my own kids. I am looking for a PFD that isn't crazy expensive but will last me a while and is comfortable. It doesn't have to be super fancy but kind of middle of the line. It seems like PFD's have changed a lot in 15-20 years!

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You're right. Retail-level PFDs have gotten wildly more safe and stylish in the last 20 years. 

If you're just kayaking recreationally on a lake, I would stick to the established brands and aim for their non-rescue PFDs. Brands like Astral, NRS, Kokatat, etc. all make vests with great features and comfort designs that don't run as high as the rescue vests. 

My personal favorite in the "middle of the line" area is the NRS Ninja. It is low-profile and allows for plenty of mobility. I use it for everything ranging from whitewater rafting/canoeing to jet skiing and wakeboarding. It is my all around vest.

Hopefully this information is helpful. If you post your specific budget then I may be able to provide some more specific suggestions. 

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Hi @simonsaysfoto,

Even though you posted this question on the "Ask an REI Employee" board, you may also get suggestions from other members of the community. We wanted to provide a friendly reminder (from our User Guidelines) that "only posts from a user with the “REI Employee” rank should be regarded as employee-generated content."

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Hi @simonsaysfoto.The variety of available PFD’s has definitely expanded from the bright orange life jacket! We have a great article called How to Choose PFD’s that explains some of the differences between Standard PFD’s vs. Inflatable PFD’s. Once you decide which route you want to go there are also different strap/zipper style options that can be largely based on personal preference. Some of them even have zip pockets for snack storage! When choosing a size, you will want to take your chest measurement and compare that to the sizing charts on the PFD’s information page. Without knowing your chest size it’s difficult to recommend one that would work for you. That being said you can call our Customer Service at 1-800-426-4840, Live Chat, or stop by a store to get more personalized fit information. Happy paddling, we look forward to helping you stay afloat!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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