If you want something a little less heavy-duty, consider one of these two models, which I found to also be completely comfortable. The $75 Manual Belt Pack PFD, part of West Marine's "Comfort Series" line, fits around your waist like a fanny pack; you barely notice it's there. Inflated, it provides 22.5 pounds of buoyancy, which makes it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type V PFD. Or consider West Marine's $99 Paddling Life Jacket Chest Pak manually inflating PFD, designed with watersports in mind, given its contoured fit that allows a full range of motion. Even better, the 200-denier nylon shell features a front pocket, perfect for keys and other gear, and hand-warmer pockets on both sides. Its back and shoulder pads are adjustable for head and neck support.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.