Kayaking is an amazing sport, one where you can spend time outdoors, navigating fast current along a river, and fight the waves for control over your speed and direction. You usually also get plenty wet, but if you aren't careful, you can easily end up completely in water.
That's why life vests are critical, and in most cases, mandatory. Having a kayak life jacket can save your life, but it's not just an emergency device. It's also a piece of clothing, and as such must be comfortable and well adjusted. Here's some essential buying tips.
First, as I said, a life jacket is also a piece of clothing. There's many ways to wear one. Some people wear normal clothes underneath, such as a t-shirt. Others have specialized clothing, such as a wetsuit, that they put the life jacket over. Others go with just a bikini, or nothing at all, and use that life jacket as their only top. Depending on your preference, this will affect the size you'll be looking for, as well as how comfortable you need it to be. If you're going to spend all day with this jacket against your skin, you don't want to end up with a rash.
The type of fabric used in these life jackets can vary as well. The material used will change how comfortable it is, but also how well it does its primary function, which is make you float and save your life without impeding any progress you may be doing while trying to get out of the water. Of course, one of higher quality will also cost more, but when that crucial moment happens and you rely on this piece of equipment for safety, you may be glad you didn't buy the cheapest one.
You also need to make sure you get one that's adapted to your gender. A typical life vest doesn't have a gender attached, as anyone can put it on. But specialized kayak life jackets do. Since you're going to be wearing it for a long time, and not just in case of an emergency, you want one that will not restrict your breathing. Remember that when you're on shore, you're not going to be moving and straining like when you're practicing that sport.
Many modern jackets also offer pockets of all types. Some have large pockets at the front, others have small ones on the side, or a combination of both. These can be very useful if you have to store equipment in them. You can even use them to store a GPS device or music player, although remember that they have a high risk of getting wet. Also remember that these typically have a limit on the weight they can support. A life vest is no good if it can't keep you afloat.
Finally, kayak life jackets come in many colors. Typically, they are bright, visible colors like red or yellow, so that you can be seen from far away. Some however come in darker colors like blue, and those can be more attractive, but if you pick such a color, make sure you have something else that's a bright color, so that in the event of an emergency, you can be found and rescued.