As the winter season ends, it’s almost time to hit the waters and upgrade your fishing gear. However, with so many different types of fishing vests available, it can be challenging to choose the best match for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a high-end or budget-friendly option, this list of the best fishing vests for 2023 has you covered.
Why a fishing vest, you ask? Well, for starters, having an organized and comfortable means of carrying all your gear is essential to catching trout, bass, or saltwater fish. A vest is designed to make your angling experience more comfortable and efficient by providing easy access to such essentials as hooks, pliers, baits, and other small items in the vest pockets.
To help you find the perfect vest, we’ve created a guide full of options for most fishing scenarios. From life vests for kayak fishing to stylish outerwear that protects you from the elements, there’s something here for everyone. We’ve also included different price points to cater to different buyers.
I didn’t see the need for a fishing vest for a long time. It was when I lost my favorite pliers in the river that I realized I needed a better way to carry and organize my gear. A friend suggested I switch to a vest and forego the small tackle box I was using. And if there’s anything that will save me time or effort, I’ll give it a chance.
Once you ditch the tackle box for a vest, you’ll notice a significant difference in how quickly you can rig your lines and get to work. If you’re tired of the hassle of changing lures or losing your tools, investing in a new vest will revolutionize the way you fish. Just be sure to choose a vest with the right amount of storage for your style of fishing.
Not all fishing vests are created equal. Depending on the type of fishing you do or the species you’re targeting, you may need a specific type of vest. Each type has different materials, uses, and features. Fly fishing vests are one such type of vest.
Editors Choice Best Overall
Materials: Nylon with polyester mesh interior
The Freestone by Simms is the vest I’m most excited about this year. It’s weather-resistant, making it a good choice for all types of fishing. You can count on it to keep you comfortable and dry in any weather. Not to mention it makes you look sharp while out on the water.
I’m particularly impressed with the Freestone’s layout of pockets. It has tons of functional pockets on both the interior and exterior to hold everything you need. Its efficient design allows you to easily access tackle and other gear while fishing.
You can tell real anglers designed this vest. For serious anglers who need a durable, flexible, and comfortable vest, the Freestone is the way to go. However, if you’re committed to the ultralight lifestyle, the Freestone’s numerous pockets and full-featured design may be too much.
Pros: Top-notch organizational system; weather-resistant exterior; easy access to main pockets
Cons: Not very lightweight; fair-weather anglers may not need the weather-resistant construction
Best for: Serious anglers who value design and functionality
Best Unisex Fly Fishing Vest
Patagonia Stealth Pack
Materials: Nylon and polyester mesh
Next on our list is the Patagonia Stealth Pack, a perfect choice for both men and women. It’s mostly made from a lightweight stealth fabric that keeps you cool and cuts the ounces you carry. But if you’re an angler who’s tough on gear, this lightweight fabric might not last as long as some.
The Stealth Pack is incredibly lightweight, despite its versatility and tons of storage. It achieves this thanks to a minimal design and oversized storage pockets. I particularly like the various attachment points that make it even easier to carry and organize gear.
This vest is a great lightweight piece for fly anglers or those who plan to be outdoors all day. But the trim unisex design might not be the best choice for those who prefer a vest that’s specifically tailored to their body shape.
Pros: Large pockets and storage areas; lightweight and minimal; breathable
Cons: Unisex design isn’t the most comfortable; may not be durable
Best for: All-day fishing trips and fly fishing
Best for Men
Materials: DWR-coated nylon with stretch mesh interior
Orvis has long been the gold standard for high-quality fishing apparel, so it’s no surprise to see an Orvis on this list. Their PRO Vest in particular comes with every bell and whistle you could want and is one of today’s best fishing vests for men.
The Orvis PRO vest has quite an impressive resume. With 18 different pockets, you’ll have more than enough storage space for your gear, including fly boxes, tools, and other accessories. The stretchy mesh interior provides a comfortable fit for long hours of fishing.
And then there are the fly-drying patches and hideaway tool ports that make it easy to dry your flies and keep your tools organized. For guys seeking the best in functionality and design, it’s hard to beat an Orvis vest, and the PRO fishing vest is top-of-the-line.
Pros: 18 pockets for ample storage; fly drying patches and other features not found on most fishing vests
Cons: Bulky and heavy for those wanting a lightweight design; a higher price tag
Best for: Those wanting high quality along with a full array of storage options
Best for Women
fishpond Upstream Women’s Tech
Materials: Nylon fiber with mesh interior
There’s no better fishing vest out there than the fishpond Upstream Tech vest for women. Made by a Colorado-based company, I’m super impressed by the attention to detail that went into the design and production of this style-savvy piece of gear.
With sternum and torso adjustments that guarantee a comfortable and secure fit, you can quickly tell it was made with women in mind. It has a tailored feel and comes equipped with a complete set of vest features like a rod holder and lots of pockets to organize all your gear.
The fishpond Upstream Tech vest is the best overall choice for female anglers who want a vest that can do it all. Its torso and sternum adjustments are an all-too-rare feature that makes this vest looks super stylish. It’s the best way to make a splash while fishing!
Pros: Custom fit for women; an American company focused on sustainable practices
Cons: Sizing runs a little large
Best for: Women who want a custom fit and high-quality gear that lasts for years
Minimalist & Functional
Filson Mesh Strap
Materials: Cotton canvas with polyester mesh
Not every angler wants or needs a fishing vest that’s overflowing with pockets and built extra durable. But that’s precisely where the Filson Mesh Strap vest shines with its lightweight and simple design that allows you to be nimble in the rivers and streams.
This vest is focused on combining minimalism with functionality. With less material and a utilitarian design, you get maximum mobility and ease of movement. The high-end, high-quality Filson brand also ensures you will be using this vest for years.
If you plan on being mobile while out fishing, you can’t go wrong with a minimal vest like the Filson. However, if you need a tad more storage space, you may want to go with one of the other picks on this list.
Pros: Lightweight and breathable design; durable and longlasting
Cons: A bit pricey for a minimal vest
Best for: Anglers wanting a simple yet high-quality solution
Best on a Budget
Fishing vests can be crazy expensive! Thankfully, companies like BassDash produce solid fishing gear at a price point that won’t require a second mortgage. This BassDash vest is proof of that, so that’s why it’s my favorite budget pick for fly anglers.
The BassDash vest is a basic polyester piece that comes equipped with a zip-down workstation for tying flys on the go. There are only a few high-end vests that include workstations, let alone one that comes in at this price. I also love the tons of mesh pockets and utility compartments.
And even though this is a budget option, it doesn’t skimp on comfort. The adjustable suspension system serves up a custom fit for anglers of all shapes and sizes while providing plenty of space to pack all of your gear.
Pros: Easy on the wallet; zip-down workstation feature; fully adjustable for any size
Cons: May not be as durable as other vests; no size or color options
Best for: Fly fishermen needing a reliable vest without spending a fortune
Best Fly Fishing Vest for Youth
As a father with two small children, it frustrates me that not many outdoor companies make products for youth. Luckily BassDash has a youth version of their budget-friendly fishing vest, and it has many of the same features and qualities as its bigger brother.
This vest is relatively cheap, so the kids can be kids and abuse it without you worrying too much. It’s also reasonably handy by offering useful and accessible features that help kids stay organized while out fishing (although mine will probably only fill it with snacks).
Like any good fishing vest, it has a rod holder and fly patch to keep everything where it needs to be. With various useful features and an affordable price point, it’s no wonder that the BassDash vest is considered one of the best fly fishing vests for youth today.
Pros: Very inexpensive; lightweight and comfortable; color options for boys and girls
Cons: Not as durable due to lightweight construction; not a ton of space for all types of gear
Best for: Kids who are learning to fly fish
Stellar Lightweight Option
Materials: DWR-finished nylon with polyester/spandex mesh
You won’t find a better lightweight option designed with less clutter and material than the Orvis Ultralight vest. The modern, sleek, and functional design is a far cry from the bulky, unappealing vests of yore. You’ll look and feel great in this vest, all while remaining mobile and comfortable.
Built to be the ultimate lightweight option for any organized angler, the Orvis Ultralight has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Thanks to its well-placed pockets and holders, you’ll have easy access to your fly box and tools, so you can stay focused on catching fish like a pro.
If you don’t want to settle for big, bulky vests with cluttered pockets and cheap materials, upgrade to the Orvis Ultralight. Not only will you look and feel great while wearing it, you’ll also be more organized and can take your fishing to the next level.
Pros: Ultralight design; well-placed pockets; stylish design
Cons: Limited storage for bring-everything anglers; not adjustable for different body sizes
Best for: No-compromise fly anglers who value lightweight and minimalist designs
It seems that all of the attention for fishing vests goes to the fly fishermen, but bass anglers can get in on the action as well. Bass fishing can often take just as much gear as fly fishing, so here are a few of the best vests to help carry it all.
Top Overall Choice
fishpond Sagebrush PRO
Bass fishing in summer often means enduring some fairly high temperatures. The last thing you want is a heavy, bulky vest that traps the heat. Luckily, fishpond produces the Sagebrush PRO, a vest perfect for warm-weather fishing.
The Sagebrush’s simple design combined with the light mesh material provides maximum breathability while out on the water. I’m also a big fan of the storage layout of this vest. With lots of pockets, you can easily access all of your lures, lines, and other equipment.
With its excellent design, lightweight material, and a great warranty from a Colorado-based company, this fishing vest is the total package. Seasoned pros and beginners will benefit from investing in a Sagebursh PRO vest that will last for years.
Pros: Extremely breathable in the heat; excellent warranty; thoughtful pocket placement
Cons: Not ideal for colder temperatures or inclement weather
Best for: Warm-weather bass fishermen who want to be better organized
Lightweight Performance for Bass
Columbia PFG Henry’s Fork V
If you need lightweight performance without blowing through your entire fishing budget, the Columbia PFG Henry’s Fork V vest is an ultralight and breathable option for any serious bass fisherman. Plus, it looks super sleek and adds a touch of cool to your fishing setup.
Even though it’s not an official fishing feature, my favorite part of this vest is its built-in beverage holder for the frosty beverage of your choice. So never again will you have to reach too far for an ice-cold beer or soda on a hot summer day. Bonus points!
In addition to its cool beverage feature, this vest is well-cushioned for balanced weight distribution and excellent comfort. If you need a quality vest for this upcoming bass season, the Columbia PFG Henry’s Fork V vest is a top-tier option that will exceed your expectations.
Pros: Stylish design; beverage holder for keeping a drink close at hand; cushioned areas to minimize fatigue and soreness
Cons: Not as durable as other vests; larger drink sizes won’t fit in the beverage holder
Best for: Those who want style and functionality in their bass fishing vest
No-Frills Tan Color
Materials: Cotton with polyester mesh
The LOOGU Outdoor No-Frills Tan Fishing Vest may not have the bells and whistles of its pricier counterparts, but it gets most of the way there. Plus, it’s much better quality than those cheap knockoffs at Walmart or Cabelas, so you won’t have to worry about it falling apart.
This inexpensive vest is well-reviewed on Amazon and is ideal for casual anglers. It has numerous pockets to organize all your tackle, with plenty of space for your gear. No need to go digging through a tangled mess of lures and lines when you’re out on the water.
This no-frills vest is a practical choice for anyone wanting to keep their gear organized without dropping the big bucks. True, it’s not a “top-tier” brand name with a long list of fancy features, but it gets the job done while making you look good in the process.
Pros: Budget-friendly; higher quality than the cheap knockoffs; comfortable to wear for extended periods
Cons: Not as many features as some other vests; won’t last for very many fishing seasons
Best for: Casual bass anglers who want a simple, wallet-friendly way to organize their gear
Any seasoned kayak angler will tell you that the one thing you should never leave on the shore is a life jacket. A trusty fishing life jacket/vest will keep you safe while out on the water and keep your gear within reach and accessible at all times. So grab your paddle and let’s dive into our top picks.
Technical Gear for Experienced Kayak Anglers
Stohlquist Descent PFD
Materials: Cordura Nylon
Let’s face it, kayak fishing can sometimes be a wild ride. Whether you’re navigating rapids or reeling in a monster catch, things can get intense out there. With the Stohlquist Descent PFD, you’ll feel like a superhero on the water. It’s a top-of-the-line floatation device.
This life-saving floatation device for extreme paddlers is used by rescue personnel and has optional add-on buoyancy chambers. It allows for a full range of shoulder motion so you won’t be slowed down when paddling around your favorite fishing holes.
The Descent PFD is no joke when it comes to safety and performance. While it’s pricier than other options, it’s well worth the investment for the peace of mind it provides. And if you’re fishing in colder weather, you’ll appreciate the handwarmer pocket that helps keep your fingers warm and nimble.
Pros: Trusted by professionals; hand warmer pocket; lots of additional features and accessories
Cons: Extremely pricey; not a ton of room for gear
Best for: Experienced kayak anglers who want the best money can buy
Mid-Range Kayak Fishing Life Jacket
Kayak fishing life jackets/vests often come with hefty price tags, but the Onyx offers a solid blend of functionality and affordability. It’s perfect for anglers who want to stay safe on the water while pocketing the savings for their next fishing trip.
A high foam back provides a comfortable seat in your kayak, so you can focus on reeling in big fish without feeling like you’re sitting on a brick. Plus, the mesh lower portion helps keep your back cool, so you won’t get soaked in sweat before even catching your first fish.
But a fishing life jacket is only as good as its ability to keep you above water. Rest assured, the Onyx has a super buoyant design that will keep you above water no matter how choppy the waves. The only better safety precaution would be growing gills.
Pros: Relatively affordable; a comfortable foam back and mesh construction; adjustable
Cons: Sizing is a bit on the bulky side
Best for: Casual or intermediate kayak fishermen looking for safety, quality, and affordability
NRS Type III Approved
If you’re the kind of angler who’s all about safety but doesn’t want to sacrifice comfort or style, the NRS Chinook life vest is the answer to your prayers. With 16.5 lbs of floatation and a mesh lower that’ll keep your back cool, you can fish all day without a puddle of sweat.
But this vest isn’t just about safety and comfort. It has two large pockets to hold your favorite tackle, for easy access to lures for that lurking lunker. So whether you’re fly fishing in a serene lake or navigating choppy ocean currents, the Chinook’s got you covered.
The NRS Chinook is a no-brainer for anyone craving a life vest that’s as reliable as stylish. Its Type III approval rating means it’s built to last, and its roomy pockets keep your tackle close at hand. Get one of these bad boys and make your kayak fishing buddies jealous.
Pros: Type III approved; mesh lower for comfort; great quality for the money
Cons: Can feel restrictive; not ideal for colder weather
Best for: Kayak anglers who want both safety and organization
Picking the perfect fishing vest is a very personal choice. We understand that and considered many factors when making our recommendations. Here’s what we looked for:
Materials and Durability
The durability of a fishing vest is directly related to the materials used in its construction. To withstand harsh conditions, the best vests should be made with high-quality, durable materials that can take a beating and last for many years.
Storage Capacity / Rod Holder / Tool Accessibility
A good fishing vest should have ample space for storing your gear, tackle, and other accessories. We prefer vests with a rod holder, attachment points, and multiple pockets for easy access to your fishing gear.
Range of Motion
Fishermen need a vest that allows a full range of motion when casting, reeling, or paddling a kayak. Comfortable vests designed with flexibility and mobility in mind are the ones that made it to this list.
Buoyancy (Kayak Anglers)
Buoyancy is a crucial factor for kayak anglers. So we made sure to select vests that provide ample buoyancy to keep kayakers afloat in case of an emergency. It’s hard to relax when you’re barely bobbing at the surface.
Price is a common concern for many anglers, so our team looked for reasonably priced vests that offer all the features, functionality, and comfort any serious angler would need.
As the fishing season approaches, it’s time to upgrade your gear, and a new fishing vest should be high on your shopping list. With so many options out there, selecting the right vest can be overwhelming. To simplify your life, we’ve compiled this guide to the best fishing vests 2023 has to offer.
Different types of fishing require different mixes of equipment and supplies, and your choice of a vest should match your style of angling. Whether you prefer trout, bass, saltwater fishing, fly or spin fishing, you’ll find a high-end or budget option here to suit your needs.
If you’re a kayak angler, a life vest/jacket is essential for your safety. Look for vests that provide good buoyancy while allowing a full range of motion. And, as always, make sure the vest has sufficient pockets for tackle and tools.
So, which vest will you choose? If you carefully consider all the issues mentioned above, we’re confident you’ll choose one of these best fishing vests and make your 2023 fishing season memorable. Let us know in the comments below what’s on your shortlist. And remember to check out other EatElkMeat guides for the best in a wide range of hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear.
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- Prime Day Deals for Hunting, Fishing & Camping
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Last Updated on August 16, 2023