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A fishing vest is an iconic piece of fishing apparel for a good reason—you can keep so much gear right at hand. Fishing vests are especially popular among fly anglers, but they needn’t be confined to that niche. A fishing vest is a handy piece of equipment for anglers of all stripes.

A classic fishing vest is a vest that includes easy-to-access pockets that allow you to store and retrieve your essential tackle while you’re on the water. There are a lot of variations on the classic fishing vest, from fishing vest backpacks to PFD and fishing vest combos, which offer different functionalities and styles. No matter your angling style, there’s a fishing vest for you.

Best All-Around Fishing Vest: Orvis Pro Fly Vest

Best Fishing Vest Backpack: Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest Pack for Men and Women

Best Lightweight Fishing Vest: Orvis Ultralight Vest for Men

Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest: Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

Best Kids Fishing Vest: White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Fly Fishing Vest for Kids

Best Cheap Fishing Vest: Flygo Mens Summer Outdoor Work Safari Fishing Travel Photo Vest

Features To Consider When Shopping For a Fishing Vest

Price and design are the most obvious features, but the details are key. Are the vest’s pockets large enough to hold big items? Are there enough pockets? Do you need attachment points for line nippers and a net? Is the vest’s weight correct for the weather in which you’ll be wearing it?

Do you want an all-around fishing vest?

The most important aspect of a fishing vest is its functionality. A stylish fishing vest is useless if it doesn’t allow you to stash the gear you need. You want to look for a fishing vest that has enough pockets to store your essentials without being too bulky. This means you need to balance the number and size of pockets with the overall size of the vest.

You shouldn’t expect to fit all of your fishing gear into a classic fishing vest—that’s not what they’re designed to do. A fishing vest is typically made for carrying a pair of pliers, some fly or lure boxes, extra tippet and leaders, and some split shot. Those are the items that you’ll be reaching for most often.

Best All-Around Fishing Vest: Orvis Pro Fly Vest

All-In-One

The Orvis Pro Fly Vest provides everything you need and more out of a fishing vest. Onyx

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Even if you’re not a fly angler, this fishing vest is a phenomenal choice. Eighteen pockets mean you can store and organize everything you need on the water. Two rigid compression-molded pockets are ideal for fly or lure boxes. Abrasion-resistant nylon construction makes the vest durable—an advantage when you’re pushing through brush and brambles. A durable water-repellent finish keeps you dry, while spacer mesh in the shoulders keeps you cool.

Do you carry a lot of tackle?

A typical fishing vest contains pockets on the front, which are easy to access. The back of the fishing vest is typically just fabric. This means that fishing vests are limited to just the essential gear—and that you’ll also have to carry another pack to the water to haul the rest of your gear, which can be a pain.

Do you often bring extra gear and food for your friends and family, or are you a guide? Do you like to bring cold drinks or a vacuum bottle of coffee? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then you should consider a fishing vest/ pack combo. On the front, a fishing vest backpack mirrors a classic fishing vest. On the back is a sizable storage pack to carry your extra gear. A loaded fishing vest backpack means more weight to carry around, but if you carry a lot of equipment, a fishing vest pack is for you.

Best Fishing Vest Backpack: Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest Pack for Men and Women

Best of Both Worlds

The Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest Pack is a solid two-in-one fishing vest pack combo. Kylebrooker

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The Kylebooker Fly Fishing Vest Pack provides the best of both worlds at an affordable price. It has everything you want out of a fishing vest, including two hard shell compartments and eight easy-access general storage pockets. The polyester mesh material is breathable and the vest is adjustable. A three-section expandable backpack means you can haul as much extra gear as you want. This is a great option for people who want the functionality of a fishing vest as well as the storage capacity of a backpack.

Do you want a no-frills fishing vest?

The current fishing gear market has exploded with gear that’s overloaded with features. In terms of fishing vests, this means that many vests have more pockets and pouches than you’d ever need to use. This can be a good thing if that matches your angling style, but some anglers prefer to keep it simple.

If you want to keep things simple and sleek, consider a fishing vest with fewer pouches. You will be able to keep the essentials at hand without the added inconvenience of a bulky fishing vest.

Best Basic Fishing Vest: Orvis Ultralight Vest for Men

Sleek

The Orvis Ultralight Vest is a no-frills lightweight fishing vest. Orvis

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The Orvis Ultralight Vest is a low-profile, lightweight mesh fishing vest. It has 11 pockets, but you’re most likely to use the four large vertical pockets, where you have plenty of space to stash the essentials. Interior chest pockets allow you to store your personal items like car keys. The vest has a woven nylon outer with polyester spandex mesh, making it lightweight, moisture-wicking, and functional.

Do you need a fishing life vest for kayak fishing?

Most fishing vests don’t have any safety functionality. But if you spend a lot of time fishing from a boat or kayak, you likely already have to wear a life vest. This means that it will likely feel extra-bulky and uncomfortable to throw a fishing vest over your life vest. Kayak anglers especially need gear designed for kayak fishing because of the tight confines of the craft.

Many companies have begun to blend the functionality of fishing vests with the safety protection of PFDs. These combo vests likely won’t have as many pockets or as much storage space as a typical fishing vest, but they’re great options for boat and kayak anglers. Make sure that your vest is a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest: Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

The Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket doubles as a fishing vest. Onyx

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The Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket is perfect for kayak and boat anglers who want easy access to their essential tackle and feel safe while doing so. The vest is a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD, and features four distinct pocket designs that keep your fishing equipment close by and organized. The high-cut foam back won’t get between you and the seat bottom, so it’s comfortable to wear. The mesh design provides ventilation. Six adjustment straps ensure you can get a comfortable and snug fit.

Do you need a fishing vest for a kid?

If your little one wants to look like you—and if you’re tired of toting around gear for your kid all day anyway—a kids fishing vest is a perfect solution. Your goal should always be to make fishing fun, and a fishing vest that’s specifically designed to fit a kid—as opposed to a small adult model, which won’t fit him or her correctly—is a good investment in that.

Best Kids Fishing Vest: White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Fly Fishing Vest for Kids

Kid Sized Classic

The White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Fly Fishing Vest for Kids is a classic-looking kid-friendly fishing vest. White River

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The White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Fly Fishing Vest for Kids is a children’s version of White River Fly Shop’s adult fishing vest. It is tan and will make your little one look like a serious angler on the water. And it has everything an avid young angler would need: ten external pockets, four internal pockets, and a built-in rod holder. The polyester and cotton construction is sturdy and durable.

Best cheap fishing vest: What you get for under $30

Many anglers don’t want or need a vest loaded with features—they just want something they can wear that has pockets and is affordable. Such a budget fishing vest might not be as durable as a pricier vest, or hold as much gear, but it should still get the job done.

Best Cheap Fishing Vest: Flygo Mens Summer Outdoor Work Safari Fishing Travel Photo Vest

Affordable and Functional

The Flygo Mens Fishing Vest costs less than many other vests, and still has numerous features. Flygo

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The Flygo Mens Fishing Vest is a solid choice for the budget-minded angler. It is lightweight, breathable, and durable, with a ventilated quick-dry nylon construction. It has 16 pockets, meaning you can carry just as much if not more gear than with a more expensive fishing vest, though it might be a bit too bulky for some anglers. It may not be the most stylish vest on the rack, but it’s a great budget option.

How Should a Fishing Vest Fit?

A fishing vest should fit snugly enough so that it doesn’t impede your casting arm, or swing around on your body while you’re trying to reach something in a side pocket. On the other hand, it should fit loosely enough so that you won’t feel constricted when you’re casting. Remember that a fishing vest must be worn as an outer layer, so always consider what clothes you’ll be wearing underneath the fishing vest when determining vest size.

A Final Word On Shopping For Fishing Vests

Fishing vests help you stay organized when you’re on the water, and one that fits your fishing style will make you a more efficient angler—and thus a better one too. A fishing vest isn’t a luxury for many anglers, it’s a necessity.

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