If there ever was a downside to fishing – it’s just how much stuff you need to carry.*
And trying to stay organized can often be a challenge, especially when you just want to get on with landing a catch.
Thankfully, there are all sorts of products and gear out there that helps us do just that.
Like the 13 best fishing vests in 2021.
Even if you currently don’t use one of these game-changers, I guarantee that picking one up will take your fishing experience and skill to the next level.
Don’t miss the buyer’s guide following the review for expert tips and advice on staying organized on the water.
(* Just kidding – there isn’t a downside to fishing.)
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Made from a durable nylon shell with a polyester lining, this is a super-lightweight and quick-dry fishing vest that looks and feels good when worn.
A slight departure from the compartment-crazy fishing vests on the market, this is a more traditional garment that you could easily wear to the pub after a day on the water.
With a stand collar to keep out the chill, multiple pockets with zip closures, and a drawstring hem, this vest is suitable for three-season outdoor activities, is super-stylish, and comes at a very attractive price.
Choice of colors.
A bit light on pockets and compartments for tackle-heavy anglers.
Go ahead, look like a pro and feel free to tell some tall fishing tales over a nice, cold pint while wearing this smart, multiuse vest.
It isn’t the cheapest, but for the money, I think this will provide you with everything that you need for many seasons to come, so it’s actually great value.
You’ll certainly look the part.
This vest is smart and comes in a fairly neutral grey/green color.
Here’s what I love.
There is so much storage. Starting at the waist, you’ll find two perfectly sized fly box pockets, both of which have a further front pocket for bits and bats. Above are two more breast pockets with two fly patches and internal tabs for attaching tools.
In fact, listen…
The vest has a total of 18 pockets! If that isn’t enough for you, I’m telling you that you have too much gear.
One super nice feature is the elasticated bar. This provides the ideal place to store a few spools of leader, exactly where you need them!
The padded collar is a nice touch, too, handy for keeping a draft out if you’ve got your back to the wind (easier to cast… Am I right?)
The vest is also fully adjustable, so you should be able to get the perfect fit.
Heaps of storage, 18 pockets! Wow!
I like the fit and feel of this vest.
Lots of clever ideas, such as the net loop on the rear and tool ports.
You might be tempted to blow your budget on tools just to fill the pockets? No, seriously, it’s a great vest, and I really like it.
One of the best vests out there when it comes to fly fishing. Granted, it isn’t cheap, but I would argue that you might be able to get away with not needing a sling pack, so it might actually save you money long term. I love this vest. It’s one of my favorites.
This is a great example of a fishing vest/backpack combination, offering maximum storage options and practicality, so you can access your fishing tackle and store extra gear.
With a fully adjustable fit, this excellent fishing vest from Anglatech is suitable for both men and women, with expandable storage compartments and compression straps, made from rip-stop nylon with water-resistant zippers.
As well as having your flies, forceps, and other equipment within easy reach, it also boasts a two liter liquid bladder so you can stay hydrated on the go. (Or whatever poison you decide to pick.)
Hybrid vest/backpack combo.
Great pocket and compartment options.
Breathable mesh back.
Lockable bladder valve.
Runs a little small.
Backpack won’t hold much extra.
This is an ingenious fishing vest that offers plenty of storage with the added bonus of keeping you hydrated with a water bladder. Check out this link for more dedicated fishing backpacks if that’s more what you’re looking for.
Based out of Colorado, Fishpond are a recognized and reputable fishing gear company, and develop a handsome line of top-quality outdoor gear, tools, and equipment.
This beautifully made fishing vest is tough and durable, with plenty of storage options compartments, and attachments to keep gear organized and the angler happy.
With no less than 17 pockets – both interior and exterior – you have a lot of space to put your stuff. The hemostat holder keeps your pliers close to hand, and zip-down fly benches with replaceable foam are super convenient.
Name to trust.
Premium quality materials.
Gear attachment tabs.
D-ring net lash.
Runs a little on the large side.
Overall a top-quality fishing vest that’s built to last, with some excellent features to caterer to all anglers. But those zip-down benches ensure that this is probably the best fly-fishing vest on the market.
Let’s go all the way in the other direction – when it comes to price at least – with this multi-pocketed fishing vest from Magreel.
Easily store and hold fishing lines, lure kits, and other tools with the two large zip compartments and two mesh pockets conveniently located on the chest.
Three D-rings are provided, along with a heavy-duty clip buckle for hanging landing nets, holding fly line, fishing pliers, and more.
Loops are built-in for holding fishing rods, and super-smooth, SBS zippers are strong and long-lasting to give you peace of mind.
Excellent price point for what you get.
Safety reflective stripes.
Adjustable shoulder straps.
Only available in black.
Not suitable for smaller folks.
One of the best fishing vests for the money, this is a great budget-friendly option if you don’t want to splash out much more. But even with adjustable shoulder straps, it will run on the large side for some.
Made with a super-comfortable cotton and polyester blend, I think this stylish and versatile fishing vest wins the “most pockets” award with a total of 27 storage compartments you can fill with just about anything you like.
Aside from the wealth of pocket options to choose from, it also features a front holder for pliers, rod holder, removable patch, and D-ring to secure nets.
The soft, neoprene collar keeps things comfortable around the neck, and the zip-front closure has an internal webbing clasp for a snug fit that doesn’t move around.
Loads of storage.
Choice of sizes available.
Highly versatile for any activity.
Only one color option.
This multi-purpose option takes home the prize of the fishing vest with the most pockets, so you’re going to need something to store in them. Check out these awesome fishing pliers to get you started.
This is an absolute beast of a fishing vest that is also available in a variety of styles, including the option of adding an extra chest pack, or going the other direction and slimming down to a simple sling design.
But let’s talk about this version, which is so packed with features you’ll not need anything else.
Two, fold-down fly boxes keep your lures at the ready, and three main zippered compartments can handle the rest – and they’re fully expandable.
The lightweight, water-resistant fabric has a mesh lining to maximize breathability, and the one-size-fits-most design has adjustable shoulder and waist straps to suit many frames.
Storage options galore.
Rod holding straps.
Protected fly pouches.
Some questions over zipper quality and longevity.
At this price, the Maxcatch vest could well be the best fly-fishing vest for the money on the market. This has everything you need to help you have a successful day on the water – and then some.
Next up we have this ultra-light fishing vest that offers a low profile compared with some other products in the market. It will barely register on you at all while still offering you a great choice of storage options and practical features.
The zip-closure front pouches hold fly boxes in convenient reach, and large interior pockets can hold any extra gear. The padded neck strap is comfortable to wear all day long, and has a built-in net D-ring.
Heavy-duty molded zippers won’t be failing you anytime soon, and the one-size-fits-most ensures a fit for the majority of fisher-people out there.
Compact and easy to carry.
Some anglers might need more storage.
A top-quality option for anyone who doesn’t like the larger profile fishing vests. This is slim, lightweight, and comfortable, and it will still do the job with aplomb.
Founded in 1980, Simms is another household name when it comes to world-class, quality fishing, equipment, gear, and apparel.
This is a lightweight and practical fishing vest that offers a total of 20 pockets both inside and out, with plenty of room to carry whatever you need to and from the water’s edge.
Designed with a love of the sport and professional use in mind, it features two built-in retractors to access your tools with ease and convenience.
Made with a durable, water-resistant material, the breathable mesh shoulders with a padded rib-knit collar offer unbeatable comfort all day long.
Name to trust.
Built to last.
It’s on the expensive side.
It’s not the best budget fly-fishing vest out there considering the price, but this is still a world-class, long-lasting fishing garment that has been designed by fisher people, for fisher people. Top marks.
Here we have a more budget-friendly option from Flygo, a universal fishing vest that pretty much has all the bases covered when it comes to any type of angling you can think of.
In spite of all the pockets and compartments, it’s still a lightweight and breathable garment, made with a water-resistant, quick-dry material.
High quality zippers operate smoothly, attachment ladders and D-rings offer extra space to hold and store gear, webbing adjustable straps offer a comfortable fit, and reflectors keep you visible if out in low light.
Loads of storage options.
Padded, meshed straps.
Additional large back compartment.
Adjustment straps at the side for freedom of movement.
Excellent choice of colors and camouflage.
You’ll have a hard time picking your color.
A brilliant fishing vest that caters to any and all anglers, at this price it’s outstanding value for money.
Pick yourself up a pair of these quality fishing gloves while you’re at it – and you’ll look and feel like a pro.
Now, I’ve included this fishing life jacket in this review for two reasons.
First, so you can better understand the differences between a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and a normal fishing vest, and second – because it’s actually a decent fishing vest in its own right.
EVA pockets act as fold-down workstations, and there are multiple pockets all with built-in drainage, that can house extra gear and tackle.
Perfect for kayak fishing, it includes a higher back design for a comfortable fit when seated in most fishing craft.
It can save your life.
Doesn’t ride up.
US Coast Guard approved.
Open sides for ventilation.
Allows freedom of movement.
Colorado-based Stohlquist manufactures some of the best PFDs in the business, and this is no exception. It’s practical, it’s stylish, and it will stop you drowning. What more could you possibly ask for?
How to Choose the Best Fishing Vest for Your Needs
Below, you’ll find some extra tips and advice for when you’re in the market for a new fishing vest, as well as some interesting frequently asked questions to help you stay organized on the water.
Why Use a Fishing Vest?
Probably the most obvious reason for using a fishing vest is convenience. You can keep your frequently used fishing tackle and gear to hand when you need it most.
It’s this ability to organize tools and equipment that is essential for many anglers, so you don’t have to keep returning to tackle boxes, and it doesn’t take time away from fishing itself.
Which is the most important thing – let’s be honest.
This is particularly true for fly-fishing, and a good fly vest can really make a difference to your whole angling experience.
Aside from this, a fishing vest can help keep you warm, and some include other safety features – such as reflectors or whistles that can help you be seen and heard while walking at night or in emergencies.
And if you choose one of the more fashion-conscious, versatile fishing vests, you can get away with wearing it all the time, and for multiple activities, such as hiking, camping, or in the bar.
Finally, some fishing vests also double as PFDs. Actually, I should rephrase that. Some PFDs double as fishing vests. Safety is the primary concern here, but it doesn’t hurt to add a few practical features either.
Don’t confuse the two. A fishing vest won’t save your life – but a fishing PFD will (and it will have some extra storage for gear).
For dedicated fishing vests, it’s usually one-size-fits-all, as the majority will offer fully adjustable straps and buckles to suit the wearer.
Look for options that are marketed as unisex, adaptable for use by men and women.
Other fishing vests – particularly the aforementioned fashion garments – will likely come in a choice of sizes, so you can pick up something that fits your frame the best.
When in doubt, and when shopping online for any item of clothing, check reviews and look for comments from people who share a similar build to you.
Then you’ll know if a product runs small or large, can adjust accordingly, and then hopefully keep those negative reviews down.
Fishing can be as energetic or as lazy as you like, but whichever style you prefer, you’ll need clothing and gear that will stand up to the rigors of the outdoors.
This is very much true with fishing vests, as they’re going to get a lot of use over the course of their lifetime, being at the mercy of the elements while doing so.
Look for well-made, tough, and durable options that have been manufactured with premium materials and craftsmanship.
Check zippers and fastenings, and make sure that the item doesn’t have a history of falling apart after being out once on a saltwater excursion.
Breathability and Ventilation
If you’re standing, moving, or working all day in a fishing vest, it’s likely that you’ll build up a sweat – especially if you’re on the water during warmer days.
And some vests just happen to run warm anyway.
As such, check to see that the vest you’re interested in has proper ventilation. Look for mesh straps and/or back webbing. Make sure it’s not going to be too figuring-hugging and offers room to breathe.
Having a sweaty, sticky, uncomfortable back or chest is a sure fire way to ruin your day.
Pockets and Compartments
Now, this is where fishing vests really come into their own. They’re basically the vest equivalent of tactical cargo pants.
If a fishing vest doesn’t have a load of pockets and storage compartments in which to stash, protect, or keep your gear to hand – then it isn’t a fishing vest. At least, not a good one.
It goes without saying that the more stuff you have, the more pockets you’re going to need. Likewise, if you don’t need upwards of 18 zippered compartments, perhaps look for something more subtle, such as an ultra-lightweight version with a smaller profile.
As much as the overall durability of the garment is important, so too is its ability to repel water.
This is where I always like to remind people that most clothing isn’t ever going to be 100% waterproof, unless you’re paying silly amounts of money.
Most fishing vests will offer you water-repellent as standard – but it’s going to still soak through in the event of a downpour, or if you’re hit with a rogue wave.
If you’re concerned about valuables getting wet – it’s a good idea to invest in a decent dry bag.
Style and color
How you look out on the water might not matter to many anglers – so long as the garment is practical.
But it’s still an important factor to consider for the rest of us – otherwise we wouldn’t need any thought put into making gear that looks attractive.
Choose whatever style or color you prefer, but bear in mind that brighter fishing vests offer an extra safety aesthetic when it comes to visibility – particularly on those darker days or in poor weather.
You don’t have to break the bank to purchase a good, serviceable fishing vest, but if you really want something that’s going to last with hardware that can take a beating – then it’s worth digging a little deeper.
But, it’s really up to you. The more important factor is choosing the one that is right for you and your needs. Always buy the best you can afford.
So long as it works for you – it’s only money. Fishing is far more important.
What is a fishing vest?
A fishing vest is an item of clothing that shares similarities with a normal vest or waistcoat, but with the inclusion of multiple pockets, compartments, and extra storage options for an angler’s gear.
They come in predominantly two distinct styles – vests that are really only designed to be worn when you’re fishing, and more multi-use styles that can be worn anytime as a regular, everyday garment.
Do I need a fishing vest?
You don’t need a fishing vest to go fishing, but it’s highly recommended if you’re planning on taking up the sport regularly – or you’re already a keen angler that might just be missing something.
It’s a game changer for anyone who has ever run out of pockets or places to store their stuff and gear in the field.
And there are some excellent stylish options out there that you can wear away from the water’s edge, doubling up as a decent item of clothing in its own right.
Nothing says “I like the outdoors” quite like a fishing vest.
How to pack a fishing vest?
Great question, the answer to which we could spend a whole article discussing. Check out the video below for some top tips and ideas on how best to stock your fishing vest.
Note that this is for spin fishing and fly or other types will be slightly different – but you can still get the idea. Check online for more experience and suggestions.
What to put in a fishing vest?
A similar question to the one above. It’s too easy to say “everything you need for fishing.” Watch the video below to see what one fisherman takes with him in his vest.
Fly-fishing vest vs pack
This depends on how you like to fish and how much you think you’ll be carrying. Of course, you can always get both, and spread your gear between a vest and a pack.
That way you can carry more equipment, offering you a wider range of options when you’re on the water.
You can then move gear around and only carry what you need on your actual vest.
There are many rigs and set-ups/loadouts to be discovered – find what works best for you.
What is the recommended sizing for a fishing vest?
Most fishing vests are one-size-fits-most, with adjustable straps to ensure a comfortable wearing experience.
However, there are products that are sized similar to normal items of clothing, such as jackets, waistcoats, or sweaters, etc.
If that’s the case, check with the manufacturer of your product of choice and follow their sizing guide so you know you’ll order the right fit.
And then many experienced anglers recommend you go up a size from what you normally would wear – so you can layer clothing underneath and have freedom of movement.
What is the best fishing vest?
That is up to you to decide. However, for me, out of all the products I covered in the review above – I lean towards the style that you can wear when you’re not fishing – or for other activities, too.
That’s just me though – I like things that are versatile and multi-use.
Are fishing vests flotation devices?
No. Never use them as such.
Unless, of course, they actually are designed to be. In which case, it’s not a fishing vest, but a personal flotation device with some practical fishing accessories.
Never rely on a fishing vest as a flotation aid. It’s a fishing PFD that you want for that.
There you have it folks, the exciting world of fishing vests. Some are stylish, some are practical, some even offer both. Choosing the best fishing vest of 2021 might not be as easy as it seems.
Let me know in the comments which one you would go for and why.