21 Best Fishing Vests Of 2024: Recommended By River Guides

Me with a good fishing vest for all my gear
The author with his first fishing vest that lasted me about 20 years. I know a quality river vest is well worth the extra money if it lasts this long and does what it’s supposed to.

I have been using vests to help me organize and carry all my fishing gear for over 37 years, and many of my clients and guide friends also wear them.

I have had the opportunity to not only test out many vests through my guiding business but also through my tackle store, where I tried dozens of vests from many suppliers.

The best fishing vest is the Simms Guide Vest, which is a very well-designed and considered high-end. One of the nicest looking and most functional fly fishing vests is the Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack.

You can’t go wrong with either of these vests, but I’ll list 18 river vests, from low-budget vests to high-end.

Quick Guide On The Best Fishing Vests

This is a quick reference list of the best vests for fishing by category. See all the details and find out why we recommend these vests below.

Best Performance Vests

Best Mid-Range Fishing Vest

What You Should Know Before You Buy A Fly Fishing Vest

When looking for a good River fishing vest, you want to consider these things:

  • Fit
  • Comfort
  • Function
  • Durability and quality
  • Warranty and Customer Support
  • Price – budget
  • Weight
  • Material it is made from
  • Breathability
  • Weather-resistants.

Many other anglers and I have experienced or seen many problems with cheap-quality vests, such as zippers breaking quickly, stitching coming out, and pocket flaps not lining up well with the Velcro.

“however every zipper I used to open and close the pockets broke or didn’t work after the first use. Quality is less than poor. Too bad. I really liked it.”

Actual Customer Review

Simms Guide Vest: Most Comfortable Vest

The Simms Guide Vest
The Simms Guide Vest is one of the most comfortable and best river vests on the market.

Simms has always been known for quality and performance, and it’s this reason that many top guides and top river anglers wear Simms products.

The Simms Guide Vest is 1 of 3 vests that I would buy today if I needed a new vest, and part of that reason is the comfort of this vest.

The padded shoulders and neck are only one of the reasons that this vest is so comfortable.

The fact this vest is well built using lightweight material and is perfectly balanced so it doesn’t ride up or down in the back or the front, and that many top guides have field-tested it makes it one great river vest.

It’s also made weather-resistant, has maybe more pockets than any other high-performance vests, and it’s very durable.

I have found the best prices and best availability at FishUSA.com

See my full Simms Guide Vest Review, which goes over all the features of this awesome vest.

Other comfortable vests are the following:

  • Orvis Men’s PRO Fishing Vest – Padded collar and shoulders
  • Fishpond Men’s Upstream Tech Vest – Padded shoulder and adjustable shoulder and waist straps for a better fit

Simms Men’s Tributary Vest: Best Traditional Vest

Simms Men's Tributary Fishing Vest

The Simms Tributary Vest is a great traditional-style vest that was built with comfort and weight in mind.

Made to be weather resistant and more breathable than other vests.

Nine pockets, D rings, a built-in rod holder, and a net attachment make this a good choice.

All that is combined with Simms’ quality and warranty.

The Columbia Men’s Henry’s Fork V Vest and the White River Aventur1 are also good options for anglers who want a good basic vest.

Fishpond Upstream Tech Vest: Best Performance Vest

Fishpond Upstream Tech Vest

Fishpond vests are everywhere along the rivers, and for good reason. They look good, and they are well-built. Of all the Fishpond vests, the Fishpond Upstream Tech Vest is the best.

Fishpond is known for quality and functional gear as well as for being more environmentally friendly.

This vest is loaded full of features, including 14 pockets, padded shoulder, adjustable shoulder straps, and waist straps.

It has a lightweight mesh interior, which makes it more breathable.

It also comes with many tool attachment points, D-rings, a rod holder, and a net slot on the back, so your net doesn’t need to hang off your back. Plus More…

Fishpond Sagebrush Pro Mesh Vest

Fishpond Sagebrush Pro Mesh Fishing Vest

Also, check out the new Mesh Vest From Fishpond with even more pockets, lightweight mesh for added comfort in the summer, and all the great features you would expect to find on a performance vest.

Simms G3 Guide Vest Review

Simms G3 Guide Vest
Simms G3 Guide Vest

The Simms G3 Guide Vest was once the top fishing vest on the market, and was used by top anglers and river guides.

However, this G3 vest seems to now be discontinued or on its way out and replaced by the above SIMMS vest..

This G3 vest has 24 pockets compared to the above Simms Guide vest, which has 26 pockets, and the main advantage that I can see to this vest over the above Simms vest is that it has four molded weather-resistant pockets with two on the chest and two on the waist.

Shop the Simms G3 Guide Vest.

Orvis Men’s PRO Fishing Vest

Orvis Pro Vest
Orvis Pro Vest

The Orvis Men’s PRO Vest is one of the top vests for river fishing. Made by the very popular brand Orvis and is a vest you should consider.

It is a performance high-quality vest that comes with 18 built-in pockets and is all made for comfort, function, and storage.

This vest is mostly made of abrasion-resistant nylon with a water-resistant coating while still being breathable and lightweight.

It has a padded collar, and a built-in stretch mesh interior for better comfort with pockets strategically placed from front to back and inside.

This vest comes with some cool features including six interior pockets, ten exterior pockets, two rear pockets for drinks and lunches, an Orvis custom hideaway tool port, a tri-ring net holder, two fly drying patches, and elastic loops to attach a tippet bar.

Fishpond Upstream Tech Fly Vest

Fishpond Upstream Tech Vest
The Fishpond Upstream Tech Vest might just be the best technical performance vest you can buy.

Fishpond Upstream Tech Fly Vest is one of the best vests on the market and will make any angler happy.

It has many features and pockets, and it’s well-built.

This vest is made with Comfort and durability in mind.

Best Economy Vests For River Fishing On Amazon

If that price is over your budget, these are the best economy vests on Amazon:

Testing Out Vests

Bending down in a fishing vest to release a fish
A good vest for river fishing will have zippered pockets and pockets with Velcro flaps that hold well and ensure that your gear stays put. Good pockets will allow you to bend over to release your fish, and nothing will fall out.

Back when I owed my fishing store, I would order many new vests from different brands just to test them out on the river for a couple of weeks or even for a couple of months.

After a few years of trying out dozens of different ones, I was able to narrow down the best. I also figured out which vests and which companies not to buy from.

The Most Comfortable: Proper Fit And Comfort

A comfortable fishing vest
This is one of my clients with a standard river vest.

Some vests sag forward when they are full of gear in the front of the vest, which is not comfortable. Once you pack enough stuff into those front pockets, the back of the vest rides up, which can pull on the back of your neck and shoulders and also throw off your balance.

Some vests will have extra padding on the shoulders to provide extra comfort, and they may offer a shoulder strap system to adjust the vest so it sits on your shoulders evenly and is more balanced, which provides more comfort, especially after a long day on the water.

Types Of Fishing Vests

An angler wearing aone of the best fishing vests for comfort
Fishing vests come in many styles and are designed for different purposes.

There are a few types of fishing vests to consider. Depending on the type of fishing you will be doing, some might work better for you.

The Basic or Traditional Vests

The White River Aventur1 is one of the best standard fishing vests you can buy
The White River Aventur1 is one of the best standard vests you can buy.

A basic vest is a simple design that has no bells and whistles and is just meant to hold some of your gear.

These basic fishing vests are often made from the least expensive materials like cotton and polyester and are often the ones that cheap brands will sell.

These basic vests are what I used to wear 30 years ago and they were all you could get back then. Now, you can get all different kinds of vests.

These traditional cotton fishing vests have some disadvantages, like being heavy when wet or having few or small pockets, which make them unsuitable for bigger fly boxes and tackle boxes.

You won’t find too many extra features on these, but they can still have plenty of pockets and that might be good enough for the average angler.

The White River Aventur1 is a great basic vest made by a company that knows fishing. It has plenty of well-placed pockets and is made with a lot of mesh that won’t absorb water and weigh you down.

Performance Fishing Vests: Not Just For The Experts

The Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack is a great performance fly fishing vest.
The Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack is a great performance fly fishing vest.

Performance vests have lots of added features, lots of functional pockets, quality zippers, tool attachments, a net hook, rod holders, D-rings, and more. They are also made from lighter-weight materials that dry faster or might even be water-resistant.

Performance vests are also known to some as technical vests.

The pockets are specifically designed for certain gear that river anglers would use and are field-tested for proper placement and function.

You may find that these performance vests are made from the best materials, but you will find that they are often more expensive than a basic vest. Chances are they will last longer than a basic vest, and they will be superior to a basic vest, so it’s often worth the extra cost.

The best performance fly fishing vests on the market are:

  • Fishpond Men’s Upstream Tech Vest
  • Fishpond Gore Range Tech Pack
  • Simms Guide Vest

Vest Backpack Combo

The Maxcatch Fly Fishing Vest Pack
The Maxcatch Vest-Pack is one of the best vests and pack combos on the market.

For anglers that have the need to carry a lot of gear which might include an extra sweater, gloves, rain gear, or a big lunch, a vest with a built-in backpack is a great idea.

Unfortunately, there are not many great ones on the market, but the Maxcatch is one of the better ones, and it sells for around $60.00.

Maxcatch Fly Fishing Backpack – gets good reviews with big zippered pockets, tool attachment rings, and lightweight and water-resistant fabric lined with mesh to keep you cool at all times.

Flotation Fishing Vests For Boat Anglers And Big Rivers

An angler fishing from a river boat
This is one of my clients with another big steelhead on the line. Anglers that fish from boats can benefit from the safety of a floatation vest.

Some vests can also be personal floatation vests, and they are great for anglers who fish on riverboats, kayaks, or canoes, or if they fish bigger, faster, and more dangerous rivers.

Check out my page on river fishing boats to see which ones are the best and how you can utilize a boat for more fish.

These floatation vests can be too warm during the summer months, and they are often bulkier and less comfortable. They will have fewer pockets and features, so I only wear one when I really need the safety of the floatation feature.

But I would not recommend a floating vest for most anglers who fish typical trout streams.

If you are an angler who can’t swim and who fishes in bigger rivers, this vest could be the best choice for you.

Most of the floating vests that I have seen are not great. They are usually just a regular PFD (personal floatation device) with a couple of pockets sewn in for some of your gear. Unfortunately, they don’t hold very much gear, but there are a couple that stand out from the rest.

A few of my clients and one of my guide buddies have been wearing one from Bass Pro Shops.

The Bass Pro Shops Tournament Fishing Mesh Life Jacket
The Bass Pro Shops Tournament Fishing Life Jacket Vest is great for anglers who want to fish off a boat but still have room for their gear.

The Bass Pro Shops Tournament Fishing Mesh Life Jacket is the best flotation fishing vest I have seen.

It has more pockets and well-placed pockets than any other so-called fishing life vest.

It’s also built with comfort, safety, and functionality in mind. Get it at Bass Pro shops for about $59.99.

Some of the key features of this vest are:

  • A neoprene collar is built onto mesh shoulders designed to be lightweight and keep you cooler.
  • PE foam for maximum flotation.
  • Two quick-release belts and a full front zipper.
  • Multiple D-lops and accessory loops.
  • Two lash tabs on the chest.
  • Built-in rod holder for those kayak guys and times when you are deep-wading.
  • Tool loops.
  • Eight pockets and outer hook-and-loop pockets.
  • Handwarmer pockets.

Deluxe Mesh Fishing Life Vest for Adults
Deluxe Mesh Fishing Life Vest for Adults is a good life vest with four pockets for anglers to store their tools.

The next best floatation vest is the Bass Pro Shops Deluxe Mesh Fishing Life Vest for Adults. This vest has many of the other vest features with about four fewer pockets.

This vest is good for the angler who carries minimal fishing gear and boxes.

This vest will cost you about $43.99, and it gets good reviews at Bass Pro Shops.

Best Vests For Kids

This Aventur1 Fly Fishing Vest is one of the best fishing vests for Kids
This White River Aventur1 Fly is one of the best vests for Kids.

If you want a basic vest, consider the White River Fly Shop Aventur1 Vest for Kids, which will run you about $29 to $39.

This will hold almost everything they will need for a day on the river.

You can only get this vest at Bass Pro Shops since the white river brand is their house line of fly fishing products.

Key Features of the Aventur1 are:

  • Designed and sized to fit all kids with three sizes.
  • Available in brown or tan.
  • Ten external pockets and two internal pockets.
  • Has a cool flip-down fly holder pocket.
  • Durable build and designed with a padded collar for comfort.
  • Has a built-in rod holder.
  • Accessory attachments.

This FishPond Tender Foot fishing vest is the best fishing vest for kids.
This FishPond Tender Foot fishing vest is the best vest for kids.

If your kid is a hard-core fishing angler who spends a lot of time on the rivers, or if you simply want the best, then you should seriously consider the Fishpond Tender Foot youth vest.

If this vest was bigger, I would wear it. You can get this vest for about $99 – Check Price.

Key features of the Tenderfoot vest are:

  • It’s lightweight for kids with a mesh interior and back and built with the Cylcelpond ballistic fabric for durability
  • 14 pockets of various sizes for all your boxes and tools
  • This vest is adjustable to fit most kids
  • tool attachments and loop attachment
  • Large stash pocket for bigger items like lunch and drinks
  • Net D-ring attachemnt
  • A built-in rod holder
  • Manufacturer’s lifetime warranty

The Benefits Of A Good Fishing Vest.

Fishing vests are a great way to store and organize all your river fishing terminal tackle. There are plenty of pockets for your fly boxes, lure containers, bait containers, lines, leaders, hook containers, weights, and even stuff like your lunch and drink bottle.

You can also hang your net off the back of many fishing vests, and some even come with rod holders to hold your rod when releasing a fish, taking pictures, or when you need to use two hands to tie knots or change baits.

Fishing Vest Pricing

The more expensive vests will be more comfortable, more functional, better designed, have more pockets that are also sized better, and will be made of much higher quality materials that could even be water-resistant or waterproof.

Some vests use materials that are mildew-resistant and stain-resistant, while other vests use materials that could mold and have mildew issues.

Water-Resistant Vests and Weatherproof Fishing Vests

Water-resistant vests are a great idea to help keep all your fishing gear dry if you get stuck out in the rain.

Some brands have fishing vests with pockets on the vest that are weather resistant, which will keep the rain out.

Things like hooks, flies, lures, and pliers can rust if they get wet and stay wet so keeping them dry is a good idea. Some of the better fishing vests will also have zippers that are also waterproof or rust-resistant.

How To Wear A Fishing Vest

The vest should always go on the outside of your clothes, outside of your jacket, and often even outside of your rain gear.

Ventilation and Breathability

Some fishing vests will be cooler and have better ventilation than other vests. Some use a mesh material on the sides, back, and even on the front of the vest for better breathability.

This mesh can make the vest lighter and cooler when you are fishing during the hot days of summer.

The only alternative to a vest is a fishing pack, which you can check out the best fishing packs.

Once you determine if you need a pack or vest, make sure you check my list of things that every good river angler should have in their vest and packs on my page River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed.

Tight Lines


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