Why we need to know everything to know inflatable life vests, As any boater or water-lover can tell you, there are times when having a life vest is a great thing. They can save your life, even if you are an avid swimmer because you never know what may happen when you are out on the open water. The downside is that traditional life vests or PFDs are on the bulkier side. This makes them uncomfortable to wear, especially when all you are trying to do is relax while you reel in a big one.
If this is something that keeps your vest in storage, we hope that you will take a new look at the potential behind inflatable life vests. These vests are lighter and thinner than traditional vests, but they provide so much more benefits. However, you have to make sure you choose the right inflatable vest for yourself or those you care about.
What to Consider Before Choosing an Inflatable Life Vest
There are two types of inflatable life vests. One will inflate automatically as soon as they hit the water and a pin dissolves in water. Many have a cord that can be pulled if the pin does not dissolve quickly. This does make it ideal for emergency situations if you happen to hit the water unexpectedly or unconscious. It uses a CO2 cartridge. The second type is going to inflate manually.
To use it, you must pull a ripcord, which activates a CO2 cartridge.
Both vest types have a manual inflation option that allows you to blow up the vest if it fails. However, it is important that you keep in mind that there is a slight delay before they inflate, which makes them a bad choice for kids and people who are unable to swim.
Some things to consider before choosing an inflatable life vest include:
Coast Guard Approval: Typically speaking, inflatable PFDs are Type 5, which means they are specialty vests. When spending time on the open water, you will want a type I, II, or V. Inland waters or lakes, will typically require you to have type III, but others will work. Type I, II, III, and V will generally refer to their overall buoyancy.
Buoyancy Level: It takes an average of 11-pounds of pressure to keep someone afloat, even if they are unconscious because your body will typically float to the surface of the water without help. If you are choosing an offshore vest, you want one that can hold up against rough or open waters. It will turn you right side up if you are unconscious. These start with a buoyancy rating of 22-pounds for adult vests, 11-pounds for kids, and 7-pounds for infants. When looking at foam PFDs type V will have an average buoyancy of 15- to 22-pounds, depending on the vest you choose. The average inflatable vest will range from 22- to 33-pounds, which makes them more buoyant.
Inflation: When choosing an inflatable PFD, you can choose manual or automatic. You will always have access to at least two inflation options with each of these options. An automatic inflator will have a manual inflator. A manual PFD may have a blowup valve.
Overall Quality: Inflatable PFDs should be durable enough to meet your needs. Generally, they are made with propylene, nylon and TPU, polyester, neoprene, etc. You want to make sure you are choosing one that is made with the quality you expect.
Benefits of Using Inflatable Life Vests
These vests have many features that people will enjoy. The most important one is comfort. They are less bulky than foam PFDs, which makes them more likely to be worn throughout the entire time that we are on the water. This can keep you cooler, even on warm summer day boating adventures.
We like that they can inflate automatically. The downside is that there is a delay, which may make them bad for some people.
Most of these vests have a high visibility rating when inflated. When combined with the fact that they inflate automatically, it can help search and rescue find you, even if you are unconscious. They tend to have more buoyancy than foam PFDs.
You can choose a life vest with additional features that include leg straps, spray hoods, strobe lights, etc. All these things can further increase your visibility while ensuring your safety.
These vests can be worn when you are sailing or stand-up paddleboarding. This is mostly because they are so comfortable to wear. However, their thinness does not do much to keep you warm during the cooler weather months.
They have a higher buoyancy than traditional foam life vests.
Caring for Your Inflatable Life Vest
Inflatable vests do require more regular inspections to ensure that they will work properly when needed. You have to check the CO2 cartridges before using them, especially if you haven’t checked them recently, and you will need to check the bladder. You would not want an inflatable vest that is leaking air or won’t inflate when you need it the most.
Comparison: Is One Better Than Another?
Most PFDs that we looked at are high quality. However, you do have to understand they are not designed for kids or non-swimmers. If you attempt to use them for a child or someone who cannot swim, there is going to be a risk to your safety.
We love the life vests like the Absolute Outdoor inflatable life jacket, which features adjustable straps, and both manual and automatic inflation options. We are quite fond of the Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T 100 since it is made with a propylene harness and straps as well as a 500-Denier outer shell. It seems durable and has earned USCG-approval.
The biggest reason we would say to look another way would be if it’s not coastguard approved. One example of this is the Eyson Slim inflatable jacket, which sounds great overall but does not meet USCG approval.