Inflatable life vests are a modification of the big and bulky life vests- floatation devices for the uninitiated. Although the casual swimmers and water sport enthusiast would shrug at such precautionary measures, only weathered swimmers know what kind of life saving investment they are. Most of them will protect you through sudden harsh gales, rough seas and unforeseen rapids.
Inflatable life vests are a welcome break from the conventional bulky life vests. Most of them are slim, sleek and light, fitting snugly on the chest (provided you buy a well-fitted one). They are inflated either automatically, manually or semi-manually (for example some are inflated once they come in contact with water only).
Choosing a suitable Life Jacket
Before investing, make sure you go through the options available in the market and buy the most suitable life jacket for your requirement. For example, do be mindful of your sex, activity and buoyancy required. The buoyancy part is very crucial as it will help you stay afloat. The normal buoyancy provided for non-adventurous activities is 22lbs (ie., 100N) while for coastal sailing ventures and offshore activities, the minimum recommendation is 33lbs (150N) to withstand choppy waves.
Apart from these parameters, do not forget to check whether the inflatable life vest is USCG approved or not. This is because while partaking in sailing activities in the States, you are compulsorily required to wear USCG approved floatation devices (foam or non-foam). The laws are very strict and even if you are carrying one such PFD in your boat, you may be penalized for flouting rules. However, in other countries, USCG approval is not compulsory. The thing is that USCG approval comes with a hefty price tag and as a result, most companies seek the CE (European Commission) or the ISO (International Organization for Standards) certification. So make sure you check these nitty gritties before purchasing one.
Inflatable Life Vests – Recommendations
We have some inflatable life vest choices curates for you in here. Do take a look:
Mustang Survival MD518313 Elite Inflatable PFD (Best Overall)
This is a unisex, adult inflatable life vest for those who already know swimming. It is a USCG approved lightweight jacket, designed for extreme comfort and all day wear. The product provides 28 lbs of buoyancy once inflated with a breakthrough aerodynamic 3D chassis to reduce drag at high speed while engaging in water sport activities. It also does not restrict free movement. This inflatable life vest weighs 2.25 pounds only, which means does not press upon the user’s chest. This product comes with a wide shoulder system so that there is minimal chance of neck fatigue. Another cool feature is its fluorescent green-yellow inflation cell, which facilitates detection in a rescue operation. The Mustang inflatable jacket uses a hydrostatic inflation system, which means it is triggered by application of pressure. It inflates itself under 4 inches of water or if needed, can be inflated using a pull-cord mechanism. Then there is the wicker mesh fabric along with side adjusters, to provide a comfortable fit. You can find the product on Amazon.
ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx M-24 Manual Inflatable Vest (For Fishing)
This product, from the brand Onyx, is probably one of the best life vests for fishing. This stuff is so popular that it frequently runs out of stock, so make sure you keep an eye on it if you are an avid angler. This product is approved by the US Coast Guard. It is an approved Type V inflatable vest for Type III performance. This indicates it is a heavy duty gear which you can use while rough offshore water sporting like kayaking, windsurfing and water skiing. It has a comfortable, ergonomic design which gives you a comfortable fit and strong support at the same time. This lightweight product is meant for people aged 16 years and above and weighing over 80 pounds, while providing a buoyancy of 22.5lbs. It has a ‘jerk and activate’ inflation system, which is very user-friendly, especially for beginners. There is a red-and-green indicator system, indicating the usability status of the vest.
SAFETY OVERSIZED ADULT LIFE JACKET WITH WHISTLE (For Sailing)
This offering, from the brand Safemax is CE approved. This inflatable life vest is an ideal choice for sailing or kayaking activities. This jacket is equipped with 3M reflectors, approved by SOLAS. This helps immensely during search and rescue operations in the dark. The jacket is pretty lightweight with comfort written all over it, so that you can enjoy sailing without bothering about a silly, bulky and uncomfortable jacket. You can inflate it by immersing in water or by pulling the jerk handle provided. The fabric is washable, easily air-dried and reusable. It has a buoyancy of 275N and requires a 60g CO2 cartridge for refills. This jacket is designed for adults above 16 years of age and weighing below 150kgs.
NEW & IMPROVED OCEANS7 US COAST GUARD APPROVED (For Children)
The brand Ocean’s 7 has come up with an excellent quality bestseller in the children’s category. As mentioned in the title, the product is US Coast Guard certified which means your baby is safe wearing this high quality vest. For added safety, the package includes the US Coast Guard Think Safe manual. The entire life jacket is constructed from a high quality, durable nylon material and contains thick EPE protection foam. The makers have categorised the sizes according to the weight group of the child, to maximize fit, safety and comfort. The weight categories are infant, child and youth. There is also a strong and secure waist belt provided, which ensures that the jacket does not rise above the head of your child. The colours available are bright and appealing to the child, to ensure he/she has fun while swimming.
The best life vest is the one that you wear and there is no excuse, it could save your life. Especially if partaking in activities such as river floating where there is an increased and unpredictable risk.