How to Choose an Inflatable Life Vest

Inflatable life vests or personal floatation devices (PFDs) are small and comfortable versions of traditional PFDs. Inflatable PFDs are well regarded by mariners because they are lightweight and much cooler to wear in in hot weather than traditional life vests. There are two types of inflatable life vests:the auto inflatable and the manually inflatable. You need to find an inflatable PFD that fits you well, then you need to find the style that suites the type of water activity that you prefer.


Proper Fit

1. Read the label. Most inflatable PFDs have the manufacturer’s recommended size and weight written right on the label.

2. Place the PFD on your body and tighten the straps.

3. Inflate the vest and perform the touchdown test by raising your arms like a referee does to signal a touchdown. With your arms still raised, have someone else grab the top of the PFD and pull straight up. The PFD should stay in place if it fits you.
    Automatic Versus Manual Inflatable

1.  Contact with water causes an automatic PFD to inflate (thus the name). An inflation at the wrong time is inconvenient. Automatics are not recommended for activities such as kayaking or sailing on a catamaran because of the high probability of becoming wet without immersion in water.

2. Use a manually inflatable PFD if you are worried about the automatic type inflating automatically. You need to pull a cord in order for this type to inflate. The one drawback is that it will not inflate should the wearer become unconscious and enter the water.

3.  Choose an inflatable life vest based on which one fits you and what type of water activity that you prefer. Automatic vests are great for mariners who are not at risk for getting wet. A small amount of spray will not cause it to inflate, but if your boat spears a wave and you get deluged with water, the vest will inflate. Manual inflatables are not as safe as autos, but they still provide the wearer with more protection than having no PFD at all.

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