8 Best Sailing Lifejackets Which Are Comfortable & Flexible

Here at Cruising Freedom, we’re huge advocates of safety at sea. It’s for that reason we recommend seriously dependable safety equipment.

In this list, we’re going to look at the best sailing lifejackets for coastal and offshore cruising. Whether you sail a yacht, catamaran or even a trailer sailor, this list will help you choose the right life vest for your sailing conditions.

For those short on time and simply want an easy answer, then…

We highly recommend the ➜ Mustang Survival C orp HIT Inflata ble Life Jacket 👍

(It’s #2 on our list but is much more budget-friendly!)

Likewise, you can hang around on this page as we’ve covered various different life jackets ideal for cruising, sailing, racing and crossing oceans.

Let’s begin.

1. Spinlock Deckvest 6D 170N Inflatable PFD

Talk to anyone in the sailing community and they’ll often recommend the Spinlock brand for blue water cruising. Fun fact: We have spotted Spinlock life jackets on some of the most popular YouTubers we’ve covered on Cruising Freedom.

The 6D is their latest model which recently replaced the 5D model. It doesn’t come cheap but what price can you put on real and reliable safety? It’s comfortable, flexible and will last for years to come. This is the best overall, though not the best for your wallet, which is why #2 should be considered for budget cruisers who need to buy more than a couple of life vests.

2. Mustang Survival C orp HIT Inflata ble Life Jacket

The 2nd life jacket for cruisers on this list is the Mustang Survival Corp HIT which has also been highly praised in the sailing community. They’re red in color as opposed to black making them more visible in the unfortunate event you have a Man Over Board incident on a passage crossing.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Again, it isn’t cheap but certainly nowhere near the price of the 6D Spinlock above. You’ll be able to buy two HIT hydrostatic inflatable lifejackets for the price of one Spinlock. If you’re a budget cruiser, this would be my pick.

3. NRS OSO Lifejacket

A mistake I often see when people seek out a new lifejacket for their yacht is thinking that they would only use it for sailing. Let’s not forget that lifejackets are often used in the dinghy as well, plus canoeing and even on a SUP in rough conditions.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

That’s why the NRS OSO makes a good all-rounder. Sure – it’s not a true sailing jacket, and I’m not pretending that it is…but it sure does make up for it with the savings. There are numerous zippers for stowing your stuff such as sailing gloves and its design keeps you warm on those cold night crossings.

4. Stohlquist Edge PFD For Sailors

Stohlquist has created quite a name for themselves in the PFD industry at large and recently ventured into sailing life jackets. What they offer are similar to the NRS mentioned above but more-so orientated for casual wearing. After all, most cruisers aren’t using their lifejackets as much these days especially if they have a protected cockpit.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The ‘Edge’ model gets my pick. It’s seriously affordable and comes in a range of colors. Kids also like their designs as you they move around much more easily. That’s especially useful in tropic conditions such as the British Virgin Islands.

5. Astral V-Eight Sailing Life Jacket

Another recreation option is the Astral V-Eight which is ideal for those who rarely put on their life jacket. You might have a protected helm area or simply choose to use direct tethers. If so – throw on the Astral V-Eight when you’re going up on deck for 5 minutes.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

They’re snug-fitting yet breathe surprisingly quite well. The straps can dig a little into the shoulders but this isn’t a model you’d be expecting to wear all day and night on a multi-week crossing. Just think how many extra gallons of diesel you can fuel the tank with given the savings you’ll make with this model!

6. Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Sailing Life Jacket

For the performance-orientated cruisers (Outremer and Gunboat…anyone?) then the two lifejackets above wouldn’t really be as useful. Instead, I’d aim for something tighter so the shoulder straps won’t get in the way.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The Onyx MoveVent is a good choice for moving around on the cockpit or when you need to put a reef in the main. It’s not inflatable but you’ll avoid the risk of accident inflation when actively moving around. The only thing missing is a reliable D-ring for a tether!

7. Stearns Sospenders Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Lucky #7. Is this a coincidence? Or perhaps I’ve left the best until last. Likely it’s the later.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Stearns have one of the slimest life jackets around. Many customers have reported that they don’t even feel like it’s there! Great for night watches especially as there is a D-ring so you can stay tethered to your boat in rough seas.

8. Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable PFD

Many cruisers are sailing around the world on a true shoestring budget. For sheer value for money, it’s really hard to go past this model. It’s light, comfortable and seriously affordable too!

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Now, its quality isn’t the best and I wouldn’t expect it to still be performing on a Pacific crossing in 5 years time but if you just need something to get you by for these next few years, then this is the life jacket that you’re looking for!

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

Yachting Monthly cover

We Tested 16 of the Best Lifejackets for Boating and Sailing

Fox Morgan

  • December 15, 2023

We tested 16 of the best lifejackets under £300 to find out what they're really like to use both in and out of the water

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

With over 3.5 million people in the US alone participating in sailing each year, it’s more important than ever to understand the fundamentals when it comes to being in the open water. One of the most important things any sailor or boater can own is a life jacket. Yes, all of the best lifejackets for boaters conform to a set of minimum ISO standards and are USCG approved, but how do you know which one is actually the best for your personal use and body type?

How to choose the best lifejacket?

From their basic ISO rated start point, all lifejackets take on their own characteristics and design elements. The positioning of the CO2 inflation bottle, the shape of the bladder, the position of the crotch strap and the way it is attached, the location of the whistle, the position of the oral inflation tube and the location of the lifting strop. Some of our lifejackets on test also have sprayhoods and water activated strobe lights.

I comprehensively put these lifejackets through sea survival drills and shoreside scrutiny. To learn more about what the team tested and how we did it, go to the bottom of this buyers guide to see our crew doing their thing.

Each lifejacket has its own review page. If you want a more in-depth review, simply click through to read more.

A note from the Tech Editor: Fox Morgan “I have a confession. I’ve been on boats since I was 4 years old  and it took until I was 32 before I started to wear one regularly. I was commuting to and from my boat daily in some cold and dangerously tidal waters.  A friend and sailing instructor saw me rowing in the dark late at night and reminded me that I will only ever fall in once if I don’t wear a lifejacket.  It was the wakeup I needed. I never go out without one now. In fact I have several for a variety of types of boating I do. My offshore one has a handy pouch for a knife and beacon, but I fill it with snacks sometimes.  The best lifejacket is the one you wear. (especially if it allows for onboard snacks) At a glance

Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket – Best women’s specific lifejacket  – Buy Now

Seago Seaguard 165N – Best budget friendly lifejacket – Buy Now

Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N pro – Best premium costal lifejacket– Buy Now

Spinlock 6D Deckveset – Best offshore lifejacket

Coastal Lifejackets 150-180N

The best lifejackets for boaters and sailors.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

fitting and adjusting with Anna

Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket

“best women’s specific lifejacket”.


•  Size: Adult (one size)

•  Colour: White

•  Inflate: Auto inflatable

Reasons to Buy: This lifejacket is cut for women and fits really well over foul weather clothes and light weight layers. It is comfortable and easy to move around in. It is easy to fasten in all conditions. It is easy to repack and easy to check the firing mechanism.

Reasons to Avoid: The bladder might be a bit tight around the neck when inflated wearing a large foul weather jacket collar and this can be uncomfortable.

Verdict: This is an excellent choice of lifejacket for women who do a host of boating activities. High praise from all who tried this lifejacket in the dry.

Read the full Baltic Athena review

Buy Baltic Athena Auto Inflatable Lifejacket from tradeinn.com

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Fox adjusting

Spinlock Deckvest Lite

“best coastal on test for everyday wear and general purpose water activity”.

•  Buoyancy: 170N

•  Material: Nylon

•  Colour: Black Graphite, Pacific Blue, Flow Green, New Bleach White, New Seagrass Green and New Mercury Red

Reasons to Buy: This is a smart looking lifejacket with a slimline feel. There are very few details to get caught or snag. The best feature are that it’s really easy to repack, fits smaller adult body types and has a high visibility bladder.

Reasons to Avoid: This might feel a little restrictive on some people with the over-the-head method of donning. It might not suit larger bodies.

Verdict: This no frills but stylish lifejacket performs well both off and on the water. It is great for everyday wear and is unobtrusive and easy to forget you’re wearing it.

Read the full Spinlock Deckvest review

Buy Spinlock Deckvest Lite from Amazon

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Seago Seaguard 165N

Score 69/100

“best budget friendly lifejacket”

•  Buoyancy: 165N

•  Colour:  Navy/grey

Reasons to Buy: Excellent value for money. The cross over bladder design works well. There’s room in the casing to add a sprayhood and light. It also comes in a version with a harness loop.

Reasons to Avoid: There are a few little snaggy areas where the straps or toggles could be tucked away better.

Verdict: We were very pleased with the performance of this lifejacket. Some would argue that it doesn’t look super stylish, but it doesn’t offend either. Where it excels is as a lifejacket in the water, and that’s where it really counts.

Read the full Seago Seaguard review

Buy Seago Seaguard 165N from Amazon

Buy Seago Seaguard from Pirates Cave

Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180 Pro checking adjustment

checking adjustment

Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N pro

“best premium coastal lifejacket”.

•  Buoyancy: 180N

•  Colour:  Black

•  Features: Soft loop D-ring for attaching harness

Reasons to Buy:  It’s a smart black lifejacket that will blend in with any outfit. If you’re all about minimal, understated style this is the lifejacket for you. Along with being fitted with sprayhood and light as standard, it also has a well designed wide bladder. It is very comfortable when worn day to day. Plus, it’s easy to adjust.

Reasons to Avoid:  At the end of the day unpacking and repacking will take a longer as the rearming the firing mechanism is really fiddly. If you fly regularly with this lifejacket, the CO2 bottle seal will be an annoyance.

Verdict: This is an excellent lifejacket, leading the way with coastal lifejackets that will take you offshore and into the night with its well positioned strobe light and nicely designed sprayhood. The thoughtful design is apparent throughout, but perhaps was taken one step too far with the CO2 bottle anti-unscrew seal feature making it a poor choice for frequent flyers but an excellent choice for people who worry about their CO2 bottles coming unscrewed.

Read the full Crewsaver Crewfit+ review

Buy Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N Pro from Marinestore

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

TeamO Micro lifejacket adjustment

TeamO Micro

•  Colour: Black/Orange, Black/Yellow and Blue/Yellow

•  Features: U ltra light weight (approximately 900g),  a djustable waist belt and 170 Newtons of Buoyancy

Reasons to Buy: Super skinny lightweight lifejacket, one of the lightest on test at 860grams.

Reasons to Avoid: A bit of a pig to repack. Very basic with no room for add-ons such as a light or sprayhood

Verdict: The target market for the stylish TeamO Micro is likely to be for those who use RIBs, go day boating and motorboating and for other inshore sheltered water activities. If you want a lifejacket with the smallest footprint, then this may well fit the bill. If you are looking for a lifejacket that you can add to later with additional safety gear, then you might look elsewhere.

Read the full TeamO Micro review

Buy TeamO Micro Ultra Light from sheridanmarine.com

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

lifejacket worn by Alex

Ocean Safety Sport 170 ADV

•  Colour: Navy, red and carbon

•  Features:  Single crotch strap, side adjustment for bespoke fit and soft loop harness point for safety harness (harness version only)

Reasons to Buy:  One of the reasons to buy this option is that it’s a smart looking lifejacket. It’s also a ocean safety brand is well established and trusted with service centres readily available everywhere. Plus, it has a crossover bladder design.

Reasons to Avoid:  As per a previous test conducted on this lifejacket, it has suboptimal positioning of the CO2 canister on the curve of the bladder which causes it to rotate on inflation and jab into the chest or ribs of the wearer.

Verdict: Whilst there’s no doubt this is a good quality ISO rated lifejacket, it is smart and fits well, adjusts well and functions well in all aspects, however there’s no escaping its shortcomings in respect to the bottle position and the underwhelmingly small sprayhood.

Read the full Ocean Safety Sport review

Buy Ocean Safety Sport ADV from Ocean Safety (UK)

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

James wearing the lifejacket

Helly Hansen Sail Safe

Score 56/100

•  Size: STD

•  Colour: Navy and alert red

• Fiber content: 100% Polyamide

•  Features:  UML Water activated automatic inflation sensor

Reasons to Buy:  This option is lightweight and easy to stow. It has a no frills design, neat stowage for the crotch strap on the back of the life jacket straps.

Reasons to Avoid:  The performance was adequate in all areas but didn’t excel in any particular area.

Verdict: The Helly Hansen Sail Safe lifejacket is a lightweight coastal lifejacket with the ubiquitous HH branding. You get good performance all over but for the (relatively high) price it does feel that you are paying for a name and higher specified lifejackets are available at a lower price.

Read the full Helly Hansen Sailsafe review

Buy Helly Hansen SailSafe from hellyhansen.com

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Toby wearing lifejacket

Waveline lifejacket

Score 61/100

•  Size: Suitable for weights above 40kg

• Material: 600D polyester outer shell and coarse polyester webbing

•  Features:Velcro closure cover and lifting loop

Reasons to Buy: This is the lightest on test and weighs just 800g fully armed. The flat profile is comfortable to wear. The velcro closure makes this life jacket really easy to check the arming mechanism and really easy to re-pack. It’s also very good value for money.

Reasons to Avoid:  If style is something you want to consider, this is probably not the option for you. There’s also nowhere to stow excess webbing after adjustment.

Verdict: The Waveline 165N auto lifejacket is an excellent budget option that works well in the water when inflated and is a no frills option for getting out on the water boating safely. A lightweight and simple lifejacket that is tried and tested the world over.

Read the full Waveline review

Buy Waveline 165N from eBay

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Where indicated, items have been tested independently of manufacturers influence.

Offshore lifejackets 190n, spinlock deckvest 6d, “highly commended best all round”.

• Buoyancy: 170N or 275N

• Colour: Black, pacific blue, tropic white, citrus yellow, black with HRS, pacific blue with HRS, tropic white with HRS and citrus yellow with HRS

•  Features:170N autoinflation, harness release system, crotch strap, sprayhood, lumeon bladder illumination, automatic strobe light,  adjustable body height

Reasons to Buy: Its form-fitting sculpted design and bright colour of casing make this a stylish lifejacket. It has excellent elevated lighting and reflective visibility, good snug fit holding the user high in the water and good sprayhood. The harness release system is another good feature.

Reasons to Avoid: The bladder is a darker orange and may not be as visible as some of the brighter bladders available. The extra sculpting can make the lifejacket feel a bit stiff to wear and makes it heavy.

Verdict: This is an outstanding lifejacket with great performance across the score board. The standout features are the lighting, both elevated and lumeon, lighting the entire bladder. The essentials are labels and easy to find and this feels like a lifejacket that has really been designed with the user in mind. Every query has been answered. If we were challenged to find a way to improve this, we’re really not sure how we would.

Read the full Spinlock Deckvest 6D review

Buy Spinlock Deckvest 6D from marinesuperstore.com

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Mustang Atlas 190 lifejacket

“raises the bar in bladder design”.


• Buoyancy: 180N • Colour: Black, Red/Black • Weight 1.2kg •  Features: Pro Sensor auto inflation, crotch strap, pram style sprayhood, automatic strobe light, smart bladder design

Reasons to Buy: Very comfortable, innovative bladder design, high freeboard, understated casing design

Reasons to Avoid: Conservative outer styling might not appeal to those who like to make a statement.

From the outside the casing looks pretty standard and dare I say it a bit bland. It doesn’t shout look at me, which I suspect will have as many nods of approval as there will be shrugs of where’s the pizzazz?

It has a smooth contoured shape to fit the body and once it’s on you can easily forget you’re wearing it. The back section is cut low and doesn’t impede on a collar or the back of your neck.

The weight is also distributed nicely across the whole body so there’s no hot spots. I tried this on over the top of a T-shirt and then later with a lightweight foul weather jacket and both options were comfortable.  The quick adjust side buckles are a familiar premium feature and the tail end excess is dealt with neatly with velcro loops.

Where the lifejacket really shines though is when it is deployed as an inflated bladder. The shape is really unlike all other lifejackets currently available. The bladder at the front is more pointed or conical, with additional wave baffles built into it. This acts doubly to make waves pass around you and those that hit directly are baffled by the webs. There’s an additional little “pillow” to raise your head further still and this gives a feeling of really being raised out of the water.

The sprayhood has a pram-style arch support which keeps it from collapsing on your head and keeps the plastic away from your face. It also makes it very easy to deploy and pull forward.  Two loops pull down and go over each bladder end.

They’ve thought about emergency beacon positioning too, though these were still being certified for use at the time of testing. There’s a dedicated area for a personal locator beacon or personal AIS beacon to attach to on the right-hand lower bladder section which is unencumbered by the sprayhood.

In the water I was able to scull backwards and maneuver really easily as there was plenty of room for arm articulation. I strongly believe that all other lifejacket manufacturers are going to have to up their game in terms of bladder design. The Mustang Atlas 190 DLX has set the bar very high indeed.

Baltic Force 190N lifejacket

Baltic Force 

•  Size: Adult

• Colour: Black

•  Features:Integrated safety harness with twin loops for attaching the safety line and detachable crutch strap.

Reasons to Buy:  The larger/longer bladder provides higher buoyancy and the smart outer casing looks stylish. It also comes in a range of specification levels to suit individual needs.

Reasons to Avoid: This test model version comes without a sprayhood or light which would be essential for any offshore or coastal use after dark. Make sure you opt for the higher spec model.

Verdict: This is without doubt a highly capable lifejacket. It fits well both shoreside and in the water. The extra buoyancy is noticeable in the longer bladder. We were unable to test the fully fledged offshore equipped lifejacket and if this lifejacket suits you, then make sure you opt for that extra specification.

Read the full Baltic Force review

Buy Baltic Force from tradeinn.com

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Toni wearing Seago 3Dynamic 190N lifejacket

Seago 3Dynamic

Score 62/100

•  Chest size: 55 to 140cm

•  Buoyancy: 300N

• Colour: Carbon/black

•  Features: Double crutch strap, pro sensor firing head, neoprene collar,  harness included

Reasons to Buy:  This lifejacket looks smart and generally well sculpted to form fit. The bladder has a crossover design to stop waves funneling into your face.

Reasons to Avoid:  It is really difficult to re-pack after inflation/re-arming. It also has a poorly designed sprayhood, the light us poorly positioned and might be a bit snug on larger people.

Verdict: The Seago 3Dynamic looks to offer so much on paper but in practice we found it had one too many compromises for our tastes. It is comfortable, but repacking is a real faff. the buckle was fiddly and the sprayhood was subpar. A little more thought into the layout and practicalities of this lifejacket could turn it around though to be a solid contender.

Read the full Seago 3Dynamic review

Buy Seago 3Dynamic from eBay

Team-O backtow lifejacket

worn by Anna

TeamO Backtow

“highest scoring on test”.

Reasons to Buy:  This lifejacket has a smart sculpted design, excellent sprayhood and innovative design with backtow harness.

Reasons to Avoid:  If you deploy the backtow, you’re going to need to know how to put that back together or take it to a service centre.

Verdict: A truly excellent lifejacket with innovation at its heart and the user practicality forefront.  The complexity of the backtow element means that rearming it in a hurry, unless you’re a dab hand already and have practiced shoreside, might leave you reaching for the spare lifejacket and sending this one off for someone else to do it for you.

Read the full TeamO Backtow review

Buy TeamO Backtow from promarinestore.co.uk

Ocean Safety Sport Pro 170 ADV

Score 78/100

• Colour: Carbon / Sky

•  Features:  Pro sensor with indicator window,  spray hood, s torage pocket

Reasons to Buy: smart stylish design from a reputable brand, neat built in stowage pocket suitable for a PLB

Reasons to Avoid: small sprayhood feels claustrophobic and too tight around the head, the trigger toggle should have better stowage to avoid accidental trigger or to avoid unsafe tucking away by users.

Verdict: This is a comfortable, sturdy, good quality and relatively well specified lifejacket at a good price. It has some great features and comes as standard with the basic equipment for going out of sight of land at night. The crossover bladder is a good design to stop waves funneling into the face, but we would advise to upgrade the sprayhood and light position to have a better in-water performance should you ever need it.

Read the full Ocean Safety Sport Pro review

Buy Ocean Safety Sport Pro 170N ADV from marinestore.com

Spinlock Vito 170N Hammar

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

• Buoyancy: 170N

•  Features: Pylon Lifejacket Light™, Lume-On™, Toggle attachment point for optional Chest Pack (DW-PCC)

Reasons to Buy: One of the best sprayhoods we’ve tested, low profile lifejacket casing, Hammar trigger means you can use this in wild sailing conditions without accidental triggering.

Reasons to Avoid: Hammar trigger means re-arming this is a faff. Quite rigid construction, might not fit smaller people as adjustment will go as small as a size 8 European female.

Verdict: This is used by a variety of professional teams, including Volvo ocean racers. The Hammar trigger mechanism is a matter for you to decide if it’s right for you. They do sell the Vito with the pro sensor trigger too. The over the head donning is a love it or loathe it style and whilst it can feel very secure and the harness loop is excellent, passing this over your head, large collar and other foulies in a rush can feel a bit claustrophobic. The back is low cut though and the sprayhood is stowed in a back panel keeping the bulk away from the collar area. It is an excellent lifejacket and has scored highly in our early test scores. The full test review is coming soon,

Buy Spinlock Vito 170N Hammar from thewetworks.co.uk

Ocean Lifejackets 270N +

Spinlock deckvest 6d 275n.

Full review coming soon…

•  Features:  Pro sensor automatic inflation, spinlock harness release system, structured spray hood

Reasons to Buy:  It has a larger capacity bladder for superior righting and buoyancy. It can have HRS facility and is compatibility with other spinlock products.

Reasons to Avoid:  It feels noticeably larger/bulkier than a 190N. It might impede access to liferaft if you are a smaller person.

Verdict:  Our pool tester Phil noted how much confidence this lifejacket inspired in the water. The bladder is significantly larger and provides a much greater buoyancy and visibility. It is large though, so we don’t recommend this for day to day sailing. The weight of the lifejacket comes in at 1529grams, which is 200g more than the standard 170N deckvest. This might not seem a great deal but over the course of a day, wearing this might be quite fatiguing. Of course, if you are wearing a large immersion suit or other bulky clothes or dry suit for use in deep ocean conditions, you will be very glad of the extra this lifejacket offers.

 Buy Spinlock Deckvest 6D 275N from piratescave.co.uk

Our previously tested lifejackets from 2017 Group test

Baltic Race 150 best lifejackets

Baltic 150 Race SL lifejacket

Read the full review for the baltic race sl lifejacket.

•  Size: ‎50-110 Kg

•  Features: Anti tangle back, padded shoulders, integrated safety harness, etro-reflective patches, whistle and detachable crutch strap

Reasons to Buy:  It has good padding and a metal harness tether loop.

Reasons to Avoid:  The lifejacket’s smaller buoyancy meant a slower roll over time.

Verdict: The padding was comfortable, although the inflation tube and light assembly inside the lifejacket sat over the collar bone, which could create a pressure point over time. Unlike the longer bladder of the other Baltic lifejackets, this had a shorter, higher bladder with more rounded lobes. The standard Baltic hood had a good support arch, but the elastic straps tended to slip off the bladder. It also let spray in.

Buy it now on Amazon

Crewsaver Egofit+ 190N best lifejackets

Crewsaver Ergofit+ 190N lifejacket

Read the full review of crewsaver ergofit 190.

•  Buoyancy: ‎190N

•  Features: Three-layer cover, inflatable chin support, stainless steel buckle, AIS and MOB Lifesavers compatible

Reasons to Buy: Impressive buoyancy and has an excellent sprayhood.

Reasons to Avoid:  It’s a little rigid and bulky.

Verdict: If performance in the water is the most important aspect of a lifejacket, the Ergofit+ 190N was streets ahead of the other lifejackets tested. It was one of the fastest to inflate, but more importantly it was a good second or two ahead on the rotation test. It was very difficult for the tester to get onto their front to begin the test at all, and they spun over in close to one second. The Crewsaver Ergofit+ 190N also produced the best freeboard figures with up to 4cm more than some of the other lifejackets.

Buy it now on eBay (marinesuperstore)

Buy it now from Gael Force Marine

Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race 170 Auto best lifejackets

Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race 170 Auto lifejacket

Read the full review of the helly hansen sailsafe race.

•  Buoyancy: ‎170N

•  Features:  Hammar Hydrostatic pressure automatic inflation sensor, SOLAS approved Reflective elements, 5000N reinforced grab loop

Reasons to Buy:  The hammar has an auto activation function and is fast to inflate.

Reasons to Avoid:  The thigh straps might not be for everyone and its buckles slip too easily.

Verdict: Hammar inflation and an inspection window make checking and maintaining the lifejacket simple. It sits flat against the body but includes space to add in an MOB beacon or PLB. The thigh straps are slightly more complex to fit, they need to be snug so they don’t slip down and limit movement. The lifejacket was the fastest to inflate on test (2017) The hood is well-made with a supporting arch and good ventilation at the sides and front, and well-located reflective strips.

Buy it now on Hellyhansen.com

PLastimo SL 180 best lifejackets

The back length is adjustable, one of only two lifejackets to offer this

Plastimo SL 180 lifejacket

Read the full review of the plastimo sl 170.

•  Buoyancy: ‎180N

•  Features: Double thigh support, retro-reflective tape, quick-closing zip

Reasons to Buy:  The adjustable back, good maneuverability in the water and storage for MOB built-in make this a good lifejacket for your yacht.

Reasons to Avoid:  It has a slightly disconcerting soft feel when inflated compared to other conventionally constructed lifejackets.

Verdict: With adjustable back length, (one of only a couple of lifejackets to offer this) and inspection windowvia dedicated zip opening and a separate stowage place for a personal beacon, this is a versatile lifejacket.

This jacket is designed to remain soft and flexible once inflated. We found this disconcerting initially as it felt like it had not fully inflated. The sewn-in sprayhood was easy to find with a string to pull forwards. The oral inflation tube was less simple to use.

Buy it now on tradeinn.com

Lifejackets group test – what we scored our lifejackets on

offshore lifejackets and liferaft

Adjust speed ease difficulty

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Our testers checked how easy and quickly our lifejackets were able to change from full foulies, then down to a t-shirt then back again. The double adjuster was a popular method and was scored highly by our testers.

Fastening buckle ease with gloves

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The ease with which we can fasten and unfasten the various buckles, including with gloves or cold hands. Seabelt style buckles were generally scored very highly.

Comfort men women body size

Baltic athena lifejacket fastening

Front cross-over design

The cut and design of lifejackets varies a lot. From high cut waistcoat styles that suited the men or wider shouldered and taller people and the longer in the body cut lifejackets tended to suit a slimmer person with a waist for the lifejacket to cinch into.

Practicality . bulk snagging

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Waistband stowage

Some lifejackets have been well thought through. What do we do with the long surplus piece of webbing? what about all the flappy strappy bits? Are they neatly stowed? Lifejackets that had better stowage of surplus dangly bits were scored highly.

Manual inflated view and fitment

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

We tried all of the lifejackets shoreside, manually inflated and looked for the essential gear, whether it fell readily to hand and how the lifejacket fitted around the body in its fully inflated lifejaclet mode. A couple of the lifejackets had top up tubes that were a bit of a stretch to reach and some were difficult to locate the whistle or lifting strop.

Ease of checking and repacking

Crewsaver Crewfit 180 Pro repacking lifejacket

Repacking the lifejacket

Some of our lifejackets just slipped back into their casing without a fuss, others didn’t want to go back in without a bit of a wrestle. The velcro closure lifejackets are the easiest and the tightly packed ones with all the bells and whistles required a little more consideration to careful tucking and folding. Most had easy access to check the arming mechanism within a few brief seconds.

crewsaver lifejacket and sprayhood

Phil during the pool test with sprayhood deployed

Where a lifejacket was fitted with a sprayhood we scored it. Some sprayhood were considerably better designed than others. Of the coastal lifejackets on test the Crewsaver was outstanding.

Personal Beacon stowage

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The offshore lifejackets should reasonably be expected to have adequate stowage provision for a personal locator beacon or AIS.  Some were much better equipped than others. The Ocean Safety Sport Pro ADV has a pocket built in, the Spinlock Deckvest 6D has an optional side pouch which is excellent.

In water testing

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Plunge test

We tested every lifejacket in the pool and ran each one through basic personal sea survival drills, from manual inflation, auto inflation, swimming, rafting and climbing into a liferaft, we looked at the performance of all our best lifejackets for boaters in general use.

It is clear to see that all lifejackets are not made equal. Certainly not in how they feel from person to person.

Whilst all of our lifejackets on test performed well according to basic safety standards, they all have elements that could be tweeked and adjusted to be better functioning or designed and all of them have their unique selling points.

A final note from the Tech Editor : Fox Morgan My personal favourite lifejacket is the old Kru Sport, as it fits me so well. They no longer make this waistcoat style model, but the sprayhood and equipment storage capacity on this one is excellent. My AIS beacon fits on a webbing belt on the bladder. I familiarise myself with my lifejacket manually inflated once or twice a year or before every big offshore race. I inspect it on a regular basis and check the arming mechanism before every outing. Once you have chosen the best lifejacket that suits your needs, make sure you get to know it well. Not just in it’s rolled away form, but as a lifejacket, inflated. Know where your essential safety kit is stowed. Where is the whistle and lifting strop? Put your lifejacket on and feel around for them. Store this in your memory. The least sensible time to be doing this for the first time is when you actually need them.

Our lifejacket testing team were:

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Alex :  Professional Skipper of traditional sailing vessels (Charlestown Harbour)

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Paula : Chief at Charlestown Harbour

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Toni : Ex RNLI lifeaboatman, Ex Brixham fisherman, Professional skipper and owner of traditional sailing and fishing vessels

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Phil : Ex Lifeboatman, Ex Brixham fisherman, Ex Navy Chief Engineer, Principle sea survival skills training officer, Professional Skipper and University HE lecturer.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Anna :  Clipper Sailing Crew and experienced offshore sailor/racer

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

James : Retired GP and experienced offshore sailor/racer

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Mike : Outward bound sailing instructor, poolside safety and drills at Western Maritime Training

Senior staff writer Toby Heppel

Toby : Experienced sailor and dinghy racer, Senior writer at Future Marine Group

tech editor Fox Morgan

Fox : Professional sailing skipper, experienced offshore sailor/racer, Senior HE University lecturer, Tech Ed at Future Marine Group

Our lifejacket testing was held over several days.

lifejackets photographed in a wooden dinghy

Our dry testing day was hosted by Charlestown Harbour.

We tested all of our lifejackets for the ease of adjustment from wearing it over bulky clothes to t-shirts and then back to bulky clothes.

We looked at how easy or difficult our lifejackets were to fasten and unfasten and then try that again with cold hands or with gloves on.

We looked at the fitment of crotch straps and for any loose or dangling straps or toggles that might get snagged by accident when worn in a marine environment.

inflated lifejackets lined up on a beach at charlestown harbour

We manually inflated all of our lifejackets and assessed their onboard equipment and location. Some lifejackets have the minimum or lifting strop, whistle and top up tube, others have spray hoods fitted and lights. We assessed how easy those items were to find and use when wearing the lifejacket inflated.

Where suitable, we looked at where a personal locator beacon or personal ais beacon would fit on or within the lifejacket casing or bladder.

We packed away our lifejackets and assessed how easy or difficult they were to stow back into their casings. While we were doing this, we also looked at how easy it would be to rearm a lifejacket if it had been triggered.

pool test with liferaft and lifejackets

Our Pool testing day was held in Plymouth Life Centre Diving Pool and organised by Western Maritime Training.

In the pool we had a liferaft set in place for us to run through standard sea survival drills and practice. Western Maritime Training kindly set the pool up for us as per standard STCW personal survival techniques training days .

We highly recommend that anyone who spends time heading out of sight of land for leisure or pleasure should consider doing this course.

While we were in the pool area, we assessed the manual trigger mechanism and auto inflate mechanism of lifejackets. How hard is it to pull the trigger to activate the gas canister or when auto inflating, did the lifejacket turn us over quickly?

We assessed the comfort of the lifejacket when inflated and how easy or difficult they are to readjust whilst in the water. such as tightening crotch straps or cinching in waistbands.

Where lifejackets were fitted with a sprayhood, we looked at how easy it was to locate and pull over the bladder, checking its effectiveness/practicality.

lifejackets in survival ring

We formed a human safety circle and assessed what practical grab holds our lifejackets had, then we climbed into a liferaft, also checking for practical use and ability to physically handle a person giving them assistance to enter the liferaft.

After testing

We hung up our inflated lifejackets to dry and confirmed that all remained fully inflated for well over 48hours. In fact all of our test lifejackets remained inflated for two weeks, by which time only one of them had slightly started to soften.

What’s the scores?

Each lifejacket was independently scored by members of the testing team.

We took those scores and averaged them for each criteria.

We added up the individual element scores and converted this to a percentage rating.

Throughout the process all notes were taken from our testers and those comments can be seen in each review and within our buyers guide.

Note: all of our lifejackets tested conform to either  ISO 12402-3 (coastal/non harness) or iSO 12401 (harness versions), and this means that they all meet the basic safety standards you would expect from a lifejacket.

In order to conduct unbiased testing, our test team were given full freedom to test and evaluate the lifejackets presented to them on the tests days. their opinions are made in a professional capacity and skippers and end users of the products and are a result of direct hands on experience. this does not override any official safety rating or certification. legal disclaimer is available here.


6 Best Life Jackets for Sailing (2024)

Best Life Jackets for Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

January 2, 2024

Are you looking for the best life jackets for sailing? You've come to the right place.

Sailing is, without a doubt, one of the best experiences you could ever have. The calming and gentle sound of the ocean, the slight rocking of the boat, and the warm breeze that brushes against your face simply make sailing one of the most fun activities you can indulge in. But even with the joys that come with sailing, it does have its hazards and things can quickly go wrong if the unexpected happens. The fact that you're out on the water means that there's a possibility that you can end up in it instead.

And because a simple slip is all it takes to have you over the side, it's of great importance to have a good life jacket. Given that sailing is an active sport that requires lots of movement, the best life jackets for sailing should neither be restrictive nor bulky. It should also provide good support in case you find yourself in the water. With a good life jacket for sailing, you should just stay afloat without using a lot of energy.

When sailing, safety should be a priority and this calls for the need to have a proper life jacket. But because there are a lot of sailing life jackets in the market, choosing a good one can be quite challenging. To make it a lot easier for you, we'll highlight the best life jackets for sailing.

Table of contents

Spinlock Deckvest 5D 170N Inflatable PFD

Spinlock Deckvest 5D 170N Inflatable PFD

The Spinlock Deckvest 5D is an excellent life jacket made from weight-saving ripstop cover fabric. This material is soft, lightweight, flexible, and durable and can resist tear and puncture that are likely to occur during sailing. This is a highly durable life jacket that will withstand the most extreme conditions.

This lifejacket has an ergonomic design with a reliable safety harness to ensure that it comfortably sits on your neck and around your shoulder without impeding your freedom and movement. Given that it's a high-tech type of PFD, it can turn your face up and keep your head above the water in case you become unconscious. It also has an integrated sprayhood that's integral in protecting you from secondary drowning.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, the Spinlock Deckvest is a professional grade life jacket that will ensure that you're always safe. Even though this life jacket inflates automatically when water flows upward through the vest, it will not inflate accidentally when it's raining or if it gets sprayed with water. While this is a common problem in normal inflatable life jackets, the Spinlock eliminates this problem through an inside paper capsule that helps it inflate or deflate.

Its comfortable and unobtrusive design means that you can wear it all day without tiring you out. To make it safer, this life jacket has other additional features such as a flashing LED light and a flexible antenna for improved visibility in the water.

The Deckvest 5D may be a little expensive but it won't let you down as far as comfort, safety, and ease of use are concerned. It's also very durable, which makes it worth the extra investment if you plan to use it regularly. It's also versatile as it's available in three various sizes from small to XX-Large so it can be excellent for a wide range of users.

  • ‍ Strong and durable exterior
  • Reliable UML Pro Sensor
  • Mesh pocket
  • Double crotch straps
  • Auto/manual option
  • ‍ It's quite expensive

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Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Sailing Life Jacket

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Sailing Life Jacket

No list of best life jackets for sailing can be complete without the Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Sailing Life Jacket . Well, that's because it's one of the best PFDs in the market. This life jacket has a strong exterior made from 200 denier Nylon Ripstop and Nylon Oxford. This makes it durable and resistant to tear and puncture that can occur in extreme conditions.

The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic is structured with two pads on the shoulders to make it comfortable and wearable throughout the day without feeling tired. The neoprene pads are perfectly structured to ensure that there's no chafe and to make you enjoy sailing. That's not all; it has a powerful and durable zipper closure at the front and is complemented by adjustable side belts to ensure that it fits you safely. This zipper closure is expandable and you can use it to store crucial equipment such as your mobile phone and keys.

This life jacket is uniquely and flexibly designed to ensure that it conforms to your body and fittingly stays in place even if you are hit with a huge impact. It also has a mesh at the lower back to eliminate excessive heat and make it breathable. This will make your body cool while preventing moisture from your body. This is also essential in making it lightweight and comfortable to be worn throughout the day.

The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic has a whistle attached to it. This is essential if you want to raise alarm or seek help in case of an emergency. It's also structured with reflective material on the shoulder pads to enhance visibility during low light conditions, which is integral in preventing water accidents, especially at night.

  • ‍ Lightweight
  • Drying loop
  • Adjustable side belt
  • Expandable pocket
  • Neoprene shoulders
  • ‍ It may be small for some people

Astral V-Eight Sailing Life Jacket

Astral V-Eight Sailing Life Jacket

With the life vest built around a mesh base, the Astra V-Eight is a modern sailing life jacket that's designed to give you enough freedom of movement thanks to its unobtrusive design. In addition to the open sides that will not interfere with your arms, the shoulder straps are modest while the panels sit low on the body so that it doesn't move up into your face.

Even though the life jacket's high seat may back if you're kayaking, this won't be an issue if you plan to use it when sailing. The foam panel is structured with Polyethylene (PE) and EVA foam both in the front and at the back to shape it better for your body. This makes it a perfect fit for both men and women, and also very comfortable.

The Astra V-Eight has a zipper closure at the front and has a quick release buckle on the lower chest as well as two adjustable buckles on each shoulder to help you adjust the life jacket to fit you accordingly. It has a mesh at both sides to make it breathable while eliminating excessive heat to make you cool throughout your sailing escapades. This life jacket is completely free of toxic PVC.

And do you have an integral device that you want to carry with you while sailing? No problem, this vest has two zippered front pockets so that you can keep important gadgets such as an emergency whistle, an emergency knife, a strobe, and many more.

Weighing about 1.22 lbs. with a buoyancy rating of about 16 lbs, this is an extremely reliable life jacket. It is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Type III life jacket and is perfect for a variety of water sports, sailing included.

This life jacket is available in various sizes and high visibility colors to make it excellent if you want a life jacket that's easy to wear and spot in case of an emergency. Overall, this is a great life jacket that scores highly well in terms of buoyancy, comfort, safety, and durability.

  • ‍ Breathable
  • Durable and comfortable
  • Comes with adjustable buckles
  • It is free of toxic PVC
  • It is USCG approved
  • ‍ It's bulky

Onyx Absolute Outdoor Life Jacket for Sailing

Onyx Absolute Outdoor Life Jacket for Sailing

A slender life jacket that's made from nylon material, the Onyx Absolute Outdoor Life Jacket is a superb sailing life jacket that's durable and resistant to tear and puncture. It is extremely lightweight that you won't even realize that you have it on you. This means that you can comfortably wear it throughout the day without getting tired.

The fact that you can inflate it automatically or manually is essential, especially in emergencies. It doesn't matter whether it's deflated when you fall into the water; it will automatically inflate to ensure that you remain safe. Well, this jacket is designed with a carbon dioxide cylinder to help inflate automatically if it's submerged in 4 or more inches of water. As such, you'll always remain safe even if you suddenly fall into the water. This, therefore, makes it a great option if you're not good at swimming.

If you want to inflate it manually, you just have to pull a T-chord attachment at the right bottom of the life jacket and it will inflate. This makes it an excellent option if you love inflating the life jacket manually. And even if you find yourself in a situation where you're unconscious, this life jacket will keep your face and head on top of the water.

This life jacket is also designed so that you can easily wear it on top of your shirt or t-shirt and still feel good. Whether you're sailing during summer or winter, it's designed to serve you perfectly throughout the year. In terms of safety, this is another USCG-approved life jacket on this list. So in addition to sailing, you can effectively use it in a variety of water sports.

  • ‍ It has a very comfortable neckline
  • It's made from durable material
  • It is lightweight thanks to its slender design
  • It's a USCG-approved life jacket
  • It has both auto and manual inflation
  • ‍ It doesn't work perfectly if the water is cool

Stohlquist Edge

Stohlquist Edge

A brilliant addition to the great Stohlquist family, the Edge is an incredible life jacket that guarantees your freedom of movement and safety. It's designed with an ergonomic WRAPTURE shaped torso to give you the utmost comfort. With its adjustable padded, four side pulls, and front waist buckle, this life jacket can easily fit any type of body. The vest's shoulders have adjustable straps to help you adjust the vest according to your fit.

It's also designed with ultra-soft buoyancy foam that will ensure that you stay afloat no matter what happens. The low-cut offset zipper makes wearing this life jacket a lot easier and can also act as an additional front pocket for storing your essentials. We have to note that the pocket is not waterproof, so it's important to use a waterproof zip lock to ensure that your gadgets and other essentials are protected against water.

The Edge has mesh at the sides for maximum ventilation. This means that excessive heat will be easily eliminated while allowing cool air to make you fresh throughout your sailing adventures. That's not all; this life jacket is designed with 3M reflective that makes it highly visible in low light conditions.

This vest is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, Transport Canada, and has both the ULC and UL listings. This means that it can be worn throughout North America.

  • ‍ It has adjustable straps
  • It has 3M reflective strips
  • It is USCG-approved
  • It's very comfortable
  • ‍ The pockets are not completely waterproof
  • It's bulky
  • It may not be perfect for women

Mustang Survival Corp HIT Sailing Life Jacket

Mustang Survival Corp HIT Sailing Life Jacket

An award-winning deluxe life jacket, Mustang Survival Corp is designed with HIT (Hydrostatic Inflator Technology) to enhance your safety while minimizing maintenance. This life jacket can automatically inflate if it's submerged in 4 or more inches of water. This means that it will not inflate at the wrong time, say when it's raining or when it's accidentally sprayed with water.

When inflated, it provides 35lbs of buoyancy, which is more than twice the rate of buoyancy provided by most standard life jackets. It also comes with solas reflective tape, a safety whistle, and a strobe light attachment to ensure that your safety is a priority. This life jacket is designed with a fully adjustable harness to ensure that it perfectly fits on you no matter your body size.

This life jacket has two d-rings that can be essential in tethering the jacket to the jack line so that it doesn't restrict your movement and range of motion. Thanks to its low profile feature, this life jacket will enhance your mobility and allow your hands to move freely without restrictions. It is highly visible thanks to its bright and fluorescent yellow and green hues to make it excellent even low light conditions.

Mustang Survival Corp HIT is a USCG Type II life jacket that will enable you to indulge in various water sports. This life jacket is known for its superb customer service, award-winning HIT, and is excellent even in the severest of weather conditions.

  • ‍ It has a superb Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT)
  • It has a SecureZIP Closure
  • It offers great buoyancy
  • ‍ It's only available in the United States

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Home » Fishing Gear » Safety » Life Jackets » 17 Best Inflatable Life jackets

17 Best Inflatable Life jackets

Captain Cody Wabiszewski

Inflatable life jackets are smaller and lighter than standard life jackets. This makes them more comfortable to wear. When fishing or relaxing on a boat a life jacket can be hot and annoying to wear. This makes it less likely that boaters will wear the life vest.

Inflatable life jackets help solve this problem by being less noticeable and easier to wear all the time. They can also be quickly taken off, stored in a compartment or on a lap, and then used again when they need to be worn. To be counted as a life jacket by the USCG this style of life vest does need to be worn and not just be on the vessels like standard life jackets.

best inflatable life jackets

Inflatable life jackets have a CO2 cartridge to inflate the vest. Some vests will inflate automatically and others will have a manual pull tab to have the CO2 cartridge fill the vest. Most vests can also be manually inflated by blowing into the vest. These are all features that buyers would look into prior to choosing which vest to go with.

Many commercial boaters are required to continuously wear a lifejacket. Inflatable lifejackets are becoming more and more popular with commercial and recreational boaters. Even people that work on fuel docks and piers are often required to wear lifejackets. Smaller lifejackets are also popular when doing high motion activities like paddle boarding and kayaking.

Find out more about inflatable life jackets and what they provide the boater in this article. It is best to follow the specific rules and stay safe while out on the water. We’ve compiled this list of the best inflatable life jackets which are detailed below.

Here Are the Best Inflatable Life Jackets

1. mustad survival hit inflatable pfd.

Mustad Survival HIT Inflatable PFD

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Shop Tackle Direct

The Mustang Survival PFD is a top of the line inflatable life jacket. It can be inflated in three ways. First, it has a hydrostatic deployment that will inflate the vest based on water pressure. This method will not accidentally inflate the device from humidity or rainwater. Second, the CO2 cartridge can inflate the vest by manually pulling down on the yellow inflator tab. Finally, there is an oral inflation tube to inflate the vest by blowing into the tube.

Features of this life jacket include a safety whistle, strobe light holder, high visibility inflation cell with reflective material, and status indication widow. The vest has a neoprene comfort collar to prevent rough nylon from rubbing on the neck.

This jacket is a USCG Commercial Type V life jacket. It counts are an approved Type III life jacket if it is being worn. Since a type III or better life jacket is typically required onboard these do not count as a life jacket on the boat if it is not worn. Inflatable life jackets without a hydrostatic release would sink if not being worn. This is likely why these vests only count if they are on the individual at all times.

This Mustad Survival HIT life jacket comes in a model with a harness that includes D-rings. The two metal rings in the front of the jacket might be desired by some people. However, the extra weight D-ring might not be worth it for people that just want a lightweight life jacket.

The video above shows the features of the Mustang Survival inflatable life jacket.

2. Onyx All Clear PFD

onyx blue all clear auto and manual inflatable life jacket

The Onyx All Clear 33 is a more padded version from the standard and very popular Onyx inflatable life jackets.  It has a larger CO2 tank resulting in more bouncy than the A/M 24 versions. Onyx does make the All Clear model in the 24 gram size as well. The 33 gram version provides 35 pounds of buoyancy and is to be worn by users over 16 years old and over 80 pounds.

A unique feature about this jacket is the automatic inflation can be turned on or off. The all clear window will be green if it is armed for automatic deployment. If you always want the automatic feature off you just get a manual inflation vest. Another unique feature is that the front of the vest closes with a zipper. This along with this side padding helps distribute the weight of the vest so it is less noticeable. However in the hot weather of Florida this also block some wind and cool breeze so I actually prefer an inflatable jacket that is more open in the front and on the sides.

3. Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life jacket

Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life jacket

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The Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket provides the lightweight design you want and need while out on the water. The weight limit is rather high on this version of the jacket, being able to provide flotation for someone as heavy as 220 pounds. Those who are 16 and older and weigh at least 80 pounds can use this lightweight life jacket. Anyone under this age or weight is not recommended to use it, as it will not provide the in-water protection needed. Bass Pro Shops has this same style jacket.

Look at the red and green indicators on the vest to find out if the vest is ready to be deployed. The vest can be used over and over again, but a new CO2 tank will be needed in order to continue to be used to deploy. These are only needed to be replaced if the life jacket is deployed. This life vest is only intended to be used when someone falls in the water accidentally or during an emergency so the CO2 cartridge should not need to be replaced very often. A CO2 cartridge does come with the life jacket and installation is required for the initial use.

This is a comfortable and lightweight design that is easy to slip on in a matter of seconds when heading out on the water. I have worn this stye life jacket on many fishing and kayaking trips. It is pretty comfortable and my only compliant is that it can rub the sunscreen off the back of my neck. For this reason sometimes I prefer a paddle style life jacket. If it is really hot our I prefer a waist belt inflatable life jacket as you can still get a nice breeze from all directions.

4. Onyx Manual Inflatable Life jacket

Onyx Manual Inflatable Life jacket

This Onyx Manual Inflatable Life Jacket provides the essential buoyancy that offers protection that is necessary when it is inflated. You will need to pull the cord on the front of the vest to ensure that it provides protection when you land in the water. There is an indicator that is located on the front of the vest, both in red and green, that shows when the vest is ready to be deployed. Bass Pro has this same style life jacket in blue or camo.

Personally, I think it is worth the extra money to get the automatic and manual inflate version. However, if you think the vest going to enter the water and inflate when it is not needed then getting the manual version would be a good option. The CO2 cartridges are not difficult to replace so don’t hesitate to inflate the life vest if it is needed.

Easy to slip on and off over your head, you can easily place the life jacket on when it is needed most. In addition to this, you can deploy as you go. Of course, since they are thin, you can easily store them inside any storage areas on the boat that you are using. You can also wear them without feeling worn down or weighed with the jacket you have to wear while on the water.

The jacket provides a good fit with the buckles and straps that are able to be adjusted to the size of the individual. Those who are under 80 pounds or under the age of 16 should not use this life jacket because it is not safe for them to use.

5. Mustang Survival Khimera Dual Flotation PFD

Mustang Survival Dual Flotation PFD

The Mustang Survival Khimera PFD used both foam and air to provide flotation. It has 7.5 pounds of buoyancy provided by the foam like a standard life jacket. Most life jackets provide more than 7.5 pounds of flotation but this life jacket is very thin, compact, and easier to wear. There is a CO2 cartridge that will inflate the vest to provide an additional 12.5 pounds of inflation. This makes the total buoyance 20 pounds. It also has a backup tube that allows the vest to be quickly inflated manually.

My mom and dad both have this life jacket are really like to wear it when kayaking. It is smaller and easier to wear than almost every other life jacket on the market. The shoulder straps are further away from the neck and rub less than other inflation style life jackets. Since the vest is only manually inflated if the jacket enters the water but does not need to be inflated the cartridge will not need to be replaced.

The jacket can be adjusted on the sides by using the straps and buckles that are provided. You can tighten them or loosen them to ensure you get the best fit possible. The jacket is a level 70 buoyancy aid that will work as a USCG Type III device when it is being worn. If the vest does inflate it is easy to take the air out and replace the cartridge. The front pocket is a great place to store a PLB .

6. Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket

Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket

This Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket is a quality and feature-rich design. It is lightweight, breathable, and easy to slip on and off while getting on and off the boat. The wicking material helps to keep the skin breathable, but also dry while on the water. It includes a safety whistle, inflation tube, status window, and a D-ring which can be hooked to an engine cut off switch. The jacket is more 3D than others which helps makes it compact and comfortable to wear.

The red and black design is sleek and stylish. The jackets are one size fits all, but those who use them have to be over the age of 16 and 80 pounds. Those under these guidelines should not use them as they will not provide the protection you need. The life jacket automatically deploys when entering the water and provides 28 pounds buoyance.

7. Mustang Survival MIT 100 Inflatable PFD

Mustang Survival MIT 100 Inflatable PFD

The Mustang Survival MIT is a one size fits all life jacket vest that provides comfort and safety when used on the water. It is easy to put on, easy to deploy, wear, and ensure that everyone on the boat is safe and up to the legal standards when wearing the life jacket. There is also aversion of this PFD that is manual inflation only.

Inflatable life jackets jacket comes in a number of different styles, and Mustang ensures that the low profile design is one that is easy to wear while you are on the water. The thick material on the vest is comfortable and provides the protection necessary to ensure that you have the best buoyancy in the water.

Easily adjust the straps and buckles on the jacket to meet the specifications of the person who is wearing the jacket. Anyone who is over the age of 16 is able to use the jacket. The person should also weigh over 80 pounds in order for the jacket to work correctly. Having this automatic life jacket provides the protection necessary regardless of whether it is manually inflated. Once it is needed and you hit the water, the jacket will inflate very quickly.

8. Mustang Survival Work Vest

Mustang Survival Work Vest

The Mustang Survival Work Vest is a good choice for people who want to be visible to others while also having a life jacket on in case they fall into the water. This is a good option for people required to wear life jackets on ships, commercial fishing vessels, piers, loading docks, and fuel docks. It is rated to provide 35 pounds of buoyancy when inflated which is more than most life jackets on the market.

Easily slip the life vest on over your head and wear it while on the vessel. This will help others see you and help provide flotation if you do enter the water. The bright orange color and reflective tape also provide good visibility when locating an individual in the water during a man overboard situation.

With a lightweight design and that is balanced in the front and back to provide a secure fit it is reasonably comfortable to wear all day while working. The straps and buckles provide an adjustable fit to allow a secure fit for most adults. Once hitting the water, the vest automatically inflates. You can continue to use the vest a number of times but will need to replace the tanks inside it each time it is inflated.

9. Mustang Survival High Visibility Inflatable PFD

mustang survival high visibility yellow pfd

This Mustang Survival HIT PFD automatically deploys if someone falls into the water due to its hydrostatic sensor. It will deploy when in more than 4-inches of water and not due to rain water or just getting wet. The bright green color and 64 inches of reflective tape makes it highly visible in and out of the water. It is inflated with a 33 gram CO2 cartridge but can also be inflated manually by blowing into the inflation tube.

This is designed to be a vest for commercial or recreational fisherman. It has a d-ring where a boat motor kill switch can be attached. I have seen people wearing this type of vest when working on fuel docks. Often times workplaces require life-jackets and this inflatable style jacket is often the most comfortable type to wear all day. It is type II approved for recreational use and type V approved for commercial use. The size is made to fit most adults with chest sizes from 30 inches to 52 inches.

10. Onyx Unisex Inflatable M-16 Life Jacket Belt

Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket Belt

The Onyx M16 Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket Belt is manually inflated by using the pull tab to discharge the CO2 tank. This provides 17 pounds of inflation. It can also be inflated with a tube to a total buoyancy of 26.5 pounds. Bass Pro Shops has this same style vest but under their brand.

This is USCG approved at a Type III equivalent life jacket when it is being worn by a person over the age of 16. The life jacket must be worn on the person, not just on the vessel.  It is a popular choice for stand up paddleboards as these are considered vessels underway unless used in an official swimming location that allows paddleboards. This jacket meets the requirements and more importantly provides buoyancy if it is needed.

In my opinion, this is not as good of a life jacket and most other life jackets but is better than not having one. A person is more likely to wear this style of life jacket at all times when on a boat because is it less restrictive and comfortable to wear. This belt is easy to place on the waist and wear around while on any type of watercraft such as a boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or boat.

The belt is adjustable with the strap and buckle that provides the tightest, best fit possible. Since the belt goes around your waist, you don’t have to worry about any restrictive motion of your arms and shoulders. You don’t have to worry about your movement being held back and can move with ease.

11. Inflatable M-24 Life jacket Belt

onyx M 24 in sight belt pack inflatable life jacekt belt

The M-24 life jacket look similar to the very popular M-16 when not inflated. However when inflated this belt inflated into a actual vest rather than a rectangle with strap. If the vests have to be worn in the water for a long period of time, this is a better option. It is easier to say afloat and has more buoyancy. Bass Pro Shops list a belt back very similar to the Onyx m-24.

It has a USCG Type V rating that works as a Type III vest when it is being worn. If it is not going to be worn all the time then a regular non-inflatable life jacket should also be on the boat for each person. This life jacket is manually inflated with a pull cord.

The life belt provides the user with a way to easily place it on their waist and still get the full range of motion that is necessary when paddling or doing other water activities. Even if you use the pull cord to inflate the belt, you can still use the backup mouth tube that is provided in the belt. This will also inflate the life vest easily and effectively.

The lightweight of this belt is one that you want to make sure to make the most of. When inflated it provides 19 pounds of buoyancy. Even with other inflatable life jackets on the market, you can expect them to still be heavier and somewhat restrictive. This is the least restrictive style for most activities. Once inflated manually, the user has to place the jacket over their head from the belt position. It is recommended for those who are able to swim. A much more secure life jacket should be used for people who can not swim or are weak swimmers.

12. Stearns Inflatable Life jacket Belt

Stearns Inflatable Life jacket Belt

The Stearns Inflatable Life Belt is another quality low profile life jacket. The adjustable belt can be adjusted to fit the waist of most adults. When inflated it fits chest sizes of 30-52 inches. The person who is using it should also know how to swim, as it does have to be placed over the shoulders. You want to make sure that you’re choosing the best way to stay afloat. The lightweight belt is great to have on hand and is very popular for stand-up paddleboards and kayakers.

It does meet the US Coast Guard life jacket requirements in most cases when it is being worn. Having a traditional life jacket on the vessel is also a good idea for additional secure flotation in the event of an emergency. At just one pound, this belt is offering a life jacket that can be worn often to provide support when you need it the most. Since it is a manual belt, you have to pull the tab on your own. This means you have to be conscious to do so when you land in the water.

13. Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket

Eyson Inflatable Life jacket

This Eyston 33 is CE approved for air leaks and SOLAS approved for its reflectors. It is not approved by the US Coast Guard. However, this life jacket likely proved the best flotation of any waist style device if it actually has to be used. When deployed the life jacket is the shape of an actual life vest more than the flotation aids of other waist belt life jackets. It also uses a large 33-gram CO2 cartridge to provide 33 pounds of buoyancy.

This life jacket comes with the CO2 tank needed to inflate the vest. There is also a red oral inflation tube with a safety whistle attached. The canvas material is thick, durable, easy to wipe down, and is quick to clean up. It is deployed manually by pulling the cord and typically inflates within three seconds. The vest then needs to be placed over the user’s head. This does not work for unconscious victims and should be worn by strong swimmers. The life jacket is compact and easily stores in compartments on the boat and is also easy to wear all day.

14. Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Waist Belt

Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Waist Belt

This Eyston Waist Belt life jacket is a CE approved rating with is European compliance metric. It is not a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket. It is a bit larger than other waist belt life jackets on the market. A 24-gram CO2 cartridge is used compared to 12-gram for other waist belts. It also provides 26 pounds of buoyancy which is high for a waist belt style life jacket. This is a good jacket to use for supplement flotation but not as a primary life jacket in the USA.

This belt inflates within 3 to 5 seconds once you open it. You just pull the string and it opens. You can then roll it back up when letting the air out. There is also a manual mouthpiece that you can blow the belt up with if the tank is gone. This is a backup safety feature that should be placed on almost all inflatable jackets or belts.

Those who are looking to be safe while in any water can find that this belt provides additional safety. Its belt style design allows for unrestricted arm motions and is comfortable to wear. The neoprene and polyester are strong, durable, long-lasting, and easy to clean after the belt has been used.

15. Scuba Choice Inflatable Snorkel Vests

Scuba Choice Inflatable Snorkel Vests

The Scuba Choice inflatable life jacket is meant to be worn by adults up to 200 pounds. These vests are intended to serve two purposes. First, the bright color of the vest provides higher visibility of the diver in the water to boats in the area. Second, air can be added to the vest by blowing into the inflation tube to provide buoyancy. Air can also be removed if the swimmer wishes to dive under the water. This is not a US Coast Guard-Approved vest for the purpose of meeting life jacket requirements. However, it is still a great vest to wear for swimming activities at the beach or when snorkeling with a mask, snorkel, and fins .

The straps on the sides make this jacket easy to adjust to fit your body. Whether you have a smaller or larger frame, the straps can move to you. Many dive operations encourage or require users to wear this style of the vest when swimming or snorkeling. You will be able to benefit when you are using it, as the low profile and ability to be used when it is not inflated makes it a great choice to go with when you are underwater.

16. Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vests

Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vests

This Scuba Choice inflatable snorkel vest fits children up to 100 pounds. You don’t have to worry about it being too bulky or not being able to give them the range of motion they need. They can swim with this on, and not have to worry about it deploying while in the water. With many benefits, it is an ideal jacket to provide to a child who is in the water. This vest provides visibility and inflation. A pool noodle is also a good way to provide kids with additional flotation when snorkeling. Puddle jumper life jackets are also popular and comfortable for kids to wear.

There is a crotch strap that provides the necessary safety when wearing the jacket in the water. It can keep the child afloat wherever they choose to go. The oral inflator makes it easy to add or remove air from the vest.

Meant to be worn uninflated, this vest is not bulky like a kid’s life jacket and is easy to pack with you regardless of where you’re going. Many enjoy using it for children who enjoy snorkeling and want to wear something that is going to allow them to see under the water but still have the protection they need to do so. For beginners and weak swimmers having addition, flotation is a good idea. For strong swimmers that want to dive under the water, this is a great option.

17. Phantom Aquatics Inflatable Snorkel Vests

Phantom Aquatics Inflatable Snorkel Vests

This Phantom Aquatics inflatable snorkel vest is of average size and is rated for adults over 90 pounds. The vest is inflated with an inflation tube. Air can be removed by pushing down on the top of the inflation tube and squeezing the vest. There are a waist strap and a crotch strap for allowing for a secure fit where the vest will not slip off. The bright colors make this a great choice when you want to see the person in the water. This makes it easier to keep track of your family and friends in the water and makes them more visible to boat traffic.

This vest can be used for larger children and adults. It is not a vest intended to be used as a life jacket for emergency situations and is not approved by the US coast guard as a life jacket. The vest is nice to keep on the boat for when people want to go swimming and snorkeling.

Information About Inflatable Life Jackets (Buying Guide)

Inflatable life jackets are an ideal investment for those who want to wear and use something low profile. When you are on the boat, it is smart to always wear and life jacket and encourage other passengers to do so as well. These low-profile inflatable life jackets make wearing a life vest more comfortable and less restrictive. You can provide everyone riding on the boat with one if they are over the age of 16.

With both manual and automatic features, they can deploy by pulling and handle or when the jacket is submerged in the water. The automatic deployment helps keep a person afloat if they enter the water when they are unconscious. Make sure to check the weight and size, as well as age rating on all of them prior to providing other passengers with this type of life jacket.

Being able to ride around on the water with ease can be something worth considering when you select a life jacket. This will make it more likely that the life jacket will always be worn even during ideal conditions. Life jackets are very important to have for safety reasons so make sure to have them on during your water adventures. Everyone benefits and is able to stay safe when they are wearing them. Make sure to select the proper type required by the coast guard and one that will provide adequate flotation for the person wearing the vest.

Inflatable Life Jacket 24 Gram CO2 Replacement Cartridge

Inflatable Life Jacket 24-Gram CO2 Cartridge

This 24-gram CO2 tank will work for Onyx inflatable life jackets. A specific replacement tank needs to be purchased based on tank size and attachment method. For this reason, each brand and model life jacket will have a required CO2 tank replacement kit. The tank needs to be replaced at any time the life jacket is inflated with the manual pull tab or automatic deployment system. It does not need to be replaced if the life jacket is inflated using the inflation tube.  This kit comes with a 24-gram tank, bobbin, and indicator clip. 

The three tank sizes used for inflatable life jackets are 16-gram, 24-gram, or 33-gram. A larger tank will be able to provide more buoyancy to the life jacket when deployed. If the tank for some reason does not deploy in life jacket have a back-up oral inflation tube. To meet US Coast Guard requirements the tank does need to be charged, armed, and eady for deployment.

Each life jacket has a different method to replace the tank within the vest. Typically is pretty straightforward and can be done in minutes if the replacement part and tank are available. Here is a video showing how to replace the co2 cartridge.

How to Install and Arm CO2 Cartridge

Each brand of life jacket has a different procedure for replacing the Co2 Cartridge. There are good youtube videos with detailed instructions for each brand. Make sure to have the proper replacement cartridge for the vest before starting.

The first set is to deflate the vest removing as much air as possible. This is typically done by pushing down on the ope of the inflation tube. Next, the CO2 tank needs to be removed. Some tanks are on the outside of the vest while others are actually stored within the inflation part of the vest. This offers more protection against corrosion.

Next, the water-soluble bobbin should be replaced from within its housing. This is done by unscrewing the housing and replace the bobbin. The date of manufacture should not be more than three years old or it should be replaced even if it was not used. Next, screw on the new CO2 cylinder. Then install the indicating clip which shows the device has been sued. On some jackets, the bobbin is in an assembly fixture that will be replaced. In either case make sure the device now shows that it is armed. Finally, fold up the inflation vest within the outside jacket material. Now the vest is ready to be worn.

The video above shows how to change the CO2 cylinder on a Mustang Elite inflatable life jacket.

How to Use an Inflatable Life Jacket

When it comes to an inflatable life jacket, you have to make sure you know how to use it. This means being able to put it on and deploy it when the time comes. The perfect way to get the best outcome is through the instructions that come with the specific jacket that you have. However, here is a general overview of how to use an inflatable life jacket.

  • Place the life jacket on over your head, and make sure it is secured through the straps that can be placed around your waist.
  • Once secured, you can wear the life jacket as a normal jacket and not have to worry about it being bulky, as these jackets are not deployed, they’re flat until you deploy them or they end up going off when you are in the water.
  • If you need to deploy the jacket, you just need to pull the string in the front. Once you do this, you can find that the jacket inflates and it is able to keep you up and out of the water since it becomes buoyant.
  • If the life jacket for some reason does not inflate there is a back-up inflation tube. This works by blowing into the tube with your mouth.

Once you become familiar with the jackets, deploying them is not going to be an issue. You will find that they become easier than ever to wear and deploy and you feel more secure and confident using them.

USCG Rating of Inflatable Life Jackets 

The people who wear life jackets should consider what the rating on them says. This is because you need to make sure you’re choosing a certified, approved life jacket that provides adequate flotation if you enter the water. You don’t have to worry about if the life jacket is going to work as you are falling into the water.

The US Coast Guard approves or denies the life jackets that come to them. Without proper certifications, the life jacket should not be used at all. There are five types of life jackets ratings that the USCG will provide. Most inflatable life jackets are given the Type V certification which is a special use device. These typically meet to US Coast Guard life jacket requirement for boating in most areas when the life vest is actually being worn by the users. Make sure to check the regulations for the specific area where the life jacket will be used.

The ratings are there to educate you on which is the best for the location and water activity planned. You can ensure that you are going to stay afloat if the proper life vest is worn. The USCG approves life jackets that should be somewhat safe and quality. However, it is important to get a life jacket that fits properly and provides adequate buoyancy for the user’s application.

Self Deployed Inflatable Life Jackets

Self-deployed inflatable life jackets are deployed when they are submerged into the water. The force opens them, and they work by blowing up. This is important when you want to ensure that you protect yourself when you hit the water. If you might be unconscious during this time, or if anything else might happen, this is the best life jacket to purchase.

They can also be manually deployed by the user. The pull cord is located on the front of the life jacket. This just needs to be pulled on, once and the jacket will then be deployed. Which life jacket you choose to use is up to which one provides the security and protection you are looking for.

Cartridge Life Jackets with Manual Pull Tap

The cartridge life jackets are those that use the CO2 tanks within them. These jackets are deflated until the time comes to use them. Once this time comes up, the pull tab is then pulled on and the jacket inflates by using the tank that is built into the jacket.

These tanks can be replaced when they have been used, or every three years if they have not been used. You just have to purchase a new CO2 tank and bobbin that is installed within the jacket. If for some reason the pull tab fails to manually inflate the vest the oral inflation tube can be used. This is typically in the upper-right section of the life jacket and can be inflated quickly by blowing into the tube.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best inflatable life vest for kayaking?

Those who are looking to kayak in a more comfortable manner are able to do so with inflatable life jackets. These lightweight and provide comfort when performing high motion activities such as kayaking. There are also belt style inflatable life jackets that do not restrict arm motion at all.

There are standard foam lifejackets with open shoulder areas to make paddling easier. This is a good choice for adults and especially for kids under 16 that are not allowed to use inflatable life jackets. The Mustang Survival Khimera PFD is the best life jacket for kayaking. It has both foam and inflation to provide high buoyancy in a compact lifejacket that is comfortable to wear. It also has a pocket and attachment points for additional safety gear.

Can inflatable life jackets be reused?

Yes, even after they have been deployed, inflatable life jackets can be reused. You can quickly replace the CO2 cartridge as long as a replacement cartridge is available.  This allows the jackets to be used for longer periods of time. Replacement CO2 cartridges are sold separately and you can purchase them as singles or in packs to provide yourself with a way to ensure you have the best ability to blow up the jacket while you are in the water. Most jackets only come with one CO2 tank. Make sure to store the jackets and canisters in a dry, cool area to keep them in good shape for a longer period of time.

How often should you replace the co2 cylinder in an inflatable PFD?

Most jackets have certain recommendations that you should adhere to. It is important that you always read what the jacket says. It depends on the cartridge and the jacket. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that these cartridges are replaced every three years. The bobbin which dissolves to automatically inflate vests should also be replaced every three years from the manufacture date printed on it.

Some cartridges should be replaced yearly according to the manufacturer, especially if the life jacket is in use a lot. This will ensure that the CO2 is still in good shape and has less of a chance to malfunction should the jacket be needed. Every few months the condition of the cylinder should be inspected by the uses. If it looks corroded it should be replaced.

How long do inflatable life jackets last?

It is recommended that you replace your life jackets at least once every ten years to keep them in the best shape. If they are worn down, have damage or anything else on them then you should make sure to replace them sooner than this. However, if they are kept in great shape and cared for according to the instructions given, then ten years is around when to replace them.

If you are unsure of how old the jacket you have is, you can read the date the jacket was made on the jacket. If the jacket does not give or have the date, it is recommended that you purchase a new life jacket.

Why are inflatable life jackets not recommended for non-swimmers?

Those who are unable to swim would need a life jacket that can keep them out of the water immediately. An inflatable life jacket does not do that. The person has to be able to keep themselves above the water in order to use and properly deploy one of these. The jacket is not buoyant enough to do this without being deployed. The person who ends up in the water needs to be able to stay afloat while they are in the water so they can pull the tap to manually activate the life jacket.

Also once deployed this type of vest typically requires some adjusting. If the users are not proficient swimmers it is possible for the vest to slip off. This is especially true for belt style inflatable life jackets.

Are PFDs difficult to put on in the water?

PFDs can be difficult to put on in the water, and it is recommended that those who are in a boat should make sure to wear them. This is to ensure that if they go overboard, they have the necessary life-saving device needed. However, not everyone has to wear them and they are required to be on the boat. Anyone who does not know how to swim should always wear a life jacket to protect themselves while in the water.

The jackets may not be hard to put on while in the water, but it is important to know the state and local regulations for the area to find out if they should be worn at all times while on the water vessel for safety reasons. Inflatable life jackets have to be worn in most cases to count as one of the required life jackets.

Do inflatable life jackets require servicing?

Inflatable life jackets usually do not require servicing, but they do require maintenance and care when they are in use. The jacket should be regularly checked for holes or other areas where the CO2 could end up leaking out of them. This is important because you want to make sure that if the life jacket needs to be deployed, it is going to be able to hold the air needed to provide buoyancy a hold the user out of the water.

Storing them in the proper place, making sure they are dry when you do so, and keeping them clean are all important things to do. Maintenance is the number one way to keep the jackets in the best shape, so make sure to keep this in mind when you are using them. On automatic inflation inflatable life jackets, the bobbin should be replaced a minimum of every three years.

How safe are inflatable life jackets?

Inflatable life jackets are something that can be very safe to use. However, it is important that you think about the other things that can go wrong with them while they are needed. These things are different from those jackets that do not inflate, as they do not have or come with the same risks as these life jackets.

When there is a leak in the bladder somewhere in the jacket, this can cause the air to leak out of it, which in turn, makes it not blow up or become buoyant. This means you’re unable to keep out of the water when you find yourself falling in. Additionally, not having the CO2 cartridge installed correctly can lead to the jacket not be deployed as expected. There is a backup inflation tube for that scenario though if extended time is going to be spent in the water.

What should I look for when buying a life jacket?

There are many things you can look for when buying a life jacket but having to narrow it down to some of the more important aspects means finding a jacket that fits. You want a proper fit for those who are going to be using the jackets, as this will keep the person from drowning while they are in the water.

Additionally, having them certified and approved to be used in the water is also something else that is important. You will know the life jacket has actually been tested and can be used safely for specific conditions and types of water.

The application of the life jacket should also be considered. Is this life jacket going to stored on the boat a bulky life jacket with lots of buoyancy is a good option. If the jacket is going to be worn daily finding a smaller, compact comfortable life jacket is very important. Ultimately the life jacket that is being worn is the one that will actually help if the user does end up in the water. Also if the jacket is used for swimming, waterskiing, and wakeboarding then a high-performance quality life jacket should be used.

Will a life jacket keep you afloat if you can’t swim?

Life jackets can keep you afloat if you cannot swim, but it is recommended that you do not wear an inflatable life jacket if that is the case. This is because you will have to wear a jacket that can be used at all times and not a lightweight, low profile jacket. These jackets are comfortable and they are great for moving around when you need to, but they are not recommended for small children or those who are unable to swim.

How do you clean an inflatable life jacket?

Cleaning an inflatable life jacket is not hard to do. You can find that the jacket provides not only the protection you need, but it is easy to clean. Simply wiping the jacket down with warm water and mild soap can remove any debris from the outside of it. Not only that but making sure to let the jacket completely dry before storing it is going to make sure that it does not get mold or mildew growth.

Proper care, cleaning, and storage are all necessary to keep the jacket in the best condition for the longest amount of time. Make sure to read the instructions on the jacket to properly care for it depending on the specific type of jacket it is.

How do you test an inflatable life jacket?

An inflatable life jacket should be treated in the same manner as a regular one would be. However, it is important to note that any sharp objects or items that might pierce the bladder of the jacket should be kept away from it at all times. This can make the inflatable life jacket useless when it comes to wearing it and being able to deploy it. You don’t have to worry about something like this happening if you take care of it and maintain it in the correct way. Automatic deployment mechanisms should be checked to ensure they are on the armed status.

How do you rearm an inflatable life vest?

To rearm a life vest a new CO2 canister will be needed. Also, a new bobbin attachment bracket will be needed for the automatic deployment of inflatable life jackets. The vest should be dried and the air should be let out. The bobbin should be installed within the threaded housing. Then the new tank should be threaded onto the life jacket bracket. Finally, the indicating status should show green. On some mechanisms, an indicating clip is installed to show that the air in the tank has not been released.

How much buoyancy should an inflatable life jacket have?  

The standard minimum is usually around 22 pounds because this is how much is necessary to hold a person up and out of the water. You want to make sure to read the information printed on the life jacket to find out what it is rated to hold up and out of the water. Once you do this, you can then choose which would be best for you.

If life jackets are rated for higher amounts of weight, you can expect the buoyancy to be higher than those that are rated for a smaller amount of weight. This is because they tend to be on the stronger side of things when it comes to holding a person up and out of the water. A good Inflatable life belt has about 26 pounds of buoyancy while a good jacket has around 33 pounds of buoyancy. The amount needed does depend on the weight of the user with heavier users needing more buoyancy.

Do inflatable life jackets count for the USCG? 

The USCG has approved and recommended a series of inflatable life jackets that are approved to be used on water vessels if they are worn at all times. It is important to read the specific life jacket to find out if it is one of the approved types. While they tend to be Type V but are sometimes approved as Type III jackets if they are continuously worn. This is something to look into if you need a specific type of jacket to be used on the specific excursion or vessel location.

If the jacket is USCG approved it is going to have a stamp and seal of approval that says so, as well as a serial number that shows the approval. Look for this when purchasing a jacket if you want one that is certified and approved by the Coast Guard or use in the United States.

At what age can inflatable life jackets be worn? 

Inflatable life jackets are approved to be used on water vessels for those who are at least 16 years of age. Even approved by the US Coast Guard, these jackets need to be used by older individuals who are also larger in size and that know how to swim, as this is important for anyone using an inflatable life jacket.

Look at the size ratings that are provided on the life jacket you choose to use to find out if it is the right fit for the person that is going to be using it. You want to make sure they are the safest they can be while in the water. 16 and over are usually the ones who can wear them, but it is important to look into the local and state regulations for the specific area you are boating in.

Captain Cody Wabiszewski

Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands, and Alaska. Growing up in Pennsylvania Cody has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!

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13 Best Sailing Lifejackets 2024

After living aboard our sailboat for 5 years, we’ve put together a list of the best sailing life jackets on the market, so you can find the perfect fit for your needs. Don’t let safety take a back seat – read on to find out more!

When it comes to sailing, the last thing you want to worry about is your safety. One of the top ways to stay safe onboard is to wear a decent life jacket at all times. They should be a standard piece of sailing gear and you should always have one serviced and ready to wear, along with a few spares for any crew you take on board.

a lady wearing the best sailing lifejackets 2022 on a sailboat

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The trouble is, how do you know which sailing life jacket to opt for when there’s such a huge choice out there?

When we first bought Hot Chocolate she came with a whole host of life vests, from the foam ones you get given on tourist boat trips to proper automatic ones. We began extensive research into the best life jackets for sailing and learned so much about different features, and about the best life jackets for proper ocean sailing.

We’re no experts when it comes to safety at sea, but we’re pretty invested in keeping ourselves safe on the water so we’ve taken the time to find out all we can about sailing life vests. Obviously, we would always advise you to do your own research too, but here are our top picks to get you started!

Quick guide to the best sailing life jackets for adults and kids

  • Best life jackets for coastal sailing

Best PFDs for offshore use

  • Best sailing life jackets for kids

How to choose a sailing life jacket

  • What is the best life jacket brand?

Automatic or manual?

  • Can you survive in the ocean with a life jacket?

Best sailing lifejackets for coastal sailing and cruising 150-180N

a woman at sea wearing a lifejacket

The best PFDs for coastal sailing are light, and comfortable and you can afford to spend a little less money on them compared to offshore lifejackets. Most coastal lifejackets won’t come with a light or a sprayhood, but we would recommend you add your own just to make sure you’ve got the best chance of survival at sea if the worst happens.

As you’re coastal sailing you will be within easy reach of a rescue boat should you fall in the sea, but you never know how long recovery will take so it’s always better to be prepared for the worst.

Here are our top picks for a coastal life vest.

#1 Spinlock Deckvest Lite

Spinlock are one of the leading brands when it comes to sailing lifejackets. They have a solid reputation and having owned several of their lifejackets we can vouch for the quality.

The Spinlock Deckvest Lite is the perfect coastal and multi-purpose lifejacket. It’s light and comfortable, and you can wear it around the deck without any restrictions.

It has a high visibility bladder when inflated, so if you were in a man overboard situation you would be easier to spot in the water. This lifejacket doesn’t come with a sprayhood or light, but the whistle is easy to find.

This jacket goes on over the head, which is a little unusual. For this reason, some wearers might find it harder to put on and it might be suited to smaller builds.

Pros : Lightweight, comfortable, bright bladder

Cons : No spray hood/light, might be better suited to smaller builds

Buy now from West Marine

#2 Mustang Survival Sailing PFD

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

This is a great life vest for coastal sailing as it’s light and comfortable to wear, and isn’t too bulky when moving around on deck. We love the added stainless steel rings for use with tethers, and the easy clip in and out buckle.

The Mustang Survival lifejacket uses Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT) which means the lifejacket will only inflate once submerged in water. It won’t inflate by accident in heavy spray. This is a useful feature for anyone planning on sailing in heavy weather.

It doesn’t come with a crotch strap which is a shame, so you’ll want to add one of these before using it in any offshore conditions. There is also no light or spray hood included, making it most suitable for coastal cruising only.

Pros : HIT, tether attachments, lightweight

Cons : No crotch strap, no spray hood, no light

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#3 Seago Seaguard 165N sailing lifejacket

This sailing PFD is our top budget buy. It’s a really decent lifejacket for not too much money, and the perfect option for coastal cruising. It is one of the most popular lifejackets on the market for a reason and is perfect for those who spend time near the water.

The Seaguard 165N is made from high-quality materials and features a comfortable fit that will make wearing it a breeze. It also comes with a handy front zip pocket, so you can keep essential items close at hand.

Most importantly, the Seaguard 165N offers fantastic safety features, including quick-release buckles, SOLAS-approved reflective tape, and an emergency whistle. With this lifejacket, you can rest assured that you are well-protected in case of an accident.

Although there is no spray hood or light included, there is room in the casing to fit your own. It also has tether attachment points. It is simple but effective, and the perfect little lifejacket for lake sailing or day sails not too far offshore.

Pros : Simple design, budget-friendly, works!

Cons : No spray hood or light included

Buy now from Seago

#4 The Baltic Winner 150N

Looking for a reliable and comfortable lifejacket? Look no further than the Baltic Winner! This lifejacket is perfect for cruisers, with a fleece-lined collar and adjustable waist for a snug and comfortable fit.

The sprayhood will keep you dry in rough weather, and the crotch strap ensures that you stay safe and secure in the event of a fall overboard. We love the stow away for the straps.

With its high-quality construction and rugged design, the Baltic Winner is perfect for staying safe and comfortable on the open water, which is all you can ask for in a lifejacket!

#5 Westmarine Coastal

The Westmarine coastal lifejacket is lightweight and comfortable, and can easily be converted to manual-only inflation if you end up in a heavy sea and at risk of the spray setting off the automatic device.

There is a clear indication window so you’ll know when it’s time to change out the cylinder and the durable nylon shell makes this a long-lasting lifejacket that will just need a service each year to keep in good condition.

#6 Secumar Ultra Series 165N sailing lifejacket

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The Secumar Ultra is a lesser-known brand but offers optimal buoyancy to help keep the head above the water. We’ve put it under the coastal cruising section because of its 165N rating, but this lifejacket has a lot of features we would hope to see in an offshore PFD.

It’s lightweight and comfortable, with a fleece-lined neck collar to prevent chafing and encourage frequent use. It’s not too bulky, so you won’t find movement is restricted when moving about the deck.

This lifevest comes with a quick-release harness, so you won’t have to worry about drowning in a man overboard situation when tethered in. It also has crotch straps and an innovative design for taking the jacket off which works just like a normal jacket.

There is no spray hood on this lifejacket so if you are thinking of using it for offshore adventures then you’ll want to fit one. The window in the protective cover lets you see when it’s time to change the cartridge for easy maintenance.

Pros: Lightweight, fleece collar, easy on and off buckle, quick release harness system

Cons: No spray hood

When looking for an offshore lifejacket you’re going to want to do a bit more of a thorough check into what’s included. For offshore sailing, you need a light and a spray hood, alongside the usual comfort features. You should also make sure it comes with leg straps and harness buckles.

This needs to be a tough lifejacket that is well made and up to the task. Stick to well-known, well-regarded brands and be prepared to spend a little more money to get a quality product.

We’ve got some of the best offshore lifejackets on the market detailed below.

#7 Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race 170 Auto lifejacket

The Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race is the perfect lifejacket for offshore use. With its comfortable fit and durable materials, it is ideal for extended wear in challenging conditions.

The Sailsafe Race has a low-profile design that allows you to move freely and comfortably, while still providing the ultimate safety and protection.

The lifejacket is also equipped with a whistle and reflective strips for added safety. It comes with thigh straps and a spray hood too, which in our opinion are essentials in an offshore lifejacket. There is also space for you to add in a PLB which we would always recommend.

The downside to this offshore lifejacket is that the thigh straps are a little difficult to fit. Most of the time this won’t be a problem but might become thicker if you’re trying to fit it quickly or in rough seas. Make sure you have a little practice with it before heading out on a sail!

Whether you are racing or cruising, the Helly Hansen Sailsafe Race is the perfect lifejacket for any offshore adventure.

Pros : Quick inflation, comfortable

Cons : Tricky to fit thigh straps

Buy now from Helly Hansen

#8 Crewsaver Crewfit+ 190N pro sailing PFD

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The ultimate lifejacket for offshore use. This jacket is designed to keep you safe and comfortable in the most extreme conditions, with a range of features that make it perfect for any situation.

The Crewsaver Crewfit+ 190N Pro is made from the highest quality materials, with a durable outer shell that can withstand the harshest conditions. The lifejacket is also incredibly comfortable to wear, with a soft inner lining that feels great against your skin. The adjustable straps also ensure that you can get a perfect fit, regardless of your body type.

The Crewsaver Crewfit+ 190N pro also features a number of safety features that make it ideal for use in an offshore environment. The bright-coloured bladder ensures that you will be visible in any situation, while the reflective strips add an extra level of safety when you are out on the water.

a lady wearing a crewsaver ocean lifejacket

The large crotch strap also prevents the lifejacket from riding up in rough seas, ensuring that you are always protected, and a spray hood and light are included as standard.

If you are looking for the best lifejacket for offshore use, then look no further than the Crewsaver Crewfit+ 180N pro. This jacket has all the features you need to stay safe and comfortable in any situation, making it the perfect choice for any outdoor adventure.

The plus and minus to this offshore PFD is the anti-unscrew seal feature on the CO2 bottle. It’s a great safety feature, meaning the bottle can’t come unscrewed by accident, but for anyone who flies with their lifejacket, this may become a pain.

Pros : Comfortable, stylish, great for all sailing

Cons : It’s tricky to rearm this lifejacket, and the unscrew feature might be a pain for frequent flyers

#9 Deckvest Vito lifejacket for sailing

This lifejacket is a little on the expensive side, but it is packed with features that make it the perfect choice for those who love spending time on the water. It was developed with Volvo Ocean Race teams so you can be sure it will meet your safety needs!

It has a Hammar hydrostatic inflation system and a bladder-illumination light for extra safety overnight or in low light. The reflective detailing ensures that you will be visible in all conditions, making this lifejacket perfect for all types of offshore sailing.

With a comfortable fit and a sleek design, the Deckvest Vito is perfect for those who want to enjoy their time on the water without compromising on safety. The built-in harness means that you can be assured of a secure fit, while the crotch strap provides extra security. Cleverly the crotch strap can be stored in a back pocket when you aren’t using it.

Some of the more unique features of this lifejacket include the pocket on the back for the spray hood, which reduces bulk around the neck and makes it more comfortable and less restrictive. They have also developed a harness release system that enables you to release your harness in an overboard situation and prevent possible drowning.

Pros : Harness release system, bladder lights, thoughtful design

Cons : Expensive

a woman wearing one of the best sailing PFDs behind the helm of a sailboat

#10 Spinlock DeckVest 6D

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line lifejacket that will keep you safe and comfortable on your next adventure, look no further than the Spinlock DeckVest 6D.

This lifejacket is packed with features that make it ideal for cruisers, including a high visibility design and a crotch strap to keep it securely in place. Plus, the Spinlock DeckVest 6D comes with a built-in harness that can be easily attached to your boat’s tether system.

This lifejacket comes with a sprayhood and light and has award-winning bladder illumination lights for extra safety during night sails.

As a cruiser, you’ll be wearing this lifejacket a lot, and comfort is a key consideration. The Spinlock Deckvest 6D has been designed with comfort in mind and sits on the shoulders, leaving the neck and waist free for unrestricted movement.

Whether you’re an experienced cruiser or just starting out, the Spinlock DeckVest 6D is the perfect lifejacket for you. With its combination of safety features and comfort, it’s sure to give you peace of mind on the water.

Pros : Packed with innovative features, comfortable

Cons : The price

Best sailing lifejackets for kids

a child wearing a blue lifejacket for sailing

Choosing a lifejacket for kids is perhaps even more tricky than choosing the best sailing lifejacket for yourself. You want to be sure it fits correctly, is comfortable enough not to have too many complaints about wearing it, and most importantly, will do its job when needed!

We’ve got a few suggestions of PFDs that your kids will love wearing, and that will do a great job of keeping them safe in the water.

#10 Kids Safe+ Helly Hansen

Helly Hansen is a popular brand among sailors for a reason. These kids’ lifejackets are extremely well thought out, with an innovative asymmetrical design that helps kids turn to a safe floating position in the water, keeping mouths and noses well clear.

It’s got the most up-to-date ISO 12402-4 flotation certification available, which will give any parent peace of mind.

It’s also made from soft, comfortable foam to encourage children to wear it every time they’re out sailing or on the water. There is a baby version and one designed for older kids too, so just make sure you choose the appropriate lifejacket for their size.

#11 The Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends Child Life Jacket

The MUSTANG SURVIVAL Lil’ Legends Child Life Jacket is a great choice of sailing PFD to keep your child safe on the water.

It has all the features you could possibly want in a child’s lifejacket, including a head pillow, crotch strap, and a grab handle. It is made from super soft fabric to keep your child comfortable at sea and has a ventilated mesh back and wicking liner which is particularly useful if you’re sailing in hot climates.

A really nice touch is the stain-resistant fabric, which will help keep this lifejacket looking smart for longer!

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a life vest, so it’s important to take the time to think through some of these aspects before diving in and choosing one that might not suit your needs.

What will you use your sailing lifejacket for?

men coastal sailing in rough weather, wearing full foul weather gear and PFDs

What type of sailing are you doing? Racing? Cruising? How much time are you spending on the water? What kind of weather conditions will you be sailing in? All of these factors will help to determine what type of lifejacket you need.

If you’re heading off across oceans, sailing for long periods of time, or in less than ideal conditions then you’ll need a decent lifejacket with all the bells and whistles. If you stick to inland or coastal sailing then you might opt for a slightly lighter lifevest without as much buoyancy.

Coastal lifejackets are a good all-around choice for most sailors. They have moderate buoyancy and usually come with a few extras like reflective tape and whistle attachments.

Manuel or automatic

There are manual and automatic lifejackets on offer, and each comes with pros and cons. We’ve done a whole section on this as it’s a big decision, so read on to find out more about which to choose.

two kids on the bow of a sailboat

You’ll see an N number on the lifejackets you look at. This stands for newtons and refers to the amount of force the lifejackets can take. 10N is equivalent to 1kg of buoyancy. This will give you an idea of how extreme the lifejackets are considered.

For example, a lifejacket with a 50N rating is suited to use by a person who is a competent swimmer close to the shore, and a level 150N lifejacket will be buoyant enough to turn the wearer onto their back to keep their airways clear, so is far more suited to most types of sailing where the person in the water may be unconscious.

275N lifejackets have the highest buoyancy rating, so will be suited to offshore sailing or sailing in colder climates where the wearer will be dressed in a lot of heavy layers.

Size and fit

a lady wearing a lifevest for sailing

Make sure you find a sailing lifejacket that will fit you well and has adjustable straps so you can tailor it to your body. Your lifejacket needs to be snug but not uncomfortable, and it should have leg straps to keep it from slipping over your head when it inflates.

Comfort should also be a consideration when choosing the right sailing lifevest. You need to be able to move easily around the boat while wearing it, and it should feel comfortable to wear for long periods of time. A comfortable lifejacket is one that’s going to be worn, and a lifejacket in a locker is doing no good at all!

Crotch straps

three sailors wearing sailing lifevests at sea

Some lifejackets come with them as standard, others don’t. But why do you even need a crotch strap on your sailing lifejacket?

If you’ve ever worn a lifejacket without one then you’ll know the annoyance of the jacket riding up and covering your face. Not only is this an annoyance, but it could also be pretty dangerous, especially if you were unconscious or in the sea for any length of time.

Extra useful features

twp people wearing the best lifejackets for sailing on a dinghy sailboat

Do you need a lifejacket that can accommodate a harness? Our lifejackets have clip-on attachment points for our tethers and we keep them attached at all times so we can clip in quickly and easily whenever we need.

Ocean-safe lifejackets for sailing come with spray hoods, which are a life-saving feature I knew nothing about until I started researching. With bad waves and swell it’s not uncommon for drowning to happen on top of the water. A spray hood will prevent this and is a vital feature on any lifejacket for offshore sailing.

Reflective tape, a whistle, a light, and a manual inflate option are all great features to look out for in a lifejacket for sailing. Every little will help in a man overboard situation.

We read a first-hand account of a MOB situation where the person overboard quickly realised just how important the whistle was, as the boat sailed out of sight. They wished they had familiarised themselves with the lifejacket more thoroughly before needing to use it in anger (read the top tips section for more on this!) so we would recommend you attach a whistle to the lifejacket even if it doesn’t come with one.

With a little bit of research, you can easily find the perfect sailing lifejacket for your needs, and choosing the right type of sailing lifejacket can mean the difference between safety and disaster out on the open water. By considering weight, activity level, and fit, you can select a jacket that will provide maximum protection in case of an emergency.

What is the best sailing lifejacket brand?

sailboat racers on a heeled over sailboat

There are a lot of different lifejacket brands out there, and it can be tough to decide which one is best for you.

Any reputable sailing brand will make quality lifejackets that have been tested for purpose, but some of the names to look out for when searching for the best sailing lifejacket for you are:

  • Helly Hansen

a man wearing a PFD for sailing

Wondering whether to strap on an automatic or manual lifejacket? Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each type.

Automatic lifejackets are great for people who might find themselves in the water unexpectedly, such as during a boating accident. The jacket will automatically inflate when it comes into contact with water, providing flotation and head support.

However, automatic lifejackets can also be triggered by sweat or spray from waves, so they’re not ideal for swimmers or people engaging in water sports. They’re also more expensive than manual lifejackets.

Manual lifejackets, on the other hand, require the wearer to pull a cord in order to inflate the jacket. This means that they can be more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and they won’t accidentally inflate while you’re dry.

However, they won’t provide any protection if you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to activate them. For this reason, manual lifejackets are best suited for situations where you’re aware of the risk of getting wet.

For sailors, booms are a common reason for man overboard situations, and the risks of being knocked unconscious are high. It’s for this reason that Adam and I opted for automatic lifejackets. If they go off in bad spray then so be it, we would rather take that risk than the risk of it not inflating while unconscious in the water!

Can you survive in the ocean with a lifejacket?

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

A lifejacket is an essential piece of safety equipment for anyone spending time near the water. But can it actually help you survive if you find yourself stranded in the middle of the ocean?

The short answer is yes. A lifejacket will keep you afloat and help you to stay warm, both of which are essential for survival.

This being said, you should only rely on a lifejacket for a short period of time. If you find yourself in a man overboard situation you should always try to signal for help, and it’s even handier if you’re wearing a personal locator beacon to aid people coming to your rescue.

It’s also important you’re wearing additional safety gear at sea, such as a decent sailing jacket or even a drysuit for sailing in colder climates.

Remember that a lifejacket is not a guarantee of safety; even with one, you should always exercise caution when near open water.

Conclusion for the best lifejackets for sailing

The best sailing lifejackets are the latest and most innovative models on the market. They have been designed with new safety features that will keep you safe while sailing, even in rough weather conditions.

We’ve looked at some of the top life jackets on the market and what makes them stand out from the rest. With so many options available, we hope this article has helped you narrow down your choices. And if you’re planning a rough passage, then check out our cold weather sailing gear to help keep yourself as safe as possible.

Make sure you follow us on Instagram for up-to-date news of our sailing adventures and check out the rest of our sailing and liveaboard tips and tricks to make life on the water that little bit smoother.

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The 5 Best Sailing Life Jackets

Paul Stockdale Avatar

A top sailing life jacket will fit comfortably and help keep a person safe while sailing or out boating on the water.

A life jacket is a great personal flotation device (PFD) that helps protect men, women and children when sailing.

There are a number of top sailing life jackets to choose from with each having its own strengths.

The best sailing life jackets are:

  • Best Overall : Onyx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest
  • Best For Men : Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket
  • Best For Women : O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest
  • Best For Kids : Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket
  • Best For Price : Stohlquist Fit Adult Life Jacket PFD

These life jackets for sailing will ensure safety and good buoyance in the water while also fitting comfortably. There are both offshore life jackets and inshore life jackets on the list.

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission.

1. Onyx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest

Best Overall Sailing Life Jacket Onyx MoveVent

The best overall sailing life jacket is the Unisex MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest manufactured by the brand Oynx in Minnesota, America and sold worldwide.

Most retailers price the Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest between $60 and $90. This life jacket comes with a 1-year warranty to protect against manufacturer defects and errors in workmanship which is a great comfort for first-time buyers.

The Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest is U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada approved and comes with a USCG/TC label inside the life vest so buyers know it provides great safety in the water.

It is a Type III PFD which means it is an approved device designed to have more than 15.5 pounds of buoyancy.

The Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest is constructed of 200 denier nylon outer shell, shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads, adjustable side straps, mesh material on the front and the back, a non-corrosive heavy-duty front zipper and soft, lightweight floating foam to help with buoyance.

This Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest's adjustable side belts and shoulder straps help adults to conveniently alter the size of the life vest to fit their body size perfectly.

The Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest comes in 3 size options including:

  • X-Small/Small : 90lbs+ adult with an adjustable chest size of 28" to 36"
  • Medium/Large : 90lbs+ adult with an adjustable chest size of 36" to 44"
  • X-Large/2X-Large : 90lbs+ adult with an adjustable chest size of 44" to 56"

The Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest comes in two color options which are blue and yellow.

For better and more enhanced visibility when sailing, the yellow-colored Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest is our recommended color to buy.

The benefits of the Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest are:

  • It is comfortable & breathable : This life vest has great ventilation with mesh material on the front and back to help make the life jacket more breathable in warm weather and keep people cool
  • It is a unisex life vest : This Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest is unisex so it can be worn by both men and women and is not restricted to one gender
  • There are plenty of size options to choose from : This life vest has 3 different size options to choose from that can be adjusted to fit most adult body shapes and sizes which means there are plenty of options
  • It is lightweight : The Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest weighs 1.2 pounds meaning it is lightweight and easy to wear without sacrificing flexibility or mobility
  • It is cheap : This life vest is one of the cheapest top sailing life jackets on the market with a price of just $60 to $90

One disadvantage of the Oynx MoveVent Curve Paddle Sports Life Vest is it does not have any pockets so there is no place to store items when sailing.

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2. Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

Best Mens Sailing Life Jacket Stohlquist Edge

The best sailing life jacket for men is the Men's Edge Life Jacket manufactured by the brand Stohlquist in Buena Vista, Colorado, America and sold worldwide.

Most retailers price the Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket between $100 and $140. This life jacket comes with a 3-year warranty to protect against manufacturer defects and errors in workmanship which is a great long time period warranty for added peace of mind. This life jacket weighs 1.7 pounds.

This life jacket is perfect to use when sailing and doing watersports.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket is U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada approved and comes with a USCG/TC label inside the life vest.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket sea level buoyancy ranges from 15.8 pounds buoyance to 17.8 pounds buoyance.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket is constructed of lightweight PVC foam material for great buoyance, 240D mini-ripstop outer shell, 200D nylon inner liner, 3M reflective accents for the best visibility in all light conditions, mesh sides for improved ventilation in warm weather, anti corrosive zipped front pocket for storing items with a front waist buckle closure for the perfect fit, 2 adjustable shoulder pads and 4 side pulls.

The adjustable shoulder straps, adjustable side pulls and the wrapture shaped torso fits around any body type and gives a custom and unique fit.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket offers exclusive sizing known as Graded Sizing. This graded sizing provides the perfect dimensions with varying amounts of flotation foam for many sized sailors to ensure the right amount of buoyance and comfort.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket comes in 3 size options including:

  • Small/Medium : This is an adjustable chest size of 33" to 39" with a sea level buoyance of 15.8 pounds
  • Large/Extra Large : This is an adjustable chest size of 40" to 46" with a sea level buoyance of 16.8 pounds ‍
  • 2XL : This is an adjustable chest size of 46" to 52" with a sea level buoyance of 17.8 pounds

These sizing options cover most adult body sizes and shapes.

The Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket comes in 4 color options which are red, black, royal blue and lime green/grey.

The benefits of the Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket are:

  • It is extremely comfortable : With the ergonomic wrapture shaped torso and mesh material for ventilation, this life jacket is extremely comfortable to wear when sailing
  • It comes with a storage pocket : This life jacket comes with a zipped front pocket which can be used for conveniently storing items
  • Large arm openings prevent chafing and improve mobility : This sailing life jacket comes with large arm openings which helps prevent chafing and discomfort and improve mobility
  • 3M reflective accents means great visibility : This sailing life jacket comes with 3M reflective accents which makes it safer and more visible in any lighting conditions
  • It comes with a great 3-year warranty : This life jacket comes with a great long 3-year warranty

One disadvantage of the Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket is it is better suited and fits better on men and it is not recommended for women.

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3. O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest

Best Women Sailing Life Jacket O'Neill

The best sailing life jacket for women is the SuperLite Life Vest manufactured by the brand O'Neill in Santa Cruz, California, America and sold worldwide.

Most retailers price the O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest between $50 and $90.

This life jacket comes with a 2-year warranty to protect against manufacturer defects and faults which is a great bonus for first-time buyers of this life jacket. This life jacket weighs 1 pound so it is lightweight.

The O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest is U.S. Coast Guard approved and comes with a "U.S.C.G. Approved" label inside the life vest.

The O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest comes in 4 size options including:

  • Small : This is an adjustable chest size of 30" to 33"
  • Medium : This is an adjustable chest size of 34" to 36"
  • Large : This is an adjustable chest size of 37" to 39"
  • X-Large : This is an adjustable chest size of 40" to 42"

These sizing options cover most adult female body sizes and shapes.

The O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest comes in 4 color options which are

  • Black, turquoise & lime
  • Black, smoke grey & black ultra violet
  • Black & turquoise
  • Pacific blue, navy, ultra violet & white

The O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest is constructed of a coated polyester shell, lightweight polyethylene foam, 4 heavy-duty 1.5" wide webbing belts with Delrin buckles, large armhole size, overlock stitched strong seam and quick-release quad safety buckles.

The benefits of the O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest are:

  • It is comfortable : This lightweight life jacket at just 1 pound and the adjustable straps fits helps to make this life jacket to fit comfortably on most body types and the polyethylene foam is soft for added comfort too
  • It's great value for money: This life jacket is one of the cheapest top sailing life jacket and buyers get a great quality life jacket for a reasonable price of $50 to $90
  • Large armhole size improves mobility : This life jacket comes with large armhole sizes which helps to improve mobility while wearing it when sailing
  • It has multiple color options to choose from : Sailors can choose from 4 different color options and patterns which gives plenty of choice for the female sailors

One disadvantage of the O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest is it does not have a pocket for storage.

O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest On Amazon →

O'Neill Women's SuperLite Life Vest On Walmart →

4. Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket

Best Kids Sailing Life Jacket  Zeraty

The best sailing life jacket for kids is the Unisex Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket manufactured by the brand Zeraty and sold worldwide.

Most retailers price the Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket between $25 and $50. This life jacket weighs 13.12 ounces so it is extremely lightweight.

The Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket is EN 13138-1: 2014 approved meaning it meets European safety standards.

The Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket comes in 3 size options including:

  • Small : This is for recommended ages 1 to 3 years with a weight range of 18 pounds to 40 pounds and a size recommendation of 33.4" to 39.3"
  • Medium : This is for recommended ages 4 to 6 years with a weight range of 40 pounds to 55 pounds and a size recommendation of 39.3" to 49.2"
  • Large : This is for recommended ages 7 to 9 years with a weight range of 55 pounds to 77 pounds and a size recommendation of 49" to 55"

These sizing options cover most children's body sizes and shapes.

The Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket comes in 2 color options which are blue and pink so there are life jacket colors that both boys and girls will like.

The Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket is constructed of EPE polyethylene foam cotton, 5 layers of 0.6cm thick cotton, flexible 2MM neoprene, double adjustable chest nylon straps with quick-release buckles, adjustable nylon crotch strap, 50-N buoyance aid and a front zipper.

The benefits of the Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket are:

  • It is a great price: This life jacket is a great price at $25 to $50 and it is not expensive and the price fits in most sailor's budget
  • It's comfortable : The Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket is comfortable with an ergonomic design and adjustable straps to help ensure the perfect fit and the flexible 2MM neoprene is soft on the skin
  • Large armhole size helps with mobility : There are large armhole sizes that help with mobility when sailing. The larger armholes also allow for space so kids can wear armbands too
  • It is unisex : This kid's life jacket is unisex and not restricted to one gender which means both boys and girls can get one

One disadvantage of the Zeraty Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket is it does not come with a warranty.

Zeraty Kids Life Jacket On Amazon →

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5. Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket

Best Priced Sailing Life Jacket Coleman Stearns

The best sailing life jacket for the price is the Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket manufactured by the brand Coleman in Minnesota, America and sold worldwide.

Most retailers price the Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket between $25 and $40. This life jacket weighs 1.4 pounds.

The Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved and comes with a "U.S.C.G. Approved" label inside the life vest.

The Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket comes in 2 size options including:

  • Universal: This is for adults 90 lbs+ with a chest size of 30" to 40"
  • Oversized : This is for adults 90 lbs+ with a chest size of 41" to 52"

The Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket comes in 2 color options which are blue and red.

The Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket is constructed of soft polyester nylon shell, crosstech flotation foam, two 1-inch webbed adjustable straps and 3 adjustable buckles.

The benefits of the Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket are:

  • It is comfortable : The soft crosstech flotation foam and adjustable straps make this life jacket comfortable to wear
  • It is cheap : This life jacket is the cheapest top sailing life jacket on the market with a price of $25 to $40 which means most sailors should be able to afford it
  • It is durable : The crosstech flotation foam is extremely durable and this life jacket can last up to 5 years

One disadvantage of the Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket is it does not come with a warranty.

Coleman Stearns Life Jacket On Amazon →

Coleman Stearns Life Jacket On Walmart →

Top Sailing Life Jackets Comparison Table

What to consider when buying a sailing life jacket.

The factors to consider when buying a sailing life jacket are:

Size & Comfort

The price of a life jacket for sailing is an important factor to consider when buying one. Due to a life jacket being crucial for safety while sailing, it is best to not buy cheap or poor quality life jacket. However, some great life jackets costs as little as $60 so there are great priced options for every sailor's budget.

When choosing a great life jacket for sailing, it is vey important to only choose life jackets that are safe and meet the proper safety standards.

Typically, a buyer should only buy a life jacket that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard or Transport Canada.

Typically, a life jacket that is approved by these government bodies will have a label inside the life jacket with a mark labeled "U.S.C.G. Approved" or "T.C. Approved". Also, only purchase a life jacket from reputable retailers.

The size and comfort of the sailing life jacket is another factor to consider before buying it.

Sizing for life jackets can be different than sizing for other clothing items so make sure to read the sizing chart of the life jacket to get the perfect measurement for your specific body size.

A buyer will need to choose a life jacket that fits their own body dimensions. A properly fitted life jacket will ensure maximum efficiency when sailing. A properly fitted life jacket will also be more comfortable to wear.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Sailing Life Jackets

Below are the most commonly asked questions about the top sailing life jackets.

What Are The Top Sailing Life Jacket Brands?

The top sailing life jackets brands are:

  • O' Neill's
  • Helly Hansen

How Much Do Top Sailing Life Jackets Cost?

The best life jackets for sailing cost between $25 and $140.

How Much Does The Cheapest Top Sailing Life Jacket Cost?

The cheapest top sailing life jacket is the Coleman Stearns Adult Classic Series Life Jacket which costs $25.

How Much Does The Most Expensive Top Sailing Sailing Life Jacket Cost?

The most expensive top sailing life jacket is the Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket which costs approximately $100 to $140.

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The 14 Best Inflatable Life Vests for 2024

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Absolute Outdoor Onyx Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Wacool Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Mustang Survival Khimera

Ian Fortey

When the weather turns hot, you want to hit the beach. Boating, fishing, paddle boarding and more, all need to be done safely. If you don’t like the bulk of a typical PFD, then inflatable life jackets are a great option. Let’s check out some of the best inflatable life vests on the market.

The Absolute Outdoor inflatable life jacket from Onyx is one of the best. If an emergency arises, you can inflate it with the easy to pull handle. However, it’s also set up for automatic inflation as well. When you hit the water wearing this vest, the CO2 cartridge will inflate. That’s going to give you 22.5 pounds of buoyancy, which is enough for almost anyone.

The harness design is simple and comfortable. It’s lightweight, and it doesn’t constrict your movement. Be careful with some of the straps around the chest and groin area, however. If not put on right, it can become uncomfortable. The crotch strap in particular can bind.

Onyx recommends this only be used by people who are over 16 years of age or 80 lbs in weight. So this is definitely not one for the kids. It is U.S. Coast Guard approved type III Performance. You’ll need to keep this on you all the time when you’re on the water. If you don’t wear it all the time, you’ll need to have another approved PFD.

  • Buy on Amazon   →
  • Buy on Walmart   →

Onyx M16 Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

When you want an unobtrusive inflatable life vest, this is one of the best you will find. It provides a lightweight alternative to many bulkier inflatable vests. You need to manually inflate the vest by pulling the cord. Once inflated with the CO2 canister, you have 17 lb of buoyancy. That’s on the low end of the spectrum for most inflatable life vests. That said, there’s also an oral inflation tube. When you use that you can boost the buoyancy up to 26.5 lb.

Once it’s been used, it’s fairly easy to get the life vest back in the belt. It rolls up simple and you can stash it away again. The M16 manual inflatable is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Just remember, because it’s manual, you’ll need to activate it yourself. That also means you need to pull it over your own head once you’re in the water. If you’re not a strong swimmer, this might not be a good idea for you.

The big selling point for this particular PFD is the convenience. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like having to wear a life vest all the time, this is a great alternative. If your boat trip goes smoothly, you never need to worry about it. But if something does happen, you have it right there when you need it. We recommend this for activities like paddle boarding or kayaking. Something where space is at a premium and you need freedom of movement. We think this is one of the best inflatable life jackets available.

Eyson Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

This automatic inflation / manual inflation life jacket is another good choice. And you can get it for a reasonable price. The automatic mechanism works thanks to a melting tablet built into the structure. The moment it becomes immersed in water this tablet dissolves. That will release has a pin on the CO2 canister. That immediately inflates the life jacket with CO2 gas in three to five seconds. Of course there’s also the manual option as well. You pull the tab and the same pin will set off a CO2 canister.

We are recommending Eyson because these are high-quality inflatable life jackets. But we do need to stress that they are not certified by the United States Coast Guard. So this can’t be your only flotation devices if you’re going boating in US Waters. That said, there’s definitely a lot of advantages to using one of these. It’s made from top-quality materials. It also features high quality reflective strips that’ll keep you visible in the dark. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and easy to adjust to any body size.

It comes with two tubes for oral inflation and reflective bands. It has one CO2 cylinder and the safety whistle is included as well. You are going to want to pay attention to sizes when you order one though. They tend to size these a little small so you may need a larger size than you think. Compared to similar vests on the market, the price point is pretty good here. Again, just remember this is not a Coast Guard approved life jacket.

The Wacool inflatable It’s a great low-cost option. It comes in several colors. It is ideal for snorkeling. There is an oral inflation tube included on the airbag. For the price, the construction is pretty solid. It should handle your flotation needs when you are snorkeling well. with a good quality snorkel mask and some fins, you can have a great day at the beach.

There’s one strap to secure it around your waist and one goes down the back to secure under the groin. This one can get a little uncomfortable if you don’t have it set right. Make sure you adjust it so that it’s comfortable when you’re swimming. If this one is in place, the vest is going to ride up on you when you’re in the water. That means it’s going to push against your snorkel which could get annoying.

When it’s uninflated, the life vest takes up very little room. It’s easy to store and carry with you when you’re travelling. This is a great option for those who want to snorkel but don’t have exceptional swimming skills. It provides enough buoyancy to keep you afloat and feeling safer in the water. Remember, however, that this is not a safety device. It’s not recommended for, or even designed for, being an actual PFD. We recommend this only for people who want to have a more enjoyable time snorkeling.

$18.99 Amazon  →

The Mustang Survival Khimera is a dual flotation PFD. This one is extremely unique in that it adds inflation plus standard flotation. There is foam inside of this life vest which can offer 7.5 lb of buoyancy on its own. Once you have inflated it you add another 12.5 lb of buoyancy. That gives you 20 lb total, which should be good enough for most people. The foam buoyancy gives you that stability you need to deploy the inflatable part. Unlike other manual vests, you would be less disoriented when you use this in the water. Because it also has the inflatable aspect, it’s smaller than a non inflatable vest. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds.

The adjustable belt ensures that this fits all body types. Mustang recommends users be over 90 lb if they’re going to wear the life vest, however. The low profile design here makes it ideal for active people. It shouldn’t get in your way when you’re boating or doing any water sports.

We recommend this one for people who aren’t super confident swimmers. Many typical manual inflation vests require solid swimming abilities. You need to pull the cord and then slip the vest over your own head. If you’re not a good swimmer, this could be very dangerous. Mustang’s design means you’ll be floating thanks to the foam inserts already. You’ll have the time to orient yourself and pull the cord to inflate.

Another added bonus is that this is incredibly brightly colored. It’s almost impossible to miss this thing in the water.

  • Buy on Bass Pro   →

Scubapro Inflatable Snorkeling Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The Scubapro inflatable snorkeling vest is ideal for maintaining buoyancy when snorkeling. You need something that can keep you afloat. It also needs to give you the ability to keep your head under the water so you can see what you’re doing. That’s where a snorkeling vest differs from a typical life jacket. Anytime you see a snorkeling vest, it’s not a life-saving personal flotation device. So you need to keep that in mind when you see one of these.

If you do need an inflatable vest that can help us scuba diving, this one is easy to use and looks great as well. It has an oral inflator so you can increase volume as necessary. It’s also good about keeping your back covered and out of the sun. Just keep your eye out for how it’s secured on your body. The vest does have a tendency to move up your body when you are swimming with it. You’ll find yourself pulling it down to a more comfortable position.

We recommend the Scubapro vest for people who want to have a boost when snorkeling. If you like to get out on the water but aren’t confident in your swimming skills, this is a good option. Just remember this is not a personal flotation device. This should never stand in as a substitute for any kind of life-saving device. That’s not what it’s designed to do. It won’t offer the buoyancy needed to keep someone afloat in a dangerous situation. And it also doesn’t offer the head support that will keep you upright.

 Amazon  →

Bluestorm Gear Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The Blue Storm Gear Cirrus 26 inflatable life jacket is a great, low-profile life vest. The harness look is discrete and doesn’t get in your way. When you pull the cord to inflate, it expands quickly and smoothly. This is a U.S. Coast Guard approved type III performance inflatable life jacket. It will inflate automatically once it hits the water. And the pull cord manual inflation works as a backup. Once it is fully inflated there is an oral inflation tube as well.

The company recommends this for anyone over the age of 16. It can fit users with a chest up to 56 inches. If you’re towards the higher end of that scale, proceed with caution, however. It says it can handle 56 inches but that will probably be pretty tight. A person with a larger body type may want to check out a different option. We have some larger recommendations.

You’re going to get 26 pounds of buoyancy as well, which should keep you very comfortable floating. The jacket itself is very comfortable to wear. It doesn’t have a lot of bulk to get in your way and make you feel confined. The mesh fabric also allows for good airflow. So if you’re on the boat and then it gets hot, this isn’t going to make you sweat too badly.

  • $139.99 Walmart   →

Eyson Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

The Eyson Inflatable life Jacket is another nice streamlined design. It’s top quality for an automatic inflatable life jacket. The harness and straps are simple and to the point. It’s designed to automatically inflate once you get into some water. And it has the option for manual inflation as well.

The CO2 cartridge responds quickly once you go overboard. You’re looking at full inflation in about 3 seconds. The back supports your neck so that your head stays above water. There’s also an oral inflation tube in case you need to increase air to add buoyancy.

The size of this life vest is pretty diverse. The adjustable straps and shoulder straps can handle up to a 62 in chest. That means most people should be able to wear this life jacket comfortably. Just make sure you’re fastening the belts properly so that it sits comfortably on your body. Watch that adjustable crotch strap as well.

Once deployed, the airbag has some extra safety features on it. There’s a rescue strap so that you can be pulled into a boat. They’re also reflective strips so that you can be seen in the darkness. And it has a safety whistle attached so the person wearing it can signal for help. That’s a great touch that most other life vests don’t include.

The company puts these through rigorous testing. They’ve actually kept people in the water wearing these for over 24 hours to make sure they can last.

There’s one thing that you need to be aware of before looking into buying this particular life vest. It’s approved for use in Europe and China. However, it has not been approved by the US Coast Guard. That means that this is considered a reliable life jacket. But it’s not suitable for boating in the United States. The Coast Guard will not recognize this as a proper personal flotation device.

$69.99 Amazon  →

Stearns Boating Stole

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

One of the best things about the Stearns inflatable life vest is the appearance. You’ll notice most of these life jackets are extremely brightly colored. Obviously that’s a safety feature for when you’re on a boat and go overboard. But not every inflatable life vest needs to be designed for boating in the open ocean. This is a great vest for fishing. A good automatic vest should be a part of your fishing gear if you do kayak fishing. If you want some added safety, this one from Stearns is great.

Available in camouflage, the Stearns inflatable life jacket is lightweight and unobtrusive. Under 2 lb, you’ll barely notice you have it on. The camo pattern won’t make you stand out like other life jackets when you’re casting your line, either. It’s automatically inflatable once it hits the water. Of course there’s also the manual option by pulling the ripcord. The harness like design gives your arms lots of freedom of movement. You won’t feel like you’re being restricted when casting your rod. It’s US Coast Guard approved, so you can rest assured that it will keep you afloat and safe if you need it. Some anglers feel a standard life jacket is too bulky. And most life jackets look too bright. So Stearns may offer the best life vest for you. It’s the perfect life jacket for a fisherman who wants that extra safety.

NRS Zephyr Inflatable Life Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

If you’re a fan of something like stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking, check out the NRS Zephyr. It’s another inflatable belt style life jacket. It’s extremely easy to use, putting it away as a breeze as well. The waist strap is wider than many so it won’t dig into your back when you have it on. It’s also well-padded. One of the smartest design features of the Zephyr is the pull strap that you use to inflate it. If you seen other belts you’ll notice it’s often set right in the middle. This makes sense from a design standpoint because it’s easily accessible. But from a practical standpoint it can be annoying. Especially if you’re kayaking, then the pull tab get stuck between your legs. There’s been more than one kayaker who pulled it by accident trying to get it out of the way. The Zephyr has it off to the side so you’re likely only to come in contact with it when you need it.

When you use a manual inflatable life jacket, you’re going to need to slip the inflated life jacket over your head. That means you need to be confident in the water before you invest in a PFD like this. If you’re not sure of your swimming skills, you don’t want to be fumbling with this and then securing on your body.

  • Buy on NRS   →

Mad Dog Inflatable Belt Pack

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Made for West Marine, the Mad Dog inflatable belt pack is small but effective. This inflatable life jacket only weighs one pound, so it’s easy to keep with you. The Mad Dog will manually inflate and comes with one CO2 cartridge. Just pull the cord and it inflates instantly. If the cord fails you can switch to the oral inflation backup method. When inflated, it has a typical life jacket look but it’s yellow as opposed to the blue belt.

This one has US Coast Guard approved type III performance. This is ideal if you find normal vests restrictive and uncomfortable. It’s very low key when you have it on. Remember, as a manual life jacket, this is less effective in emergency situations. If you get knocked overboard, you’ll need to be able to reach the cord to pull it. You also need to manually put it over your head after it’s been inflated. Because of that, you shouldn’t use this unless you have strong swimming skills.

Mustang Survival Auto PFD

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

With 26 lbs of buoyancy, the Mustang MIT 100 survival vest is a top quality choice. It’s one-size fits all so it should be versatile enough for most users. Just be careful when checking measurements. Larger or smaller body types may find it uncomfortable. Most people should be fine, though.

As with any good life vest, this one is US Coast Guard approved. Automatic inflation triggers within 10 seconds of being in the water. Once inflated, the life jacket is self-righting. You shouldn’t have to worry about going under once the canister inflates the jacket.

Mustang is good about making comfortable and high quality inflating life jackets. Even on a hot day this won’t make you feel gross. That’s something you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever been in a sticky, hot life jacket before.

Overall, this is a lightweight jacket. It doesn’t feel like it gets in your way, either.

  • $169.99 Bass Pro   →
  • $299.99 Walmart   →

Mustang Survival Work Vest

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Another Mustang Survival Corp product, the Survival Work Vest is ideal for workers. If you’re putting in hours on a boat, you need a reliable life vest. Their work vest is bright orange like a traditional safety vest you’ll see on a construction worker. It also offers up to 35 lbs of buoyancy. That should be enough to keep a 700 lb human afloat.

The bright orange color adds increased visibility. So do the reflective tape patches. This is key in case of a man overboard situation. It makes use of hydrostatic inflator technology. That means it can handle normal rain and spray with no trouble. Once it becomes immersed in water it will go off, though.

Because this is also a work vest, it’s not bulky or constricting. There’s a lot of freedom and movement here. But at the same time it closes surprisingly securely. Don’t worry about this coming undone or slipping off. It’s also comfortable in high heat or humidity. This is the best inflatable life jacket for serious work on the water.

Namsam Dog Life Jacket

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Let’s face it, you’re not the only one who’s going swimming. Many of us enjoy taking our dogs out on the water. And as great as dogs can be at swimming, they need to be kept safe, too. The Namsam dog inflatable life jacket is a great option. If a traditional life jacket for your dog is a little too bulky, then this version just might do the trick.

There’s a leash loop on the back and it hooks underneath like a traditional harness. Velcro straps will ensure your pup doesn’t slip out. There’s an inflatable bladder inside to add buoyancy. It’s perfect for dogs of any size. Make sure you check their measurements chart to make sure it’ll fit. We found the small wasn’t really ideal for a very small dog. If you have a teacup anything, like a very small chihuahua, this may not work. That said, it should comfortably fit most other dogs.

When the bladder is deflated, the vest rolls up easily. It can be stored just about anywhere so no worry about it taking up space.

Things to Remember About Inflatable Life Vests

Not all life vests are created equally. Some of them are intended for snorkeling and not necessarily life-saving purposes. Not all inflatable life jackets inflate the same way either. Some inflatable life jackets will expand automatically. Other kinds of life jackets are inflated manually. You’ll need to make sure you look at all of the information before you can pick the one that is right for you.

Inflatable Life Jacket Buoyancy

The buoyancy of an inflatable life jacket is obviously an important factor. When see ratings on inflatable life jackets can be hard to understand at first. For instance, you may come across a life jacket that says it offers 15 pounds of buoyancy. If you weigh 190 lb, how does that help you? You need to understand how buoyancy works. this will allow you to buy the correct inflatable life jacket to meet your needs.

The first thing you need to remember about buoyancy is that you are mostly made of water. People are inherently buoyant. The human body is around 80% water. Since water doesn’t sink in water, you don’t need to calculate that weight. That leaves you at 20% of your waste in terms of calculating buoyancy. However, it doesn’t end there. Another 15% of the average human body is fat. That actually floats in water. That means you don’t need to calculate that late either.

If we use a 200 lb man as an example we can calculate the buoyancy needed in an inflatable life jacket.

  • 200 lb x 80% water equals 160. That means 160 lb of water that we don’t need to factor into our buoyancy equation.
  • 200 lb x 15% fat equals 30. That’s another 30 pounds of fat that you don’t need to worry about.
  • 160 + 30 equals 190. 200 – 190 equals 10. That means you need to keep 10 lb of your body floating in the water.
  • So what you need is inflatable life vest that offers 10 lb of buoyancy. Now when you look at a life vest that says it has 15 pounds of buoyancy, you know it can keep you afloat.

This calculation isn’t one hundred percent perfect, of course. For instance, if you are a very physically fit person the numbers will be skewed. Unfortunately, the lower body fat you have, the less buoyant you are. So if you have a low percentage of body fat you’ll need the higher rated life jacket. For instance, if you have 10% body fat at 200 times. That’s going to give you an extra 10 lb of weight in the water. That means a life jacket rated at 15 lb will no longer do. You’ll need to get one rated for 20 pounds of buoyancy.

Most inflatable life jackets offer higher buoyancy than on inflatable life jackets. This is the result of the CO2 canisters that are included. Often you will get over 30 pounds of buoyancy. That is usually enough to keep most people afloat. Always double-check before you put on a life jacket, however.

We recommend that you get an inflatable life vest that provides 22 pounds of buoyancy at a bare minimum. If you plan on hitting rough waters, that needs to increase. At this point you’ll want to have at least 33 lb of buoyancy.

Inflatable Life Vest Use

How you intend to use your inflatable life jacket greatly affects which one will work best for you. If you’re doing some serious work on a boat like a commercial fisherman, you want a reliable life vest. If you’re just spending an afternoon snorkeling, you may not need something as intense.

There are inflatable snorkeling vests that look very similar to inflatable life jackets. We’ve recommended a couple above. An inflatable snorkeling vest is not an inflatable PFD. Inflatable snorkeling vests are not always intended to be life-saving devices. Instead, they are marketed as assistive devices for snorkeling. They provide limited buoyancy to make your snorkeling experience more fun. In an emergency they should never be relied on for life-saving if they’re not advertised as such.

You need to read product descriptions when you’re shopping for inflatable life vests. You’re going to find very often that snorkel vests are included with life vests all the time. The distinction is often not pointed out very clearly either. Make sure you’re looking for something that has a specific buoyancy listed. And ideally it will be certified by the US Coast Guard as well. Look for the word snorkel in the description. If you see it, it’s safe to assume that this is not designed to be a life-saving flotation device.

Keep in mind that automatic life vests could cause problems. It all depends on what you’re doing. For instance, if you are a kayaker, odds are you’re going to get wet. Some automatic life jackets have dissolving mechanisms. These will set the CO2 canister off when they are exposed to salt water. This would be very impractical. Make sure you are catering your life jacket to what you need it for. A self inflating life jacket that goes off when you get splashed is not helpful.

Size Restrictions for Inflatable Life Jackets

We have already addressed how buoyancy is calculated for an inflatable life jacket. You need to make sure you are paying attention to these numbers. If you wear an inflatable life vest that’s not designed for your weight, it won’t work. Likewise, many inflatable life vests are designed for people of a certain height and size. That is why there are typically children sizes and adult sizes. A child may be too small to properly make use of an adult size inflatable life vest. When the vest inflates it will not be able to float them correctly. So it may slip off entirely, or cause them to float incorrectly in the water. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where the life vest is actually forcing you face down in the water.

Make sure you check size restrictions before using any inflatable life vest.

Inflation Style

There are two ways that inflatable life jackets inflate. You can get an automatic inflatable life jacket, or a manual life vest. Manual inflatable life jackets require the user to get them inflated. That means pulling a manual inflation cord to release the CO2 canister. It can also mean using a tube to blow it up yourself. Obviously, both of these require you to be upright and awake in the water. If you were to get knocked overboard in a serious accident, then they may not be helpful at all.

if you are out sailing in the boom where to hit you in the head and knock you out, what then? Manual inflatable life jackets would offer no protection. That is why self inflating life jackets are often preferred. The force of falling in the water will cause these to go off. They inflate and provide buoyancy whether you are awake or not.

Some inflatable life jackets offer minimal buoyancy before inflation. This is a nice, extra layer of security. They do tend to be bulkier because they will have foam flotation panels in them already.

The way your inflatable life jacket fits is important. The way the straps fit on your body and how comfortable it is need to be considered. Some life jackets can pull very tight and certain parts of the body. When they inflate, this can become even more uncomfortable. Whenever possible you should try out an inflatable life jacket before buying it. If that’s not an option, make sure you’re checking the reviews.

This is especially true if you’re buying life jackets for people with larger body types. That also applies to smaller body types. If it’s not what’s considered “average” then it may offer an uncomfortable fit. The best bet is to find ones that are highly adjustable. One-size-fits-all life jackets are usually not a good idea.

USCG Certification

If you go to Amazon right now you could find hundreds of different kinds of inflatable life vests. Many inflatable life jackets of them look extremely similar. But it’s worth knowing that not every inflatable life jacket out there is created equally as we have said. Some of these are rated for use in Europe, for instance. The United States Coast Guard has not actually OK’d them as a life-saving device in the United States. You will come across PFDs that have not been certified by the United States Coast Guard. Don’t bother using them without backup.

Many of these will be cheaper than certified flotation devices. It will likely confirm this. somewhere in the description. Something to let you know it’s just meant as a snorkeling vest, or a recreational device. It’s not worth your time buying one if it’s not able to actually do the job you need it to do. Always make sure that your life jacket is USCG certified if you need it for boating.

We have recommended two life vests by Eyson above. These can’t be used as personal flotation devices when boating according to Coast Guard regulations. But they are well-made products so we do recommend them for other purposes.

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My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.

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BLUESTORM Stratus 35 Inflatable Life Jacket PFD for Adults | US Coast Guard (USCG) Approved Automatic Self Inflating Life Vest Preserver with Manual Ripcord

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BLUESTORM Stratus 35 Inflatable Life Jacket PFD for Adults | US Coast Guard (USCG) Approved Automatic Self Inflating Life Vest Preserver with Manual Ripcord

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About this item.

  • US COAST GUARD-APPROVED TYPE-II PFD: This USCG-approved Type 2 life jacket inflates automatically upon water immersion via a replaceable CO2 cylinder (includes 1 cylinder with purchase) or manually with a pull of the “jerk to inflate” cord or back-up oral inflation tube.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT & COMFORTABLE: Perfect for paddleboarding, fishing, sailing, kayaking, angling, boating, and other water activities. This life vest's ultra-breathable soft polyester collar wicks moisture away from the neck and provides comfort without chaffing; 2” wide waist belt and large adjustment slider ensure a secure, comfortable fit for all-day wear.
  • LARGE EASY-ACCESS ZIPPERED FRONT POCKET: Great for storing sunglasses, fishing pliers, licenses, sunscreen during boating, fishing, kayaking, sailing, angling and other on-the-water activities.
  • SIZING INFORMATION: Dual side adjusters ensure a universal and snug fit for most adults. Recommened for chest sizes between 30" and 56". The Stratus 35 will generally fit those who wear adult size small, medium, large, XL, or XXL.
  • 2.5X HIGHER MINIMUM BUOYANCY: The Stratus 35 offers an outstanding 36 lbs of buoyancy, a 2.5x higher rating than Type 3 foam vest life jackets.

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BLUESTORM Stratus 35 Inflatable Life Jacket PFD for Adults | US Coast Guard (USCG) Approved Automatic Self Inflating Life Ves

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Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

Customers say

Customers like the ease of use, weight, and quality of the personal flotation device. They mention it's comfortable, easy to set up, and light weight. Some are happy with inflated, appearance, and performance. That said, opinions are mixed on fit.

AI-generated from the text of customer reviews

Customers find the personal flotation device easy to use. They mention that it fits well, is comfortable, and is easy to set up. Some appreciate the quality and fit of the product. Overall, most recommend the product for its ease of use and value for money.

"Easy on and off. Very comfy . Adjustable. I'm 145 lbs so med fit me." Read more

"...and the belt version this vest fits the best and is the most comfortable to wear , easy adjustability goes on just like a jacket and one buckle chest..." Read more

"Very reliable and quality construction! Super comfortable , like wearing next to nothing. The customer service is by far, second to none!..." Read more

"This style makes siting in the bass boats seats so much more comfortable . Hardly know it’s on me...." Read more

Customers are satisfied with the quality of the personal flotation device. They mention that it's well-made, reliable, and sturdy. The material used is heavy gauge and the construction is top quality for the price.

"...A+ customer service. The life jackets are high quality too, of course. I will always be a customer of these folks they are great." Read more

"I have not used it yet, but looks well made ." Read more

" Very reliable and quality construction! Super comfortable, like wearing next to nothing. The customer service is by far, second to none!..." Read more

"...non-profit conservation work, and discovered that the quality of the build is much better than some of our more expensive name brand inflatables...." Read more

Customers like the weight of the personal flotation device. They say it's light weight and not bulky.

" No more bulky life vest !" Read more

"...Allows plenty freedom of movement. Very light weight. No bulk on my back bring alot of comfort when kayak fishing for few hours.havent needed it to..." Read more

" Very light and comfortable. (Even for guy with a larger than average belly) I forget it’s on until I need something out of the zippered pocket...." Read more

"...Also it felt too heavy for me . I was informed that it was NOT RETURNABLE! So disappointed! I had to purchase another type." Read more

Customers appreciate the value of the personal flotation device. They say the replacement C02 cartridges are inexpensive and easy to find.

"...And Bluestorm's price is even better !..." Read more

"...Super easy access to emergency pull cord , light weight and affordable . Right on!!" Read more

"...Inflated with no issues, and was easy to repack. Replacement C02 cartridges are inexpensive and easy to find. Highly recommend!" Read more

" Good value for the money ; comfortable easy to use." Read more

Customers like the inflated personal flotation device. They say it works two ways, it self-inflates if it hits the water, or it can be manually inflated. They also say it inflate fast and has good buoyancy. Customers also love that the jacket can inflat automatically or manually, and that oral inflation is an option.

"...4 breaths and this vest was fully inflated and highly visible. Made hunting for my paddle feel much safer...." Read more

"...It inflates fast and has good buoyancy. There’s even a pouch to store an extra co2 canister, which is convenient...." Read more

"...Suitable for a grown-up!(2) It worked two ways: It self-inflates if it hits the water, or it can be manually inflated...." Read more

"...I love that the jacket can inflate automatically or manually . If I care to just swim in it, I can remove the canister and orally inflate...." Read more

Customers are satisfied with the appearance of the personal flotation device. They mention that it is well designed and great looking.

" Very nice ! This was one of the more expensive life vests, but I chose this vest because(1) It was black, not neon stripes or wild colors...." Read more

" Well designed . Sturdy wide webbing. Easy to open and refold. Nice features include the pouch for spare CO2 cylinder and the zippered pocket...." Read more

"Got these for the bass boat and love them. High quality and great looking " Read more

" Nice looking , light weight, great price." Read more

Customers are satisfied with the performance of the personal flotation device. They mention that it works great.

" Works great !..." Read more

" Great Product + Super Service..." Read more

" This thing works great !..." Read more

" Great product ..." Read more

Customers have mixed opinions about the fit of the personal flotation device. Some like how it fits and the weight is manageable, while others say it's too big for them and the pocket could be a bit larger to hold a PLB. They also mention that the device is not adjustable in length and is not returnable to Amazon.

"...Wide belt around ribs is nice as it doesn't easily twist. Enough room is around the neck to not interfere with head movements or comfort." Read more

"...And the pocket could be a bit larger to hold a PLB." Read more

"Fortunately, I have not had to use it. However, it fits good and very light weight to wear." Read more

"I like how it fits and the weight is manageable. Also like the options of employment!" Read more

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Life Jacket with Harness reviews/recommendations

  • Thread starter rgranger
  • Start date Jul 28, 2020
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors


Spinlock Deckvest 5D Pro Sensor


Offshore Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket with Harness, Blue | West Marine


Ultimate Sail Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket with Harness & Leg Straps | West Marine


EP 38 Ocean Racing Hydrostatic Inflatable Vest


dlochner said: Under certain conditions falling overboard with a harness and tether is a death sentence. The problem is once overboard the harness tows the body (and it will soon be a body) in such a manner so as to drown the person. Take a look at some of the videos on this website: VIDEOS See our latest videos for FAQ sessions, products testing and reviews and behind the scenes footage from the TeamO office. www.teamomarine.com I was convinced, bought 2 of them. Click to expand

Given that the OP is single handed sailing, the harness tether need to be really short to always keep him inside the lifelines. Fixed clip points and double tethers are probably better than a jack line for the same reason. Mobility on deck will be very slow but once over the side, there’s no way to get back. If he did go over the side, best to cut the tether and hope a PLB or AIS MOB brings help in time. But to be honest, unless you are young and strong with an experienced racing crew with the manpower to recover you, falling overboard is rarely survivable offshore.  


I use a west marine offshore auto inflatable vest with built in stainless rings. Has held up well over many years with annual inspections including 24 hour inflation test, changing bobbin, & weighing cartridge.  


I have a Revere for nearly 2 decades. The stitching around the neck irritates my skin. I had my wife add some soft material there to cushion. So, I think you should try on the ones your interested in. Comfort counts because you'll be wearing it a lot. I just bought a tether for a recent trip. I was tempted to get the two tethers (One short and one longer) but thought it would be too cumbersome and a possible danger of getting caught on something. When I want a smaller tether I would double it around whatever I hook it too. Someone, on this recent trip had a double tether and it seemed to work well. He would attach both on opposing structure, with his body in the middle. He couldn't go too far. I think I would buy the double having seen that. Oh, and I took the strobe off since it kept activating inadvertently.  

shemandr said: Oh, and I took the strobe off since it kept activating inadvertently. Click to expand
srimes said: Similar situation here, and I went with the Mustang ocean racing. It's USCG rated (many aren't), comes with leg straps and a spray hood. EP 38 Ocean Racing Hydrostatic Inflatable Vest This over-the-head entry automatic inflatable PFD has a low-profile chassis designed for the open ocean with safety features such as an integrated spray hood, PLB storage and tether point. mustangsurvival.com I went with the kong double tether, and I like it. Kong Double Line ORC Tether Make sure your jackline and tether combo keep you ON the boat! Click to expand


Jackdaw said: Use the KONG ORC double tether . Pretty much the state of the art in such things. Click to expand


Jackdaw said: I've been a huge fan of the SpinLock Deckvest for years; I'm on my third. Offshore model with the HAMMAR hydro-static inflator, it will not 'pop' when splashed, ever. Use the leg-straps always, and inspect every year. I will not go offshore without it. Click to expand
jssailem said: It is my go to vest. Extremely comfortable. Only issue is, when I bought it 3 years ago it was not CG approved. Meets all of the Euro inflation safety regs. Suspects the Brits chose not to spend the money to go through the CG quals. So I keep a couple of Mustang "Hammar Hydro-static inflator" PDF's on board for inspection. Click to expand

pogo jacklines.jpg

Whatever vest you choose, I would make sure it has a pocket to hold a hand held radio. The clips on hand held radios are not strong enough to keep clipped to the vest and fall off frequently.  

Scott T-Bird

Scott T-Bird


Scott T-Bird said: I have a Spinlock 5D 170N Prosensor for myself I didn't want the weight of the 275N. I also have 3 Deckvest LIte models for the boat. I use Deckvest Lite most of the time in the bay. I should get a new 6D for Sue now that she is going outside the inlet, but she won't even wear the Deckvest Lite. I am curious about one of my Deckvest Lite models that had not even been out of the package case. I found it this winter with the inflation tubes outside but not inflated. I don't remember it being packaged that way. I blew it up manually and it held air, so I don't think it auto-inflated and then lost air. I think I would have noticed it. In any case, I re-packaged it and thought to test it in the water. I don't know if I have to re-arm it or not. I don't know how to tell. Click to expand


CarlN said: Given that the OP is single handed sailing, the harness tether need to be really short to always keep him inside the lifelines. Fixed clip points and double tethers are probably better than a jack line for the same reason. Click to expand
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A man tests an inflatable life jacket

Inflatable Life Jackets Make the Grade

Foundation findings #30 - may 1998, after more than a decade on boating's most-wanted list, u.s. coast guard approved manual inflatable life jackets are now available and coming on the market in earnest..

This means that recreational boaters can now meet federal life jacket carriage requirements with reliable, comfortable and "wearable" equipment that could have a significant impact in reducing boating fatalities.

The parts of a re-arming kit.

Coast Guard statistics show that over 75% of all boating fatalities result from a person falling overboard and drowning. BoatUS has been pushing for federal approval and widespread production of moderately-priced inflatable life jackets because the Association is concerned that many boaters who would not wear bulky life jackets will choose to wear these lightweight and compact devices.

Since most boaters will not be able to try out an inflatable before they make a selection, the BoatUS Foundation decided to conduct in-the-water tests on an array of the readily available devices. What follows is their report on what these devices are really like in actual use.

New / Old Technology

Unlike the familiar inherently buoyant Coast Guard-approved vest or yoke-style life jackets, inflatables use a carbon dioxide (CO2) cylinder to blow up an air bladder with the tug of a lanyard. The bladder, which in most devices encircles the neck, is cinched to the torso with straps and keeps the user's head and mouth above water once inflated.

6 types of life jackets available.

Although inflatable life jackets have been widely used on military and commercial aircraft for over 50 years, and have been common on recreational vessels in Europe for a couple of decades, the Coast Guard stamp of approval only came in September, 1996.

This isn't to say that life jackets that inflate with a CO2 cylinder weren't on the market in the U.S. They were. A number of companies have been producing inflatable life jackets for some time and foredeck crews on ocean racing yachts have used inflatables for years. But they were not Coast Guard approved and could not count toward federal carriage requirements.

Taking the Test

This Foundation Findings test was limited to manually-activated life jackets which inflate by pulling a lanyard. Since life jackets that inflate automatically upon immersion are not yet Coast Guard approved, we did not include them in our test.

We compared seven inflatables from four manufacturers in both calm and rough water conditions. All seven were Coast Guard Type III life jackets.

Inherently buoyant Type III's, the familiar vest-style life jackets intended for supervised activities where help is near at hand, must provide a minimum of 15.5 pounds of buoyancy. Inflatable Type IIIs, however, must have at least 22.5 pounds of buoyancy and all our test models exceeded that standard.

For our calm water testing we used a hotel swimming pool. And for the rough water tests, we used the wave pool at Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Fl, hosted by Wayne Mitchell, Disney's senior safety administrator and a member of the National Safe Boating Council.

We knew going in that all of the life jackets met Coast Guard certification standards. They should inflate on demand, float the average adult with the head out of the water and turn most people face-up.

While we did measure performance characteristics like inflation time,we were most concerned with some of the more subtle characteristics of approved manual inflatables.

Are they easy to put on and adjust? Are they comfortable to wear in normal boating activity? How do they feel when worn inflated in the water? And, very important, we wanted to find out how easy it is to rearm each model after discharge and repack it to its ready state.

For testing, we selected two models of SOSpenders, a Stearns Model 1131, a Kent Air-N-Float and the Mustang AirForce. To that we added a fishing vest-style inflatable and a belt pack unit, both by Stearns. And for comparison, we brought along three conventional Coast Guard approved inherently buoyant life jackets in Types I, II, and III.

Performance Factors

An inflatable life jacket properly adjusted and fully activated is tough to beat when it comes to keeping you afloat and safe. All the inflatable achieved fully deployed status within the five seconds called for in the Coast Guard standards.

In the calm water test, we used a 220 pound male, a boater who is familiar with inflatables and a good swimmer. (Inflatables are not recommended for non-swimmers and are not approved for children and people who weigh less than 90 pounds.)

We measured the freeboard between the water and the subject's nose (see graph) the face angle, the angle at which the device held the subject's head relative to the surface of the water.

In addition, we measured turning moment, the time required for each unit to turn our test subject from face-down in the water to a face-up position with mouth and nose clear of the water.

With the exception of inflation rate, we compared these performance factors against the inherently buoyant life jackets. The bulky but dependable Type I offshore life jacket has always offered the most protection and it became the bellwether for our comparisons.

In the turning moment test, the inflatables as a group performed better than the inherently buoyant life jackets with an average time of 4.5 seconds. (The Coast Guard standard is 6.5 seconds for 80% of users) By comparison, the inherently buoyant Type I turned our test subject over in 6 seconds.

In the face angle test, the inflatables floated our subject from 55 degrees to 35 degrees as measured from the water's surface behind the head. There is no Coast Guard face angle standard for Type III inflatables but with the Type I inherently buoyant life jacket our subjects' face angle measured 40 degrees.

For good measure, we added a jump test with arms overhead and each device in the ready position. All stayed on our subject as originally adjusted and each deployed as expected when the subject triggered the devices from a few feet below the surface.

Rough Water Tests

For rough water testing at the wave pool, we used three certified life guards from the Disney World staff, Andy Powell, Elaine Benson, and Rusty Tillman. (They were particularly interested in our tests since all three are also patrol boat operators on Disney World's Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.)

It was here that we got the most insight into the "user friendliness" of inflatables as all three subjects, completely unfamiliar with the device, experienced some difficulty donning the jackets on shore for the first time.

In seas up to four feet, all inflatables proved more than adequate to keep the test subjects' heads above even cresting waves. Everyone was able to maintain a heads-up position with little difficulty.

3 test subjects in the wave pool get to experience how the inflatable pfd's perform in rough water.

Our three test subjects reported feeling as safe wearing any of the inflatables in the waves as they did wearing the bulkier Type I inherently buoyant life jacket.

In fact, the type III inherently buoyant vest-style life jacket proved the real eye-opener for our test crew who had to work hard treading water to keep their faces clear of the waves when using this device. When another test was conducted simulating an unconscious victim, those wearing the Type III inherently buoyant devices repeatedly sank well beneath the surface as the waves rolled over them.

The big surprise in the big waves was the belt pack. Quite naturally, our testers found this to be the most comfortable to wear in its ready position on land. Once activated and adjusted in the water, they all loved it.

Donning the belt pack is a two-step process. The pouch is strapped around the waist and a yank on the inflation lanyard deploys the bladder. The wearer, treading water, slips the inflated bladder over the head and adjusts the fit with a strap to the waist belt. While it may sound complicated, we found that it works surprisingly well.

Although we noted that wearers could place the bladder over the head backwards, with chest buckle and inflation tube against the body, each tester gave the belt pack high marks, It rated very comfortable in heavy seas when inflated, particularly since the waist belt tends to pull the bladder in to the body at a lower angle than the underarm straps of the conventional inflatables.

Rearm and Repack

Boaters who choose to rely on inflatables must be thoroughly familiar with rearming the CO2 inflator. Each device is rearmed the same basic way but you must follow the instruction with your unit carefully.

The seven models in our test used three different sized CO2 cartridges. We found that it is possible to arm an inflatable life jacket with the wrong cartridge which could result in only partial inflation.

A small green status indicator tab shears off when the lanyard is pulled, revealing a red indicator that shows the unit has been deployed. We strongly recommend you remove the spent cylinder and dispose of it as soon as possible after use to avoid confusion later.

Before screwing in a new cylinder, the inflation trigger must be in the closed position. The green tab is inserted through the arm to show that it is closed. (These tabs are too small and fragile, we thought, for large or cold fingers at work in heavy seas or in the dark.)

After use, each vest-style inflatable repacks into its exterior fabric shell rather simply by following the instruction diagrams attached to the inside of the jacket. The belt pack must be folded carefully, accordion-fashion, into its pouch. We found we could miss-fold it such that the bladder became twisted upon deployment and therefore would not deploy properly.

For all models, hook-and-loop tabs hold the folded shell in the ready state and, if done properly, the inflation lanyard handle will dangle just enough to be grasped.


As we expected, all the inflatable life jackets in our test met or exceeded the Coast Guard minimum standards. In the more subjective area of "user friendliness", we found all the inflatables easy to don and adjust, with a little practice, out of the water. But in the water, they are significantly harder to put on. In fact, our tester found it next to impossible to don the uninflated units while treading water, emphasizing that the point of using inflatables is to WEAR them on-board.

Some performance data concerning static freeboard.

Once inflated, we found the models with wider back straps more comfortable. Indeed, the thin straps on the Stearns 1131 quickly made our testers very uncomfortable. (In an emergency situation, however, comfort may be the last thing on your mind.)

Should you choose to equip your boat with this type of gear, we strongly recommend doing CO2 inflation "dress rehearsals" in the water with each member of your crew so they know how to don, adjust and activate their life jacket. that way they will not only know what to expect, they will gain confidence in the device. Investing in a few extra CO2 rearming kits would be money well spent.

All our testers agreed. If they had to drift around in the water, waiting for rescue, they would want to be wearing the bulky but tried-and-true, inherently buoyant Type I life jacket - but few boaters would want to wear a Type I in their everyday activities on the water. And now, at last, Coast Guard approved inflatables offer the boater an excellent option, superior performance in the water with a high comfort quotient on deck or in the cockpit.

But remember, inflatable life jackets are not fool-proof. They require more attention than inherently buoyant devices and you must be thoroughly familiar with their use. However, if you are willing to make the effort, the added buoyancy plus the "wearability" factor make inflatable life jackets an attractive safety option that could help deflate boating accident statistics--and maybe even save your life.

Infaltables Need Attention

Like every other piece of equipment on your boat, inflatable life jackets require periodic inspection and maintenance. The manufacturers recommend inspection by performing a leak test. Blow up the life jacket through the oral inflation tube and let it sit for 16 hours. IF there is air loss, it should be repaired professionally or replaced. (doing repairs yourself is ILLEGAL, and makes the life jacket subject to seizure.)

Remember to keep your inflatables in top condition.

Keep safe. Use a re-arming kit available through West Marine or other boating supply store and inspect your lifesaving gear before leaving the dock.

If the life jacket passes the leak test, check the straps, buckles and seams, and check the inflator mechanism to be sure it is properly armed with the correct CO2 cylinder. Unscrew the cylinder and inspect it as well as the inflator for damage and corrosion. Be sure to store the life jacket completely dried in a dry, well-ventilated place (and that may not be a locker on your boat).

For our testers, locating the firing lanyard and the oral inflation tube proved a minor problem a few times, particularly with the fishing vest. But that just points up the need to acquaint yourself, your crew and your guests with the nuances of inflatables.

Finally, every time you go out, make it a habit to check the status indicators to be sure the unit is ready. Even better, unscrew the CO2 cylinder to be absolutely certain the seal has not been pierced.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Life Jackets: Boating and Fishing Safety Guide

Hunter bland.

  • Jan 20, 2023

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

If you are going to be on the water regularly fishing, boating, kayaking, or even wading in current, having a good life jacket should be considered a necessity. Life jackets, life vests, personal floatation devices (PFD), or whatever you choose to call them, they are an import pieces of gear that every serious angler should own and keep up to par.

Here is a serious no-nonsense guide to not only choosing the best life jackets, but also how to wear them properly and maintain them so that they do their intended job when the time comes. So let’s take a look at choosing the best life jackets, and then let’s talk about the different kinds, different applications and how to maintain them to keep them in tip top shape.

How to Choose the Proper and Best Life Jacket

Selecting a life jacket can be a daunting task when visiting your favorite retail store to prepare for your next adventure on the water. Wearing a life jacket is the number one way to keep yourself safe around the water. The most important part of selecting a life jacket is finding one you’ll wear confidently and without hesitation.

When shopping for a life jacket ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What is my desired recreational activity or intended life jacket use?
  • What is the location of my water related activity?
  • Is the life jacket comfortable?
  • Does the life jacket fit correctly?
  • What level of buoyancy do I need?
  • What price point am I shopping for?

Honestly answering these questions will allow you to find the life jacket best suited for your needs. There are many different styles of life jackets such as: foam, dual flotation, inflatable (manual and automatic), hydrostatic inflatables, and belt packs. Each life jacket is designed with a specific range of activities in mind. For instance, an inherently buoyant foam life jacket has a broad range of uses like boating, fishing, kayaking, and tubing. On the other hand, a belt pack may be a great option for a paddle boarder, but not for an angler driving a bass boat.

adult life jacket

Adult Life Jackets

Most adults only need about 7-12 pounds of buoyancy to stay afloat and keep their heads above water. An adult selecting a life jacket should match the life jacket that meets their budget and desired water related activity. The key to selecting the right life jacket is finding one that is extremely comfortable, lightweight, and doesn’t limit your range of motion.

There are variety of life jackets on the market today. When selecting a life jacket think of it as selecting a new rod and reel setup. You have the choice to select a well-rounded option, or a more technique specific approach. For example, you can buy a good well-rounded combo that allows you to fish a variety of techniques – a foam life jacket. The other alternative is to shop based on a specific technique like crankbait fishing. This would be comparable to shopping for a life jacket specifically designed for the avid angler like a hydrostatic inflatable.

Keep in mind some of the intended uses of each like the following:

  • Fishing – Foam, Automatic inflatable, or hydrostatic inflatable
  • Kayaking – Dual flotation, Manual inflatable, belt pack, or foam
  • Paddle boarding – Manual inflatable, dual flotation, or belt pack

Use these sample intended uses of each life vest to help you select a life jacket for your specific needs. Below are a few of my top life jacket choices.

Author’s Recommendation for Life Jackets include the following:

  • Top Inflatable: Mustang Survival Elite 28
  • Budget Inflatable: Mustang Survival MIT 70 Automatic
  • Fishing Foam: Mustang Survival Accel 100
  • Kayaking: Khimera Dual Flotation

Wired2fish also recommends the following:

  • Onyx AM-24 All Clear – Buy at Bass Pro
  • O Neill Reactor – Buy at Walmart
  • NRS Chinook – Buy at Bass Pro
  • Astral E-Ronny – Buy at Bass Pro
  • Stearns Hybrid Fishing Paddling Life Jacket – Buy at Walmart

kids life vests

Kids Life Jackets

Although it can be difficult to get young children adjusted to the feeling of putting on a life jacket, it’s important that you select a life jacket that is sized properly. All children’s’ life jackets are sized based on body weight. The weight rating is located on the inside of the life jacket within the United States Coast Guard approval label. When purchasing a life jacket for a child – find one they feel comfortable in, are excited to wear, and one that doesn’t restrict their range of motion too much while maintaining a proper snug fit.

Depending on their age, look for added features like neck support and a grab handle for you to easily rescue them should they experience danger. Check your local rules and regulations for mandatory life jacket wear laws. I recommend always wearing a life jacket anytime you’re recreating on the water, especially young children. Create a positive environment for your children around wearing their life jacket. If possible, get them familiar with wearing it while attending activities like swim lessons. This will increase their overall water competency.

It’s important to note that the United States Coast Guard does not approve the use of inflatables for children under 16 years of age. Children under 16 should wear a comfortable properly fitting foam life jacket.

Best Budget Life Jackets

The main thing when selecting a life jacket is finding one that is comfortable and that you will confidently wear. Your safety should be a priority, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. If you are budgeting for a new life jacket the best affordable option is a good quality foam vest. Foam life jackets have very minimal upkeep and little to no maintenance. Foam life jackets are inherently buoyant which means no action is required to activate the flotation other than it being worn properly. Some models like the Mustang Accel 100 come with added features like a padded collar and zippered side pockets. I recommend not putting a price tag on your life but find the best possible option for your recreational activity in the price range you can afford.

rough water inflatable life vest

Best Inflatable PFDs

When selecting an inflatable life jacket consider the following:

  • Inflation Type – Manual vs Automatic vs Hydrostatic
  • Buoyancy Rating
  • Maintenance – Which re-arming kit will I need?

There are multiple different types of inflatables on the market today which include: belt packs, manual, automatic, and hydrostatic inflatables. Understanding the different types of inflation would allow you to better choose a life jacket suitable for your activity. For example, if you’re running at high rates of speed in a boat it’s not recommended to use a manual life jacket. If you find yourself in the water and unconscious there is no way to inflate the life jacket. If you’re selecting an inflatable the best choice would be an automatic or hydrostatic inflatable. A hydrostatic inflatable is activated by water pressure. The difference in pressures from air to water activate the inflator inside the life jacket. It roughly takes about 3-4 inches of submersion in the water to inflate a hydrostatic inflatable. However, this type of inflatable vest can be worn in the pouring down rain or humid environments while receiving no unwanted inflations.

When selecting an inflatable, you want to match your activity with the desired buoyancy rating. If you’re an avid angler fishing from a boat, then 28 pounds of buoyancy may be a good option to cover you for a wide variety of locations and situations. If you’re a kayaker or paddle boarder, then a lower rated inflatable with 15 1/2 pounds of buoyancy would cover most situations you may encounter.

Please note – inflatables must be worn on the outside of all clothing. You should not wear any type of jacket or outer layer on top of your inflatable. This defeats the purpose of the inflatable option.

Author’s Recommendations

Wired2fish’s Additional Recommendations

  • Onyx Tackle Warehouse AM-24 All Clear Inflatable PFD
  • NRS Matik Inflatable Life Jacket

Inflatable Vs Foam

There’s often a debate on which type of life jacket is the most suitable for you – foam vs inflatables. Often the debates are skewed due to lack of information on how each type of life jacket works. The fact is both an inflatable and foam life jacket WILL save your life when worn properly. A life jacket only serves it’s intended purpose when worn before you find yourself in the water. See the table below that compares foam life jackets vs inflatables.

It’s important to keep in mind your proximity to the water when selecting a life vest for kayaking . There’s the chance you may frequently have water splashed on you from paddling or enter the water on various occasions. An automatic inflatable option, when frequenting the water, would not be the best option due to having to purchase re-arm kits after every inflation.

If you find yourself entering the water while kayaking, and it’s a routine part of your excursion, you’d want to select a life jacket better suited for your needs like a kayaking specific foam life jacket, belt pack, or other options like the Khimera ( buy here ) dual flotation life jacket . Specific kayaking life jackets, like the dual flotation, combine an inherently buoyant life jacket with an additional manual inflatable built in. The manual inflatable is available to activate should you find yourself in a situation where you need a higher level of buoyancy.

Types of PFDs

  • Type I PFDs — are generally used when fishing offshore, when boating alone, in stormy conditions, or when a rescue may take a while. These PFDs are a bit bulky, but also have great buoyancy and will keep most unconscious people face up out of the water. You will find this type of PFD on commercial boats.
  • Type II PFDs — are usually less expensive and not as comfortable as a Type III. This type is not as bulky as a Type I and will turn some unconscious users to a face-up position in the water. This PFD does not perform very well in rough water and may require you to tread water in order to keep your head above water. Excellent to use in boating with smaller vessels.
  • Type III PFDs — are a good choice for most kayak anglers as there is a better chance for a timely rescue. They are comfortable and allow more movement for several hours of wear. These PFDs can help the angler put themselves in a face-up position by tilting their head back so they are not face down in the water. *Both the Type I, II, and III come in inherently buoyant, inflatable, or hybrid designs.
  • Type IV PFDs — are throwable devices for the conscious person having difficulty in the water and are a backup to a PFD.  This could be a buoyant cushion, or a life ring. These are not meant to be worn and are not required for smaller vessels like the kayak.
  • Type V PFDs — are specific devices that usually must be worn at all times to be approved. The label on the Type V PFD specifies the activity and may include kayaking, waterskiing, or windsurfing. This type of PFD comes in a hybrid or inflatable design. Some models feature a blow-tube to provide a back-up for inflation.

maintain life jackets and re arm when necessary

Maintaining Life Jackets

To increase the life expectancy of your life jackets store them in dry well vented places, do not leave them in direct sunlight for long periods of time. If they get saturated, make sure to dry them out before storing them. If your boat is in extended periods of storage, it’s recommended to remove your life jackets to prevent any unwanted mold or mildew impacting the durability of your product. Certain conditions like intense humidity can cause unwanted inflations on inflatables, so controlling your storage climate ensures longevity of the product.

With inflatable life jackets comes additional comfort, increased range of motion and higher levels of buoyancy. They also require greater responsibility and maintenance. It’s critical to always double check that your inflatable life jacket is properly armed before each use. Every inflatable has an indicator window to check the status of your life jacket. A “green” indicator symbolizes a properly armed inflator, and a “red” indicator symbolizes an inflator that is not armed properly. If you notice your life jacket is not armed properly, then you need to replace the internal inflator components using the correct re-arming kit, before using it. Inflatable life jackets will need to be rearmed after each inflation.

Replacing Life Jackets

The shelf life of foam is ultimately determined by the wear and tear the product receives from use. If you notice any damage to the fabric or foam after visually inspecting your foam life jacket, it’s time to replace that life vest to maintain the integrity of the product. On inherently buoyant life jackets, a life jacket where flotation does not need to be activated, it’s important to replace the unit when the flotation and structural integrity are impeded. Visibility in the water is also key if you were ever in a survival or rescue situation. If your life jacket becomes sun faded, replace it to maintain maximum visibility.


Inflatable life jackets require much more attention to detail. The internal inflation bladder and the outside shell of inflatable life jackets need to be inspected for wear and tear. If you notice any tears or damage to the inflation bladder than the unit needs to be replaced. The inflators have a shelf life of 3-5 years depending on the inflator type. Visually inspect your inflator to locate the expiration date. If you’ve reached the expiration date, make sure to purchase the correct re-arming kit before using the life jacket.

Each inflatable life jacket has a specific re-arming kit manufactured for that exact life jacket model. Consult the life jacket manufacturer’s website to find the re-arming kit you need. Often, they have a “ Re-Arm Kit Finder ” tab on their website to assist with your search. The correct re-arming kit is also stamped on the inside of the life jacket.

life jacket and kill switch hunter bland

Resources for Personal Floatation and Safety

The National Safe Boating Council is a great resource to brush up on all things boating safety. The Wear It Campaign focuses on making an international effort to boat safely and emphasize the importance of wearing a life jacket.

There are all different “types” and classifications of life jackets. To learn more on each specific type of life jacket you can visit Mustang Survival’s classification page, or learn more from these great resources available through the United States Coast Guard.

Remember, the most important thing is finding a life jacket that is comfortable, makes you feel confident, and one that you will wear anytime you’re recreating on the water. A life jacket is only useful when worn, so be prepared for the unexpected – Wear It.

About the Author, Hunter Bland

Hunter Bland is a National Boating Safety Ambassador and a BASS Opens professional angler. He became well known as the driver in the University of Florida Bass Team boating accident on Jan. 14, 2017 after their video went viral. This accident, however, sparked his passion for safe boating and ultimately changed his life.

In 2019, Bland was awarded the National Boating Industry Safety Award in the category “ Best Marine Marketing and Outreach ”, through his boating advocacy work with Yamaha Outboards. He is a member of the Life Jacket Working Group that helped draft the first ever National Water Safety Action Plan for the United States.

Bland was recently appointed by Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to the Boating Advisory Council . He serves as an ambassador for the National Safe Boating Council and a member of the Waves of Hope family . His goal is to continue to make the waterways a safer place by sharing his story across the country, and ultimately positively change behavior to eliminate all water related tragedies.

Hunter Bland

Hunter Bland is a National Boating Safety Ambassador and a Bassmaster Opens professional angler. He is widely known as the driver in the University of Florida Bass Team boating accident on Jan. 14, 2017 after their video went viral. This accident, however, sparked his passion for safe boating and ultimately changed his life. In 2019, Bland was awarded the National Boating Industry Safety Award in the category “Best Marine Marketing and Outreach”, through his boating advocacy work with Yamaha Outboards. He is a member of the Life Jacket Working Group that helped draft the first ever National Water Safety Action Plan for the United States. Bland was recently appointed by Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis to the Boating Advisory Council. He serves as an ambassador for the National Safe Boating Council and a member of the Waves of Hope family. His goal is to continue to make the waterways a safer place by sharing his story across the country, and ultimately positively change behavior to eliminate all water related tragedies.

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Best Inflatable Life Jackets (PFDs) For Kayak Fishing In 2024

Buyer’s Guide | Kayak Angler

A rcheologists believe prehistoric people used inflated animal bladders for flotation when wading across a swift river. So you could say inflatable life jackets have been around since the Stone Age. Today inflatable life jackets are more comfortable, versatile and reliable, not to mention they smell better than an air-filled goat stomach.

Light, compact and reliable, inflatable life jackets are popular with kayak anglers because the PFD doesn’t interfere with fishing, paddling or pedaling. In addition, in an emergency, inflatable life jackets provide life-saving flotation.

The best inflatable life jackets have an expandable air bladder folded into a protective cover. Pull a cord on the vest and a canister of compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) quickly inflates the air bladder like a balloon.

As a backup, every inflatable life jacket has a manual inflation tube. To repack the PFD, deflate the bladder, reset the trigger mechanism, and replace the CO2 canister.

Inflatable life jackets are available as a vest or a belt pack with manual or automatic activation. They don’t offer inherent floatation, so they are recommended for calm water within close range of rescue. Inflatables are not appropriate for paddlers under 16 years old and non-swimmers.

For information about an inflatable life jacket’s recommended use, check the large label on the inside of the life jacket.

a man lands a fish while wearing an orange kayak fishing life vest

Top Picks for the Best Inflatable Life Jackets

The following inflatable life jackets have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Kayak Angler Buyer’s Guide . See and review all inflatable kayak fishing life vests here .

Best Kayak Fishing Life Vests

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

M-24 Essential Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Airbelt 2.0

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

Classic Pro

Shop for an inflatable life jacket.

Follow the links below in to the Kayak Angler Buyer’s Guide where you’ll find every inflatable fishing PFD along with specs, prices, reviews and places to buy.

Shop by type

Shop by brand, shop by retailer, inflatable life jacket buying advice, types of inflatable life jackets.

There is an inflatable PFD for every kayak angler. Anglers who spend long hours on the water and venture far from shore use an inflatable vest. Belt pack inflatables are popular with standup paddleboarders looking for freedom of movement. Hybrid life vests combine foam for inherent floatation with an inflatable bladder for extra buoyancy.

What Are Automatic Inflatable Life Jackets?

Inflatable life jackets are available in automatic and manual inflation. Automatic inflation activates when the life jacket hits the water. To prevent rain or spray from inflating the life jacket, the triggering mechanism, called a bobbin, must be submerged in water before it will release the CO2. You can still manually activate an automatic life vest by pulling a cord.

Self-inflating life jackets are ideal for anglers looking for extra assurance with instant flotation without the bulk and weight of a foam life vest. Automatic inflatables are more expensive and the trigger requires regular inspection and replacement, but they add a layer of confidence that could be invaluable in an emergency.

What Are Manual Inflatable Life Jackets?

Manual life jackets require the wearer to pull a cord to trigger the CO2 canister. Once the cord is pulled, the gas takes less than a second to escape the small canister and fill the air bladder.

Since inflatable life vests aren’t recommended for “wet” activities like waterskiing or whitewater rafting, manual inflatable life vests are sufficient for most anglers. If you are kayak fishing in open water and rough conditions, go with a foam life vest.

What Are Hybrid Inflatable Life Jackets?

Hybrid inflatable life jackets offer the best of both comfort and reliable flotation. Hybrids combine a thin layer of foam for 15 pounds of buoyancy and an inflatable bladder to provide an extra eight pounds of floatation.

PFD leaning up against a fishing kayak pulled up on shore

In an emergency, you get the confidence of inherent flotation. Fall overboard and the foam keeps you afloat while you reenter the kayak. Become separated from the kayak or experience difficulty reentering, and inflating the bladder provides buoyancy for an extended swim.

Some hybrid life vests offer pockets for small tools or a smartphone. The low-profile design increases mobility while fishing and paddling and makes it easier to reenter the boat from the water.

Choosing an Inflatable PFD: Life Jacket or Belt

Inflatable personal floatation devices fall into two categories: suspender and belt. A suspender-style inflatable vest hangs around your neck and over your chest. A belt pack PFD circles your waist.

When an inflatable vest is activated, the bladder fills around the neck and over the chest. A belt-style PFD inflates a yoke-shaped bladder that you have to then put over your neck and secure with a strap.

Belt PFDs are most popular for standup paddleboarders. The light and low-profile belt pack provides emergency flotation without getting in the way of the long SUP paddle stroke.

Most kayak anglers use an inflatable life vest. A vest doesn’t interfere with the highback sit-on-top kayak seat and still allows freedom for fishing, pedaling and paddling. Once inflated, the life jacket provides immediate flotation.

Inflatable Life Jacket

To provide flotation, an inflatable life jacket uses a canister of compressed carbon dioxide to inflate an expandable bladder. Most inflatable life jackets fit around your neck and over your chest with straps across the back and a clip at the front. As mentioned before they are also commonly referred to as suspenders.

Inflatable life jackets use manual or automatic inflation. To activate a manual life jacket, you pull a cord. Automatic life vests inflate as soon as the trigger mechanism is submerged.

Anglers choose an inflatable life jacket because it is cooler, lighter, smaller and more comfortable than a foam-filled PFD. Once the bladder is filled, an inflatable life jacket offers the same buoyancy as a foam vest.

Inflatable PFD Belts

An inflatable PFD belt looks like a fanny pack with a webbed belt and a small bag to hold the bladder, CO2 canister and trigger mechanism. Wrap the belt around your waist and secure the clip.

A belt pack PFD uses a CO2 canister to fill an expandable bladder with gas. Once the bladder is inflated you have to place the flotation around your neck and secure the clips and straps.

A belt-worn life jacket is the smallest and lightest personal flotation. It also offers the least flotation and requires two steps to inflate and wear, so a belt life jacket is best for sheltered water with help nearby.

Coast Guard Approved Inflatable Life Jackets

The U.S. Coast Guard classifies life vests by Type I to V.

Type I and II life vests offer the most buoyancy, but they are too heavy and bulky for kayak fishing.

Type III life jackets provide inherent buoyancy without inhibiting movement. Type IV life jackets include throwable flotation like a life ring or cushion. Type V life vests are categorized by the special use indicated on the label.

The best inflatable life jackets for kayak fishing fall into Type III and Type V. In order to have Coast Guard approval these PFDs must have 15 pounds of flotation, which is plenty considering most people need seven to 12. Unlike a foam life vest, in order to satisfy Coast Guard requirements you must wear an inflatable life vest at all times.

Inflatable Life Jacket Features

Inflatable life jackets are compact and light, but they still have important features. Start with a life vest approved by an independent testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the Coast Guard. This approval guarantees the trigger mechanism and air bladder will perform in an emergency.

The most important choice is automatic or manual inflation. Most anglers choose manual inflation because the life vests are less expensive and still offer reliable flotation. Anglers fishing in open water or with health concerns prefer the confidence of a self-inflating life jacket.

Next, look for comfortable features such as a full harness in the back and soft fabric around the neck. Wearing an inflatable life vest all day causes straps and edges to dig into the skin. A full-back harness holds the PFD in place and provides more support in the water.

Some inflatable life jackets have a few pockets for small items. To monitor the readiness of the CO2 cartridge and trigger, the best inflatable life jackets have a clear window over the mechanism’s indicator.

kayak angler holds up fish in sunlight caught while wearing an ONYX inflatable life jacket

Inflatable PFD Cost

Inflatable life jackets are surprisingly expensive. The least expensive models are close to $100 and feature-rich inflatable life jackets cost up to $400.

The big expense is the complicated trigger and bladder. Ensuring the PFD inflates in an emergency requires precision mechanisms and high-quality parts.

Rearming the PFD with a new CO2 canister isn’t expensive. You can purchase fresh canisters at any outdoors store or online for a few dollars. Some inflatable PFDs require replacement of the bobbin or trigger mechanism. You’ll also want to be sure you carry extra CO2 canisters and bobbins to rearm the life vest on the water.

Adding comfort features also adds to the cost. A full-back harness instead of a narrow belt improves fit and performance as well as comfort. You’re likely going to log long hours with the life vest hanging over your neck or wrapped around your waist, so comfort is imperative. Even though an inflatable PFD is lighter and smaller than a traditional foam-filled PFD, rough edges, stiff material, and poorly planned straps cause discomfort. So, when purchasing an inflatable life vest, try it on, adjust the fit and give it a test ride.

Where to Buy

The best place to purchase inflatable life jackets is a local kayak outfitter or tackle shop. The experienced staff can recommend the best inflatable life jacket for the area’s fishing and paddling. Specialized shops also carry the best selection at a wide range of prices. Most importantly, at a local shop you can try on different styles and sizes to find a perfect fit.

Another option is a large outdoor store. Many franchises hire local anglers and paddlers and the stores carry a broad selection of inflatable life jackets. If a life jacket isn’t in stock at the store, it may be available on their website. Having the option to pick up and return the PFD at the store makes it easier to find the right size and fit.

Online retailers offer the largest selection of inflatable life jackets. Starting the search at the Kayak Angler Buyer’s Guide provides reliable reviews and links to reputable outfitters.

The most important step in choosing the best inflatable life jacket is finding the right style and fit for all-day comfort.

Shopping for a Used Inflatable PFD

Purchasing a used inflatable life jacket can save money on an expensive piece of equipment. Before buying a used inflatable life jacket, check all parts for wear and corrosion. Inflate the life vest to verify the trigger system works and the bladder holds air. Leave the life jacket inflated for a couple of hours to detect a slow leak. Deflate and repack the bladder and then rearm the CO2 canister to ensure it is in good condition.

Q&A About Choosing the Best Inflatable PFDs

Are inflatable life jackets coast guard approved.

Inflatable life jackets are Coast Guard approved. An inflatable life vest falls into Type III and Type V categories approved for restricted use for specific activities. Check the life jacket’s label for the intended use.

Are inflatable life jackets reusable?

Inflatable life jackets are reusable. To rearm an inflatable life jacket, replace the spent CO2 canister and reset or replace the trigger. Then, deflate the bladder and repack it into the PFD.

When should you replace the CO2 cylinder in an inflatable PFD?

Inspect the CO2 canister and trigger mechanism and inflate the bladder at least every two to six months depending how often you use the jacket. Leave the bladder inflated for a couple of hours to expose leaks. Check the CO2 canister and hydrostatic automatic trigger mechanism for an expiration date and always carry a backup canister and valve. Automatic inflatables with a bobbin should be inspected more often. Replace the bobbin at least every three years according to the manufacture date printed on the bobbin.

How do inflatable life jackets work?

Inflatable life jackets work by filling an expandable air bladder with CO2 gas. Pull a cord on the life vest to release gas from a small canister and inflate the PFD in seconds.

Are inflatable life jackets good for kayaking?

Inflatable life jackets are good for kayaking. The best inflatable life vests are small and light to improve mobility and comfort. For sheltered waters with easy rescue, an inflatable life jacket is a great choice. Many fishing tournaments require anglers wear a PFD, making inflatables popular for anglers who spend a lot of time on the water. Inflatables are also popular in warm weather because they are cooler and lighter than foam life vests.

Inflatable Life Jacket Reviews

Below you will find in-depth reviews from Kayak Angler contributors on the best inflatable kayak fishing life vests available today.

Inflatable life jacket reviews

  • Best New Tackle And Gear At ICAST 2022, Part III
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Hybrid life jacket reviews

  • Mustang Khimera PFD At Paddlesports Retailer
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Kayak Angler Staff

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RNLI has innovated through its history from cork lifejackets to motor boats

T hroughout the 200-year history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the charity has spearheaded innovation and adapted to the challenging circumstances of saving lives at sea.

In 1861, cork lifejackets became widely used by lifeboat crews after the new design helped save the life of a crew member.

The Whitby lifeboat had launched six times to rescue stricken vessels in a storm but on the sixth launch a large wave capsized the lifeboat killing all the crew members apart from Henry Freeman who was wearing a cork lifejacket.

The RNLI embraced fundraising in 1886 after 27 lifeboat crew members from Southport and St Annes lost their lives while trying to rescue the crew of the vessel Mexico.

A public appeal was launched, driven by local man Charles Macara, and in 1891 a total of £10,000 was raised in just two weeks.

On October 1, Mr Macara and his wife Marion organised the first Lifeboat Saturday when bands, floats and lifeboats paraded through the streets of Manchester , followed by volunteers collecting money.

More than £5,000 was taken on the day, which was the first recorded example of a charity street collection.

The first motor lifeboat was launched from Tynemouth in 1914 in a rescue of the steamship Rohilla which ran aground on rocks near Whitby as it was travelling to Dunkirk to help wounded soldiers.

Five lifeboats battled terrible seas to reach the ship and the motor lifeboat rescued the last 50 people on board, meaning a total of 144 people were saved by the crews who worked for more than 50 hours in atrocious conditions.

A RNLI spokesman said: “The motor lifeboat proved its capabilities and became more widely accepted by lifeboat crews after this event.”

The two world wars did not stop the RNLI from saving lives at sea despite many volunteers being called away to fight.

During the First World War, the average age of lifeboat crews at home increased to over 50 but between 1914 and 1918 RNLI lifeboats still launched 1,808 times, saving 5,332 lives.

During the Second World War, RNLI crews saved 6,376 lives around the coasts of Britain and Ireland.

And in 1940, 19 RNLI lifeboats were used to evacuate troops from Dunkirk, with two vessels having RNLI crews while the others were manned by the Royal Navy.

The RNLI spokesman said: “The lifeboats and their stand-in crews saved thousands of lives while being shelled and bombed for days.”

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VESSEL REVIEW | Sinichka – Electric commuter boats designed for Russia’s Moskva River

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A series of three new electric monohull commuter ferries have already begun operational sailings on the Moskva River in the Russian capital Moscow.

Built by Russian shipyard Emperium, sister vessels Sinichka , Filka , and Presnya – all named after rivers in Moscow – are being operated by the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development (Moscow Deptrans). They are the first units of a planned fleet of 20 vessels that will serve the capital city and other nearby communities. The new ferry system will be the water transport system to be operated on the Moskva River in 16 years.

Each vessel has a welded aluminium hull, an LOA of 21 metres, a beam of 6.2 metres, a draught of only 1.4 metres, a displacement of 40 tonnes, and capacity for 80 passengers plus two crewmembers. Seating is available for 42 passengers on each ferry, and the main cabins are also fitted with USB charging ports, wifi connectivity, tables, toilets, and space for bicycles and scooters. The cabin layout can be rearranged to allow the operator to adjust the distances between the seats and to install armrests of varying widths.

inflatable lifejacket sailboat

An open upper deck is also accessible to passengers and is the only area on each ferry where smoking is allowed.

The ferries are all of modular construction with each ferry’s wheelhouse, main cabin, and other structural elements being built as complete, separate components. This enables the ferries to be easily dismantled for transport to anywhere in Russia by rail and then quickly re-assembled within seven days.

The ferries are also ice-capable. Recently completed operational trials on the Moskva showed that the vessels can also easily navigate under mild winter conditions with broken surface ice, though year-round operations are planned for the entire fleet.

The ferries are each fitted with 500kWh lithium iron phosphate battery packs that supply power to two 134kW motors. This configuration can deliver a maximum speed of 11.8 knots, a cruising speed of just under 10 knots, and a range of 150 kilometres.

Emperium said the transfer of rotation of electric motors to the propeller is carried out by direct drive. As a propulsion installation, a pulling rotary propeller-steering column with double screws is used. The installation of double pulling screws, with similar power, allows an operator to increase the efficiency of the propulsion system to deliver a slightly higher speed or to reduce energy consumption. This arrangement also provides the ferries with enhanced manoeuvrability necessary for navigating in close quarters.

The batteries themselves have projected service lives of 10 to 12 years and are fitted with safety features such as built-in fire extinguishers and gas vents. Quick-disconnect features allow the batteries to be easily removed for replacement or maintenance.

Some of our readers have expressed disquiet at our publication of reviews and articles describing new vessels from Russia. We at Baird Maritime can understand and sympathise with those views. However, despite the behaviour of the country’s leaders, we believe that the maritime world needs to learn of the latest developments in vessel design and construction there.

Click here to read other news stories, features, opinion articles, and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Passenger Vessel Week.

Related Posts

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Béria L. Rodríguez

Baird Maritime

Tags: Emperium Filka Moscow Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development Moskva River Presnya Russia Sinichka WBW newbuild

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    A series of three new electric monohull commuter ferries have already begun operational sailings on the Moskva River in the Russian capital Moscow. Built by Russian shipyard Emperium, sister vessels Sinichka, Filka, and Presnya - all named after rivers in Moscow - are being operated by the Moscow Department of Transport and Road Infrastructure Development […]

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