17 Best Inflatable Life jackets

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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Estimated Price: $250

Specification
Buoyancy: 35 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 33 Gram
Color: Black, Gray, Red
Deployment: Automatic and Manual
Weight: 2.55 pounds

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 A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life jacket

Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life jacket

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Estimated Price: $125

Specification
Buoyancy: 22.5 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Gray, Red, Camo, Blue
Deployment: Automatic
Weight: 2.55 pounds

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.

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 lifejacket 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. You can store the jacket away in the compartments on the boat, or you can bring it with you on any small water vessel. The life jacket weighs just under three pounds but provides 22.5 pounds of buoyancy when deployed.


3. Onyx Manual Inflatable Life jacket

Onyx Manual Inflatable Life jacket

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Estimated Price: $99- $124

Specification
Buoyancy: 22.5 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Gray, Red. Blue, Camo
Deployment: Manual
Weight: 2.55 pounds

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.

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.


4. Mustang Survival Khimera Dual Flotation PFD

Mustang Survival Dual Flotation PFD

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Estimated Price: $190

Specification
Buoyancy: 20 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 12 Gram
Color: Red or Admiral Gray
Deployment: Automatic and Manual
Weight: 7.5 pounds

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 which 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.

Related Article: Best Personal Locator Beacons


5. Mustang Survival DLX 38 Inflatable PFD

Mustang Survival DLX 38 Inflatable PFD

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Estimated Price: $150 – $200

Specification
Buoyancy: 38 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 33 Gram
Color: Black, Red
Deployment: Automatic
Weight: 2.6 pounds

The Mustang Survival DLX 38 Inflatable PFD is a lightweight qualify design. It has an automatic mechanism on the inside of the jacket, once you hit the water, you don’t have to worry about pulling anything. The jacket will inflate on its own. It comes with a CO2 cartridge that does have to be initially installed. The straps are easily adjustable, allowing you to create the perfect fit for most adults.

It is recommended that those over the age of 16 and 80 pounds wear the jacket, as it will fit the best. Those who are under these limits should not wear the vest. It is important to consider this when you are putting the jacket on or having others on the vessel with you. This jacket has a professional and fashionable look while also having a comfortable and secure fit. It provides 38-pounds of inflation which is more than any other inflatable life jacket on the market.


6. Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket

Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $240

Specification
Buoyancy: 28 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Red
Deployment: Automatic
Weight: 2.25 pounds

This Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Jacket is 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

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Estimated Price: $129 – $230

Specification
Buoyancy: 26 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Gray, Red, Camo
Deployment: Automatic
Weight: 3 pounds

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.

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

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Estimated Price: $80 – $130

Specification
Buoyancy: 35 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 33 Gram
Color: Black, Yellow, Orange
Deployment: Automatic
Weight: 1.8 pounds

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. Night Cat Inflatable Life Jacket

Night Cat Inflatable Life Jacket

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Estimated Price: $75

Specification
Buoyancy: 33 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 33 Gram
Color: Black, Red
Deployment: Automatic or Manual
Weight: 2.6 pounds

The Night Cat Inflatable Life Jacket is CE approved for European flotation device compliance. This vest is not approved by the United States Coast Guard. It can still be worn in the USA but will not count as a life jacket. It is a lower-cost option if you have an additional life jacket on board to meet USCG life jacket requirements. However, I would not recommend getting this vest for water-activates in the USA.

The jacket inflates within 3 to 5 seconds from hitting the water or pulling the strings on the front of the jacket. The inflate bag is bright yellow and has reflective tape to offer a way to be more visible if you end up in the water and require assistance. You can ensure that the perfect fit is given with the straps and adjustable buckles. This helps create a comfortable secure fit.

The CO2 tank can be replaced and there is also a backup device that ensures the jacket can be inflated by mouth or air if needed. This ensures safety even if the cartridge fails to inflate the device. If the vest is used the CO2 tank will need to be replaced. Make sure to only use cartridges that are designed to work with the specific life vest being used.


10. Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket Belt

Onyx Unisex Inflatable Life Jacket Belt

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Estimated Price: $80 – $90

Specification
Buoyancy: 26.5 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 16 Gram
Color: Black, Grey
Deployment: Manual
Weight: 1.6 pounds

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.

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 paddle boards as these are considered vessels underway unless used in an official swimming location that allows paddle boards. 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, paddle board, 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. Mad Dog Inflatable Life jacket Belt

Mad Dog Inflatable Life jacket Belt

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Estimated Price: $80

Specification
Buoyancy: 19 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Gray, Blue
Deployment: Manual
Weight: 1 pound

The Mad Dog Waist life jacket is commonly made for West Marine. 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

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Estimated Price: $73

Specification
Buoyancy: 15.5 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 16 Gram
Color: Black, Blue
Deployment: Manually
Weight: 1 pound

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 paddle boards 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

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Estimated Price: $60 – $70

Specification
Buoyancy: 33 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 33 Gram
Color: Gray, Red, Blue, Black, Yellow
Deployment: Manual
Weight: 2.72 pounds

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 users 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

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Estimated Price: $60 – $65

Specification
Buoyancy: 26 pounds
CO2 Tank Size: 24 Gram
Color: Black, Red, Grey, Yellow, Blue
Deployment: Manual
Weight: 2.72 pounds

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

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Estimated Price: $19 – $40

Specification
Buoyancy:
For Adults
Color: Pink
Deployment: Inflation Tube
Weight: 11.2 ounces

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.

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 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.

Related Article: 17 Best Snorkel Gear Packages


16. Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vests

Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vests

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Estimated Price: $19

Specification
Buoyancy: For Kids
Color: Pink, Green
Deployment: Inflation Tube
Weight: 8.01 ounces

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 and 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.

Related Article: 23 Best Life Jackets for Kids


17. Phantom Aquatics Inflatable Snorkel Vests

Phantom Aquatics Inflatable Snorkel Vests

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Estimated Price: $15 – $24

Specification
Buoyancy: Adult
Color: Yellow, Orange
Deployment: Inflation Tube
Weight: 2 pounds

This Phantom Aquatics inflatable snorkel vest is 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.

Related Article: 30 Best Life Jackets


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 selecting 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 the 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

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Estimated Price: $15 – $25

Specification
Capacity: 24 grams
Deployment: Manual, Rearming

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 tanks 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 that thank does need to be charged and armed ready for deployment.

Each life jacket has a different method to replace and arm 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 withing 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.

  1. Place the life jacket on over your head, and make sure it is secured through the straps that can be placed around your waist.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 a proficient swimmer 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.

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