Inflatable lifejackets have been designed for wearability. However if you decide that an inflatable best suits your boating needs, it is important that you understand its limitations, how to use it and how to care for it.
An inflatable lifejacket is only approved in an open boat if you are wearing it. If your boat has an enclosure, then you only need to wear the inflatable lifejacket while you’re on deck or in the cockpit.
Inflatable vests come in two styles:
The first is a vest type, which can be inflated manually or automatically with a CO2 system. The automatic inflatables are designed to inflate when submerged. They also have a manual inflation system which is activated by pulling a toggle.
The second is a pouch style which can only be manually inflated by pulling a toggle.
All inflatable PFDs have an oral inflation tube in case the CO2 inflation system fails. However, for weak swimmers, this might be hard to use when they are trying to keep their head above water. It is important to know that inflatable PFDs are not approved under the following conditions:
- Anyone under 16 years old.
- Anyone who weighs less than 36.6 kg or 80lbs.
- Use on a personal watercraft.
- White water paddling activities.
When choosing a lifesaving appliance, remember the differences in functionality between lifejackets, PFDs and inflatable PFDs. Pick one that best suits your needs and think carefully before purchasing. Also consider colour when you make your choice. Bright colours are easier to spot in the water. The best lifejacket or PFD is one that you will wear whenever you are on the water. And remember that an emergency is no time to try out a new lifesaving device, so locate your owner’s manual for whatever type of PFD or lifejacket you own, read it carefully and know how to use it before setting out on the water.