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flotation vests

the 7 best inflatable life vests of 2021 | in smooth waters

the 7 best inflatable life vests of 2021 | in smooth waters

If youre like most people, you probably recognize that life jackets are essential to staying safe. However, there are many details regarding the right inflatable life vest to use for your needs. When youre looking for the best inflatable life vest, youll need to be an informed consumer if you want to keep your head above water.

In this article, well review seven of the best inflatable personal flotation devices on the market, explain which features to look for when you want to buy an inflatable life jacket, and teach you how to avoid picking weaker personal flotation devices.

If youre interested in learning more about why inflatable life vests are critical safety tools, our website has an interactive resource depicting US drowning statistics as well as worldwide drowning statistics and drowning prevention.

Onyx A/M-24 personal flotation device is an industry-leading product thanks to its lightweight and minimalistic design. With the A/M-24, youll get a certified type V life jacket with Type III performance for open and calm waters.

The only downside of this Onyx inflatable life vest is that its a bit uncomfortable to wear on exposed skin. The fabric on the exterior edge of the vest is rough on your inner arms flesh, and the nylon belt can cut into your torso.

This means that if you prefer to wear your life vest without anything on underneath, you might want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you plan on wearing your life vest with light clothing on, this vest wont cause you to overheat, making it a great choice for fishing.

Bluestorm Gears Cirrus 26 inflatable personal flotation device is a slim and comfortable vest thats ready for kayaking or fishing expeditions. Unlike other personal flotation devices, the Cirrus 26 has a small pocket for sunglasses, chapstick, and anything else you might want to keep nearby.

The Cirrus 26 is also notable for its comfort. The rear harness fits naturally for most body types, and you wont need to worry about having broad shoulders. The only downside to the Cirrus 26 is that its buckle is directly in the middle of the stomach region at the bottom of the vest.

While it isnt technically a life vest, Faxpots inflatable snorkeling jacket fulfills many of the same functions. The Faxpot jacket is easy to store, extremely lightweight, and it doesnt require any CO2 cylinders or other pressurized gas canisters to inflate.

With this vest, youll have a high amount of buoyancy in an attractive cyan-colored package. You should be aware that this vest is designed to be used while wearing a wetsuit, however. If you plan on using this vest for fishing or kayaking, you may find that it isnt the best fit for your needs.

Youll need to manually inflate the Faxpot vest if you want it to provide any buoyancy. If youre on the open water, you should inflate the vest before you expect to need it, meaning that youll need to grow accustomed to its bulkiness.

The Belt Pack isnt a perfect life jacket, however. While it is worn about the waist like a fanny pack, you wont be able to wear any other pockets or packs at the same time, and the Belt Pack has no storage space of its own.

Bluestorms Gear Stratus 35 life vest is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a highly-buoyant flotation device that they can rely on in turbulent waters. The Stratus 35 has wide straps and a wider-than-average harness loop, meaning that its weight is distributed over a larger surface area.

This means that while the Stratus 35 appears to be larger than many other life vests, you wont notice the weight as much. When inflated, the Stratus 35 offers 35 lbs of buoyancy, meaning that its more buoyant than most of the rapidly inflating personal flotation devices on the market.

The Stratus 35 also has a roomy gear pocket so that you wont lose track of your stuff. The only issue with the Stratus 35 is that it works best for people whose shoulders are broader than average. If youre slim in the shoulders, the vest may seem comically large on you.

Eysons inflatable life jacket is a great all-around choice thanks to its highly adjustable design. With this vest, you can adjust the positioning of the back harness strap as well as the central belt strap, meaning that you wont have any issues if youre taller or shorter than average.

Likewise, the Eyson life vest is great for people who have more gear than average. There are several loops for hanging pouches or other pieces of equipment, and the jacket rides high enough so that they wont get in the way.

Unfortunately, the adjustable straps on the Eyson jacket might make it uncomfortable for some people. The rear harness strap can dig into your back, and the odd design of the front buckle may be hard for some people to secure properly.

Non-inflating devices have several advantages. First, they dont require any CO2 cylinders or breath-based assistance to provide buoyancy. This means that they are less expensive to use throughout multiple periods in the water.

However, non-inflating devices are always bulkier than their inflatable cousins. This makes them significantly less comfortable to wear for the majority of the time that you arent in the water.(You might be interested in reading the Best Non-Swimmer Life Jackets)

Inflatable devices are made with deflated air pockets that are enclosed in fabric. When the user inflates the vest, or the vest inflates automatically, the air pockets are filled with either CO2 or the ambient air. Then, the air pockets provide buoyancy.

Inflatable devices are more comfortable to wear when outside of the water because they are nearly always much smaller and more lightweight than non-inflatable flotation devices. Theyre also typically just as comfortable as their non-inflatable counterparts once youre in the water.

As far as buoyancy, theres no meaningful distinction to make between inflatable devices and non-inflatable devices for consumer-grade products. In other words, your inflatable life vest can be just as buoyant as a non-inflatable vest.

The biggest disadvantage of inflatable life vests is that they frequently require CO2 cylinders to inflate. Once you inflate the vest once, you will need to purchase another cylinder before the vest can go through another cycle of inflation.

Of course, if you dont have a spare CO2 cylinder, you can also continue to use the inflated device as a life vest so long as it still has air in its pockets, making it more like a non-inflatable device.

There are a handful of inflatable life jacket features you should know about because they have a large impact on the comfort and the utility of the flotation device. These features include the strap configuration, manual or automatic inflation, and the vests buoyancy.

The configuration of life vest straps varies from jacket to jacket. Most jackets have a belt section and a harness that reaches around the wearers back. The belt section is connected with a buckle either at the center or off to one of the users sides.

Some personal flotation devices have more unique strap configurations, with straps reaching between the wearers legs, under their arms, or across their chest. In most cases, these alternative configurations are less comfortable than the standard, so plan accordingly.

Likewise, the width of the life jackets straps can make a big difference in terms of comfort. Most people will find that wider straps made of softer and more elastic materials will be easier to wear for long periods, especially when worn over bare skin.

Some inflatable life vests are inflated manually with the pull of a cord. When pulled, the cord triggers the CO2 cylinder to inflate the vests air pockets and provide buoyancy. Most inflatable life jackets have a pull-cord as a backup whether or not they are automatic.

Alternatively, other manual inflatable life jackets require the user to breathe into the jacket to inflate the air pockets. Many inflatable life jackets also have a manual inflation tube as a backup whether or not they are automatic.

Automatically inflating life vests have systems which detect when the user has fallen into the water and then inflate the life vest accordingly. These systems can range from saltwater-sensitive fabrics to dissolving pills that uncap the CO2 canister when they are finished dissolving.

Importantly, automatically inflating life vests have a handful of backup methods to manually inflate the vest if the automatic systems fail. This means that automatically inflating vests tend to be safer overall than manually-inflating vests.

In other words, if you fall into knee-height water while wearing an automatically inflating life jacket, the jacket will probably inflate, spending the CO2 cylinder within. This means that automatically inflating vests can be a nuisance to keep uninflated leading up to the period when you need them to work.

Life jackets rate their buoyancy in terms of pounds. Many also provide helpful indicators for the maximum weight of the wearer. More buoyancy doesnt always mean that one jacket is better than another.

In general, the harsher and larger the waters you need your life jacket to work in, you will need more buoyancy. Likewise, the heavier you are, including all of your clothes and equipment, the more buoyancy youll need to be safe.

These benefits mean that automatic inflatable life jackets are great for everything from sailing to deep-sea fishing. In situations where you wont be in contact with the water until youre genuinely in danger, automatic inflatable life jackets provide peace of mind.

While it may be tempting to brush off the fact that automatic inflatable life vests work even when youre unconscious, for sailing, its an important feature. If you get hit in the head and knocked into the water by an unexpectedly traversing boom, an automatic vest will still save you, but a manual vest wont.

If you plan on using your inflatable life jacket in a situation where youll be in contact with the water frequently, even when you arent in danger, an automatic vest will be a significant annoyance.

CO2 cylinders arent expensive to replace, but it does take a minute or two to remove a spent bottle, deflate the vest, and re-attach a new cylinder after accidental inflation. If you want to rely on your automatic inflatable life vest, youll need to keep a supply of extra cylinders on hand.

On the other hand, if you plan to be on a boat or somewhere else where youre more likely to be completely dry until the moment you fall into the water and are subsequently in danger, automatic inflatable life jackets are a better choice than manual jackets.(If you want to purchase vests just for boating, you should read: Best Boating Life Vests)

First, make sure that the life vest is firmly secured using all of the provided straps and buckles. There shouldnt be anything extra dangling from your vest that is not attached or cinched to make a close fit.

While it may seem annoying to cinch the vest tightly and secure all of the straps and buckles, the vest needs you to do these things to ensure that it works correctly if you are knocked into the water.

Second, you shouldnt tamper with the reflective strips, inflation cylinder, or any other part of the life vest. You may be tempted to remove the reflective strips or replace them, but there isnt any advantage to doing so.

Third, check your life vest for any perforations before putting it on. If the air pockets of your life vest are damaged, theres a chance it wont be able to inflate at all. Likewise, if the straps are fraying, they may rip when you inflate the vest.

Most inflatable life jackets dont need much maintenance, but there are a few best practices. In general, your inflatable life jacket will maintain itself so long as you keep it stored in a dry and dark place.

You should also make sure that your inflatable life jacket is not wet when you collapse it for storage. If you pack up your life jacket while it is wet, it may grow mold, and the fabric may become damaged.

In the same vein, you should avoid leaving your inflatable life vest submerged in saltwater for long periods. Saltwater is harsh on most materials, and with extended exposure, it may cause the fabric of your vest to deteriorate. The same goes for any chemicals like gasoline or grease.

Aside from these tips, you should also test your inflatable life vest buoyancy relative to your weight in a controlled setting. This means that you should inflate your jacket and submerge yourself in the water. If your head stays above water as a result of the buoyancy of the vest, your vest is a good fit.

On the other hand, if your personal flotation device doesnt keep your head above calm waters during your test, youll need to find a different one with more buoyancy. Remember, in rougher waters, youll need a higher amount of buoyancy to stay comfortable if you fall in.

On that note, you should also ensure that your personal flotation device is balanced such that it keeps your head facing above the water even if the vest is inflated when your head is facing down into the water.

Most inflatable life vests are balanced so that you can right yourself very quickly once the vest is inflated. If you find that during your test, it is difficult to right yourself from a face-down swimming position when the vest is inflated, you should find another vest or adjust your vest.

The point of the self-righting balance of inflatable personal flotation devices is that it will keep your head above the water even when you are unconscious. So, if the vest isnt balanced correctly, you cant count on it to keep you safe.

That concludes our review of the seven best inflatable personal flotation devices. We hope youve learned something about the features to look for in a life jacket and the major differences between automatic and manually-inflating life vests.

Remember to make your life jacket choice carefully. If you pick the right life vest, you could be saving your life down the road. On the other hand, if you choose the wrong PFD for your needs, it could let you down when you need it the most.

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