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A Guide to Offshore Inflatable Life Jackets
Inflatable life jackets are designed to be lightweight and low profile, providing you the maximum amount of mobility for your water life. Their compact design allows you to easily wear them over your foul weather gear or rash guard all day long.
Inflatable life vests are given a Coast Guard type, just like non-inflatables, but they are also given a performance type and a designation as to whether they have to be worn to be counted in the vessel’s life jacket inventory. Knowing how inflatables are classified will help you determine which type is best for you.
Inflatables with Harness
Inflatables with harnesses are, by default, Type V life jackets with Type III or II performance. These life jackets make it easy to clip into jacklines while offshore cruising or to be hauled back on board at the end of a halyard in case you go overboard.
High Buoyancy Inflatables
High buoyancy inflatables provide a minimum of 33lb. of buoyancy and have a Type III performance rating if they are manually-activated with a ripcord, and a Type II performance rating if they are water-activated. Both products perform exactly alike once they’re inflated since the bladder and the rest of the life jacket are identical except for the inflator.
The Coast Guard requires that water-activated “automatic” inflatables with non-1F inflators have to be worn to be counted in the vessel’s inventory of life jackets. The most recent models with 1F inflators, so-called “stowables,” don’t have to be worn to be counted as inventory. Finally, the inshore Coastal Series inflatables use a 25g. cylinder, and provide 26lb. of flotation. They are only counted as inventory when worn.
Be sure to visually inspect your inflatable life jacket for leaks or tears every few months and to service your automatic inflator yearly. For more information about checking and servicing your inflatable life vest, check out our West Advisor article Do-It-Yourself: Check Your Inflatable Life Vest.
Shop our wide variety of Offshore Inflatable Life Jackets.
For in-depth information, consult our West Advisor article “Selecting a Life Vest”.