Inflatable Life JacketsWhenever you’re out on the water on your boat, there’s always a small chance that you may need to jump into the water for your own safety.

Perhaps something is happening on your boat or maybe strong winds will push you off the vehicle and into the water. Maybe you drop something into the water and accidentally fall in while retrieving it, or maybe you spot another group on their boat who are having difficulties and thus need saving. Whatever the case may be, having inflatable jackets on your boat is always a good idea for your personal safety and wellbeing.

Also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD, these life jackets are designed to give you more buoyancy when you’re in the water so that you stay afloat with minimal effort. It’s one of the most important pieces of gear for safety on the water and there are a large number of different types of inflatable lifejackets that meet different standards and specifications depending on where they’re used. In this post, we’re going to take a look at the various types of inflatable life jackets available and also how they compare to regular ones.

What’s a Standard Life Jacket Like?

The most common type of life jacket is what you’ll see being worn by kayakers and canoers out on the water. They often look like vests and are worn at all times due to how common it is for someone in such a small boat to tip over and end up in the water. They’re very low maintenance because they’re easy to clean, they’re inherently buoyant because of the materials used and they even have pockets much like a regular jacket. However, these life jackets are very bulky and restrictive, so wearing them at all times will feel uncomfortable for someone on a typical boat. In addition, they’re very warm and will make you sweat if worn at all times.

As you can imagine, wearing a standard life jacket designed for recreational activities isn’t the best idea for someone who is on a boat and enjoying their day out on the water which is why inflatable lifejackets are much more convenient. They often come with the same advantages but with the exception that they are far slimmer and can be stored safely on a boat without taking much space.

How Do Inflatable Life Jackets Work?

In most cases, inflatable jackets rely on a CO2 cylinder or compressed air in order to fill the jacket with air. This is what allows the life jacket to provide buoyancy to the user. Once the life jacket has been used, it must be re-armed and this process will depend on the type of life jacket that you’ve purchased. Most modern life jackets utilize a CO2 cylinder and a trigger mechanism that breaks once it has been activated. This means that the entire arming mechanism including a new CO2 cylinder must be purchased in order for the lifejacket to work again. Some dealers will also offer to re-arm the lifejacket for you.

Maintaining your inflatable life jacket does become a priority so that you can ensure it works properly when you most need it. The lifejacket should be comfortable when worn correctly and it should provide you with adequate buoyancy for your weight and also your body shape. The system should also inflate the jacket very quickly and if a life jacket is left unused for a long time, there’s always the possibility that something will prevent the cylinder from filling the life jacket correctly and thus rendering the jacket useless.

It’s also important to consider the types of waters that you will be using your inflatable lifejacket. If there’s ever the chance that there are sharp rocks or items around in the water, such as a river, then you may want to consider a different type of lifejacket because they are not puncture resistant. With this in mind, it’s also important that you store your lifejackets away from any kind of sharp surfaces or objects so that they are not physically damaged when they are needed.

Types of Life Jacket Available

When it comes to life jackets, there are several categories.

  • Type 1 PFD Life Jacket – This standard offers flotation support to both the head and the body. The flotation collar keeps your head above the water so that you’re at no risk of drowning and is used only for safety purposes. Even if you’re unable to swim, a Type 1 PFD can help you stay afloat and offer you maximum safety when out in the water. A Type 1 PFD must have a level 100 buoyancy or more. This is a value that can go up to and over 275, at which point the life jacket is even capable of self-righting an unconscious user, making it the preferred option for dangerous waters and weather conditions.
  • Type 2 PFD Buoyancy Vest – A Type 2 PFD has less flotation which is focused mainly on the front and back. It’s not as restrictive as a Type 1 PFD but can be used for water sports such as water skiing or sailboarding. This is typically used as a safety precaution for recreational activities in the water.
  • Type 3 PFD Buoyancy Vest – A Type 3 PFD has even less buoyancy and is typically used in much faster high-speed water sports where your body can affect your performance. It’s far slimmer, offers minimal buoyancy and is often designed for those that can already swim in controlled waters where help is available should something happen.

The type of inflatable jacket that you purchase will depend on your personal needs. For instance, if you’re primarily involved in water sports then a lighter Type 2 or Type 3 PFD will be ideal due to their lighter weight. If you’re involved in water sports then it’s likely that you already know how to swim and so you don’t need as much buoyancy when in the water. On the contrary, those with no swimming experience will likely need the assistance of a Type 2 or Type 1 PFD which offers more flotation force. This will help keep them afloat as long as they’re not wearing or carrying anything that is heavy enough to bring them down. However, even if you do know how to swim it’s never a bad idea to have a Type 1 inflatable life jacket to ensure your own safety when out on the water.

Regardless of the type of inflatable jacket that you purchase, they come in a variety of different sizes to ensure comfort and maximum flotation for the user. Both adults and children have their own sizes and the fabrics used can be different. This often changes the durability of the lifejacket and could emphasize comfort or weight depending on your needs.


There are many different types of life jackets that come in different shapes and sizes, so choosing one is a task that should take some consideration. Inflatable life jackets offer some much-needed safety for those on your boat and there’s no excuse not to have a couple depending on how many people frequent your boat. Hopefully, this article has explained the different types of inflatable lifejackets and also how they work so that you get a better understanding of why they’re important and how you can choose the right one for your needs.