Inflatable Life Jackets: Styles and How They Work

Inflatable life jackets are comfortable, compact and come in a number of styles. Here's how they work and how to maintain them.

Inflatable life jackets have become very popular in recent years as they’re comfortable, compact and a great way to make sure your day out on the water is fun and safe. They‘re legal substitutes for traditional, inherently buoyant life vests, but only if you wear them. Just having them on board doesn’t count. They’re also only legal for passengers 16 years of age and up.

Some models inflate automatically when they get wet—there’s either a dissolving bobbin in them or hydrostatic mechanism that triggers the CO2 cartridge. In either case, they all have a manual lanyard to pull so you can inflate them.

Editor-at-Large, Randy Vance, goes over the most common styles, how they work and how to maintain the inflation mechanisms so they’re ready when you need them.