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Why Consider an Inflatable Life Vest? 

Lifevests are better than lifejackets. Be sure to get one before your next boating trip.

Woman in lifevest jumping into the water

The open water can be fun and relaxing, but it can also be dangerous. If you fall overboard unconscious, or if you end up in the water without knowing how to swim, your life could be in jeopardy.

Some of the best options available are inflatable life vests, but what exactly are these mechanisms? And why should you consider one on your boat?

The Value of Floatation Devices on the Water

Inflatable life vests are a type of flotation device, meant for personal use. All flotation devices are meant to stay afloat on the water in a variety of conditions, enabling a person in the water to avoid drowning.

Lifejackets are a type of personal flotation device, typically worn around the upper body to keep the person upright and breathing above water for as long as possible. Inflatable life vests are one type of lifejacket.

All personal flotation devices have similar general benefits:

  •       Remaining afloat. Flotation devices are designed to keep you afloat, regardless of whether or not you can swim or tread water. Jackets and vests are typically designed to keep you upright as well, so you can continue to breathe even if you’re thrown overboard.
  •       Preserving energy. Another advantage of these flotation devices is that they allow you to preserve your energy. If you’re a good swimmer, you might be able to stay afloat and stay alive in the water for some time. But because you’ll be kicking and moving constantly, you can quickly run out of stamina.
  •       Increasing visibility. Most lifejackets and life vests are designed with bright coloration, to help you stand out in the water. This maximizes the chances of being found and helps rescuers do their job.
  •       Safety while unconscious. What happens if you fall overboard while unconscious? Without a personal flotation device on your person, you would quickly drown. But wearing such a life protecting device can keep you upright and breathing, even if you’re not conscious.
  •       Buying time. Most importantly, these devices buy you time. You’ll last longer in the water, paving the way for an eventual rescue.

Inflatable Life Vests vs. Classic Foam Lifejackets

So what makes an inflatable life vest better than a classic foam lifejacket?

Solid foam lifejackets are perfectly capable of saving your life in an emergency, but they tend to be bulkier and less comfortable to wear. With an inflatable life vest, you can keep a lightweight, comfortable device on your person at all times, and only inflate it in a genuine emergency.

These have the following benefits:

  •       Better comfort. Some people refuse to wear lifejackets simply because they’re so uncomfortable. If you’ve ever worn a traditional foam lifejacket, you probably know this experience. It’s almost impossible to relax because this jacket is so bulky and inflexible; in contrast, inflatable life vests give you tons of mobility.
  •       Less weight. Inflatable life vests are lighter as well. Whether you’re interested in lowering the amount of weight on your vessel or you just want to feel less weight on your shoulders, this is a big advantage.
  •       Less space. There’s only so much storage space on your boat, so if you have lots of personal flotation devices to store, they can quickly become burdensome. Inflatable life vests take up far less space, giving you plenty of room for other important things.
  •       Options for automatic deployment. Some inflatable life vests are designed for manual operation; you’ll need to initiate the inflation to save your life in the water. However, there are plenty of inflatable life vests that automatically deploy once submerged, so you don’t have to worry about manual activation. These mechanisms are highly reliable, and are recommended if you’re going to purchase inflatable life vests.

There are a handful of downsides to consider with inflatable life vests, however:

  •       Higher expenses. Both traditional foam lifejackets and inflatable life vests are affordable, but inflatable vests tend to be a bit more expensive. You’ll need to spend more money if you want these options available for your crew.
  •       Need for replacement cartridges. A foam lifejacket can be used over and over with no issues. But because inflatable life vests must be inflated with a single-use carbon dioxide cartridge, you’ll need to purchase replacement cartridges occasionally.
  •       Potentially more maintenance. Inflatable life vests sometimes require more maintenance than their traditional foam counterparts. To test that the internal mechanisms are working appropriately, it’s recommended that you inflate them at least once per year (and replace the cartridges at that time).

If you’re going to spend any time on the water, you should have inflatable life vests for everyone on your vessel. These personal flotation devices are slightly more expensive than traditional foam lifejackets, but they’re well worth the money if you care about safety.

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