Is An Inflatable Life Vest Worth The Cost? Pros and Cons of Inflatable Life Vests

inflatable_life_vestIf you’re in the process of buying a new life jacket or other PFD, navigating the multitude of types and options available to you can be quite the challenge.

One type of PFD you’ll certainly come across is the inflatable life vest. Inflatable life vests are usually USCG Type II or Type III approved and make great inland and near shore vest options, since they provide comfort and flexibility while ensureing a high degree of security.

In this post I’ll discuss the pros and cons of inflatable life vests, which can hopefully help you make the decision whether or not it’s worth the higher cost.

Benefits of Purchasing an Inflatable Life Vest

Inflatable Vests are Extremely Comfortable

There are a ton of benefits to buying an inflatable life vest. First and foremost in my mind is that they are extremely comfortable compared to most other vests on the market. Comfort is an extremely important factor that determines how often a vest is worn, so it isn’t something to be taken lightly.

The vests are unobtrusive and usually built out of a soft, adaptable fabric and light foam. But, their biggest advantage over competing designs is that the vest remains uninflated unless actually submerged in water.

While some of the lower end models may inflate prematurely if drenched heavily but not submerged, this is not an issue with the better brands out there like the Mustang Survival HIT or MIT options, the MTI Helios, or the Onyx Deluxe.

premium_life_jacketWide Range of Motion

Along with comfort, the lightweight, open-arm design of most inflatable vests means that they allow for tremendous agility and speed maneuvering around the boat. This comes in handy regardless of whether you’re racing, fishing, or just cruising around casually, as it lets you remain prepared for those moments when you have to make a quick tack or gaff the tuna you’ve just spent 10 minutes fighting.

Good Longevity and Easy Maintenance

To justify the cost, most of these vests are designed for the long haul.

I think of an inflatable PFD purchase not simply in terms of ‘buying another life jacket’ but in terms of an investment in my safety for the next several years.

All of the high end brands have excellent maintenance policies, and the vests are easily rearmed in the event that you are submerged.

Downsides to an Inflatable Life Vest

An Inflatable Life Vest is Expensive

Compared to the basic Type II or Type III PFDs available for $20, purchasing an inflatable life vest can be quite costly. Each of the bands mentioned above have vests that are over $100.

Personally, my belief is that safety equipment in general and life vests in particular are the last point where you want to pinch pennies on your boat, but anyone who’s ever been around the water long enough knows just how quickly costs can add up.

If budget is truly an issue, consider purchasing a single higher end model for yourself, while equipping the boat with a handful of budget options to accommodate any passengers you might have on board.

May Require Manual Inflation

There are plenty of automatic inflatable life vests on the market, and if you’re opting for an inflatable vest that’s what I’d recommend.

However, there are also a wide range of manual options. The biggest downside to manually inflatabls PFDs is that they are ineffective if you are knocked unconscious as you fall overboard.

Automatic vests, on the other hand, do not have this problem.

If you’re considering purchasing an inflatable vest, you may want to read more on 3 inflatable life jackets adults will love, which outlines some of the best choices available today.

Otherwise, you can click here to browse more adult life jackets.


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