If you’re purchasing a new life vest it’s important to understand stand what level of life jacket testing you’ll need to go through with your vest before you take it out on the water.
Many people hesitate to test their new life vests and while the chances of getting a new vest that doesn’t work is fairly low, when it comes to your safety on the water no precaution should be left out, especially because testing a new vest is very simple to do.
Since you should be in the habit of inspecting your life jacket regularly, it makes sense that your first test can function as a first inspection as well.
How to Test a Life Jacket
There are two basic types of life jacket tests. Dry tests and in water tests.
Dry Life Jacket Testing
To dry test your life jacket, first perform a thorough inspection of the exterior, ensuring there are no flaws in the fabric, especially in the foam or inflation panels, which are essential to maintain proper buoyancy.
For inflatable vests, manually inflate the vest and check to make sure the vest remains inflated. Keeping the vest inflated overnight is a good test of its durability.
Water Testing Your Life Jacket
Taking that new vest into the water for the first time is also an important step, and is one task that many individuals neglect to do.
Water testing your life jacket is as important to measure life jacket fit as it is for the inflation testing purposes, since you need to know how your vest will feel when wearing it in the water. Water testing the vest can help to give you the familiarity you need.
If you have an automatic inflatable vest, don’t let the cost of rearming the vest deter you from performing an in-water test. You can manually inflate the vest before you enter the water and disable the CO2 canister temporarily. Be sure to properly repack the vest after use and ensure the indicator light is green, which signals that it’s armed and ready for the next use.
Properly testing a life jacket in the water is fairly straightforward: put the vest on and go for a swim! Always test the vest in calm, shallow water first, and remain in the water for a minimum of 5-10 minutes to ensure that the vest maintains its inflation and buoyancy for the entire duration of the test.