The Best Inflatable Life Vest Reviews Guide for 2020

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How to Choose the Best Inflatable PFD After 2015

Whether you’re kayaking, rowing or going out on the ocean with a boat, a personal floatation device (PFD) can save your life. In accordance with the United States Coast Guard Regulations, all recreational boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD device onboard.

Onyx 3200BLU99 Adult Co2 Automatic Vest

Our favorite for 2020

Phantom Aquatics Snorkel Adult Vest

A great value option

Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Auto Activation PFD

A life vest with automatic inflation

Inflatable life jackets can and do save lives, and if the worst happens when out on the water, these jackets can keep you afloat until rescue arrives.

And there are a variety of different life vests to choose from that can be brought with you when out on the water. Recommended for any vessel, these vests are often inexpensive, approved by the Coast Guard, and a necessity.

We’ve chosen five vests that meet the highest standards, but you need to know how to compare these different types of inflatable vests. A few key criteria points include:

  • Automatic vs Manual: If you’re thrown into the water, an automatic life vest is the ideal choice and will inflate automatically on your behalf. Manual inflation is ideal if you plan on swimming with the vest on.
  • Comfort: The weight and material of a life vest are often overlooked, but they are very important if wearing all day. Lower weights are ideal for all day use, such as kayaking where the vest will remain on at all times, while the material, especially on the neck, needs to be comfortable.
  • Type: The Type V vests are smaller while being durable and comfortable, and the overhead types are ideal for pools or snorkeling. But all types approved by the Coast Guard can be used out on the open water.

Our Picks for the Best Inflatable PFD

Onyx 3200BLU99 Adult Co2 Automatic Vest Review – The Onyx 3200BLU99 comes in a blue and black color and is a mid-range item. Small in size, the goal of the Onyx is to provide the user with enough range of motion so that he or she can swim to safety while also staying afloat thanks to the vest.

A T-cord is present that can be used to manually inflate the vest. Automatic inflation occurs if the vest is submerged in water.

Neoprene is used on the neckline to allow for comfortable, all-day wear, and this Type V life jacket weighs just 1.52 pounds – perfect for all day use.

If you plan on wearing a vest the entire time you’re out on the water, this Onyx model’s lightweight design and deployment options make it an optimal choice.

Mustang Survival Corp M.I.T. 100 Auto Activation PFD Review – The Mustang is a superb PFD that has a 500 Denier outer shell and offers an exclusive membrane inflatable technology that only Mustang offers. An inflator inspection window is present, allowing you to inspect the inflation device at any time.

Offering superior buoyancy, the 100 will self deploy in seconds when in the water and can provide 26-pound buoyancy, which is 1.5 times what comparable foam PFDs offer.

Weighing 2.1 pounds, this life vest is lightweight and comfortable during wear. The manufacturer recommends this vest for users that are older than 16, know how to swim and aren’t engaging in high-impact or high-speed water activities. This includes not engaging in whitewater kayaking.

Onyx A-24 In-Sight Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket Review – The Onyx A-24 is an automatic PFD that uses 4 gram CO2 cylinder with a green indicator clip. What we really like about the A-24 is that it has a red and black design, which allows for higher visibility in the water.

A water soluble bobbin is yellow, so it can easily be seen in the water and will inflate automatically. You can set the A-24 to manual inflation, too.

Reflective piping is on the vest itself for added visibility, and the protective cover is 400 denier nylon for extra durability. Weighing only 1.8 pounds, this life vest is light enough for kids, but is made for adults. Universal size and adjustments allow this life vest to fit everyone.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx M-24 Manual Inflatable Vest Review – The Onyx M-24 is a manual inflatable vest, so it’s best used on a boat rather than in high-impact sports. Since the vest doesn’t automatically inflate, if you fall off of your kayak or canoe and get knocked out, the vest won’t inflate unless you pull the red stopper.

D-ring attachments allow you to carry small accessories, while the soft neoprene neckline will allow you to remain comfortable at all times.

A stretchable flex-back insert allows for added comfort, and users of up to 275 pounds have worn this vest with ease. You can also see the CO2 cartridge status through the clear window on the vest.

Phantom Aquatics Snorkel Adult Vest Review – The Phantom is a low-priced adult life vest, and this model isn’t your go-to model for all things water. What is different about the Phantom is that it’s designed specifically for snorkeling. Extra buoyancy allows you to snorkel with greater ease, but it’s not the ideal jacket for boats or extreme water activities.

This is certainly and ideal life jacket for snorkeling.

The over-the-neck style keeps the vest securely around your neck while a waist and groin strap secure the vest firmly to the wearer. But keep in mind that this vest is not approved by the Coast Guard and is not meant to be a life-saving vest when out on a vessel.

If you need a vest for snorkeling, this is the right choice for you.

Buyer’s Guide –  How to Choose the Right Inflatable Lifejacket for You

We’ve already discussed quite a few criteria to pay close attention to, but there are also other points you’ll need to consider when choosing the right inflatable lifejacket for you. These are life-saving devices, and if you’re out in the water – even if you can swim – a lifejacket is a must-have for safety.

Inflatable Life Vest

A few points to consider to pick the right vest for you are:

  • Size: The sizing really matters. Many vests are “universal” in size, but this may not mean a very large person can wear the vest comfortably. Always dig deeper into the size options if you’re on the heavier side.
  • Price: You need to stay within your budget, but how much are you willing to sacrifice when choosing a PFD? These devices can mean the difference between life and death, so always make sure the model chosen is rated well.
  • Coast Guard Approval: The Coast Guard must approve a vest if it’s recommended for use while out on the water. Vests that are not approved by the Coast Guard are likely for snorkeling or other light water activities that will not present a life-threatening scenario.
  • Buoyancy Weight: The more buoyancy, the better able the vest will be able to hold you up in the water. Heavier users will want to pay attention to this metric.
  • Cartridge Viewing: If a CO2 cartridge is used, it’s important that you can see the cartridge’s status. The cartridge needs to be replaced when it’s low, or you won’t be able to inflate the PFD.