All About Inflatable PFD's

Traditional Personal Flotation Devices use inherently buoyant materials, such as foam, to stay afloat. Inflatable PFD's, as their name indicates, rely on inflatable chambers that provide buoyancy when inflated.

Uninflated, these PFD's are less bulky than inherently buoyant PFD's. Inflatables come in a variety of USCG defined PFD Performance Types. The specific Type of PFD is determined by characteristics such as its amount of buoyancy, its in-water performance and its type of inflation mechanism. To understand the details of your PFD, read the PFD label and owner's manual, and consult your dealer if necessary.

All Inflatables:

Contain a backup oral inflation tube (which also serves as the deflation tube!).

Advantages of Inflatables:
  • High visibility when inflated.
  • Turns most wearers face-up faster than traditional PFD's.
  • Will keep some unconscious users face up.
  • More comfortable than inherently buoyant PFD's.
  • Superior in-water performance.
Disadvantages of Inflatables:
  • Some require multiple steps to deploy.
  • Not suitable for nonswimmers.
  • Not recommended for children under 16.
  • Not appropriate for activities that involve frequent water entry or high speed boating activities (such as personal watercraft use, racing, sailboarding, whitewater rafting).
  • Require frequent inspection and maintenance.
  • Do not protect against hypothermia.
Types of Inflatable Mechanisms:

Automatic

Uses a water-soluble capsule attached to the inflation unit; its mechanism pierces the CO2 cylinder and releases the gas when submerged. Units with automatic inflation mechanisms may also be manually inflated by using the ripcord.

Manual

Releases the CO2 gas from the cylinder via the ripcord.