Inflatable PFDs - the Comfortable Alternative
The best Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the one you wear. This is a common expression in boating safety. Over the
last several years, great advances have been made in the design, comfort and performance of PFDs. The result is that
you have better choices when it comes to picking the PFD that will keep you safe on or near the water.
We've all heard the many reasons why people didn't want to wear traditional foam PFDs. Common complaints are they
are too bulky, downright ugly, too hot to keep on, and not to mention they get in the way of enjoying your time on the
water. As spring approaches and we all get ready for another great season on the water we wanted to share some
information on the latest gear that will keep you safe and will let you fully enjoy your time on the water.
The newest generation of PFDs are Inflatable Personal Flotation Devices - often referred to as inflatables. They are much
more comfortable to wear, stylish and won't get in the way of your favorite boating activity. Whether you're reeling in the
big one, cruising, or paddling to your next destination, inflatables will give you excellent protection in case the unexpected
happens. When inflated, they give you almost twice the flotation of a traditional life jacket.
If you are considering an Inflatable PFD you have to be aware that they must be worn in order to meet the Coast Guard
carriage requirement. Researchers and designers at Mustang Survival put a great deal of thought into the design and fit of
inflatables. Most people will tell you that they are so comfortable you'll forget you have one on. They are lightweight (less
than 2 pounds), have a low-profile, are flexible and are designed not to interfere with what you're doing. You can wear
them over your t-shirt, and the comfortable neoprene collar won't irritate your neck. When considering the purchase of an
inflatable PFD, try it on for comfort. Not all PFDs fit the same, and manufacturers keep making improvements. It is
important to pick the one that best fits you.
So who can use an inflatable PFD? If you're over the age of 16 and weigh more than 80 lb, you may. Whether you will be
fishing, power boating or enjoying just about any activity on or near the water, you should consider wearing an inflatable
PFD. They are universally sized and fit a chest measurement of up to 52". How do they work? Each PFD has an inflator
mechanism that triggers the carbon dioxide (CO2) cylinder inside it to fill the inflatable cell or bladder. Once inflated it
provides twice the flotation of a traditional life jacket and can self-right a wearer. It also increases your freeboard, the
distance between your mouth and the water, which in turn reduces the risk of ingesting water.
Inflatable PFDs come with either manual or automatic activation. The manual version inflates by pulling the jerk tab that
hangs from the PFD at waist-height. The automatic version inflates when it gets immersed in water. This means if you fall
overboard your automatic inflatable will inflate within seconds of you being in the water. Choosing whether a manual or
automatic is the best for you will depend on the type of activity. Manuals are perfect for when there is a reasonable
chance that you will end up in the water, but you're confident that you'll be able to pull the inflation cord when you need it.
For example when paddling, kayaking, or wade fishing. Automatics are your best choice if you don't expect to end up in
the water, but want the confidence that if the unexpected happens, the PFD will inflate within seconds of being in the
So how does the cell get inflated so quickly? When you inflate a manual PFD by pulling the tab hanging from the PFD,
your pull causes a small pin to pierce the CO2 cylinder that fills the inflatable bladder to capacity. An automatic inflatable
works differently. When you hit the water, a small yellow tablet that dissolves on water contact releases a spring-loaded
pin that punctures the CO2. You can also inflate the PFD manually by pulling the tab hanging from the PFD.
One concern that people have about the water soluble bobbin is that it could inflate inadvertently if it gets wet or damp
from heavy rain, wash/spray or exposure to high humidity, without being immersed in water. This phenomenon can
typically be prevented by storing the PFD in a dry and well-ventilated place after use, and by replacing the bobbin every
one to three years, depending on the humidity exposure.
Mustang Survival has introduced a new inflatable PFD that uses hydrostatic technology that won't inflate in high humidity
conditions. This new Hydrostatic Inflator Technology (HIT), that is exclusive to Mustang, uses a water pressure valve that
only opens if it has been immersed in 4 or more inches of water. You could be fishing in the pouring rain, 90% humidity, or
storing your PFD in a locker, it simply won't inflate unless you go in the water.