When you’re out on the water, it’s always important to wear a life jacket—and not just any life jacket, but one that fits properly and is in good condition. While there are many different types of life jackets on the market, inflatable life jackets are a popular option for both recreational and commercial boaters.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of inflatable life jackets so you can decide if they’re right for you. PROS Inflatable life jackets are extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear, which is ideal for boaters who don’t like feeling restricted by a bulky life jacket. Inflatable life jackets also provide a high level of flotation; when properly inflated, they can keep your head above water even if you’re unconscious. Another benefit of inflatable life jackets is that they can be deflated and stored in a small pouch when not in use, making them easy to pack away when not needed. CONS While inflatable life jackets offer many benefits, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 1) Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket, Blue
Product Summary: If you are the type of person who likes to be prepared for anything, then the Onyx A/M–24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is the perfect life jacket for you. This life jacket is perfect for boating, fishing, or even just hanging out by the pool. The Onyx A/M–24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is comfortable to wear and has a sleek design that will not get in your way. This life jacket is also easy to inflate and has a manual inflation handle that is always within reach.
A 5-Star Review: This PFD works great! I was a little skeptical at first, but I fish a river that has a very fast current and is pretty cold in the fall (as of today Nov 11, water temp is 40 degrees F). If you fall out of my little boat the last thing you need to worry about is swimming. You need to concentrate on getting to shore before you get swept into the lake.
I wanted one that automatically inflated but was comfortable to wear all day, and was buoyant enough for me in my winter fishing gear. I weight 265 and in the above video I had just got back from fishing so I had my heavy winter fishing jacket, thermal underwear, insulated pants, sweater, heavy duty boots and hat on.
It worked fantastic. I also found out a few things. There is no way in hell I could get out of the water and into my boat without some sort of ladder. You can see me trying to get out of the pool not using the ladder and it wasn’t even close. I weighed probably 60 pounds more when I got out due to the water logged clothing and the bulk of the inflated PFD made getting close to the pool edge impossible.
I also found out that swimming forward was very hard and it was much easier to do the back-stroke.
As you can see it took about 1.5 seconds for the auto inflater to kick in, but it did deploy and had no problem keeping my head out of the water.
You must be wearing this in order for the Coast Guard to consider it a viable PFD, but is honestly so comfortable I forget I was wearing it.
Sorry about the sideways video.
A Critical Review: My son was wearing this vest that I bought him when he was thrown overboard in rough seas off Charleston Harbor. The vest failed to deploy either automatically or manually. Luckily he was able to tread water until his friend got the boat back to him and got him out of the water. I bought three of the vests. One for each of my sons and my husband. Now i am not letting them use them.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 2) Onyx Unisex Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD)
Product Summary: The Onyx Unisex Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD) is a great choice for boaters, anglers and paddlers who want a more comfortable alternative to a traditional life jacket. This life jacket is designed to fit a wide range of body types and can be easily adjusted to provide a comfortable, snug fit. The Onyx Unisex Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD) also features a durable ripstop fabric that is resistant to tears and abrasion. This life jacket also has a zippered pocket that is perfect for storing a small flashlight, whistle or other essential items.
A 5-Star Review: After a recent trip to the ocean and getting stuck in a rip tide, I figured it was time to look into an alternative to drowning. This fits it to a T! Lightweight and barely noticeable while wearing. Inflation is quick and can be deployed as soon as needed. Highly recommend.
A Critical Review: These seem great, very low profile. Coast guard approved. Easy to set up and operate. The problem is, I ordered two, the top one in the picture is great. The co2 cartridge hides away when you fasten everything back up. The bottom one though…not so much. The green tab is on the bottom on both, but the cartridge doesn’t attach on the same side. It sticks out when fastened, and if you were to pull the cord, it wouldn’t even release the lever to activate the vest. Amazon said it can’t be returned because of the co2 cartridge, so I emailed the company, currently waiting to hear back. Will update if anything changes.
Update: Amazon refunded the money for the defective one. So three stars because one of them is great. Risking it all and ordering another 🤞
Inflatable Life Jackets # 3) Onyx Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD) for Stand Up Paddelboarding, Kayaking, and Fishing (SUP)
Product Summary: Onyx m 16 Belt Pack Manual Inflatable Life Jacket (PFD) 130900-701-004-16 Unique design keeps stand-up paddleboarders (SUP), anglers, boaters, and other paddlers safe without compromising movement! 16 gram CO2 charge provides 17 lbs. of buoyancy – the oral inflation tube can be used to provide additional buoyancy up to 26.5 lbs. when fully inflated Extremely low profile 1” buckle and body belt D-ring attachment for small accessories 200 denier nylon oxford protective cover Approved for persons 16 years of age and older; and over 80 lbs. Use m 16 Rearming Kit (#1370) U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device PFD with Type III Performance
A 5-Star Review: Easy to use and practical
A Critical Review: There is a Velcro attached cover that slides up to the pull handle. This comes off and exposes the inflatable tube. When this happens the tube catches on things.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 4) NRS Zephyr Inflatable Lifejacket (PFD)
Product Summary: Features: -Worn around your waist -Perfect for flatwater or near-shore stand-up paddling -Inflatable with pressurized CO2 -Secures with red tab
A 5-Star Review: Easy of use
Inflatable Life Jackets # 5) Lifesaving Pro Premium Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket/Floating Vest Inflate Survival Aid PFD Light Weight with Reflection Bands
Product Summary: The Lifesaving Pro Premium Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket/Floating Vest Inflate Survival Aid PFD Light Weight with Reflection Bands is a high quality product that is designed to keep you safe in the water. It is made with a durable material that is comfortable to wear and has a life jacket that is easy to inflate. The product also includes a reflective band that helps you be seen in the water.
A 5-Star Review: Does not get in way while fishing.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 6) Onyx A/M-24 All Clear Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
Product Summary: This A/M-24 All Clear Inflatable Life Jacket has a cylinder seal indicator window that shows red or green for an at-a-glance look to show that the inflatable life jacket is properly armed and ready to use.
A 5-Star Review: The picture is completely wrong…looks pink but is actually red. Plus the front closure is zippered. I figured all this out by carefully reading reviews and viewing other websites. Love it, now just need good weather for kayaking.
A Critical Review: I have a new A/M 24 ONYX lifevest. The problem is the instructions in the package were for another live vest (carelessness) or super confusing for the product. This is a LIFE SAFETY product and such mistakes are not acceptable. The instructions talked about colored parts that did not exist on the product.
I tried to find youtube videos online for how to use the vest properly and most just promoted the vests without clear details on how to arm the specific vest I owned. ONYX tell me why I am wrong. For the record I do engineering for a living and know how to understand mechanical items.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 7) Rrtizan Children Portable Inflatable Life Jacket Snorkel Vest,Swimming Life Vest for Boys & Girls
Product Summary: The Rrtizan Children’s Portable Inflatable Life Jacket is a great way to keep your kids safe while they’re swimming. This life jacket is made from durable materials and features an inflatable design that makes it easy to put on and take off. It also has a built-in swimming life vest that helps keep your child afloat and gives them added safety while they’re in the water.
A 5-Star Review: This product worked perfect for us. My son can swim but needs something to use to snorkel With. This works like a life jacket but is much more comfortable
A Critical Review: They were easy to inflate but kids have trouble. Bought 3 of these, 2 of them the valve leaked or wouldntbspring shut and I had to keep filling them and force them shut. On one of them a leak formed from a tear at the base of the stem where it connects to the vinyl fabric. Out of the 3 I did not have issues with 1 of them. They were only used 3 times before the tear happened. I will be requesting a refund soon do to poor quality. I could have spent 15 dollars more and got something nicer.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 8) Stearns Sospenders Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
Product Summary: The Stearns Sospenders Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is a USCG-approved Type III life jacket. It is comfortable to wear and easy to use. The jacket is made of durable nylon and has a inflation chamber that can be manually inflated. The jacket also has a reflective strip for added safety. The Stearns Sospenders Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is a great choice for boaters, fishermen, and anyone who wants to be safe while out on the water.
A 5-Star Review: What’s nice about the Sterns SOSpenders is that it fits any size person. Next is that it does not interfere with the limited space in a Kayak. I have not had the occasion to deploy it in a real emergency situation but I have practiced using the manual inflation tube and feel that I will be able to manually inflate the PFD and save the use of the CO2 cartridge in the event of a kayak sinking, which any folding kayak can do. And in the event of a capsize due to extraordinary rough water, can release the CO2 cartridge for quick deployment. I’m happy with the security that the SPSpender PFD provides.
A Critical Review: The only thing I did not like about this product is the way it was made in the area surrounding the neck. It seems that the design is for a child not an adult. The width of the opening is not very big and has a seam where the nylon cover is stiched right at the nexk line. This creats an uncomfortable rubing against the sides of the neck. Other than this complaint the quality of the construction looks very good.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 9) Top Safety Adult Life Jacket with Whistle – Manual Version Inflatable Lifejacket Life Vest Preserver PFD for Boating Fishing Sailing Kayaking Surfing Paddling Swimming – Adjustable Life Saving Vest
Product Summary: The Top Safety Adult Life Jacket with Whistle is a manual version inflatable lifejacket life vest preserver that is perfect for boating, fishing, sailing, kayaking, surfing, paddling and swimming. This life jacket is adjustable to fit men, women and kids and comes with a whistle for added safety. This life jacket is made from high quality materials and is designed to keep you safe in the water.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 10) Top Safety Adult Life Jacket with Whistle – Manual Version Inflatable Lifejacket Life Vest Preserver PFD for Boating Fishing Sailing Kayaking Surfing Paddling Swimming – Adjustable Life Saving Vest
Product Summary: This top-of-the-line adult life jacket is perfect for boating, fishing, sailing, kayaking, surfing, paddling, and swimming. The manual version inflates quickly and easily, and the adjustable life saving vest fits men, women, and youth. The life jacket also comes with a whistle for emergency signaling.
A 5-Star Review: it really not long enough for a tall person
A Critical Review: Don’t buy from a 3rd party seller!! The product is heavy, the directions confusing, no way to test the product to make sure it works, said it came with a whistle and did not. Cost me to ship it back and they charged me a restocking fee!!! How ridiculous!! Your getting the product back so why are you charging me a restocking fee. Very frustrating!!
Inflatable Life Jackets # 11) Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe – Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
Product Summary: Convertible from Automatic/Manual to Manual only inflation. Padded air mesh on lower panels, back and straps. Utility pockets. Fleece lined sunglass pocket. Uses 135200-701-999-12 rearming kit.
A 5-Star Review: Bought this to replace a 20-year-old Stormy Seas vest. Works great for a seaplane — not too bulky, fairly comfortable, and easy to convert to manual inflate (necessity for seaplanes)
A Critical Review: This lifejacket is not made for women. If you have any breast, it will be very uncomfortable. Unbelievable.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 12) NRS Matik Inflatable Lifejacket (PFD)
Product Summary: The NRS Matik Inflatable Lifejacket (PFD) is a compact, lightweight inflatable lifejacket that gives you on-demand flotation. The Matik is perfect for stand-up paddling, fishing or wading.
A 5-Star Review: I love this life vest! I fish at least 4 days a week, so comfort is important to me. NRS Matik gives me comfort and security without having to sacrifice a stylish presentation for my fish pics. Lol
Inflatable Life Jackets # 13) Onyx Absolute Outdoor A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
Product Summary: If you’re looking for a life jacket that will keep you safe in any weather condition, then the Onyx Absolute Outdoor A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is the perfect option for you. This life jacket is both automatic and manual, which means that you can control how tight it fits to your body. Plus, the Onyx Absolute Outdoor A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is made from durable materials that will protect you from the elements.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 14) Mustang Survival Auto Inflate PFD – MIT 100 Auto, Lightweight Life Jacket for Adults – Red
Product Summary: Mustang Survival MIT Automatic Inflatable PFD Features Manual inflation handle Membrane Inflatable Technology Adjustable waist belt Large arm cut outs Submersible
A 5-Star Review: Comfortable & lightweight, so it’s not a burden to wear while onboard and underway.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 15) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Basic Automatic/Manual
Product Summary: Inflatable Vest Survival Vest Adult Children Swimming Boating Fishing The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest is a basic automatic/manual inflatable vest that is great for survival situations. It is made for both adults and children and is perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing. This vest has a bright orange color for high visibility and comes with a whistle for emergency signaling. It is comfortable to wear and is easy to put on and take off.
A 5-Star Review: This is well built and a known brand my boat runs 84.6 mph and I wear this vest so literally I put my life in its hands
A Critical Review: The quality is great, however it is very uncomfortable and stiff around the neck. I sent it back! Great seller though!
Inflatable Life Jackets # 16) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Highly Visible Automatic
Product Summary:/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket/Vest for Adults The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket is a highly visible, automatic/manual inflatable life jacket/vest that is perfect for adults. It is easy to use and comes with a convenient carrying case. This life jacket is perfect for those who enjoy spending time on the water. It is comfortable to wear and provides plenty of protection.
A 5-Star Review: We are in the beginning of winter, so I haven’t been able to use it yet, but trying it on it fits well.
A Critical Review: My husband chose this devise for me to purchase from Amazon but after receiving it he was very dissatisfied with it. The devise doesn’t have a snap closure instead it has a metal piece and you must run the straps though every time you use it. He says this is very inconvenient and takes more time to put on and off. Most life vest have snaps. The owners manual for this vest shows it with a snap closure but it’s not what we received. I should have read the reviews before ordering because this vest is NOT Coast Guard Approved! It’s also listed as a prime item but I’m going to have to pay the postage to send it to the company it came from instead of Amazon! Do not waste your money!
Inflatable Life Jackets # 17) Eyson Slim Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Automatic
Product Summary:/Manual Inflatable – Adult The Eyson Slim Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest is a great choice for those who want a little more protection while out on the water. This vest is comfortable to wear and provides plenty of flotation for even the most inexperienced swimmer. The automatic/manual inflatable feature is a great safety feature that will give you peace of mind while out on the water.
A 5-Star Review: I have been fortunate enough to not need mine, but in inclement weather I will have it strapped on. We took time before our first sail to make sure they fit, then wrote our names on the back so we grab the correct ones. Just take the time before you go to adjust all the straps and such, you do not want to do that in an emergency. No idea if it works but the quality seems decent, so I trust the inflate mechanism works correctly. It is not overly bulky in the short-term, I have not tried to wear it all day but likely is fine. So far, good product.
A Critical Review: Seems like a good product for a good price; but, the waist buckle won’t latch seems like the wrong size or just defective. Obviously for a life saving device that needs to lock securely on you to work this is a failure. It also gives me concerns about the overall quality, if the manufacturer can’t get a buckle right, how reliable will the inflation mechanism be when I need it to work to save my life? So returning. Maybe I just got one with a defective buckle but not worth the risk to find out.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 18) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Highly Visible Manual for Adults (Yellow)
Product Summary: Features: – SOLAS Approved USA 3M Reflectors: 2 large area reflective bands on fabric cover, greatly increase visibility in darkness. – Transparent Plastic Window: Designed for easily checking the status of the device to confirm whether it’s ready for use or not. – Large Pull Cord: Easily hold and pull the cord to inflate the air bag/chamber. – Neoprene Neck Cushion: Soft neoprene neckline for all day comfort. – Useful Stainless Steel D-ring: Extra D-ring for hanging small stuff and it can be also used for someone to pull you back to the land. – Stainless Steel Buckle: This buckle is much durable than the traditional black plastic quick release buckle, BUT it requires a new way to open and close the buckle, please refer to picture 5 about how to use this buckle.
A 5-Star Review: The vests are well made and comfortable to wear. Take your time adjusting them to fit when trying for the first time. The buckles edges could be finished better so that they are rounded off a bit, but that’s the only issue we have found with these vests.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 19) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Inflatable Life Vest for Adult Classic Automatic
Product Summary: The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket is a versatile and affordable life vest that is perfect for both adults and children. The life jacket is made from durable materials and features an inflatable design that makes it easy to put on and take off. The life jacket also has a built-in whistle for emergency situations.
A 5-Star Review: Seems good quality. Have yet to inflate. I bought a camo one and this red one for my lady. I’m 6’4″ 240lbs and even with my strap all the way tightened it is still a bit more loose than I would like. Now my girlfriend is 115lbs and it’s just wayyy to big to even be usable for her
A Critical Review: Seems to be ok, don’t know until I need it to work. Shipping took so long I forgot that I ordered it.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 20) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Life Ring Belt Pack Waist Bag Automatic
Product Summary: Swimming Drifting Survival The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Life Ring Belt Pack Waist Bag Automatic Swimming Drifting Survival is a must-have for anyone who loves spending time in the water. Whether you’re swimming, sailing, or just enjoying a day at the beach, this life jacket will keep you safe and comfortable. It’s made with high-quality materials and features a bright orange design that’s easy to spot in the water. The jacket also has a waist belt and a life ring that can be used as a flotation device. The best part about this life jacket is that it’s automatic, so you don’t have to worry about inflating it yourself.
A 5-Star Review: I was unaware that my new lifevest was an automatic inflatable vest. I have been very much supported by Eyson and getting the correct kit to replace in my vest after inflation happened while in the river. Thank you Eyson Customer Support
A Critical Review: It works, but instructions are difficult to read. I would disarm auto opener for paddleboarding. It is described as a vest, but really an inflatable ring, which is difficult to maneuver in case of emergency. The instructions are not clear at all.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 21) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Inflatable Life Vest for Child Classic Automatic
Product Summary: This Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket is perfect for kids 4-7 years old. It is a classic automatic/manual inflatable life jacket that is comfortable and easy to wear. The life jacket is made of high-quality materials and is durable. It is also lightweight and easy to carry. This life jacket is perfect for kids who are active and enjoy the outdoors.
A 5-Star Review: Perfect size and so less bulky than regular life jackets. 12 year old grandson will use on a fishing trip and I’ll be much more comfortable that he’s always got it on and protected.
A Critical Review: We own house on the water, and my little guy doesn’t like wearing a life jacket on the dock. i thought this was because regular kid vests are so bulky, so i bought this for our big 2.5 year old (size of a 3.5 year old) to wear when he is outside. the problem is, he can wriggle out of this much more easily than he can wiggle out of a neoprene vest style jacket (he can’t). so the problem with this jacket is that a kid has to WANT to wear it. with the vests he doesn’t have a choice because he can’t the vest off or open the buckles. neoprene vests stay on and in place for hours and hours. with this jacket, within minutes, he just wriggles the straps aside and can pull it so far out of position as to be more dangerous than helpful. I used to maintain certifications as lifeguard, water safety instructor, and 50 ton motor vessel captain, and i currently own probably 40 life jackets of various kinds for all my boats and docks, most of them for kids, so I know what I’m talking about. don’t count on this product to keep your kid safe. I would much sooner choose a plain old vest. i also think vests are safer than puddle jumpers, because puddle jumpers only have one buckle and kids can wiggle out of those too. i’ve seen it many times.
This is a well made product, but for a kid who doesn’t want to wear a life jacket (most of them don’t), it’s not much help.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 22) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Triangle Waist Bag Manual
Product Summary: The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Triangle Waist Bag Manual Inflatable Life Vest 2 Pack is a great way to stay safe while out on the water. This product comes with two life jackets that can be easily inflated when needed. The waist bag is also great for carrying your essentials while on the water.
A 5-Star Review: Nothing
A Critical Review: The package insert seems to suggest that the vest will auto inflate when exposed to water. If this feature is correct the item will not work for kayak or paddle boarding.
Inflatable Life Jackets # 23) Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Life Ring Belt Pack Waist Bag Manual
Product Summary: The Eyson Inflatable Life Jacket Life Vest Life Ring Belt Pack Waist Bag Manual Inflatable Swimming Boating Survival Vest For Adults Kids is a must-have for anyone who enjoys swimming, boating, or spending time near the water. This life jacket is designed to provide superior comfort and safety, and is made from high-quality materials that are built to last. The vest features a durable waist belt and adjustable straps that ensure a snug, comfortable fit, and the front zip closure makes it easy to put on and take off. The life jacket also features a large front pocket that’s perfect for storing essential items, and the reflective strips provide added visibility in low-light conditions.
A 5-Star Review: I bought this specifically for skydiving in the Seychelles. After a few jumps, the velcro on the outer case opened on its own and one end of the yellow inflatable ripped off. I used it on a few more jumps, and it opened again and the other end ripped off and the yellow inflatable flew away and is now fish food somewhere in the Seychelles. The product did not say that it was for skydiving, so I’m not knocking them. If it had held up then I would have given it 5 stars. In all fairness, it did last while doing basic belly flying, but when I started to do sit fly, vertical, head down, and flips, that’s when it all fell apart. I wore it both in the front and in the back. Can anyone recommend a stronger one built for skydiving?
A Critical Review: Bought this for paddleboarding, got pulled over on waterway by Sherrif, NOT USGC approved…..
Most people who go out on the water do not think about how dangerous it can be. Inflatable life jackets can save your life in the event of an accident. It is important to wear one whenever you are on a boat, or near water.
If you need help finding the best life jackets to enjoy your favorite water activities, we have a few suggestions of our own. You can read all about them here>>