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Inflatable PFD Types & Tips

Inflatable PFDs are a comfortable lifejacket option that come in Types I, II, III and V.

The only type of PFD that does not come in inflatable form is Type IV, or the throwable type. That's because many inflatable PFDs are not inherently buoyant, which means that they may not float unless inflated---not a good option to throw to a person in distress!

For that same reason, inflatable life jackets are not authorized for use by those under 16 years of age or for persons who cannot swim.

Inflatable PFDs are also not meant to be used for high-impact activities like waterskiing, tubing, operating a PWC, or white-water paddling.

Because inflatable PFDs lose buoyancy even with a small tear or leak, they require frequent regular maintenance—even more so than a normal PFD.

Here are two tips to keep your inflatable PFD ready for use:

First, to check for leaks, manually blow up your PFD and leave it overnight. If it has deflated in the morning, you'll know you need a different PFD for your boating trip.

And second, check CO2 cartridges regularly and replace as soon as they are spent. Remember, inflatable PFDs are not designed for high-speed impact!

a person aged 16+ standing next to a PFD and CO2 cartridges

Inflatable Belt Pack

a person pulling on their PFD belt pack inflation cord

Pull on the inflation cord.

a person watching their yellow belt pack life vest inflate

The vest will inflate.

a person adjusting their yellow belt pack life vest to fit

Adjust to fit.

Inflatable Vest

a man wearing a non-inflated properly fastened life vest

Make sure the vest is properly fastened.

a man pulling on his life vest inflation cord

Pull on the inflation cord.

a man adjusting his yellow inflated life vest

The vest will inflate.