Inflatable PFDs ?

Anybody out there have any experience.with them? I know there was just a question about auto inflate ones,but I was interested in a manual one.They look like they would be more comfortable,and not so hot encouraging me to wear one more often.


I do
I’ve had it around three seasons. I love it! It is much more comfortable and cooler than my vest types. The only time I don’t use it is when it is what I consider really rough or when I’m sailing alone, on the minimal risk that I get knocked out by the boom and not be able to pull my cord. I check it a couple of times a season by blowing it up manually, after which it repacks back to original size.

You must wear the inflatable
for it to count as a PFD. In flat water, they are fine. Not so good in moving water or surf.

I saw an Astral combo
at Raystown worn by Charlie Wilson. Had minimal foam flotation with a bladder you inflated by mouth. Looked like a great idea.


Astral Hybrid
Used mine for about a year. Very pleased with it’s low profile and great freedom of movement. Minimalist pfd so if you carry lots of toys, get a sprayskirt with a pouch or a deck bag. 8lbs of floatation deflated, 22lbs inflated and definitely has you floating face up although not specifically tested for that.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Get the manual one.
I heard that the automatic ones could fail . But I’m sure it’s been corrected by now. So, just to be on the safe side get the manual one. FishHawk

inflatable PFDs
Auto inflatable PFDs are fine for motorboats. Seldom do folks fall out; little need to refold and recharge.

In paddling, we hope not too, but need to be prepared for another swim ~immediately after taking one. How many CO2 carts do we carry?

Secondly, the Mae West nature of auto inflaters makes getting back in a boat and paddling same problematic.

The Astral self inflater is a fine product for summer paddling. In heavy Whitewater, I’d rather have the floatation an intergel part of the PFD. .

Inflatable PFD
Check out the one made by Kokatat. It has large pockets that will accomodate GPS and VHF radio. Has a mesh back that is cool in warm weather, and has some bouyancy (about 10 lbs as I recall) when not inflated. When you pull the cord, it inflates to the normal bouyancy. Very comfortable.

West Marine also makes a neat inflatable. It’s a comfortable PFD with large pockets. There is no bouyancy until you inflate it.

Not really.
I’m not trying to be oppositional, but I think you’re making some incorrect assumptions.

  1. You’re assuming that paddlers use auto-inflating PFDs.
  2. You’re assuming that everyone needs to have a PFD’s flotation the second they enter the water.
  3. You’re assuming someone would consider using an inflatable in a whitewater situation.

    I would never recommend an auto-inflating PFD for kayaking. I do, however, recommend a manually inflatable PFD for certain situations. For a sea kayaker who is comfortable in the water, a manually inflatable PFD could be a great option. They are lighter, more comfortable, cooler, and don’t restrict movement. I would not recommend one for whitewater.

    Sometimes, I end up in the water quite often while kayaking because I like to practice rolls and rescues. Not once have I felt the need for a foam-filled PFD, even while practicing rescues in breaking surf. I’m pretty confident in the water, so it’s easier for me to stay calm. I know there are paddlers out there who can’t even swim, but I strongly believe that those who can’t swim should stay in calm waters where a capsize is unlikely and they should wear foam filled PFDs.

    I would only consider inflating my PFD if I’m in the water and hurt or if I somehow get separated from my boat and will be in the water for a very long time. Getting back in and paddling my kayak with my PFD has never been a problem because my PFD has never been inflated. If I’m still with my kayak and I’m still able to haul myself back in, I don’t need my PFD!

    Inflatable PFDs aren’t for everyone, but if you can handle being in the water for a few minutes without flotation, they are awesome.

    Pedro Almeida

Here’s a link
Cabela’s has them at reasonable prices. I use the 2500, it will provide more than enough flotation.

Disclaimer: Only for those who won’t freak-out as soon as they hit the water.

Pedro Almeida

thanks fir the info.What brand and type do you use? I am an acomplished swimmer and wanted on for paddleing with groups that mandate PFD’s.But I hate wearing one.Pockets are a plus.


Sospenders is a good one
Mustang is considered the best by many, but tends to be more expensive and, in terms of best, the differnce probably has to do with workmanship, not reliability. Though it may be difficult to find out, most likely, the Cabella’s models are made by Sospenders. Sterns, the owner of Sospenders, also markets inflatables, which is what I have. Mine is 4 years old and going strong. I’ve used it once in an emergency situation and it worked well.

Kokatat Sea02
I’ve had my Sea02 for about a year.

Low profile, great for hot weather (Atlanta). There is a manual inflate tube for times when you’re in the water and do not feel the need to pull the C02 cartridge discharge toggle (+21 lbs of buoyancy).

Having nearly died when the regular PFD I was wearing caught in the roots of a strainer (I needed to go down, it had to go up) I’ll deal with the 7 lbs uninflated lift.

Con’s inherent in the system: More parts. No surprise there. Risk of some jack-ass pulling your toggle. Again, no surprise there.

REI can special order this item for you (as with everything).

West Marine
Has some on sale right now.

Will the SeaO2 or the Astral when inflated be as good as a standard rescue vest in rough conditions? How long does it take to manually inflate? It’s hot in NC, so it would be great to have a light vest when paddling along the coast and then to be able to inflate manually when playing around in the surf zone or if in very windy conditions.

inflatable life jackets
Once upon a time I got kicked in the head hard enough to knock me out for half a minute while horsing around playing kayak polo with sit on tops. Came to floating upright with my face in the water blowing bubbles and sucking some water. The other paddlers thought I was joking around and didn’t pay me any mind until I started sputtering. So I figured from that point on, anything can happen out there and I didn’t want to ever trust having to blow up anything whether it be a pfd or paddle float. However, I see so darn many paddlers with their pfd’s tucked under their deck bungees that I have to admit if having an inflatable means you’d wear one versus NOT wearing one well OK then. But there are so many nice life jackets out there with venting and adjustments that I just wonder why more folks don’t try more jackets on and find one that fits them like mine do. I hardly ever know I have it on.

The PFD is something that should do what it does best without any intervention on your part because that’s when you’ll need it most. Agreed.

I put myself at risk using the sea02 etc. For me, it’s worth it. They’re not cheap either!

Another Vote for Kokatat SeaO2
I’ve been using this semi-inflatable for 3 seasons now. Love it. Most especially in warm climates such as the south. Significantly lighter in weight and less bulky than a regular PFD (but not like a Sospenders)

It has about 8 pounds of foam flotation, which is enough to buoy me up in non-whitewater conditions.

Then, you can inflate it so it has more flotation than a standard PFD – about 22 pounds, I think. If you anticipate rough weather you can pre-inflate before paddling. Or while paddling. Or, if you are in the water uninflated, you can just inflate then.

The inflation is not automatic. It is by pulling a tab to inflate via CO2 cartridge. But I think that whole thing is a pain and unnecessary. I removed the entire CO2 cartridge and assembly. Gives you more space and lightens the vest a little more.

You can still inflate it with a blowing tube. Takes about 10 seconds of breaths. Easy. To deflate you just open a valve and squeeze the vest down. 30 seconds.

I might even use it in whitewater, pre-inflated. The risk would be puncture of the air bladder while swimming.

BTW, the air bladder is mostly on the front, so it will float you face up when inflated.

Don’t see myself going back to a regular PFD.

different venues
for any type of touring, surf or whitewater I use a stohlquist or extrasport pfd with about 17 lbs of flotation I think.

For greenland rolling and practice with norsaq, harpoon and bird dart etc I use the cabellas manual inflate over the tuiliq as it does not restrict, aid or impede hand rolls or practice harpoon throws. the tuiliq in and of itself is a big fluffy pfd anyway with lots of inherent flotation. this way I comply with the requirements to wear a pfd without having the bulk getting in the way. Again, this is a very controlled environment and for anything else I wear a normal pfd with lots of pockets to feed my gearhead obsessions.


Mustang non-auto PDF
is a compact waist pack when uninflated, stays out of the way, keeps you cool, and provides 35 lbs of flotation when inflated. Uses a CO2 cartrige, or can be inflated by mouth using the attached tube.