Question about inflatble PFD's

To those who use inflatable PFD’s, I’m trying to figure out whether or not I want manual vs automatic.

Has anyone experienced problems with the automatic PFD’s deploying when not needed? For example, would rain or splashing water on the PFD cause it to inflate?

I’ve got the manual, it works. With the
automatics, there are two kinds. One inflates on contact with water, the other takes immersion. The latter is more expensive. Stearns and Sospenders (same company, different names and a bit different style of vest) may make the latter tpe. Mustang does. If its any testimony, fish and game, as well as some rescue groups use Mustang inflatable PFD’s, but Mustang is much more expensive.

Inflatables are NOT for white water. You must wear the inflatable to be legal, can’t just sit on it or stick it under deck bungees. Also, one should periodically test the inflatable both for leaks and as to whether the CO2 cartridge is working. The cartridges run anywhere from $10 up. Probably, its best to replace the cartridge once a year.

If you go for the automatic, whether you get the easily inflated one or the one that takes more water to inflate, the deciding factor may be your paddling style, how much water you get on you in the day, and how likely you are to throw your pfd in the bottom of the kayak or canoe when it has an inch of water in it. Personally, the manual has been fine for me. I’ve had to use it once and it was pretty automatic pulling the cord. Instant inflation. The best thing about inflatable PFD’s is that they are cool in the heat of summer.

I should clarify that I only intend to use this on flat water- ie. protected bays, sounds in Florida Gulf Coast area.

Works great for that, then. I’m in SE
Texas, same kind of heat out on the water. The inflatables are fairly cool. Some will argue that the big speed boat that knocks you out of the kayak and unconsious is a problem because the manual inflatable won’t go off, but…

It all depends.
Inflatables do have ONE big advantage: they’re worn around a waist as a funny pack or as suspenders, deployed only when needed and as such they are nowhere near as hot as traditional PFDs. However, all manual inflatables I’ve seen carry a “for good swimmers only” warning label. The question is: How good of a swimmer are you?

Their main disadvantage is the fact that when inflated they’re “puffy” and interfere with paddling or self-rescue, at least in my case. Deflating them, although a relatively simple procedure, takes a little time. I’m using a manual Mustang’s AirForce funny pack. When deployed in water it works great, but must be deflated when I’m back it the kayak. It is NOT a kayaker friendly PFD.