7 Best Automatic Self Inflating Life Jackets (Buyers Guide!)

Safety is essential when working or traveling on open waters.  Anything can happen, and  although you may be a strong swimmer, you will need to have a life jacket to keep you afloat for long. An automatic self-inflating life jacket is a must-have given its comfort and flexibility.

Getting the best automatic self-inflating life vest has more benefits than opting for a traditional life jacket.  In this detailed review, learn how to find the best inflatable life jacket, what advantages inflatable jackets have over conventional ones, and check out automatic self inflating PFD reviews to help you choose the best fit when shopping.

(You might be interested in reading Best Manually Inflating Life Jackets)

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The Best Automatic Self Inflating Life Jacket Reviews (Top Picks)

After thorough research and having compared multiple life jackets, here are some of the best automatic self-inflating life jackets. We’ve listed our top picks in no particular order. 

1. Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

The Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is a U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V Life Jacket. It comes with a 400-denier stretchable flex-back insert that offers back support and that much-needed comfort. 

The utility pockets are large enough to accommodate an extra CO2 cylinder when you need a backup. You can also put a waterproof camera inside.  Another extra feature is the fleece-lined utility pocket that you can slide your sunglasses in. 

You’ll love the durable and heavy-duty 420-denier ripstop. The deluxe inflatable jacket gives you a buoyancy of over 20 pounds when inflated. Also, you can choose to inflate the vest by pulling the red tab or wait for it to inflate automatically when it’s below four inches of water. The Onyx A/M-24 can be converted from automatic inflation to manual inflation. 

Find the padded air mesh on the lower section of the straps that offer extra comfort and airflow.  Users need to have over 80 pounds and at least 16 years to wear this life jacket. Over the years, the Onyx brand has proved to manufacture quality and durable products, and the A/M-24 proves to provide value for money. 

Pros

  • Durable and effective
  • Equipped with utility pockets
  • Convertible to manual only
  • US Coast Guard approved
  • Comfortable air mesh design

Cons

  • Not ideal for non-swimmers or weak swimmers

(If you are a non-swimmer and practicing it, you should probably be reading: Bet Non-Swimmer Life Jackets)

2. Eyson Neoprene PFD Inflatable Life Jacket

The Eyson Neoprene PFD Inflatable Life Jacket boasts of durable construction and provides improved visibility.  Available in a range of colors, the inflatable life vest has neoprene material, which makes it long-lasting and lightweight. 

Being CE certified and fitted with SOLAS Approved 3M reflectors, the jacket is washable and you can hang it to air dry. The adjustable belt works well for a universal fit and its slim design keeps you cool in hot weather.

You get a buoyancy of 150N and anyone under 330 pounds can use the life jacket. 

Pros

  • Made from durable neoprene
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Unique design
  • Available in different cloud
  • CE certified

Cons

  • Not Coast Guard Approved

3. Mustang Survival M.1.T 100 Auto PFD

The Mustang Survival Auto PFD features the Membrane Inflatable Technology inflation cell, something that makes it comfortable, flexible, and light.  You’ll find that the automatic inflation kicks in within seconds of getting into the water. 

You get 26 pounds of buoyancy when the jacket is fully inflated.  Inspect the inflator through the transparent window and you can replace the CO2 canister using the easy access flap.  With its robust polypropylene waist strap and a 500-denier outer shell, you are guaranteed of durability.

What’s more, it comes in various colors and works well for low-impact waterspouts.  The T1 version includes a safety whistle and reflective tape. Being a US Coast Guard Approved life vest, you can be sure of its premium quality. 

Pros

  • Available in various colors
  • Comes with an inspection window
  • Offers 26lbs of buoyancy
  • Durable and comfortable

Cons

  • Requires minimal adjustability
  • Doesn’t offer back support

4. Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket

The Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket boasts of in-sight technology, which indicates green if the jacket is armed and ready to use and red if it’s not.  You can pull the jerk to inflate the jacket or wait for it to inflate automatically upon immersion in water. It also comes with back-up oral inflation.

The dual adjustments with webbing look manage extra webbing and help secure the pull clips on the life jacket for quick release when pulled for inflation.  With its extended fit, anyone with a chest of up to 65 inches can wear the jacket comfortably. 

The US Coast Guard Approved Type III Life Jacket also comes with a soft neoprene neckline for added comfort.  Find a reusable mesh carry bag that makes transportation easier. 

Pros

  • Comes with a backup oral inflation
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Has universal sizing
  • Comes with a reusable carry bag
  • Features cylinder seal indication

Cons

  • The ring could be prone to breakage

5. Lifesaving Pro Premium Quality Inflatable Life Jacket

Made from the best quality materials, the Lifesaving Pro Premium Inflatable Life Jacket Vest is lightweight, comfortable, and compact.  You can use it for fishing, boating, sailing, and paddling. 

The life jacket inflates in less than five seconds. It comes with an adjustable belt that works well for older teens and adults. You can reuse it, wash it, and air dry it for your next adventure. The jacket has a buoyancy of 150N and fits adults under 330 pounds. 

Moreover, you can place your waterproof camera, keys, and other items in the zippered pocket.  The square airbag surrounds the body under your arms. The package comes with reflection bands and whistle. It’s also CE certified. You’re sure to have the best time whether you are a recreational boater or you’re going for flatwater paddling. 

Pros

  • Durable and lightweight
  • CE Certified
  • Inflates in less than five seconds
  • Comfortable with an adjustable belt

Cons

  • The straps may be difficult to adjust

6. SALVS Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Ideal for both men and women, the SALVS automatic/manual inflatable life jacket is ideal for sailing, fishing, kayaking, and offshore activities. Find the soft neoprene neckline that gives you comfort all day and its slim design ensures that you are cool even in hot weather. 

The vest inflates in about five seconds after pulling the inflation cord manually or automatically when inside the water.  The reflectors on the airbag provide excellent visibility in darkness and you won’t have to deal with punctures thanks to the quality fabric.  Any adult under 330 pounds can wear the jacket comfortably. 

The quick-release buckles make your repacking work easier. Floating is more than 48 hours, which is ample time. The package comes with inflations devices, an oral tube, a whistle, reflection bands, cylinder, and an automatic inflatable bobbin.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Ideal for men and women
  • Adjustable along the back and waist
  • Ideal for sailing, fishing, kayaking, and other offshore activities
  • Manual and automatic inflating
  • Can install a re-arming kit to reuse it
  • Comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Includes limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • It’s not USCG approved
  • You can’t fill with a mouth tube 

7. Slimline Inflatable Advanced Automatic PFD

Featuring an inbuilt back mesh chassis that has durable material, the Slimline Advanced Automatic Inflatable life jacket works well for someone with a chest size of 30-56 inches. You don’t have to worry about punctures and tears thanks to the 300 denier polyester cover. 

Enjoy increased visibility out on the water as the cover comes with reflective piping.  The Slimline Inflatable Automatic life jacket weighs 24g and has a neoprene gusseted collar for extra comfort. You get 26 pounds of buoyancy when the jacket is inflated.  If you need more storage, you’ll find the external zippered pocket a convenient place to store your items. 

The life jacket inflates when immersed in water.  Being a USCG approved Type III jacket with an inflator inspection window, you can be sure of premium quality. 

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable to wear
  • US Coast Guard approved as a Type III PFD
  • Has a comfortable mesh chassis backing

Cons

  • Lacks a D-ring in its design

Automatic Self-Inflating Life Jackets Buying Guide (Making The Best Purchase)

Finding the right personal flotation device can be challenging, especially if this is your first time buying one.  Here are some common features to look at when comparing the different self-inflating life vests available. 

USCG Approved

It’s essential to find an automatic life vest that is US Coast Guard approved. Getting an approved vest assures you that the jacket meets the set safety standards to keep you afloat.  Manufacturers need to meet specific USCG criteria for them to be approved.  Make sure that you do your research to find one that is approved. 

The US Coast Guard categories the inflatable life jackets into five, which include:

Type I PFDs

These life jackets are ideal for remote or rough waters where getting rescue may take time.  They are bulky and have enough buoyancy to turn someone into a face-up position.  Type 1 PFDs are common on commercial vessels, and you can find them in hybrid, inflatable, and inherently buoyant designs. 

Type II PFDs

Type II PFDs are ideal for calm waters where you’re likely to get rescued quickly.  They are less bulky and cheaper than Type 1. These vests turn unconscious wearers face-up, but they are not comfortable like other PFDs. 

Type III PFDs

These PFDs are ideal for paddlers as they provide freedom of movement and they are comfortable when worn for long hours. While they are designed in a way that allows the wearer to be in a face-up position, sometimes the user may need to tilt his head back to avoid facing down.  Type III PFDs are available in an inflatable, hybrid, and inherently buoyant designs. 

Type IV PFDs

Type IV PFDs act as a backup to a PFD as they are meant to be thrown to a conscious person in trouble.  Some examples include buoyant cushions and life rings. These flotation devices are not meant to be worn and you can’t use them for kayaking or canoeing. 

Type V PFDs

Type V flotation devices are meant to be worn at all times and are used for activities like windsurfing, waterskiing, kayaking, and others specified on the label.  These PFDs are available in hybrid or inflatable designs. 

The Need

You need to determine what you’ll be doing in the water as this will dictate the type of vest you should get.  Some models only work well for people who can swim well, while others are meant for specific water activities like fishing and kayaking due to their streamlined designs.  

However, you cannot wear inflatable vests when going for white-water rafting, wakeboarding, or worn tubing. The jacket could inflate when you least expect and push you into the water, which could be dangerous.  Inflatable vests are ideal for sailing and other boating activities. 

Size of the Vest

The right inflatable vest should fit perfectly for it to work as expected. Check to see that the vest fits snugly around the chest and leaves you room to move comfortably.  Different manufacturers have various size ranges, which means you have to understand your size before ordering.
(If your height and weight is above average, you should consider Best Big and Tall Life Jackets)

Also, despite there being unisex inflatable jackets, experts recommend getting jackets specially designed for you. For example, female PFDs have contoured cups for women with bigger busts, something that makes them comfortable. 

Type of Inflation Method

Self-inflating PFDs can have both automatic and manual options or only have the automatic option. With the manual option, you can swim with the uninflated vest and pull the cord to inflate it only when you need to. A vest that only has automatic inflation will inflate the moment you get into the water without you having to do something. 

Automatic with bobbin inflates automatically when in contact with water. They have a paper capsule that releases the firing pin when it gets wet. Hydrostatic automatic inflates automatically when submerged in water as the water pressure activates the CO2 cartridge. 

The Material of the Jacket

The right material is critical as this is what rubs against your body and could interfere with your comfort and irritability.  Most popular options for auto inflatable life jackets are neoprene and nylon.  Neoprene provides more buoyancy and offers a comfortable and snug fit.  

Nylon is more affordable and lighter, but it doesn’t provide the same buoyancy as neoprene.  Take time to get the right type of material to avoid irritation.

Comfort Levels

Inflatable life vests are lighter than most foam life jackets, making them comfortable to wear for a long time. When making a purchase, check the height, weight, and construction. Remember that comfort is essential as you’ll have to wear the vest against dry and wet clothing.  

Ensure that the vest doesn’t rub against the skin. The jacket should be adjustable until it fits right against your chest. Vests with neoprene are ideal as they work well for water activities. 

Experts recommend testing your automatic self-inflating vest before going out with it to ensure that it works as expected. Note that testing should be done regularly if you are on the water often.  Test the vest in a supervised environment. 

To test your vest, put it on and adjust it to ensure it fits correctly. Wade into chest-deep water and bend your knees, while floating on your back. Make sure the life jacket keeps your chin out of the water and ensure that you can breathe well. 

Level of Flotation/ Buoyancy

Although most life vests are meant to provide a certain level of buoyancy or flotation to keep you safe, you should get a jacket that offers at least 22 pounds of buoyancy.  That will be enough to keep you off the water.  For rough seas, you may need a clearance of 33 pounds or more. That ensures that your head stays out of the water and that your airways are clear. 

A harness

A few life vests have a built-in harness, which gives peace of mind when you need to be rescued.  You can also purchase the harness separately as its use increases the further you are away from the shore. 

Color and Design

Some life vests have unique designs that make you stand out. Moreover, some manufacturers have jackets in various colors, something that allows you to find one that meets your preferences. 

Extra Accessories and Attachments

A few manufacturers add some accessories as part of the package. Safety whistles come in handy when you get stuck in the water. You’ll find some jackets that come with a whistle attached.  

Crotch straps ensure that the inflatable vest doesn’t roll up to your face. They help keep your jacket in place when riding higher in the water.  You can buy manufactured specific straps if your vest doesn’t come with its straps.

Spray hoods are a lifesaver in extreme conditions where rain or the waves are intense like offshore sailing.  These hoods help prevent water from your face as this can make breathing challenging.  Some inflatable jackets have the hoods in a small pooch next to the waist belt. 

Automatic identification systems are other essential accessories. They have a GPS that broadcasts your locations to nearby vessels. Some are manual, while others are activated by water. 

The reflective tape makes you visible in the water for people using a flashlight or searchlight to locate you. If your jacket doesn’t have reflective tape, get inflatable approved self-adhesive strips. 

Strobe lights are useful for finding someone in the water at night, particularly where seas are rough. A few inflatable vests have a strobe light, where it’s attached with an elastic strap around the inflatable bladder. They can also have an integral strap on the bladder for attachment.

Spinlock provides chest and belt packs. they attach to the life vest with toggles. 

Types of Inflating Jackets

Inflating jackets are categorized into two-manually inflating life jackets and the auto inflatable life jacket. Both of these jackets have a backup oral inflation tube should the main inflation fail. 

Self-Inflating Jacket

The automatic self-inflating PFD inflates some seconds after it’s submerged in water or when you pull the cord. The process involves activation of the CO2 cartridge where the pin gets dissolved by the water and the vest auto inflates. 

The activation of the jacket and the lag time of the dissolution of the pin are the reasons why this vest is not ideal for children or non-swimmers.  Unlike traditional life vests, the self-inflating one has a force that pushes you to the surface of the water. You can boat on rough waters without any worries. 

Manual Inflating Jacket

The manual inflating life vest is similar to the self-inflating one, but you need to activate it.  You need to pull a ripcord on this vest to activate the CO2 cartridge to inflate the life vest.  A manual life vest would work in most situations.  However, if you are in an emergency and you can’t pull the ripcord, that could be detrimental. 

When considering the type of jacket to purchase, you need to determine what you’ll be doing, your ability to swim, comfort levels on the water, among other factors. 

How Does an Automatic Self-Inflating Vest Work?

An auto self-inflating jacket can have either manual and automatic way of activation or have an automatic activation only. This jacket has a long made from marine grade orange or bright yellow fabric and comes with three bars of reflective tape to attract attention to your location.  The manual option allows you to inflate on demand by drawing the pull cord. When you pull the cord, that detaches a clip on the mechanism, which results in activation of the gas bottle thus releasing the COs gas that inflates the ling. 

The automatic option has a mechanism that activates a sensor when wet. That leads to activate of the gas bottle and the subsequent release of the CO2 that inflates the lung. 

Manufacturers also include an oral valve or tube that you can use to top up the air within the lung. Some packages also include a whistle that helps attract attention in case of an emergency.  You’ll find a few brands that include a sprayhood that protects your airways from water and sea spray in a search and rescue operation. 

Benefits of Using Automatic Self-Inflating Jackets

While there are several types of life jackets in the market, there’s a newer option-the self-inflating jacket. Here are some benefits of using automatic self-inflating jackets. 

Less Cumbersome

Inflating life jackets are less heavy than the traditional jackets, which make them less cumbersome and simpler to store when you are not using them. 

Comfortable to Wear

Self-inflating PFDs have a slim and unique design, something that makes them comfortable to wear and ideal for stand up paddle-boarding or sailing. As long as you don’t need (or activate) it, it can feel like another clothing layer.

Simple to Use

Inflating live vests take a few seconds for them to inflate when you get on the water. That makes them easier to use compared to manual vests that require you to pull something. 

Provide More Protection

Self-inflating life vests become bigger and buoyant in five seconds. A vest holds a person’s face up and above the water once inflated, unlike regular life vests. That makes them more effective in emergency scenarios.  

Disadvantages of Automatic Self-Inflating Jackets

Not Ideal for Some Watersports

Inflatable life jackets are not suitable for specific water activities like jet skiing. That’s because you’ll be in the water and you wouldn’t want the vest inflating automatically.  For such water sports, you need to get a life vest meant for those activities. 

Not Suitable for Non-Swimmers or Those Under the age of 16

Automatic self-inflating vests are not ideal for those under the age of 16 or non-swimmers. They can be hazardous when used improperly or if worn incorrectly.

Provide No Protection Against Hypothermia

Self-inflating jackets have a unique design, which means they don’t provide protection against hypothermia. Conventional vests are heavier and may provide more protection against the cold water.

Need Regular Maintenance

Unlike traditional life jackets, self-inflating vests need regular inspection of the CO2 cartridges. You need to check that the cartridges are in good working condition. It’s also essential to perform regular tests to the bladder to ensure that you don’t have a leak.  Remember you don’t want an automatic self-inflating vest that doesn’t work in case of an emergency. 

Maintaining Your Automatic Self-Inflatable Life Jacket

Most manufacturers recommend period checks on your automatic self-inflatable life jacket to maintain it and ensure durability. It’s recommended to inflate the bladder using the provided oral tube and leave it overnight in a place with a constant temperature. 

If you notice that the bladder doesn’t lose pressure, you need to take the vest to a service center for more tests. In case of no obvious loss of pressure, deflate it by turning the cap of the inflation tube upside down and pressing it into the inflation tube.  Expel all air by squeeing the jacket. Avoid twisting or wringing the life vest. 

Always store the inflatable life jacket in a well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight and far from dampness.  Remember to rinse the jacket (after removing the auto-inflation cartridge) with fresh water and air dry before storage.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning to ensure that you do it properly. 

Don’t forget to check for signs of damage or wear by checking if the vest has holes, tears, or rips. The straps should be firm and the seams are sewn correctly.  For automatic inflating vests, check to see that all the components are not expired. Find out if the CO2 cylinder is secured firmly while checking it for corrosion or rust.  After removing the CO2 cylinder, replace it but don’t overtighten it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when repacking the vest.  Make sure the pull-tab lanyards close. 

Other extra tips include:

  • Place the jacket in an accessible place
  • Do not sit on the life jacket or use it as a bumper as this can damage the jacket
  • Dry the jacket away from direct sunlight 
  • Never clean the jacket with strong or dry-clean detergents
  • Rinse the jacket thoroughly in fresh water to keep it fresh. 

Safety Tips for PFDs

Life jackets are meant to keep you safe when you are sailing or doing other water activities.  Here are some safety tips to keep you safe when out on the water.

Get a USCG Approved Vest

The US Coast Guard has recommendations on the right type of jacket to get depending on your water activities. Check their website for the right type of jacket for your trip. 

Wear the Life Jacket at All Times

You should wear your life jacket at all times when you are in the water. The vest should have no tears or holes.  Ensure that the straps are belted in the right buckle and any loose straps tucked in securely.  Ensure that you check your state’s requirements before heading out.

For more information on safety guidelines while wearing your PFD or spending time around water, see our interactive resources for US drowning statistics, worldwide drowning statistics, and drowning prevention.

Best Automatic Self-Inflating Jacket Comparison Chart

Product Name PriceSize (LxW)SafetyUnique Features
Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket$-$$22.00''x13.50''US Coast Guard ApprovedComfortable air mesh design
Eyson Neoprene PFD Inflatable Life Jacket$16''x3.4''CE Certificated & SOLAS Approved 3MLightweight and comfortable, Made from durable neoprene
Mustang Survival M.1.T 100 Auto PFD$-$$23''x12''US Coast Guard Approved, safety whistle and reflective tapeInflator inspection window and easy access flap
Onyx A-24 Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket$21''x13.5''US Coast Guard Approved Type IIIComes with a backup oral inflation
Lifesaving Pro Premium Quality Inflatable Life Jacket$-$$17''x8''CE certificated & SOLAS approvedReusable, washable, convenient, easy to air dry and repack
SALVS Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket$20''x12.5''Can install a re-arming kit to reuse itComes with a 30-day money-back guarantee
Slimline Inflatable Advanced Automatic PFD$-$$25.59''x13.78''US Coast Guard approved Type IIIComfortable mesh chassis backing

Wrap Up

While a traditional life jacket can come in handy, getting an automatic self-inflating life vest has more benefits. Apart from providing extra safety, these life vests offer support in case you find yourself in the water. They have more buoyancy and are bigger when activated.

Being automatic, means you don’t have to push anything to activate them, which makes them easy to use.  Inflatable life vests are also more comfortable around your arms and back. These vests can be used for sailing, fishing, kayaking, and some offshore activities. 

With our recommendations above, you should find a jacket that is the right fit, color, and style.  Remember that your safety should always come first when in water, and these jackets will get you sorted. 

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