Utah State Parks Blog

Types of Inflatable Life Jackets

A paddle boarder wearing an inflatable life jacket around his waist.

With technology constantly changing, keeping up with the newest – and legal – life jackets can get frustrating. From vests, to throwables, and now with inflatables, the list is constantly growing.

Here at Utah State Parks, we want to keep you informed. So we’ve put together this rundown to help you make informed decisions when it comes to choosing inflatable life jackets.

What Are Inflatable Life Jackets?

U.S. Coast Guard approved inflatable life jackets are rated as Types I, II, III, or V, and are more comfortable and less bulky to wear than traditional life jackets. The most common styles are worn over the shoulders in a suspenders-style, a more traditional vest style with pockets and storage options, and around the waist for a more belt-like look and fewer tan lines. 

Some models automatically inflate when submerged in the water, while all models can be manually or inflated by mouth. If you plan to wear an inflatable life jacket, read the approval label for age, use restrictions and proper care. Check out the video below for a demonstration. 

There are two type of inflatable jackets:

  1. Manual– Chamber inflates only when “jerk to inflate” tab is pulled OR by breathing into oral tube.
  2. Automatic– Chamber inflates automatically when submerged in water OR when “jerk to inflate” tab is pulled  OR by breathing into oral tube.

An inflatable life jacket must be properly armed with an unused gas cylinder.

Inflatable life jackets have these components:

  • An air holding chamber.
  • Inflation tube to add air to chamber orally, and deflate a chamber.
  • A source of compressed gas, usually CO2.

Whether you choose an inflatable life jacket or an inherently buoyant life jacket, choose to wear it! Your life depends on it!

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