When setting out to go offshore, it is important to take precautionary steps such as making sure you have all the necessary supplies, your boat is mechanically sound, and equipped with safety equipment such as life jackets.
The right life jacket will be the one you choose to wear every time.
Inflatable life jackets have become a common choice among kayaking enthusiasts, anglers, and the over-boating community.
An inflatable life jacket can be of great use if you regularly go out in waters where there is a chance of tipping or falling over.
Although it can be difficult to choose an inflatable life jacket, we have compiled a list of the top 10 best inflatable life jackets.
The best personal flotation devices offer excellent mobility and are comfortable to wear allowing you to freely move while staying safe during your kayaking, fishing, and boating escapades.
So, without further ado, let’s go ahead and have a look at our top 10 best inflatable life vests:
Here's What's In Store For You...
- Top 10 Best Inflatable Life Vests for Protection
- 1) Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket
- 2) NRS Matik Inflatable Lifejacket
- 3) Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
- 4) Wacool Inflatable Life Vest
- 5) Stohlquist Child PFD Life Jacket
- 6) Mustang Survival Vest
- 7) NRS Crew Universal PFD
- 8) Astral V-Eight PFD
- 9) Stearns Boating Stole with Realtree Max-4 Camo
- 10) NRS Otto Matik Inflatable
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
At a Glance
- Best Overall Option: Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket
- Best Runner Up Option: NRS Matik Inflatable Lifejacket
- Best Automatic/Manual Option: Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
- Best Snorkeling Option: Wacool Inflatable Life Vest
- Best Kids Option: Stohlquist Child PFD Life Jacket
- Best Dual Floatation Option: Mustang Survival Vest
- Best Budget Option: NRS Crew Universal PFD
- Best Kayaking Option: Astral V-Eight PFD
- Best Comfortable Option: Stearns Boating Stole with Realtree Max-4 Camo
- Best Automatic Inflation Option: NRS Otto Matik Inflatable
Top 10 Best Inflatable Life Vests for Protection
1) Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Inflatable Life Jacket
The Absolute Outdoor Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe inflatable life jacket is one of the best inflatable life jackets out there in the market.
Like most life inflatable life jackets it has a universal size that fits all.
It is made from 420-denier ripstop nylon and is US coast guard approved as a Type V personal floatation device.
This inflatable life jacket has a “jerk to inflate” handle or it can also inflate automatically upon immersion.
Giving you the liberty to convert between auto/manual inflation to a manual-only inflation life jacket.
- Inflates automatically
- Requires recharge kit
- One size
The Onyx A/M-24 has made it to our list of best inflatable life jackets because of its excellent comfort, low-profile design, and overall utility.
If you regularly head out for water adventures you must have an inflatable life vest that you can trust and Onyx A/M-24 is one of these.
The soft neoprene around the collar/neckline makes sure that once this life jacket is inflated you do not experience chafing.
The padded air mesh panels on the lower section, back, and straps provide a soft cushioning to the individuals wearing this inflatable life jacket.
The minimum buoyancy provided by this life vest is 22.5 pounds and can keep afloat any over 6 feet.
However, it is not recommended for people below the age of 16 and those who cannot swim.
Additional safety features such as reflective piping increase your visibility at night, you can also add safety accessories such as a whistle or a torch to the D-ring attachment.
What makes this inflatable life jacket stand out is its utilitarian design.
The padded, fleece-lined pockets are best for keeping your personal items such as sunglasses.
If you are into fishing, boating or kayaking Onyx A/M-24 should be your first choice.
2) NRS Matik Inflatable Lifejacket
The NRS Matik inflatable life jacket provides a traditional design.
This personal floatation device is a preferred option for kayaking because it provides agility while you are kayaking, but is inflated immediately if you fall overboard.
It has a low-profile horse collar style that gives you on-demand flotation.
It meets the US coast guard requirements as a Type III life jacket.
In the event of a swim or falling overboard you can pull the red tab to engage the pressurized integrated CO2 canister.
Since these cartridges are for one-time use, you should keep replacements as well so you can rearm your inflatable life jacket.
- Excellent Fit
- Good Quality Inflatable Bladder
- Manual Inflation Option Available
- Non-fluorescent stripes
The NRS Matik is one of the best inflatable life jackets currently available due to its traditional design features and usability.
The material used in manufacturing this inflatable life jacket is comfortable, breathable, and durable.
Making it a great choice for offshore anglers who have a robust routine and have to fish under the scorching sun.
Moreover, the inflatable bladder can handle abuse, and packing and rearming the jacket is user-friendly.
The life vest also provides a pocket in the front with a key tether, but it is big enough to hold the majority of the phones out there.
The interior lining of the life jacket has reflective strips that can come in handy when searching at night with a flashlight.
The manual inflation tube is also a great feature in case the cartridge fails to deploy.
In short, this inflatable life jacket has an internal tether for keys or a whistle plus a manual backup cord, mouth inflation tube, reflective accents, and two points attachment.
The NRS Matik inflatable lifejacket is an excellent choice for individuals looking for comfort, security, and style.
3) Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket
The Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket by Onyx is an amazing lightweight option currently available in the market.
It inflates automatically upon immersion in water but you can also inflate it manually.
The automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket is made from a 200 denier nylon ripstop and 200 denier nylon oxford protective cover.
This protective cover makes this life jacket an extremely durable and robust option for those of us whole enjoy kayaking.
The Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket provides a minimum of 22.5 pounds of buoyancy and is best for people over the age of 16.
It is also US coast guard approved so compliance won’t be an issue in case of an inspection.
- Instant Inflation
- Keeps Heavier Individuals Afloat
- Sensitive To High Temperatures And Humidity
- Difficult To Swim Forward While The Jacket Is Inflated
The Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket provides an ultra-light solution to your PFD needs.
The automatic inflation mechanism is extremely quick to sense moisture and deploys immediately.
But some users have reported that it is too sensitive and can trigger the jacket in humid and hot climates unnecessarily.
Therefore, you should make sure that you store these personal floatation devices in a cool and dry place when not using them.
The Automatic Manual life vest is best for people who want to have a lightweight jacket but also want maximum buoyancy.
It can easily keep afloat people over 300 pounds and can be rearmed again easily.
Although the life jacket will keep you afloat, you might find it difficult to swim forward and it will be easier to do the backstroke.
This life vest is the go-to option for people who want comfort, easy movement, and durability.
4) Wacool Inflatable Life Vest
The Wacool Inflatable Life Vest is a snorkeling life vest that is made for small footprint adults and teenagers.
Its easy inflation and deflation make it the best choice for snorkeling and diving.
This inflatable PFD provides 80 to 220 pounds of buoyancy so it can fit individuals of different sizes.
The neon colors provide excellent visibility at night therefore you do not have to worry about the safety of your kids.
These personal floatation devices are ideal for learners and swimmers, who are not experts yet.
- Easy To Inflate
- Quality Material
- Value For Money
- Not For Heavier Individuals
The Wacool Inflatable Life Vest is one of the best inflatable life jackets out there in the market.
With its easy inflation and deflation, it is best for diving, because you can manually inflate it whenever you want to surface again.
It is made from polyester and PVC which makes it lightweight and comfortable to wear while you are not swimming.
The Adjustable waist and crotch straps provide a worry-free snorkeling experience, and the pinch buckles make removal faster.
The horse collar is a comfortable design that provides breathability and agility to the wearer.
What makes this life vest stand out is that it is made for individuals who want to explore the waters with more freedom and confidence.
Once deflated these life jackets have a really small cross-sectional area and do not take up much space.
They provide amazing value for money at this price point.
Making them an amazing entry-level option for people who are just learning or want to have fun in the water.
Especially children who find it difficult to swim initially.
Children can easily air these up and down according to the level of assistance they need.
If you are someone who wants to do snorkeling or diving for fun, these life jackets will be your best bet.
5) Stohlquist Child PFD Life Jacket
The Stohlquist Child PFD Life Jacket is an amazing choice for your children.
The wrap-around floatation feature provides a safe experience for your child and gives you peace of mind.
The life jacket is US coast guard approved, type III PFD and can support children between 30 to 50 pounds of weight.
It provides 8 pounds of buoyancy and once inflated it will automatically turn your child face-up, which makes it a smart and reliable option.
- Wrap-around floatation
- Head support
- Highly visible colors
- Meant for small children
The Stohlquist Child PFD Life Jacket is one the best inflatable life jackets and makes it to our best list because its features are designed to fit a child and keep them safe in the water.
The life jacket features a grab handle on the back of the vest that allows you to quickly retrieve the child if they fall overboard.
For added security, the front zipper has a quick release buckle over the top.
The adjustable crotch strap comes in handy for ensuring a comfortable fit.
The wrap-around design incorporates foam in such a way that it is thinner on the back and side to allow maximum comfort and mobility.
The vest’s outer shell is made from durable 200-denier nylon and comes in high-visibility red, pink, and yellow or a more neutral blue.
The dual support collars on this inflatable life jacket provide support to your child’s head.
It also has large armholes that prevent chafing.
With most life vests designed for children lacking important safety features, Stohlquist Child PFD stands out.
The curved side panel foam provides an easy and secure fit, plus the open back provides breathability and a secure fit.
The life jacket ensures that your little one can have fun in the water without compromising on their safety and well-being.
This life jacket will not strangle or choke your child but ensure that they remain afloat in the water and have a good time.
6) Mustang Survival Vest
The Mustang Survival Khimera Hybrid Life Vest is a slim-profile PFD.
It has large armholes to offer the greatest possible agility and movements to you.
Although this inflatable life jacket has a square body design, it can be adjusted to fit many body types.
Khimera hybrid has a mesh backing, two adjustable torso straps, two shoulder straps, and a velcro-secured front pocket.
It also features a new technology that provides extra buoyancy when needed called dual floatation.
You can inflate or deflate according to the condition and intensity of the water.
The Khimera PFD is one of the first dual-flotation PFDs on the market.
That means the PFD has both foam construction and inflatable chambers, filled via a CO2 cartridge hidden in the lower part of the vest.
- Doesn’t limit mobility
- Less Zipper Pocket
The Mustang Survival Khimera Life Vest is considered by us as the best inflatable life jacket because it incorporates dual flotation technology and offers extra buoyancy.
It is a Type III PFD but it can still be adjusted to each user’s specific needs.
It can be inflated both automatically and manually in two different ways.
You can simply trigger the CO2 inflation with the pull handle on the right side of the jacket, the handle is in covers to prevent accidental triggers.
Or you can use manual inflation by using the tube on the top inside of the vest and when deflating use the manual valve.
The Mustang survival offers 20 pounds of total dual buoyancy.
7.5 pounds with the foam floatation combined with 12.5 pounds with CO2 inflation.
The life jacket easily keeps you afloat in a deep water lake with rough weather and you can expect foam components to dry out quickly.
The interior of this PDF does not accumulate sweat, condensate, or rub with your skin which makes it extremely comfortable.
The only drawback we found in this amazing life jacket was that it does not have a lash tab and a more secure zippered front pocket.
Other than that it is an excellent choice that offers extra buoyancy, comfortable design, and durability for a long time.
7) NRS Crew Universal PFD
The front zip entry system NRS Crew Universal is an inflatable life jacket that fits all.
With the most inflatable life jackets costing around $100, NRS Crew Universal is an option that offers the same safety and features that you will find in some of the best inflatable life jackets.
NRS’s design philosophy for Crew Universal was to keep it simple and affordable while providing Type III floatation and comfort.
These inflatable life vests are US coast guard approved and you can wear them when going offshore.
- Easy to get off and on
- Meant for calm waters
The NRS Crew Universal has made it to our list of best inflatable life vests because it offers the same safety and comfort as other options while being affordable.
It gives 16.7 pounds of buoyancy, which is a moderate figure if we compare it to other expensive and advanced options on this list.
This figure is more than enough for calm waters and most people won’t have to worry about staying afloat when wearing this.
The malleable foam in this inflatable life jacket changes its shape to fit around your body properly.
The five adjustment points will keep you snug and secure.
With a front zipper, waist buckle, and side adjustment straps.
You can fit a wide range of adults into this jacket, which means that you will not have to buy extra vests.
And you can have any arrangement of guests on your boat and not have to worry about having an inflatable life vest for each one of them.
However, it has drawbacks that can be a deal-breaker for some, that this inflatable life jacket is designed for sheltered, calm water or close to shore waters.
Therefore, if you plan to go further longer trips, or more challenging water, there are other ranges more suited to your needs.
We will recommend this range of inflatable life jackets to individuals who have regular guests on their boats or people who are new to paddling.
8) Astral V-Eight PFD
The Astral V-Eight Inflatable Life Jacket is an amazing unisex option.
It has an ergonomic design and lightweight construction, its tapered top is extremely comfortable to wear and allows much greater freedom of motion.
These personal floatation devices offer 16.2 pounds of floatation and are US coast guard approved.
A revolutionary airflow system prevents excessive heat build-up, keeping you cool even when you’re exerting yourself in warm weather.
The mesh back design allows comfortable seating on high seatbacks.
- Mesh pockets
Just like other options on our best inflatable life vests list the Astral V-Eight offers amazing utility and reliability.
This life vest comes in three sizes and features a design that incorporates mostly mesh back with a high pad and is a type III PFD made of 200 x 400D ripstop nylon and polyester mesh.
This inflatable life jacket is easily adjustable to a large range of body sizes
The jacket has an extra high back that is great for paddling but makes swimming a little bit difficult.
The reflective trim on this inflatable life jacket gives it amazing visibility at low light.
The extra ventilation holes and mesh pockets prevent the life jacket from getting clogged with water.
This allows you to easily get back onto your boat.
Moreover, the velcro shoulder tabs keep the tails secured and they do not bother you while you are in the water.
The side straps are not too long therefore they do not come in your way.
What makes this inflatable life jacket stand out is that it has several useful pockets.
It has a knife tab along with two mesh pockets with elastics to keep the things clipped.
The Airscape technology provides ventilating channels across the upper back to increase breathability, making it a great option for hotter climates.
This inflatable life jacket only weighs around 20 ounces, therefore it is very light to wear.
This life jacket is an amazing option for kayaking.
9) Stearns Boating Stole with Realtree Max-4 Camo
Stearns Boating Stole with Realtree Max-4 Camo is a life jacket that offers amazing movement and freedom to the individual wearing it.
It comes in a universal size and offers a comfortable approach angle to your arms.
It has automatic and manual inflation and comes with US coast guard approval.
The open-backed design gives your arms freedom to move and the adjustable webbing strap can be resized to fit and has a single buckle closure.
- Easier Mobility
- Comfortable and Light Weight
- Expensive CO2 Replacement Cartridge
When it comes to buying the best inflatable life jacket on the market, Stearns Boating Stole with Realtree Max-4 Camo is one of the recommended options.
The life jacket offers an automatic manual inflation system, that will deploy within seconds you fall in the water.
Once inflated the only thing you will have to worry about is making it to your boat or the nearby shore.
You can also manually inflate it by pulling a lanyard for CO2 inflation, or by an oral inflation tube.
It provides 22.5 pounds of buoyancy that’s similar to what is found on more expensive inflatable life vests.
It is easy to wear and does not have the regular constriction of a normal life jacket.
Works perfect for fishing and you can cast your fishing rods while wearing it without any complaints.
The US Coast Guard-approved design is constructed of rugged ripstop fabric with orange and reflective accents for added visibility on and in the water.
This life vest is very comfortable and wearing it for longer durations will not leave you sweating and exhausted.
Usually, users tend to test it in safe waters, and according to their feedback, this inflatable life vest immediately turns them on their back and offers great buoyancy and safety.
The only downside of this inflatable life vest is the cost of replacing the CO2 cartridge.
However, Stearns offers great value for money and is an amazing option for people who want extra buoyancy.
10) NRS Otto Matik Inflatable
The NRS Otto Matik Inflatable PFD has a low-profile design that is similar to traditional life vests and a departure from the waist-belted inflatable life jacket design.
But while the NRS Otto Matik has a traditional design it has compact convenience because it is inflatable.
The life vest is US coast guard approved, provides 22.5 pounds of floatation, and is a type III life jacket.
It is a horse-collar style inflatable life jacket that gives on-demand inflation and does not get in your way when you are paddling, fishing or wading.
It comes with a single adjustment point that offers a snug and secure fit.
The water sensor detects moisture to activate the pressurized CO2 cartridge and inflates the bladder.
- Excellent Fit
- Good Quality Inflatable Bladder
- Manual Inflation Option Available
- Non-fluorescent stripes
We consider the NRS Otto Matik as the best inflatable life vest because it has a sleek design when deflated and its comfort is unmatched.
This life vest keeps you cool and breezy in places where it makes contact with your skin.
It is a great choice for offshore anglers who have a robust routine and have to fish under the scorching sun.
This particular life vest provides a single pocket for a key tether and can easily hold phones. The Otto Matik is made to accommodate a chest size between 30-52″ and a waist size between 30-58″.
However, when buying the Otto Matik inflatable life vest you should think about whether you need it or not.
It is possible that you are in a situation where you do not need to deploy the inflatable life vest when going in the water.
If you do so while wearing an Otto Matik, it will trigger the CO2 cartridge which will be of no use to you.
The NRS Otto Matik will be a great option for people who kayak in rapids.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How To Choose The Best Inflatable Life Jacket?
When deciding between the above-listed options you will have to consider several factors.
- US Coast Guard Certification Ratings
- Pounds of Buoyancy Offered By The Inflatable Life Jacket
- Automatic Inflation Or Manual Inflation
- Price Of The Inflatable Life Jacket
- Your Weight and Size
These are just some of the factors that you need to consider. There are numerous inflatable life jackets out there in the market, so you must do your research to be satisfied.
How Long Do Inflatable Life Vests Last?
Most inflatable life jackets have a life of 10 years. If you do regular maintenance such as cleaning and drying after every use, you can expect your inflatable jackets to last for up to 10 years. You will need to inspect the CO2 cartridge and check the life jacket for rips, tears, and missing components
How Often Should You Replace The CO2 Cylinder In An Inflatable PFD?
Most manufacturers claim that properly cared CO2 cartridges can last for about three years but some of them recommend yearly replacement regardless of use.
Where Should You Not Use Your Automatic Inflatable Life Jackets?
If you live in climates that have too much humidity you should avoid wearing an inflatable life jacket because the pill might dissolve and trigger the inflation mechanism. Similarly, you should not wear it on a rainy day.
Who Can Wear Inflatable Life Jackets?
Most inflatable life jackets are designed for people over the age of 16 and those who weigh more than 80 pounds. You should read the specifications of the inflatable life jacket before buying it to get a perfect size.