WATERSPORTS -- With their small, comfortable size, inflatable life jackets make it easy and convenient for boater to wear a PFD while on or around the water.
But these self-inflating vests require a little preparation for the season that’s best done at least a day before your first outing.
Here’s a quick five-step prep as well as an inflatable life jacket maintenance video from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety:
- Open it up and look: Gently open the life jacket, usually by pulling apart any Velcro covers or flaps and then unfold. This thin walled bladder could be the only thing keeping your head above water, so take your time looking for any tears or abrasions. Are the waist strap and any buckles ok?
- Remove the cartridge: Unscrew the CO2 cartridge and ensure it hasn’t been discharged, sometimes indicated by a small puncture in the center of the threaded end. Check the cartridge and inflation mechanism for corrosion. Some inflator mechanisms have a little “pill” or “bobbin” that dissolves in water allowing for automatic inflation. It should be in good shape. If not, purchasing a rearming kit can solve the problem. Some inflators will have a green ready-to-go indicator.
- Make like a birthday balloon: Using your mouth, blow up the life jacket using the manual inflation tube which is found on the upper left front of the life jacket. This tube may also be used as a back up to fill the jacket with air, so familiarize yourself on how it works.
- Go wax the boat, organize a tackle box, or do some other busy work while you leave the fully inflated life jacket alone for 24 hours.
- If, after the time is up and the life jacket still holds air, deflate and repack according to the instructions which can usually be found on an inside flap. Congrats – you’ve got a another comfy and safe season of boating, fishing or sailing ahead of you.
Click here for more videos on inspecting and repacking belt pack and harness style inflatable life jackets.