Life jacket once-over
Prep your inflatable life jackets for the season
With their small size, inflatable life jackets keep you cool on a hot day; allow you to freely move around the boat, cast a line or raise sail; and come in a variety of belt and harness styles.
While inflatables have a reputation for comfort, they require a little preparation that’s best done at least a day before your first outing. Here’s a quick five-step prep for your inflatable life jacket:
- 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, and check the waist strap and buckles.
- 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, purchase a rearming kit. Some inflators will have a green ready-to-go indicator.
- Blow up the life jacket. Using your mouth, blow into the manual inflation tube 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 with how it works.
- Get busy. 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.
You can watch videos instructing you on how to inspect and repack belt pack and harness-style inflatable life jackets at BoatUS.org/Inflatables.
- Recheck the jacket. If the life jacket still holds air, deflate and repack according to the instructions, which can usually be found on an inside flap.