Inflatable PFDs (life jackets)

While we sell rearm kits for inflatable PFDs, we no longer offer marine PFDs, mainly because we could not make money selling them. Still I often get asked what my thoughts are on brands and if one should buy a manual or automatic inflate model.

I read an entry at the Scuttlebutt Sailing News blog which provided an excellent viewpoint on  the manual/automatic debate. You can read it for your self and see if it makes as much sense to you as it did to me.

As to what brands I like, the answer is “the one that is most comfortable for you”. PFDs like all clothing items are cut and sized differently from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some are more comfortable for women and others for men. Just because a ABC brand fits you well, that does not mean it will be the least bit comfortable for your wife/partner. You both need to try them on and decide what type of inflation system fits your needs best.

When it comes time to buy a rearm kit, we have ones to fit most inflation systems. Give us a call at (253) 627-6000 if you need help figuring out what to order.


I am not planning on falling overboard!

A Coast Guard spokesman said “a lot of people don’t wear life jackets because they don’t have intention of being in water”. Still that guy Murphy with his “law” which always seems to be true says differently.

A couple found out the hard way, spending 14 hours treading water before they were rescued. No life jackets, no signaling devices but a whole bunch of luck and the will to live got them rescued. One might argue that they didn’t need life jackets since they survived but I don’t think I could tread water for 14 hours (not sure I could for 1 hour), so wear a life jacket.


I use to sell inflatable life jackets but got out of that line of business when I found we were not making money at it due to competition. Customers still ask what they should purchase and my advise is quite simple:

  • Try them on and find one that is comfortable to wear for you. Every brand has a different cut, some fit women better, some are better for skinny guys and some are just damned uncomfortable for everyone. If it is not comfortable, you won’t wear it.
  • Get a model that is approved in the country your boat is registered in. If you are a Canadian, that means Canadian approved models which generally are not available in the United States.
  • If you boat anywhere but a small lake, get a vest with around 35 pounds of buoyancy. These vests are sometimes called “offshore”. The added flotation will help keep your head out of the water.
  • Buy a model that once inflated does not require you to don the vest. I am not a fan of belt pack models and there have been cases where the victim was not able to properly don the vest and ended up dying.

You will note that I have not mentioned if the vest should auto inflate or not, that depends on your situation. The three brands of inflators we see in North America; Halkey Roberts, Hammar and Secumar all produce excellent products so I feel the comfort of the vest is much more important than what inflation system that particular manufacturer decided to use.

If you need help with rearm kits, that is something I carry and would love your business.