There are many types of life vests and life jackets but in this article, I’ll discuss the five best inflatable life vests for fishing rivers, shorelines, and from the boat.
|Types of Inflatable Life Jackets||– Ideal for wading, bank fishing, boats, and kayak fishing. – Available in manual, automatic, or hybrid styles.|
|Automatic vs. Manual||– Automatic inflates on water contact with manual backup. – Manual requires pulling a cord to inflate.|
|Hybrid and Belt Options||– Hybrid combines foam and inflatable buoyancy. – Belt provides lower buoyancy and a waist-mounted design.|
|Choosing the Right PFD||– Pick a well-fitting PFD that allows free movement.|
|Top Picks||– Notable options include NRS, Onyx, Mustang, and Bass Pro Shops.|
|Q&A||– All PFDs are Coast Guard-approved. – Replace CO2 cylinders annually.|
|Suitability for Fishing||– Inflatable PFDs are great for fishing, especially kayak fishing, due to comfort and convenience.|
Our Top Picks List
- NRS Men’s Otto Matik Inflatable PFD
- Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest
- Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Vest
- Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest
- Bass Pro Shops AM33 All-Clear Inflatable Life Vest
- Mustang Minimalist Inflatable Belt Pack
What Is The Difference Between A Life Vest and A Fishing Vest or a PFD?
There are many terms for a life vest. A life vest is a PFD (Personal Flotation Device), and can be interchangeably called a lifejacket, life vest, life preserver, buoyancy vest, or buoyancy aid, and all describe the same item, all serving the same primary purpose of preventing individuals from drowning.
A PFD is a specific type of attire designed to maintain the buoyancy of a conscious person and provide assistance in staying afloat in the water.
Unfortunately, with an inflatable PFD, you won’t get the head support you might find in some of the best non-inflatable life fishing vests. You also won’t get some of the features and pockets found on my list of the best life vests designed for fishing.
Types of Inflatable Life Vests For Fishing
Many find an inflatable PFD is the right life jacket for kayak fishing because it won’t interfere with paddling or casting. It also won’t cause you to overheat in the hot summer sun.
Inflatable life jackets are either fully manual, automatic and manual, or a hybrid of a traditional life vest with flotation material sewn in and a bladder that inflates for added buoyancy.
What Is an Automatic Inflatable Life Jacket?
An automatic inflatable life jacket usually has a CO2 cartridge and an actuator that automatically inflates the bladder when it is immersed in water. It won’t inflate when made wet from rainfall or a quick splash of water but will inflate when it enters the water.
Virtually all have the added benefit of a manual backup that just requires you to pull a tab or a cord. The big benefit of automotive inflation is that it will work even if you are unconscious or can’t use your hands when you enter the water.
What Is a Manual Inflatable Life Jacket?
A manual inflatable life jacket requires you to pull a tab or a cord to deliver the CO2 to the bladder and inflate the vest. The only real issue with manual inflation would be if you somehow can’t use your hands to pull the tab or cord or are unconscious when you enter the water.
What Is a Hybrid Inflatable Life Jacket?
A hybrid inflatable life jacket combines traditional foam floatation with the added buoyancy of an inflatable bladder. Either one will help you stay afloat, but the combination of the two ensures excellent buoyancy with the added benefit of redundancy in case one should fail while you are in the water.
What Is an Inflatable PFD Belt?
An inflatable PFD belt is similar to an inflatable vest but has the bladder located at your waist instead of along your chest. The bladder is smaller than the ones used in a life vest, so you get less buoyancy from the belt.
Best Inflatable Life Vest (PFDs) for Kayak Fishing
The best inflatable life vest for fishing from a kayak is one that gives you plenty of range of motion so that you can paddle comfortably with no chafing or other issues. The best inflatable life vest for fishing also is virtually assured to work when needed and might have a backup system to ensure inflation, like an oral inflation tube.
Choosing an Inflatable PFD for Fishing: Life Jacket or Belt
You’ll need an inflatable life jacket or belt that will fit your body and gives you enough buoyancy to help keep your head above water and swim or float for many hours if needed — or many days. When uninflated, it should enable you to paddle your kayak and cast your rod without interfering with your range of motion.
|Product Name||Features and Benefits||Buoyancy (When Inflated)||Results|
|NRS Men’s Otto Matik Inflatable PFD||– Self-inflating with CO2 cartridge. – Backup cord for manual inflation. – Reflective material for visibility. – Zippered pocket for storage.||22.5 pounds||Our top pick for 100% automic inflatable|
|Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest||– Auto and manual inflation options. – Soft neoprene neckline for comfort. – US Coast Guard-approved.||At least 22.5 pounds||Best option for manual inflatable PFD|
|Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Vest||– Hydrostatic inflator technology (HIT) for automatic inflation. – Lightweight and breathable design. – Aerodynamic when inflated. – Dual adjustable straps.||28 pounds||Top Brand|
|Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest||– Dual-inflatable for added buoyancy. – Auto and manual inflation. – Designed for optimal floatation and mobility.||More than 25 pounds||Dual inflatable|
|Bass Pro Shops AM33 All-Clear Inflatable Life Vest||– Automatic and manual inflation options. – Low profile and lightweight. – Coast Guard-approved.||At least 33 pounds||Great price|
|Mustang Minimalist Inflatable Belt Pack||– Manual inflation via cord. – Quick-connect coupler for easy use. – Convenient and unobtrusive belt design.||Nearly 19 pounds||Best belt option|
Top Picks for the Best Inflatable Life Jackets
1. NRS Men’s Otto Matik Inflatable PFD
The Otto Matik is a self-inflating life jacket with a CO2 cartridge that automatically fills the inflatable bladder inside the life vest when immersed in water. It also has a backup cord that you can pull if it does not inflate automatically and reflective material that makes you more visible when in the water or while paddling or wading.
While inflated, the life vest gives you 22.5 pounds of flotation. While deflated, it fits comfortably with an adjustable waist strap ensuring a snug fit. The life jacket has a pocket with a zipper closure to hold keys, a whistle, or other small items.
2. Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Vest
You get the option of setting the A/M-24 to inflate automatically or manually with a pull tab. When set to automatic, the life jacket inflates when immersed in water. You must pull a plastic handle for manual inflation.
The inflatable vest gives you at least 22.5 pounds of flotation while inflated. It is US Coast Guard-approved as a type V life jacket that performs like a type III personal flotation device. A soft neoprene neckline makes it very comfortable, and the life jacket is perfect for kayaking or canoeing.
3. Mustang Survival Elite Inflatable Life Vest with HIT
Hydrostatic inflator technology (HIT) makes the Mustang Survival Elite one of the best inflatable life jackets available. Hydrostatic pressure automatically inflates the life jacket and its high-visibility ANSI inflation cell when submerged in more than 4 inches of water. A backup handle enables manual inflation.
The life vest has a lightweight shell plus a moisture-wicking liner and vent panel, both of which are made of mesh. While deflated, Mustang Survival Elite’s aerodynamic design reduces drag and increases mobility. When inflated, the life vest gives you 28 pounds of buoyancy. A 1.5-inch buckle and dual adjustable straps on the sides tailor the fit to your body.
4. Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest
The Survival MIT 100 is another great dual-inflatable life jacket by Mustang and gives wearers 1.5 times more buoyancy than a standard life jacket. It inflates automatically when immersed in water and has a manual backup to ensure you can inflate it when needed.
When inflated, you get more than 25 pounds of buoyancy, and it is specially designed to position wearers facing upward when inflated in the water. The life jacket has large cutouts for the arms to enable full mobility, which makes it one of the best inflatable life vests for kayak fishing.
5. Bass Pro Shops AM33 All-Clear Inflatable Life Vest – Black
The AM33 is one of the best automatic and manual inflatable life jackets available and enables you to switch to manual-only as needed. When inflated, you get at least 33 pounds of buoyancy.
The life jacket is lightweight and has a low profile, which makes it very comfortable to wear while wading, fly fishing, or paddling a canoe or kayak. It’s Coast Guard-approved, like all of the other inflatable life jackets on our list.
6. Mustang Minimalist Inflatable Belt Pack
The Minimalist inflatable PFD belts by Mustang are manually inflated by pulling a cord and give you nearly 19 pounds of flotation when activated. The adjustable belt is made from wide and strong nylon webbing and has a quick-connect coupler that also releases easily.
The inflatable bladder is tucked away in a convenient pack that you can position in front without interfering with paddling your kayak or canoe. A CO2 cylinder rapidly inflates it when you pull the cord.
Q&A About Choosing the Best Inflatable PFDs
Are inflatable life vests Coast Guard approved?
All of the inflatable life jackets we have listed are approved by the Coast Guard for use on boats, canoes, and kayaks alike. You can look for the seal of approval when shopping for an inflatable life jacket to ensure it meets the standard.
Are inflatable life vests reusable?
Inflatable vests use CO2 cylinders to inflate and are reusable by replacing the used cylinder with a new one. Some have removable packs into which you can place a new CO2 cylinder while others simply let you remove the old cylinder and insert a new one.
When should you replace the CO2 cylinder in an inflatable PFD?
CO2 cylinders are good for about three years, but it is best to replace unused ones with newly bought cylinders no more than every 12 months.
How do inflatable life vests work?
Virtually all inflatable life preservers have a tab or pull cord that you can pull to manually inflate them. Many also inflate automatically when immersed in water, which gives you an added safety feature if you somehow can’t inflate it manually.
Are inflatable life vests good for Fishing?
Inflatable life jackets are great for fishing, especially kayak fishing, because they are light, take up relatively little space, and don’t interfere with paddling or casting. They are especially comfortable on hot summer days compared to larger and more traditional life preservers.
Best Inflatable Life Vest For Fishing Discussion
If you have a question about the best inflatable life vest for fishing, or you want to share your advice, your favorite inflatable PFD, or your experience with any of these, I’m sure all readers can benefit. Let us know in the comments section below.
- United States Coast Guard (USCG): Visit the official USCG website for information on personal flotation devices and regulations. USCG Website
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Check NOAA’s website for boating safety resources and information on life jackets. NOAA Website
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): Explore the CPSC website for safety standards and details about personal flotation devices. CPSC Website
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB): Find NTSB reports and recommendations on marine safety and accidents, including PFDs. NTSB Website
- Statistics Websites: To access statistics on boating accidents and PFD usage, look for data from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division or the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC).