We got our hands on the offshore inflatable life jacket from West Marine and took it out on the water to test it out. That meant taking the boat out by the Long Beach break wall and falling overboard. At first, while I was treading water, I thought the canister was a dud. A few seconds later, I got smacked in the face by one of the bladders.
Outside of nearly getting concussed due to the face smack, I was surprised at how buoyant this vest was. I felt more than adequate in terms of flotation. At 165 pounds, I felt that I could have had another person also holding on to it if necessary without sinking.
Before it was inflated, this marine life vest was comfortable and low-profile. I wore it for the whole day and barely noticed it.
We tested out the All Clear® Offshore Inflatable Life Jacket with Harness from West Marine. It’s Coast Guard-approved and packs a 33-gram CO2 cartridge for insane buoyancy.
This offshore live vest is also great for a full day of sailing activities. It has large plastic buckles on the belt that are easy to unclasp.
It’ll fit adults with a chest of 30-65 inches. The material is a mix of nylon and neoprene. We opted for the blue color, but it comes in red and grey variants.
For sailing, it has a 2-inch stainless steel harness. It’s a lay-flat design to stay out of the way.
The manual pull cord is low-profile to prevent accidental snag inflation.
Pros of the Life Vest
- Plenty of lbs of buoyancy
- High visibility thanks to the neon green bladder
- Low profile design provides max comfort
- Harness for sailing
- Automatic inflating will engage if you get knocked out and fall off your vessel
Cons of the Life Vest
- Metal clips clank often
- Inflation isn’t instant and can hurt your head a bit with the impact
- Price to replace co2 cylinder
Are Inflatable Life Vests Safe?
Yes, inflatable life vests are safe. However, unless you’ve used it in real life, it’s hard to believe it’ll actually work.
That’s why we recommend taking your new vest out on the water and testing it out. Even if it costs a bit of money, it’s worth the peace of mind of knowing it’ll function properly.
Are Inflatable Life Vests Coast Guard Approved?
It’s important to buy a life vest that’s Coast Guard Approved. There are different types, so check with the manufacturer before you buy one.
The US Coast Guard is transparent with its regulations and recommendations. Check their site before you head out on the water.
To keep it simple, everyone should have a quality and approved wearable personal flotation device (PFD). Brands like West Marine, Mustang Survival, and Onyx are worth checking out.
Are Inflatable Life Vests Reusable?
Yes, quality brands offer reusable life vests.
When we tested out the Offshore inflatable vest from West Marine, we had to buy a replacement co2 cartridge to repack the system.
They aren’t cheap. Ours was around $35 USD to replace. A small price to pay to come back home.
What Is the Best Inflatable Vest For Fishing?
Inflatable PFDs come in different shapes and sizes. We’re fans of inflatable life jackets for fishing since they hug tight to the body giving us the freedom to move while fishing.
They come in two forms, manual inflation life jackets, and auto-activation PFD. Higher-end models will allow for both inflation methods.
Which Vessels Would this Be Suited For?
Automatic inflatable PFDs shouldn’t be used if you can get wet without falling into the water.
For example, on a trip to Baja, I left my PFD in my kill bag while I went spearfishing. The ice melted and BOOM. I now had to use an inflated PFD for the rest of the trip.
That means paddle boarding and kayak fishing through surf aren’t recommended.
This type of USCG-type PFD works better for boating. It’s now my go-to for my 16-foot Gregor Baja. For my inflatable catamaran, I’ll opt for my standard inflated PFD.
Would I Buy It Again?
Yes, the All Clear® Offshore Inflatable Life Jacket with Harness from West Marine is a solid buy. I also own a Mustang Survival life jacket and find them comparable.
If you’re looking for a complete list of the best inflatable life vest options, check out our guide.