An Inflatable Life Jacket For Every Season

Why you should consider adding an inflatable PFD to your boating gear.

An Inflatable Life Jacket For Every Season


New York State has a mandatory life jacket law for all persons on boats under 21-feet, between November 1st and May 1st. When my dad recently asked a neighbor how much good a life jacket would do in frigid April waters, he received this half-joking reply, “It makes it easier to find the bodies.”

Taking to the water in cooler early-season is no joke. Cavalier about it? Read this first-person account on the effects of cold-water immersion:

I just got back from a fishing trip where the air temperature was 38 degrees F and the water temperature 44 degrees F. I was dressed in several bulky layers to keep out the chill; fall into the water without a life jacket in those conditions and you have no chance.

For this kind of boating, and for all boating I’m a big fan of wearing an inflatable PFD—the acronym for “personal flotation device,” which is the official term for life jacket.

The belt packs are the least obtrusive but I feel safer in the collared inflatable life jackets so I recently bought a Mustang MD2010, an inexpensive (about $100) manually activated vest.

An auto-inflatable life jacket will run a couple hundred bucks but adds that extra layer of protection. We recently put a bunch of them through comprehensive testing at our BoatingLAB.

We may be experiencing record warmth in air temperatures but the water temperatures lag behind, and water under 70 degrees can hurt more quickly than you realize. Take a look at the chart in this article.

So as we round out the spring and cruise into summer, think about adding an inflatable life jacket as your top layer every time out. Even if your base layer is just a bathing suit.