Choosing a Type V Life Jacket

Three popular Type V models to consider.

Choosing a Type V Life Jacket
With the development of U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type V inflatable suspender-type life jackets, there's no longer a reason not to wear one — they're lightweight and comfortable, and some even look good. When considering an inflatable you should define your water activities and purchase one that is designed for your use. Here are three popular auto/manual models to consider. - Joe Friedman
Choosing a Type V Life Jacket
Stearns
Sospenders 33 Gram
Easy Repack 1443
The Wet: It has a soft, fleece collar, midrange weight (1 pound 15 ounces) and large, easy-to-operate closure tabs, with a clever patented tab feature to secure excess belt length. It has a nice inflator-status window, plus reflective chest and neck patches. It qualifies as Type III performance. The Dry: I found it to be the least comfortable to wear for long periods, but still way better than a traditional life jacket. $230; stearnsflotation.com
Choosing a Type V Life Jacket
Onyx
A/M 24 Deluxe
The Wet: It's lightweight (1 pound 10 ounces) and ­reasonably priced. It has two convenient zippered pockets, one fleece-lined for holding ­sunglasses. The ­padded mesh back and V-strap felt very ­comfortable to wear. It's ­categorized as a Type III ­performance life jacket. The Dry: The waist-closure snap operation was a little on the hard side. The inflator-status indicator is not readily visible. $170; onyxoutdoor.com
Choosing a Type V Life Jacket
Mustang
MD3184
The Wet: This Mustang is serious stuff. It has a super-comfortable neoprene padded collar, highly visible inflator-status window and zippered splashproof pocket, and its 35-pound buoyancy qualifies it as Type II performance. It has the preferred hydrostatic inflator technology, which inflates on pressure from immersion rather than just saturation. The Dry: It's the heaviest at 2 pounds 6 ounces. It's also pricey; the rearm kit is a heavy hit at $60. $364; mustangsurvival.com
Choosing a Type V Life Jacket
Confused about Types?
The U.S. Coast Guard lists four types of life jackets: I, II, III and V. (Type IV is a throwable cushion, ring or horseshoe.) Type I is for offshore use where rescue may be slow. Type II is for general boating, where rescue is likely quick. Type III is specialized for water activities such as fishing, kayaking or water skiing. A Type V life jacket with Type II or III performance rating is an inflatable that, when worn, is considered a PFD conforming to II or III specs.