3 Keys to Picking a Safe and Comfortable Inflatable PFD

Keeping yourself above water in an emergency doesn't have to be uncomfortable or cumbersome

Some anglers don’t like to wear a traditional Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)––ignore their claims of discomfort, chafing, heat, or hassle. Inflatable PFDs make it easy to protect yourself on the water, without any of the drawbacks of a traditional life jacket. These three models offer varied combinations of flotation protection and comfort, so you can find the one that fits your comfort, safety, and activity level. That means there’s no excuse for not wearing your PFD, whether you’re kayak fishing, or cruising in your bass boat.

Lightweight Protection in a Belt PFD

PFD floatation belt
Starting with the least restrictive PFD, the NRS Zephyr is an inflatable PFD in belt form.Amazon

Especially for anglers in a bass boat or skiff, an inflatable belt PFD stays out of the way while you’re casting or running the boat. The belt is so slim and lightweight that you’ll barely notice it. It’s also self-inflating, which means it fully inflates when you hit the water, and provides 15.5 pounds of flotation. There is also a manual ripcord should you need to inflate the PFD on your own and a manual mouth valve to provide back up to the CO2-powered inflator. It meets all U.S. Coast Guard PFD requirements.

Full Flotation Protection

Full Flotation Protection
For those that want a PFD to wrap around their frame like a traditional PFD, but without the bulk or movement constriction of foam, look for an inflatable PFD like the MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0. With 29 pounds of flotation protection, the Helios 2.0 is better suited for anglers fishing from kayaks on the flats, or in situations where there’s a high probability of falling into the water.Amazon

MTI Adventurewear designed the Helios 2.0 with an ergonomic collar and neoprene neck panel to make long days on the water comfortable. The mesh liner drains water quickly, and they’ve added more safety into the vest with built in reflective trim and a signal whistle—great for fishing busy waterways. There’s also a handy zippered pocket that’s big enough for a protein bar or some other snack.

Dual Flotation Protection

Dual Flotation Protection
Sometimes a lightweight inflatable PFD is not enough, but you don’t exactly want to go all the way up to a full foam, traditional PFD.Amazon

The recently released Mustang Survival Khimera is the best of both worlds. It’s USCG/Transport Canada Approved as a “Level 70 buoyancy aid” (equivalent to Type III foam vest performance, approved to the new harmonized standard). If you’re surf fishing from a kayak, or fishing near easy whitewater where you don’t expect to go into the drink, this would be the PFD you’d want to slip over your head. Uninflated, the PFD is thin enough to work well with modern fishing kayak seats because it provides a full range of motion. Alone it provides 7.5 pounds of flotation from the foam. When you pull the ripcord you can add another 12.5 pounds of flotation, for a total of 20 pounds.