A team of our most adventurous reviewers conducted 10 days of hardy research fishing, sailing, kayaking, and swimming, to trial and test a range of automatic life jackets. Our testing team considered a range of features, including each jacket’s inflation type, size, level of comfort and general ease of use.
You can find our in-depth reviews of the 8 life jackets tested further below, but our research has led us to believe that the very best automatic life jacket is the Waveline 150N Automatic Lifejacket, having both automatic and manual inflation and being a great fit for the average sized male or female.
Waveline 150N Adult Automatic Lifejacket Review – 100%
The Waveline 150N Adult Automatic Lifejacket is one of the most popular life jackets available and has received many positive online reviews. Our testers found it really comfortable to wear, and easy to buckle and adjust the life jacket straps to achieve a good secure fit.
For the real test, we asked them to jump in the water to test the automatic inflation, and this was practically instantaneous. Moreover, it inflated in a manner that allowed them to face away from the water for added safety.
The only negative is, however, it appears this type of jacket may not be suitable for those on the bigger or taller size, so check this out in advance if purchasing.
Baltic Winner 150N Automatic Lifejacket Review – 100%
In contrast to the Waveline 150N Adult Automatic Lifejacket, the Baltic Winner 150N is an option for people of all sizes as it allows for plenty of space to move around comfortably. There’s also a crotch strap for added support when you wear it, and the collar is soft around the neck as it’s lined with fleece for extra comfort.
The downside to this automatic lifejacket is that, while we appreciate it accommodates larger people, it can be too spacious for those who are on the slimmer side, even with the straps adjusted.
Helly Hansen Unisex Sport Buoyancy Aid Review – 100%
Since the Helly Hansen is a type 3 life jacket, it acts more like a floating device than a life jacket, which is why it’s ideal for surfers as it’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t limit your movement as you wear it.
The buckles are also easy to adjust, which means the perfect fit is achievable for different size users. When wearing it you’ll feel that the foam padding is not too soft and not too hard, which allows it to provide a combination of comfort and protection against impact.
Bluewave 150N Harness Navy Automatic Lifejacket – 92%
Our testers were impressed by the quality and design of the Bluewave 150N Harness Navy Automatic Lifejacket. The crotch support was not too tight, but it helped in keeping the lifejacket stable when in use. It was also easy to adjust and buckle, which means that one size was able to fit all.
The dual inflation systems both worked effectively, and it’s always useful to have both options. The automatic inflation system worked instantly upon being submerged in water, while the pull cord for manual inflation system could be quickly and easily reached.
Crewsaver Crewfit 165 Sport Review – 84%
The Crewsaver Crewfit 165 Sport is an ideal fit for those with a passion for professional water sports as it carries a seal of approval from ISO, and is another one that enables you to float with your face safely away from the water.
Despite being cheaper than the Baltic Winner 150N, the Crewsaver Crewfit 165N is just as durable as the pricier model, although the outer layer seems thinner when compared to the Baltic Winner 150N.
Waveline 165N Adult Automatic Lifejacket in Red – 82%
If you’re working on a budget, the Waveline 165N Adult Automatic Lifejacket in Red is one of the cheapest models you can get your hands on although, admittedly, it’s nothing particularly special or flashy, meaning this life jacket would not stand out in a crowd, but it serves the purpose and you can’t argue with the price.
At first glance, you can see that the fabric used for the outer layer is prone to quicker wear and tear than other brands. However, it is worth considering as an affordable option as it can fit almost everyone due to the buckles and straps that are easy to adjust.
Another tick in the box is its dual inflation systems that both work efficiently, with the cord for manual inflation being within easy reach.
Crewsaver Ergofit 190N Pro Automatic Lifejacket – 82%
We were hesitant to try out the 2018 Crewsaver Ergofit 190N Pro Automatic Lifejacket since it was on the pricier side. However, we wanted to try out an automatic life jacket that has a supreme level of buoyancy.
Our testers reported that there was no way a person wouldn’t float in the water no matter how heavy they were as they were pulled up against huge the waves were, making this one of the strongest and most reliable life jackets available. The Crewsaver Ergofit proved able to provide a higher level of protection against impact when compared to all the other life jackets tested.
Helly Hansen Rider Vest Buoyancy Aid Review – 82%
We understand that some of our readers are only looking for a flotation device, which is why we have also tested the Helly Hansen Rider Vest Buoyancy Aid. Compared to other floating devices, this buoyancy aid can be considered to be on the lighter side. With it’s zip feature you can wear it securely although, when compared to automatic life jackets, this buoyancy aid can be considered quite bulky. Your movements will also be rather limited as the give of this rider vest is by no means generous!
Frequently asked questions
What is an Automatic Life Jacket?
An automatic life vest will activate once it is in contact with water as it uses a firing mechanism that can pierce a carbon dioxide cylinder. When compared to a manual life jacket, there is no need to pull a handle or a toggle to activate it, the jacket simply inflates automatically. In order to automatically inflate an automatic life jacket, there is a dissolvable bobbin that activates the CO2 canister, causing it to inflate.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Self Inflating Life Jacket?
The main advantage of a self-inflating life jacket is that it will still inflate if a person is unconscious, or is unable to pull the inflation cord for whatever reason.
With an automatic life jacket you can still move comfortably when wearing it compared to pre-inflated life jackets, although automatic life jackets tend to me on the expensive side. Another potential drawback is that it can suddenly inflate when the life jacket accidentally comes in close contact with water, which it may do if you’re participating in certain watersports.
How do automatic life jackets work?
Automatic life jackets use a dissolvable bobbin, the automatic life jacket will be activated when it comes in contact with water. This will also lead to the activation of the CO2 canister, which will lead to the inflation of the life jacket that keeps you afloat when in water.
Are automatic life jackets reusable?
Automatic life jackets are reusable, although you must replace the carbon dioxide cylinder every time you use the automatic life jacket.
What’s the best life jacket for someone who is big and tall?
For those who are on the bigger side, the Baltic Winner 150N Automatic Lifejacket is an ideal life jacket. This is great for those who weigh up to 150 kg. In addition to this, it can fit people that have a waistline of up to 50 inches.
What’s the best type 1 life jacket?
The Waveline 150N Adult Automatic Lifejacket does not only activate automatically, but it can also work manually. It also comes with fluorescent tubes, which can assist during search operations at night since this life jacket makes you highly visible even at night. Moreover, it is also easy to wear and does not provide any distraction when worn at waters since it is thin and carries a minimal design.
What’s the best type 2 life jacket?
When you just need a buoyancy aid for places where a quick rescue is highly possible, the Helly Hansen Rider Vest Buoyancy Aid (Red) is the best type 2 life jacket, especially as it’s also been approved for use by the coast guard. There is also an emergency flare pocket that acts as a compartment and an intelligent weight sensitive sizing as an added benefit. The color of this life jacket also makes it easier for a rescuer to spot you from a distance.
What’s the best type 3 life jacket?
The Helly Hansen Unisex Sport Buoyancy Aid is a flotation device that can be used for simple water sports that is equipped with a buoyancy of 50n. It is lightweight and comfortable, but it allows for supreme buoyancy and it can protect the user against a strong impact.
What is the difference between a type 1, type 2 and type 3 life jackets?
While a type 1 life jacket is best for open waters, type 2 and type 3 life jackets are best for water activities undertaken near the shore. Type 1 jackets have a high level of buoyancy that does not go below 100n. On the other hand, Type 2 and Type 3 life jackets are level 50n jackets.
The difference between both life jackets is that Type 2 jackets carry a visible color, which makes for easier rescue. On the contrary, Type 3 jackets come in neutral shades and are simply flotation devices. With the Type 2 life jacket, your face is tilted away from the water, but Type 3 life jackets require you to tilt your face with more effort.
What should I look for when choosing an Automatic Life Jacket?
When picking an automatic life jacket, you must consider the activities you’ll be doing (open water or near the shore) and how much buoyancy you’ll require. If you plan on doing your tasks near the shore, you can choose an automatic life jacket with less buoyancy (type 2 or 3). On the other hand, if your activity is conducted in the middle of the sea, you need a life jacket with higher buoyancy (a type 1)
What’s the approximate price range for an Automatic Life Jacket?
The average price range for an Automatic Life Jacket is between $50 to $200.
What’s the difference between a ‘manual’ and ‘automatic’ life jacket?
The difference between a manual and an automatic life jacket is how they inflate. Automatic life jackets will inflate automatically when immersed in water since they operate with a CO2 cylinder. In contrast, a manual life jacket will inflate once you manually pull the chord or string is attached.
What’s the best life jacket for fishing?
If you frequently go fishing, it’s definitely important to invest in a proper life jacket. Due to its high level of buoyancy, the Crewsaver Crewfit 165 Sport will keep you afloat on the water in the event that your boat tips over. In addition to this, you can still move comfortably due to the thin design of this model. You can even attach safety features like a light or a whistle for further support during emergencies.
What’s the best automatic life jacket for sailing?
The Crewsaver Crewfit 165 Sport – Harness Version is ideal for water activities since you can opt to attach a harness or steer clear of it. Moreover, it is designed in a manner that allows for continuous and free movements. This means that your movements are not limited even when sailing. You can attach the harness to the yacht to ensure that you will remain in the vessel even through harsh weather conditions.
What is a CO2 life vest?
A CO2 life vest is an automatic life vest, which operates by automatic inflation upon immersion in water. You can also opt to manually inflate some models in case the automatic inflation does not work. In some cases, you can reuse these life vests by replacing the CO2 cylinder.
What is a Mustang Survival PFD?
Mustang Survival PFDs (Personal Flotation Device) are unique to Mustang Survival. These are classified as PFDs, but they perform and work similarly to life jackets. Since it works as a life jacket, your face will be tilted away from the water in the event that you fall in.
What’s the best coast guard approved life jacket?
The Waveline 150N Adult Automatic Lifejacket carries the CE Standard EN396 & EN1095 seal of approval. Since it allows for automatic and manual activation, it is one of the safer options; if the user were to be unconscious when falling into the water, the jacket would still inflate, while you can manually inflate the life jacket if the automatic inflation method were to fail.