Are self-inflating lifevests worth buying?


Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
Thanks for running this and replying. I'm looking for new PFD's for me and the grown ups. I can swim 2.4mi. in an hour in a triathlon, yet in my waders or overboard in cold water I have no illusions, especially if I hit my head. I had been looking foam but I think were going to do self-inflatables as we've agreed were more likely to wear them all the time. Just gonna spend the money and get the good stuff I think.

Steve Saville

WFF Supporter
I have had three. Two were the kind you have to pull when you need to. The third is the self inflating type. I don't go anywhere without it. As I have aged, the need has become more apparent.


Outta Here
I've never had an inflating PFD but was once with another angler who got cited by an LEO for not having it on while in the boat.

I've found that a good foam fishing kayak style PFD doubles well as a good FF vest and potential lifesaver. Foam is pretty damn foolproof. Having been 'deboated' from a kayak in river rapids with a foam PFD has certainly given me a serious appreciation of its wonderful attributes.

Rob Allen

Active Member
One thing to remember it does not count as a legal pfd if you are stop wearing it.
If you take it off and don't have a regular life jacket in the boat. It's the same as not having a life jacket and you can be sited for it.
Last edited:


Active Member
One thing to remember it does not count as a legal pfd if you are wearing it.
If you take it off and don't have a regular life jacket in the boat. It's the same as not having a life jacket and you can be sited for it.

let me clarify, only counts if you ARE wearing it full time. for white water, i would not use an inflatable.


Active Member
I had 3 inflatables all of them discharged in my storage at various times...the Cabelas model did it a few times before I tossed it. Humidity alone can discharge them.

If your going do this get the Mustang hydrostatic it's worth extra money. I found 2 discharged last fall and when I bought a new arming kit my wife reminded how many kits I'd purchased.

A quick edit...yes by all means they are great anything that makes you wear your life preserver is a great thing. I know 3 people who sunk power boats in current and all said the same thing: It happens too fast to get a vest...none of them had a vest on. All lived but one was a miracle...the other two had buddy boats.
Last edited:


Huge Fly Guy
WFF Supporter
yeah, I wouldn't dream of using mine in whitewater...totally agree there. That said, it's just so damn comfortable for Stillwater shit. (I actually have mine set to manual, so I have to pull the cord)

Nick Clayton

WFF Supporter
I use them religiously on Puget Sound for my business. I also carry type 1 foam jackets on my boat as an option for people but these are so comfortable nobody ever wants to wear the standard.

Never had one self inflate while being worn in the rain. I have had them inflate when I used to store them in a compartment on my boat that will allow them to get wet when sitting for periods of time, and Ive had my son hose mine down and inflate it when cleaning the boat. But never just from rain and I fish year round on the sound in a totally open boat so they definitely get exposed to water when in use.

To me their biggest advantage is they are so comfortable that it's easy to wear them. With the standard type 1 jackets its easy to get frustrated and justify not wearing them.

As noted above, if they are the only life vests onboard it is required to wear them at all times. I carry the type 1s so this doesn't apply to me.


Active Member
i never left any port until everyone on board had their Mustang securely on and fitted. these don't inflate from moisture like the ones that use a 'pellet' which will inflate from humidity. i had two of those on board as well and had them go off hanging in the head out of the rain.


Active Member
I love my inflatable, but I’ve disabled the auto inflate. If you’ve ever inflated it, you’ll see that it’s basically a horse collar, behind your neck and up in your chest. Great if you need to keep your face up. Not so great if you need to try to get back in your boat or tube. I figure I can yank it when I need it.

And you guys are right about not using these in moving water. If you’re being swept toward a hazard, you want to be able to swim aggressively, which is hard with an inflatable but easier with foam.

Rocking Chair Fan

No more hot spotting
Probably most may not agree with post but something to think about...

I have found an inflatable to be life saving, at the least...

I was on the West Fork of the Bitterroot near the confluence with the East Fork and had the foothold I had give way. If it was not for the auto-inflate of my vest I would of been in great amount of trouble, or worse. Would a foam vest done the same? Sure - if had worn it. But would of I worn a foam vest is the real question. Probably not...

I have been in a float tube on Lenice where I was tossed out of it due to winds and waves. Should I have been out there? An emphatic NO! But I was. If it was not for my inflatable, I would not be here talking about it. Would a foam vest be better - probably... But glad I had an inflatable...

Will more of us wear an inflatable or a foam vest? If we are not wearing a foam vest, which many of us do not, because it is providing comfort to our 'buns', wouldn't an inflatable vest be better? I think so because to put on a vest AFTER an issue requiring a vest there may not be sufficient time or, under some circumstances, where we could not put it on, aka an emergency, a vest located in the boat providing soft comfort for the 'buns' little resolution of when one actually needs it.

Do I believe a foam vest is Best (if worn)? Absolutely! But if was no vest worn or an inflatable - I would choose an inflatable. For sure!

Gary Thompson

dirty dog
I bought one a few years ago because I was planning to do a lot of wading in MT rivers.
I had ordered it on line and when it arrived I said to myself this thing is way to heavy and never took it out of the package.
If any of you all want it send me a PM and we can work out a deal

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info

Latest posts