In Italy there is a requirement for newly registered boats to have the same number of 150 Newton self-inflating lifejackets as there are people on board. Mainly used by crews on sailing boats, they also provide constant protection of the person without restricting their movements and their use is important in terms of safety when in dangerous sea conditions.
When buying one, wear it to ensure that the space between your armpit and the fastening strap is not too large to prevent the jacket from slipping off your head when you fall into the water.
Preference should be given to models with a built-in safety-line hook and a collar made of neoprene or similar materials: when you wear the jacket, the collar comes into contact with the skin, which releases grease. Grease is the worst enemy of rubber, so if the collar has no protection, remember to wear a shirt with a collar when using it.
Finally, consider your sailing plans carefully: if you are sailing outside the Mediterranean, you may need a model with a larger inflation chamber (above the “canonical” 150 N) equipped with a sprayhood, because in strong winds it is more likely that water will spray at sea level, making it difficult to breathe.
Of particular importance is the thigh strap, which is absent from the cheaper models: you can make it yourself by sewing a webbing onto the back of the jacket and tying it to the safety-line hook with a lover’s strap.
With tablet or hydrostatic?
There are two types of inflatable lifejacket on the market: those with a salt or hydrostatic canister and tablet. The former contain a tablet that dissolves on contact with water, acting as a “detonator” for the canister, which is usually activated after a couple of seconds.
Hydrostatic jackets have a special slot calibrated to open at a pre-determined depth (no more than 30 centimetres). They have the advantage that they do not inflate even if you are hit by buckets of water (so they are suitable for sailing) but they are difficult to maintain and costly.
Self-inflating lifejackets: 6 models compared
Crewsaver / Crewfit+ 180N Pro
The Crewfit+ 180N Pro is an uncompromising solution in terms of safety, comfort and price. It is ideal for those looking for a compact, lightweight lifejacket that can be used for both long and short demanding voyages.
Spinlock / Deckvest 6D
Lightweight, full-function front opening lifejacket harness with automatic inflation and optional harness release system. Easy to put on, easy to adjust and with a perfect fit. Does not tangle, can be put on quickly even in the dark.
Plastimo / EVO-J Junior
Automatic lifejacket. 110 N buoyancy, i.e. higher than the standard 90 N requirement. This additional buoyancy improves the ability to self-right and helps to keep the head well above the water. Designed for children from 20 to 50 kg.
Osculati / Premium 300 N
300 Newton thrust for maximum safety and very fast body rotation. Activation with HAMMAR hydrostatic system that prevents accidental inflation. ISO 12402-8 anti-water/windproof Fluo hood. Belt approved to ISO 12401. Equipped with safety leg strap.
Zhik / P2 PFD
A vest designed for drifters who need to move with an accessory that wears like a garment. The P2™ PFD is a lightweight and ergonomic buoyancy aid. The inner lining of the P2™ PFD is made of a high quality, soft, perforated mesh that allows breathability. Anti-slip pads have been incorporated on the inside to hold the buoyancy aid in place.
Plastimo / EVO
A self-inflating lifejacket, the result of careful ergonomic studies, which guarantees excellent mobility. The buoyancy is 150 N, but in reality it reaches 165 N (thanks to the 33 g CO2 cylinder). Available with textile ring harness.