Inflatable life jackets are vest-shaped air bladders that are inflated using a capsule of compressed gas, usually carbon dioxide. Some have valves that allow the wearer to manually inflate and/or deflate them as well.
By definition, life jackets are emergency flotation aids. Recreational devices that are similar in form and function to an inflatable life vest, but without the compressed gas capsule allowing for instant inflation, are technically not life jackets.
An object will float if its net density is less than that of water. A steel boat, for example, floats because the steel hull holds a great deal of air in it, lowering its net density to less than that of water.
A life jacket works by increasing the net buoyancy of the wearer so that he or she floats. Simply put, it is buoyant enough that even supporting a heavy man with water-logged clothes does not raise the combined density of the man and jacket to the point of sinking.
Pros and Cons
The main benefit of the inflatable life jacket is that it is easily stored, since empty air bladders occupy very little space. The main drawback is that it is not especially durable and can be easily punctured.
The alternative to the inflatable life jacket is the foam core life jacket. This is more durable, but also occupies more space and therefore might make storage a problem.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.