Product Test: Coastal automatic inflatable

March 2012 PDB Tested

When it comes to testing products, my name doesn't usually get called when the editors are reviewing something fun or exciting. But when they need someone to jump into the water with an inflatable life jacket on to see what happens, yep you guessed it. They call me. But there are worse things in the world than jumping into the water, so I happily "volunteered" to help them out.

West Marine is the largest specialty retailer of boating supplies and accessories and has more than 330 company-owned stores located in 38 states. So obviously they know a thing or two about life jackets. But we didn't want to test just any jacket; we wanted to test the best so we went with the Coastal Automatic Inflatable Type III Life Vest.

The best part about these one-size-fits-all vests (for 30- to 52-inch chests) is that they're easy to use and comfortable to wear. The CO2 cylinder allows the US Coast Guard approved vests to automatically activate when immersed or they could be manually inflated by pulling a rip cord. This is where I come in.

I was standing at the dock trying to decide where a good place to jump in would be when my co-worker helped me out with a gentle shove. And just like that I was in the lake. Sure enough it inflated instantly and I quickly floated to the top.

What can I say? It worked like it said it would and had this been a real accident it would have kept me afloat, even if I were knocked unconscious. At $139.99 you could probably find other jackets that might be cheaper, but for my safety I feel the investment is worth having a high-quality product like this vest from West Marine. It's something I plan to have a long time and it only has to be serviced every two years.

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