How Do Life Jackets Work? [Explanations]

How Do Life Jackets Work

Last updated on September 2, 2022

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It’s a beautiful day on the river and you and your friends are out for a relaxing kayaking trip. You’re all having a great time when suddenly someone flips their kayak. In an instant, you realize that you need to do something to help them before they drown. So what can you do? The answer is simple: use a life jacket! But how do life jackets work, and why are they so important? Keep reading to find out!

What Are The Two Main Types Of Life Jacket?

Foam-Filled Life Jackets

Foam-filled life jackets are the most common type of life jacket that recreational boaters wear. They aren’t as bulky as inflatable life jackets, but if they’re not treated correctly they can deteriorate over time and lose their buoyancy.  These life jackets are usually made of durable nylon, with foam inside the shell. They typically fasten around your waist like a belt and may include straps that go over your shoulders to help secure the jacket.

Inflatable Life Jackets

Inflatable life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFDs) or buoyancy aids, are usually more comfortable to wear than foam-filled life jackets because they aren’t as bulky. If you’re not familiar with how inflatable life jackets work, they might seem a little strange at first.

You can inflate these life jackets with either a CO2 cartridge or compressed air (like the kind you pump into bicycle tires). When you pull the inflation cord, the cartridge activates and releases carbon dioxide into the chamber, which inflates one side of your body. These PFDs are usually made out of Hypalon material, which is stretchy and light.

When Should You Wear A Life Jacket?

As long as you’re on a boat, it’s important to wear a life jacket at all times. No matter how good of a swimmer you are or what your boating experience is like, it only takes one little mistake to end up in the water without your boat. If you’re the skipper of the boat, everyone who isn’t driving needs to wear a life jacket.

In fact, many states have laws that require all boaters to carry at least one type of flotation device on board, including life jackets for each person and throwable devices such as cushions or ring buoys to help people stay afloat in the water.

What Are Throwable Devices?

Throwable devices, like cushions and ring buoys, are usually in a bright orange or yellow color to make it easier for rescue workers to spot them if they end up falling into the water. If your boat flips over and someone ends up overboard, you can throw these types of devices to them so they can stay afloat until help arrives.

Why Is It Important To Wear A Life Jacket When You’re Kayaking?

Anytime you’re out on the water, whether it’s boating or kayaking, you need to wear a life jacket at all times. This might seem like common sense, but we still want to stress the importance of wearing your life jacket, no matter how fun or relaxing your boat trip is. If you’re kayaking, keep in mind that the water can be very dangerous if you’re not prepared.

A kayak flips easily and capsizes quickly due to its size and weight, so it takes very little force to send one into the water.  If you capsize, it’s very difficult to get back into the kayak. You’ll need to rely on your life jacket or any other flotation devices that are onboard your boat to stay afloat until help arrives.

How Do Life Jackets Keep You Safe or How Do Life Jackets Work?

Life jackets are designed to keep you afloat in the water so that you can stay alive until someone finds you and helps you back into your boat. Without one, it’s very difficult to swim or tread water for a long period of time.

If you were to fall off your boat without wearing a life jacket, the chances are that you’d be too exhausted to stay afloat by swimming, which would make it easier for you to drown.  By wearing a life jacket, you’ll be able to conserve your energy and keep yourself safe and secure until someone rescues you.

How Do You Make Sure Your Life Jacket Fits Correctly?

People of all different shapes and sizes wear life jackets, so there are no guidelines on how tight or loose they should fit. The best way to tell if your life jacket fits properly is to take a look at how it’s secured.

If the straps are tight and secure, then the life jacket should work correctly. However, you still need to keep an eye on the pressure gauge found on most inflatable life jackets so that you don’t overinflate or underinflate  the life jacket.

How Do Life Jackets Float?


Buoyancy is the ability for something to float in water, and life jackets are designed with buoyancy in mind. Most life jackets contain closed-cell foam that’s lightweight and has air trapped inside the fibers.

This air helps to minimize the density of your flotation device, which means it will have more buoyant qualities when it’s in the water. This is important because the higher the buoyant quality, the less dense something will be. If something has a lower density than water, it’s likely to float.

​Inflatable Life Vests

There are two different types of life jackets that you can purchase, manual inflatable vests and automatic inflatable vests.

Automatic inflatable life jackets have air pockets that automatically fill up when they’re submerged in water. Once the device is full of air, it’s no longer able to go under the surface or be punctured by sharp objects.

Manual inflatable life jackets require you to pull a cord in order for the air supply to trigger and fill up the life jacket. This type of rescue device is usually more inexpensive than automatic life jackets, but it does pose some risks. You’ll need to make sure that you don’t pull the cord by accident when there’s not an emergency and that you’re cautious when you put the life jacket on.

Foam-Filled Life Vests

Foam-filled life jackets are extremely buoyant, which means they’re great for helping you stay afloat in the water. However, these types of PFDs don’t keep you warm as other types do. They’re often bulkier than inflatable styles and can be difficult to wear when boating or kayaking because they restrict your movement.

In closing

Life jackets are an essential part of any water-based activity and can help save your life when worn correctly. Whether you go with a manual inflatable or automatic one (or even just some standard foam), these PFDs will give the added buoyancy needed to stay afloat in deep waters! So share this guide today so that all fellow enthusiasts may enjoy its benefits as well!

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