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#11376449 - 01/28/16 10:25 AM Life Vests
Klinger Offline
Outdoorsman

Registered: 02/22/15
Posts: 42
Loc: Texas
A few years back I bought an auto PFD to wear while out on the water. I am generally very good about wearing it when in motion (especially in the winter). But as I was messing around on the boat last night it occurred to me I had not checked the CO2 cylinder in some time. When I did, the arming display was still on green. My general question is how long do those cylinders last, and how often do you guys change them? Should I wait for the arming check to show red? The $20 for a new cylinder seems like a cheap investment for the peace of mind in knowing its there when you need it.

Also, has anyone ever had to use theirs or just tested it to see how it operated? If I was considering buying another to have onboard would anyone have a specific type they feel is better than the other?
_________________________

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#11376538 - 01/28/16 11:05 AM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
Flippin-Out Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 02/25/15
Posts: 1564
Loc: Magnolia, TX
The "green" indication simply means that the firing mechanism is in the cocked position. An indicator showing red simply means that the firing mechanism is now in the "fired" position, whether the vest inflated or not.

A green indicator does not mean that the system has any guarantee of operation. For instance, the CO2 cylinder could have corroded * leaked to 0 PSI, but that green indicator would still be present. The firing mechanism is typically held in place by a "button" of dissolvable material (that oftens looks similar to a life-saver candy). These can crumble from humidity, and the vest could inflate as a result. Re-arm kits come with an expiration date. The installed kit has one as well, but I don't know where it may have been noted. A lot of the standard technology auto-inflate systems have a 3 year lifespan date, but they are probably operational for longer if well cared for.

If your inflator mechanism looks clean/dry with no corrosion and the dissolvable button appears solid and intact, it will probably work....but note that "probably" caveat. By the book, one should always replace per expiration and inspect frequently.

Today's better inflatable vests are Type II (meaning they will right most unconscious wearers when face-down in the water) whereas older models were typically Type III. The better Type II models often have larger CO2 cartridges with more buoyancy that will float a wearer higher out of the water - a welcome feature in rough waters.

The ultimate technology is H.I.T. inflation. This type inflates based on water pressure experienced when submerged - simply getting wet isn't enough to fire the mechanism. However, the rearm kit for those is usually $80! It sounds like you have not had a moisture firing issue with your vest, so MIT is probably not worth it; they don't float any better than non-HIT models once inflated.

When it is time for one of mine to be rearmed, I intend to jump in the water with it to find out if it still works even though I'm ready to service the arming kit.

I bought these from Cabela's for the reasonable pricing along with being Type II and having 35# buoyancy (compared to USCG requirement for adults of about half that). I keep a re-arming kit stored in a Plano waterproof box with the watertight o-ring seal.

Cabelas Inflatable Vest


Edited by Flippin-Out (01/28/16 11:06 AM)

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#11376663 - 01/28/16 11:55 AM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
texasbass1 Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 02/12/05
Posts: 5143
Loc: The Colony, TX
The cylinders on mine have an expiration date printed on them. As with many expiration dates they may be a suggested date or a date that there is no guarantee after that date that they will work. Check the cylinder and see.
_________________________
Pat Leach



USAF MSgt Retired

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#11376674 - 01/28/16 11:59 AM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
Klinger Offline
Outdoorsman

Registered: 02/22/15
Posts: 42
Loc: Texas
Thanks. I did not realize the indicator did not actually tell whether the canister was good or not. Guess I will be replacing mine this week. While I would love to jump in to test it out, I might wait to hear about the experience from someone else once the water warms up.

That is the same PFD I have only mine is about 3-4 years old now and doesn't have the pocket. Must have added that in the new model.
_________________________

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#11376685 - 01/28/16 12:06 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
Flippin-Out Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 02/25/15
Posts: 1564
Loc: Magnolia, TX
I'm glad to hear you've had good service from yours. Hopefully mine will be the same. Have you worn it in the rain at all? I know they are supposed to not get the disc wet from just rain, but humidity can take a toll over time. For really rainy days, I still go with my old-style vest and keep the inflatable at home or in the truck. I really like the inflatable for while I'm fishing from the front deck - especially in open water.

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#11376695 - 01/28/16 12:10 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
KingwoodCat Online   content
TFF Guru

Registered: 10/30/04
Posts: 36099
Loc: Broaddus TX
Originally Posted By: Klinger
A few years back I bought an auto PFD to wear while out on the water. I am generally very good about wearing it when in motion (especially in the winter). But as I was messing around on the boat last night it occurred to me I had not checked the CO2 cylinder in some time. When I did, the arming display was still on green. My general question is how long do those cylinders last, and how often do you guys change them? Should I wait for the arming check to show red? The $20 for a new cylinder seems like a cheap investment for the peace of mind in knowing its there when you need it.

Also, has anyone ever had to use theirs or just tested it to see how it operated? If I was considering buying another to have onboard would anyone have a specific type they feel is better than the other?


I've had two of them auto inflate in the bottom of the boat while raining. A word of caution. Do not count the auto inflate vest as one of the vests required for every person in the boat, unless it is being worn, because the TPWD will not.
_________________________
"Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him had better take a look at the American Indian".

Henry Ford

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#11376737 - 01/28/16 12:26 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
Klinger Offline
Outdoorsman

Registered: 02/22/15
Posts: 42
Loc: Texas
I have not worn it in the rain. I try my best to not be out if it is going to. I keep it on my seat so it has been out in the weather and gotten damp though, but never soaked. I have a firm rule with my wife that if I have to wear a jacket because its cold, the PFD is on there whole time.
_________________________

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#11376888 - 01/28/16 01:23 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: KingwoodCat]
Flippin-Out Offline
Extreme Angler

Registered: 02/25/15
Posts: 1564
Loc: Magnolia, TX
Originally Posted By: KingwoodCat


I've had two of them auto inflate in the bottom of the boat while raining. A word of caution. Do not count the auto inflate vest as one of the vests required for every person in the boat, unless it is being worn, because the TPWD will not.


I've spoken with someone in the TPWD Marine Enforcement Division in Austin about this (and I've called again today). I was told that Texas code 31.066 addresses the requirement, and it does not differentiate PFD types that are inflatable vs. non-inflatable technology. I forget the exact word that the lady used (maybe "suitable"), but she said that there must be a Type I, II, or III PFD "appropriate" (my word) for each occupant. The only state law with respect to requirement for wearing is for children (under age 13, boats less than 26'). We then discussed what this meant, and that it covered such factors as matching age-use approval, or size approval. (Read the USCG certification label to find out if a vest is serviceable for a particular person with respect to size or age.)

There is ONE sticky scenario that the law addresses that isn't obvious. Some older inflatable PFDs WERE NOT Type I, II, or III certified. Those were "TYPE V with TYPE III performance when worn". The law requires a Type I, II, or III PFD, so if a TYPE V is to be counted, it must be worn so that it is viewed as a TYPE III.

If, for adults, you have modern inflatable PFDs with USCG rating of TYPE I, II, or III, the above complication is moot, and being in the boat is sufficient (per TPWD Marine Division). Note that most inflatable PFDs have a statement excluding below a certain age, so that must be met to count. This means that you will need standard PFDs suitable for children on board. Any enforcement officer who issues a citation otherwise is in need of training on what is enforceable, and the citation will be deemed invalid.

Just to double validate this, I have the contact info for the Assistant Chief of Marine Enforcement at TPWD whom I will contact later to discuss this yet again. He was out of the office and not available when I spoke with a staff member.

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#11377581 - 01/28/16 07:10 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Flippin-Out]
ToadThrower Offline
Angler

Registered: 06/29/07
Posts: 317
Loc: Arlington, TX
Thanks for the update on the PFD and auto inflate requirements..Reason I buy them is that I will wear them all the time...these are not hot or uncomfortable..I have 3 of these auto inflate pfds and replace the firing mechanism as recommended. I have jumped in the water with one on that was showing green but due to be replaced...worked as expected..amazing how fast it activates sort of startles you a bit and it does float you well. I always store them in a plastic bag in the boat and get them out once a year and inspect them carefully. Before storing them in a plastic bag I too had one fire in a rod locker from some rain water...there are you tube videos on how to re-arm these...great instructions and easy to follow. I agree $20 is a cheap investment to make sure it works if needed. I have to replace the HIT arming system this year it is a 5 year requirement and have located one for mine for $55...still pricey but once ever 5 years not so bad..and if I really need it worth every penny.

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#11377811 - 01/28/16 08:22 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: ToadThrower]
Klinger Offline
Outdoorsman

Registered: 02/22/15
Posts: 42
Loc: Texas
For sure. Can't put a price on getting back to the ramp. Just watched a few Youtube videos of folks testing out theirs. Pretty wild how quick they inflate.
_________________________

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#11383126 - 01/31/16 11:42 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
cbag1 Offline
Pro Angler

Registered: 03/11/05
Posts: 553
Loc: New Braunfels
I guess I am old fashioned but I just don't want to trust that that thing will inflate at some point down the road if I need it. I get that they are light weight and a lot more comfortable to wear than traditional life vest. I could really use one out on the kayak, but just can't make myself use one. I have seen fire extinguishers that are 8-10 years old that have indicators still in the green good to go area. But if they really needed to be used, would they work? I'm not taking the risk out in the middle of the water on some CO2 cartridge to work properly. Just my 2 cents.

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#11383653 - 02/01/16 10:32 AM Re: Life Vests [Re: Klinger]
forkduc Offline
TFF Guru

Registered: 03/28/07
Posts: 10255
Loc: Plano,Texas
Buy a spare and keep it on your boat!

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#11389205 - 02/03/16 01:35 PM Re: Life Vests [Re: Flippin-Out]
texasbass1 Offline
TFF Celebrity

Registered: 02/12/05
Posts: 5143
Loc: The Colony, TX
Originally Posted By: Flippin-Out
Originally Posted By: KingwoodCat


I've had two of them auto inflate in the bottom of the boat while raining. A word of caution. Do not count the auto inflate vest as one of the vests required for every person in the boat, unless it is being worn, because the TPWD will not.


I've spoken with someone in the TPWD Marine Enforcement Division in Austin about this (and I've called again today). I was told that Texas code 31.066 addresses the requirement, and it does not differentiate PFD types that are inflatable vs. non-inflatable technology. I forget the exact word that the lady used (maybe "suitable"), but she said that there must be a Type I, II, or III PFD "appropriate" (my word) for each occupant. The only state law with respect to requirement for wearing is for children (under age 13, boats less than 26'). We then discussed what this meant, and that it covered such factors as matching age-use approval, or size approval. (Read the USCG certification label to find out if a vest is serviceable for a particular person with respect to size or age.)

There is ONE sticky scenario that the law addresses that isn't obvious. Some older inflatable PFDs WERE NOT Type I, II, or III certified. Those were "TYPE V with TYPE III performance when worn". The law requires a Type I, II, or III PFD, so if a TYPE V is to be counted, it must be worn so that it is viewed as a TYPE III.

If, for adults, you have modern inflatable PFDs with USCG rating of TYPE I, II, or III, the above complication is moot, and being in the boat is sufficient (per TPWD Marine Division). Note that most inflatable PFDs have a statement excluding below a certain age, so that must be met to count. This means that you will need standard PFDs suitable for children on board. Any enforcement officer who issues a citation otherwise is in need of training on what is enforceable, and the citation will be deemed invalid.

Just to double validate this, I have the contact info for the Assistant Chief of Marine Enforcement at TPWD whom I will contact later to discuss this yet again. He was out of the office and not available when I spoke with a staff member.


They need to make sure all of their warden's understand this, I've been asked to show a standard PFD when they see auto's in the boat. While the citation may not be valid it is still a hassle to get it resolved. I carry a spare just in case they ask.
_________________________
Pat Leach



USAF MSgt Retired

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