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How to Inflate Different Types of Life Jackets

Simply wearing an inflatable life jacket isn't enough to keep you safe on the water — first, you need to make sure that your life jacket is armed and ready for action.

Every Bluestorm life jacket has an inflatable mechanism. And depending on the personal flotation device (PFD) you own, there are three main methods to inflate your life jacket.

So how does a life jacket work? And is a life jacket reusable once it inflates? Let's dive in and answer these questions.

Types of Bluestorm™ Inflatable Mechanisms

1F — Automatic (Cylinder Seal Indication)

Provides a visual indication that the cylinder has not been pierced without removing the cylinder and indicates the device is completely armed and ready to go. (Currently available on the Stratus 35, Atmos 40, and Arcus 40)

6F — Automatic and Manual (No Cylinder Seal Indication)

Requires users to unscrew the cylinder and examine the cylinder face to see if it has been punctured. (Currently available on the Cirrus 26)

three methods for inflating a life jacket

Typically there are three main inflation methods for inflatable life jackets. Each inflation method varies slightly, so knowing how your life jacket inflates can help save your life (or someone else's). Let’s take a closer look at how they work:

view the three inflation methods in action

Automatic inflation

Once immersed in water, the yellow bobbin on an automatic inflation life jacket will sense water, triggering the mechanism to puncture the CO2 cylinder. The device will then inflate within seconds. Should the water-sensing bobbin fail to properly inflate the life jacket, there is also a manual inflation backup that you can use to inflate your device.


Re-arm your reusable life jacket

Every time your Bluestorm inflatable life jacket is submerged in water and automatically inflates, you’ll need to replace the CO2 cartridge. Our Bluestorm re-arming kits make it easy to revive your device and get back out on the water.

manual inflation

Inflatable Life Jacket Inflation Methods - Manual Inflation

With your device properly armed, pull down sharply on the yellow "jerk to Inflate” tab on the bottom of your device. This action will cause the inflator to pierce the CO2 cylinder and the life jacket will inflate within seconds.

Manual override

Bluestorm™ Cirrus 26 models are designed with a manual override option. A manual override is great for users that know they will be in the water often. When the vest is set to “Manual Only” inflation, it will only inflate orally or by pulling the “jerk to Inflate” cord.

To manually override your Cirrus 26 life jacket:

  • Locate the yellow “manual” cap
  • Remove the CO2 cylinder, then remove the clear cap and bobbin
  • Install the yellow “manual” cap snugly on the inflator. Your "warning" tag should hang exposed on the outside of the PFD.
  • Confirm that the cylinder is not punctured or damaged, then install the cylinder by rotating clockwise into the inflator until the cylinder is secured firmly. Do not over-tighten.
  • Repack the vest and ensure the manual inflation “warning” tag and yellow “jerk to Inflate” tab hang freely outside of the device.

Oral Inflation

Inflatable Life Jacket Inflation Methods - Oral Inflation

To inflate using the oral inflation method, begin by locating the red oral inflation tube. Remove the black cap and blow into it until the bladder is firm. Place the cap back on top of the tube after the bladder is fully inflated.  

Keep in mind that Carbon dioxide (CO2) will slowly permeate through the fabric over time, resulting in reduced pressure after several hours of inflation. Topping off by oral inflation may be required in the event of prolonged immersion.

Trust Bluestorm to keep You Safe on the Water

Your Bluestorm™ inflatable will not be armed when you first receive it. Locate the cylinder stored in the spare CO2 cylinder pocket inside the outer shell to begin arming it. 

Before using your new life jacket, always read your owner’s manual for proper initial arming of your inflatable life jacket. For additional security on the water, check out our inflatable PFDs.

Questions about Bluestorm life jackets? Get in touch.