Let's start with the automatic-inflating PFD. The one from Mustang Survival, approved for commercial use, is top-notch. We tested it in the Hudson River and can confirm that it is comfortable, inflates almost instantly upon submersion, and provides heavy-duty buoyancy. If you were unconscious, it would have no trouble keeping your head above water; in fact we used the manual deflator to deflate the vest a little and make wearing it more comfortable. It also features a built-in whistle. Uninflated, the zip-up jacket is comfortable enough to wear all day. We practically forgot we were wearing it and judged it well worth its $199 list price. It requires no maintenance for five years unless it's been inflated, in which case you just install the inflator re-arm kit, a simple, five-minute process.
When the dial shows a red-indicator light (top-left), it's time to re-arm the inflator. Simply replace the used cartridge with a new one (top-right,bottom-left), and use the key to turn the dial to green (bottom-right).
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.