Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD Life Jacket

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Wearing a personal floatation device, or PFD, is the best way to avoid catastrophe when fishing from a boat. Otherwise known as “life jackets” and “life preservers”, these PFDs are designed to save lives by keeping boaters afloat in emergency situations. 

Whether falling from a kayak into frigid waters in the winter, being thrown from a bass boat at high speeds or simply falling and hitting your head on the way in while running the trolling motor—if you’re wearing a PFD in any of these situations, it may just save your life. 

We’re going to look at one such life preserver today, the Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD Life Jacket. 


A couple decades ago, a new era of PFD emerged: the inflatable life jacket. Designers of these life preservers incorporated CO2 canisters with compressed gas to inflate the life jackets when needed. This meant that the un-inflated PFDs were much more compact and comfortable than traditional PFDs, which used bulky chunks of foam or some other material for flotation. 



Most inflatable PFDs now have both automatic and manual functions. This is what the A and the M represent on the front of the Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD Life Jacket. The manual function of the life vest is simple to explain. If you pull the red handle on the bottom right of the vest, the CO2 canister will release gas to inflate the vest. 

This manual function is simply a fail safe, though. The Magellan PFD is actually designed to automatically inflate as soon as it’s submerged in water. There is a water-soluble bobbin between a spring-loaded puncture pin and the CO2 canister that dissolves when submerged in water. In the event this happens, the life vest is designed to inflate automatically. 

If, for whatever reason, these two functions fail, there’s a red tube on the left of the vest that can be used to inflate or top off the life vest, by blowing air into the tube with your mouth. Air is allowed to flow into the tube with little to no effort but is prevented from exiting the tube by a spring-loaded, one-way valve stopper. The 24 on the front of the vest denotes the rating of the CO2 cartridge. The cartridge for this vest has 24 grams of pressurized CO2 gas inside of it.


The Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD Life Jacket is designed for “persons 16 years or older weighing over 80 pounds”. For anglers younger or lighter than this, you’ll want to look for a PFD designed specifically for youth anglers and boaters. 

An inflatable life vest like this is great for boaters who spend time on bass boats, Jon boats, pontoons, speed boats and runabouts. It’s not well suited, however, for anglers and boaters that are prone to falling into the water on a regular basis. Since this vest will automatically inflate when it’s submerged, wearing it to ski is obviously not a good idea. 

While it is certainly more comfortable, it may not be wise to wear a life vest like this on a kayak unless you’re pretty confident in your ability to stay upright. If you are a seasoned kayak angler, this is a fantastic option that will keep you much cooler and more comfortable on the water. 


We’ve already talked about A/M and 24 and what those mean. Let’s look a little closer at the other design elements of this life jacket. There’s a hard D-ring on the right front of the PFD, which is used to attach the boater to the kill switch cord if applicable. This is a wise practice, and often a requirement, when operating the outboard engine of a boat. 

The vest also has an adjustable waistband, allowing it to fit a wide range of people. It’s designed to fit chests between 30 and 52 inches—the vast majority of people. The high back makes this PFD much cooler and more comfortable to wear, as opposed to bulky and full-backed traditional life vests. It comes in two colors: black and red. In the event that the jacket does inflate, the inflation chamber is a bright neon which is highly visible to other boaters or rescue workers. 


There’s only one real way to test out an inflatable PFD. That is to bail overboard. So, that’s exactly what I did. I put the PFD on, buckled the belt around my waist, adjusted it so that it fit well but not tight, and then hopped off into the water. What happened next was quite impressive. 

As it was designed to do, the PFD inflated a mere second or two after I went under and lifted me back to the surface. Though I have worn an inflatable PFD a lot over the last decade or so, this is the first time that I’ve ever actually entered the water wearing one. 

For whatever reason, I was always a little concerned that an inflated vest might choke me. Instead, the Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD kept me afloat in a fairly comfortable manner. I swam to the back of my bass boat, pulled myself in and deflated the life vest when I got back aboard. You can do this by simply removing the cap from the red tube and then using the top of it to press down on the stopper that’s in the tube to release the CO2 gas. 


The Magellan Outdoors Inflatable PFD Life Jacket is a great product. It gives me and the ones I love the peace of mind to know that I am as safe as I can be while out on the water. I can attest to it working flawlessly. It’s also comfortable to wear. All of this at a more than competitive price point of only $79 means this particular PFD is hard to beat.