If shore based anglers are going to wear a lifejacket for some of their fishing - and I include me here - then it’s got to be as light as possible, very comfortable, and not remotely annoying when it’s in place. The other day I reviewed the rather excellent Spinlock Deckvest Lite lifejacket (check here), and I was wearing that exact lifejacket for my fishing the other day on the north coast of Cornwall when the conditions were on the lively side - if you secure it to you correctly (it’s vital that you clip the crotch strap into place), then you simply don’t know you are wearing it.
Which of course begs the question why not? Why not wear a simple auto-inflate lifejacket when you’re out fishing if they can be that easy to wear and they could well save your life is something goes wrong? So I’ve got another lifejacket here that I have worn a fair bit and it’s another of those remarkably comfortable and easy to wear ones that I reckon suits us anglers down to the ground - this one is the Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport, and like the Spinlock Deckvest Lite this Crewsaver lifejacket is so lightweight and comfortable that after a few minutes of fishing you simply don’t know you have it on.
As I have said before on here, I am late to the game with lifejackets and as such I am on a sort of accelerated learning course with trying to get myself up to speed with how they work, what our options are, and also what it might be worth avoiding. I have a very interesting document here from the RNLI which they have said I can quote from - and I will in due course - because from extensive testing they firmly believe that for a lifejacket to work as it’s meant to when you hit the water, you really should have a crotch strap in place that then stops the rapidly inflating lifejacket blowing up and over your head which could in turn stop the thing keeping you afloat. If you are looking for a lifejacket for your fishing then please avoid buying any that don’t come with a crotch strap.
You don’t need to spend a heap of money on a lifejacket, but again I can’t help but come back to how much the best chance at survival is worth for if and when something goes badly wrong. I went looking around for the prices on this Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport lifejacket and I can find it online for around £70, and as per above you can see that there are various manual and automatic options available. This is a seriously comfortable lifejacket that provides 165N of buoyancy which is in fact above the recommended 150N. What’s not to like? OK, so overall the more expensive Spinlock Deckvest Lite is a tiny bit easier to secure around you with how the straps tighten up, but at best the difference is marginal. Both lifejackets have obviously been properly thought out as serious items of safety gear which are also very easy to put on and very comfortable to wear.
And because this rather excellent Crewsaver lifejacket is not very expensive at all, to me it throws up a few options that perhaps answer a few questions I have been asked recently - the auto or manual inflate thing. Whilst it makes most sense that your lifejacket does auto-inflate if you end up in the water very unexpectedly (washed off a rock etc.), I can think of a few estuaries I might fish for example where I can end up over waist high in the water for hours on end, and sometimes that current is absolutely snorting past me. How about wading out into a big surf on your own? I would prefer the option of a manual inflate lifejacket here, for as much as these auto-inflate mechanisms aren’t meant to go off in the rain or if we get splashed by a bit of sea water, if I wade too deep or stumble or get hit in the face by a wave then I don’t want it going off.
But if I make a mistake and get taken by the current and can’t get back on my feet (and I know what I am like and how I can’t help myself), then I can simply pull the toggle and the lifejacket will now inflate (a manual lifejacket still has a gas canister which inflates it, just that you need to pull the toggle for it to happen). Please note as well that an auto-inflate lifejacket does have an inflation toggle as well in case for whatever reason the auto-inflate mechanism didn’t work - more to come on this, but it’s up to us the lifejacket buyers to get them serviced, and especially when used around saltwater and the potential for metal components to rust. And yes, as I learn about this I will get the details up here, but I believe the RNLI will teach you how to do it yourself if you go along and ask them. I will be doing this and reporting back.
With say the Spinlock Deckvest Lite you can buy a “Manual Conversion Kit” for not very much money and essentially now have two lifejackets in one because you now have two inflate options. But with how cheap this Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport can be found for, to me you could actually buy two versions if you felt the need for the two inflate options. Go for an auto-inflate and a manual and you’re sorted for a bunch of different fishing situations. I now keep one of those waterproof blue Ikea bags in the back of my epic Berlingo with my lifejackets in, but make sure to hang your lifejacket up to properly dry out if it’s sopping wet from the rain etc.
I can’t really tell you much more than this about this rather excellent Crewsaver Crewfit 165N Sport lifejacket, save for like a good lifejacket there are various add ons that you can buy. More to come as I learn more about the add ons that do in fact make a difference if you end up in the water and with how the RNLI might rescue you if things do go badly wrong, so don’t for one second dismiss a light that turns on via contact with the water (do you fish at night?) and spray hood options.