Frequently Asked Questions

fishing boat scene

About Inflatable Life Jackets

Life jackets are an essential piece of gear for every angler, paddler, sailor and boater. As you consider what life jacket is right for you, keep in mind that the most important advice about life jackets is simply this: WEAR ONE!

Bluestorm™ inflatable life jackets are the most comfortable innovation in personal flotation devices. Their slim profile when not inflated makes them one of the best life jackets to wear all day.

Bluestorm™ inflatable life jackets use an advanced Halkey Roberts® inflator mechanism that will inflate in seconds when in water, when properly armed and maintained. The automatic design inflates when fully submerged and will not inflate from rain or spray if the shell and air chamber are properly repacked. Bluestorm™ automatic inflatable life jackets can also be manually inflated. Either pull the “Jerk to Inflate” cord by pulling sharply downward to inflate the vest using the CO2 cylinder, or use the oral inflation tube located inside the vest on the air chamber.

What people love about Inflatable Life Jackets

  • They’re Unbelievably Comfortable: The slim profile is very comfortable and is less likely to obstruct your range of motion while fishing, sailing, boating, paddling.
  • They’re Remarkably Cool: They cover less of your body than a standard foam life jacket, which can help keep you comfortable and cooler on a hot day.
  • All Bluestorm™ Inflatables are U.S. Coast Guard Approved: Bluestorm™ inflatables are built and tested to meet or exceed the standards established by the U.S. Coast Guard. All Bluestorm™ life jackets are tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories and receive a U.L. Coast Guard Approved label.

Inflatable Life Jacket key features

  • Inflatable life jackets marked with automatic inflation will only inflate when submerged in water. (Or manually with “Jerk to Inflate” cord or oral inflation tube.)
  • Low profile design is less bulky than inherently buoyant foam life jackets.
  • Provides excellent ventilation, to help keep you cooler on hot days.
  • Large, high-visibility inflation chamber.

Product Lifetime Expectancy: How long will my Inflatable Life Jacket last?

Life expectancy of an inflatable life jacket depends on conditions of usage, maintenance of the life jacket and its component parts and storage conditions. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light (direct sunlight), high temperature and high humidity weakens synthetic materials and will shorten the lifespan of a life jacket. Because conditions of each use are unique, estimated life expectancy will vary from user to user. When used in a recreational environment, proper cleaning and storage conditions will help to provide several seasons of use for an inflatable life jacket.

Where can I buy a Bluestorm™ Life Jacket?

Right here or at Amazon.com.

How much buoyancy do I need?

The average adult needs 7 – 12lbs of inherent buoyancy to keep their heads above water. Your weight is not the only factor when determining how much “extra lift” you may need in water. Also consider body fat, lung size, clothing and whether the water is rough or calm. Generally, the more physically fit you are, the more “lift” you need.

When should I wear my Life Jacket?

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends wearing your life jacket at all times when the boat is underway.

Can I bring my Inflatable Life Jacket on a plane?

In regards to the CO2 cylinders for inflatable life jackets: You should always check with your airline's policy before your flight. For more information regarding rules and regulations on flights, please visit the website for the Transportation Safety Administration.

Who can wear an Inflatable Life Jacket?

Inflatable life jackets are generally intended for persons over 80lbs and chest sizes between 30” - 56”. To meet life jacket carriage requirements, the intended wearer must be over 16 years of age. Non-swimmers are not recommended for inflatable life jackets. Review your life jacket's labels and owner's manual for additional information.

Donning and Fit Instructions

Does an inflatable life jacket fit differently than other life jackets?

Inflatable life jackets are designed to be more comfortable and less restrictive to wear than inherently buoyant life jackets. Follow these instructions to fit the life jacket properly:

  • Loosen the belt side adjuster(s) and place arms through left and right side of vest.
  • Secure the front buckle closure.
  • Adjust by holding on to the side of the vest and pull the waist adjustment (belt) to fit snugly.
  • Secure the loose end of the waist belt in the black belt loop.

Caution: Do NOT wear under any type of clothing. Always don the life jacket over shirt, jacket, etc.

NOTE: If life jacket is inflated before donning, release air from the vest by using the oral inflation tube, don, and then re-inflate the vest by blowing into the oral tube until the bladder is tight.

Can I wear my Inflatable Life Jacket on a personal water craft?

U.S. Coast Guard approved inflatable life jackets are not approved for use on personal watercraft, for whitewater paddling, water-skiing and knee boarding or similar towed uses.

Am I required to wear a Life Jacket on stand-up paddle board (SUP)?

Yes, when used beyond the narrow limits of swimming, surfing or bathing area, the U.S. Coast Guard considers a stand-up paddle board (SUP) a vessel.

U.S. Coast Guard “types” and methods of inflation

Every Bluestorm™ inflatable life jacket includes a spare CO2 cylinder pocket inside of the outer shell. When you first receive your Bluestorm™ inflatable it will not be armed with the CO2 cylinder. The cylinder will be stored in the spare CO2 cylinder pocket inside of the outer shell. Please read your owner’s manual for proper initial arming of your inflatable life jacket.

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)

Inflation Methods – What methods of inflation are available?

Automatic Inflation: With device properly armed, once immersed in water, the water sensing yellow bobbin dissolves, triggering the mechanism to puncture the CO2 cylinder. The device will inflate within seconds. There is also a manual inflation backup.

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

Oral Inflation: Locate the red oral tube. Remove the black cap and blow into it, until the bladder is firm. When fully inflated, replace cap on top of tube.

NOTE: Carbon dioxide (CO2) will slowly permeate through the fabric over time. A slight reduction of pressure will be observed after several hours of inflation. Topping off by oral inflation may be required in the event of prolonged immersion.

What U.S. Coast Guard type is my Bluestorm™ Inflatable?

The Bluestorm™ Cirrus 26 is a Coast Guard Approved Type V inflatable life jacket with inflatable Type III performance. A U.S. Coast Guard approved Type III inflatable life jacket must provide over 22.5 lbs of buoyancy. The Cirrus 26 provides 26lbs of buoyancy when properly inflated. It provides almost twice the buoyancy of a foam Type III life jacket. When properly inflated, it is designed to turn most unconscious wearers face-up in water. The Cirrus 26 is great for inland and coastal water areas where there is a good chance of a fast rescue.

The Bluestorm™ Stratus 35 is a Coast Guard Approved Type II Inflatable life jacket. A U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type II inflatable life jacket must provide over 34 lbs of buoyancy. The Stratus 35 life jacket provides over 35 lbs of buoyancy when properly inflated. It provides twice the buoyancy of a Type III foam life jacket. When properly inflated, Type II inflatables are designed to turn most unconscious wearers face-up in water and are suitable for many rough water uses.

The Bluestorm™ Atmos 40 is a Coast Guard Approved Type II inflatable life jacket. A U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type II inflatable life jacket must provide over 34 lbs of buoyancy. The Atmos 40 life jacket provides over 40 lbs of buoyancy when properly inflated. It provides more than twice the buoyancy of a Type III foam life jacket. When properly inflated, Type II inflatables are designed to turn most unconscious wearers face-up in water and are suitable for many rough and offshore water uses.

The Bluestorm™ Arcus 40 is a Coast Guard Approved Type II inflatable life jacket. A U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type II inflatable life jacket must provide over 34 lbs of buoyancy. The Atmos 40 life jacket provides over 40 lbs of buoyancy when properly inflated. It provides more than twice the buoyancy of a Type III foam life jacket. When properly inflated, Type II inflatables are designed to turn most unconscious wearers face-up in water and are suitable for many rough and offshore water uses.

Why do some life jackets have to be worn to be legal and others do not?

Inflatable life jackets are given a performance type and a designation for whether they have to be worn to be counted in the vessel's life jacket inventory. The U.S. Coast Guard requires that automatic, water-activated inflatables with non-1F inflator mechanisms have to be worn to be counted in the vessel's inventory as a life jacket, such as our Cirrus 26. It is classified as a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type V with Type III inflatable performance. This means you must be wearing the vest at all times when on the water for it to count towards your vessels life jacket inventory. Because our Stratus 35, Atmos 40 and Arcus 40 use new Halkey Roberts® Hydro 1F inflator mechanisms, they carry a U.S. Coast Guard approved inflatable Type II rating. This means if the device is properly armed you do not have to be wearing it to count towards your vessel's life jacket inventory and can be considered “stowable.” The U.S. Coast Guard recommends you always wear a life jacket when your vessel is underway. However the best life jacket is the one you are wearing and inflatable life jackets are so comfortable, you may just forget you have one on.

Max5 Camo Cirrus 26 Manual Override Option

Bluestorm™ also offers the Max5 Camo Cirrus 26 with a manual override option. This life jacket 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. Please read your Owner's Manual for proper operation of your Bluestorm™ life jacket.

Manual Conversion for 6F Automatic Mechanism

The Max5 Camo Cirrus 26 inflatable is equipped with a 6F mechanism that features a yellow “manual only” conversion cap. To convert your 6F automatic to manual inflation only, follow these steps:

  • Locate yellow “Manual” cap.
  • Remove CO2 cylinder, then remove clear cap and bobbin.
  • Install yellow “Manual” cap snugly on the inflator. (Warning flag hangs exposed on the outside of the PFD).
  • Confirm cylinder is not punctured or damaged and install cylinder by rotating clockwise into inflator until 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.

How do I re-arm my Bluestorm™ Life Jacket?

Stay tuned for a demonstration video

Deflation Process – How do I deflate my inflatable life jacket?

Locate the red oral inflation tube. Remove the black cap and invert it into the oral tube and hold. Squeeze or roll the inflated chamber (do not wring). All air must be expelled before repacking.

Once air has been expelled through the oral tube, replace cap to its original position and proceed to re-arm (if necessary) and repack the device.

Re-arming instructions after use - How do I re-arm my automatic inflatable life jacket?

1F Automatic: (Bluestorm™ model: Stratus 35, Atmos 40, Arcus 40) (Please read the instruction manual that was included with our device. If you have lost your instruction manual it can be downloaded from this website).

  • Remove all air from chamber (see deflation).
  • Locate the inflation mechanism.
  • Remove spent CO2 cylinder by rotating it counter clockwise and pulling the cylinder out.
  • Remove the cap by turning counterclockwise and remove the yellow bobbin from the cap or housing unit. Discard the yellow bobbin.
  • Check that the device housing is dry and clean of debris.
  • Confirm the new bobbin date stamp is within three years of today’s date.
  • IMPORTANT: Install the yellow bobbin in the housing, aligning the slots on the bobbin with the ridges inside the threaded housing. (The bobbin will slide in easily when installed correctly.)
  • Install the cap securely by screwing clockwise until it meets the housing shoulder. (No gap.)
  • Confirm replacement CO2 cylinder face is not pierced and install new cylinder by rotating clockwise into inflator until cylinder is secured firmly.
  • Service indicator window on front of inflator should be GREEN and ready for use. If RED, the device is not armed properly and these steps should be redone.
  • Repack and ensure the yellow “Jerk to Inflate” tab is hanging freely outside the device.
  • Verify green status indicator is visible through the window.

6F Automatic: (Bluestorm™ model: Cirrus 26) (Please read the instruction manual that was included with our device. If you have lost your instruction manual it can be downloaded from this website).

  • Remove all air from chamber (see deflation).
  • Locate the inflation mechanism.
  • Remove CO2 cylinder by rotating it counterclockwise and recycle spent cylinder.
  • Remove the clear cap by turning counterclockwise and remove bobbin from cap or housing unit. Discard yellow bobbin.
  • Check that the device housing is dry and clean of debris.
  • Confirm the new bobbin date stamp is within three years of today’s date.
  • IMPORTANT: Install the yellow bobbin aligning the slots on the bobbin with the ridges inside the threaded housing. (The bobbin will slide in easily when installed correctly.)
  • Confirm replacement CO2 cylinder face is not pierced and install new cylinder by rotating clockwise into inflator until cylinder is secured firmly.
  • Align arms on the green indicator clip over red lever with the slots in the inflator. Push firmly in the middle of the clip to snap in place.
  • Check that service indicator is GREEN and the green indicator clip is firmly attached.
  • Repack and ensure the yellow “Jerk to Inflate” tab is hanging freely outside the device.

Repacking Procedure - After inflation, how do I repack my inflatable life jacket?

Remove air from chamber through oral inflation tube (see deflation process). Re-arm device (see re-arming). For specific model, follow “Repacking Instructions” in owner’s manual for complete instructions. View service indicators. If green, it is properly armed and ready for use. If red, re-arming is needed before proceeding. Verify green status indicator is visible through the window for 1F (Stratus 35, Atmos 40 and Arcus 40) models. Yellow pull-tab should be outside of folded PFD.

Care and Maintenance

Bluestorm™ inflatables have a long history of quality and engineering that meets or exceeds U.S. Coast Guard approval. Each inflatable life jacket air chamber is inflated and tested for leaks before it leaves our factory. We use U.S. manufactured Halkey Roberts® inflator mechanisms that are also tested to meet or exceed the standards as stated by U.S. Coast Guard. It is important to remember that you are responsible for the care and maintenance of your Bluestorm™ inflatable to keep it safely performing when needed. Please remember to read the instruction manual included with your life jacket for proper care and maintenance.

How often do I need to inspect my inflatable life jacket and what steps need to be taken?

It is recommended you replace the water-sensing element each year. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends you test the automatic inflation system in water at the beginning of each season.

  • Remove CO2 cylinder and yellow bobbin (auto only) before performing inspection.
  • Visually inspect device for abrasion, rips, tears, and punctures. Inspect outer shell fabric by “pinching” the fabric. Fabric should not fray or tear. Devices with fabric, which has faded, torn or deteriorated should be removed from service and replaced.
  • Perform leakage test: Orally inflate the chamber until firm. Let stand overnight. If loss of air occurs (becomes less firm) the following day, repeat procedure to validate the result. If leak occurs, remove the life jacket from service and replace device.
  • Confirm oral inflation valve is properly functioning: Inflate the device and hold the oral inflation valve underwater. If bubbles appear, repeat procedure to validate the result. If a leak occurs, remove the life jacket from service and replace device.
  • Inspect yellow bobbin (auto only): White, water-soluble substance should be intact with no signs of cracks or breaks. Replace bobbin if manufacture date is over three years from today’s date.
  • Inspect CO2 cylinder: If there is a hole in the piercing face or cylinder is rusted or corroded, replace cylinder.
  • 1F & 3F models (bayonet style CO2) inspect sensor ring. If broken, replace cylinder.
  • Follow repacking and re-arming instructions.

Periodically during the boating season…

Perform “beginning of season maintenance” every two-to-three months for light to moderate users, more often if used frequently or in humid climate.

Before each outing…

  • Remove CO2 cylinder and yellow bobbin (auto only) before performing maintenance.
  • Visually inspect device for abrasion, rips, tears, and punctures. Devices with fabric which has faded, torn or deteriorated should be replaced.
  • Inspect yellow bobbin (auto only). White, water-soluble substance should be intact with no signs of cracks or breaks. Replace bobbin if manufacture date is over three years from today’s date.
  • Inspect CO2 cylinder. If there is a hole in the piercing face or cylinder is rusted or corroded, replace cylinder.
  • 1F & 3F models (bayonet style CO2), inspect sensor ring. If broken, replace cylinder.
  • Follow repacking and re-arming instructions.

Cleaning Instructions - How do I clean my inflatable life jacket?

Remove the CO2 cylinder and if an automatic device, remove yellow bobbin. Hand wash in warm soapy water, using mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly with clear water. Hang dry in a well-ventilated area – away from direct sunlight and/or heat sources. Ensure life jacket is completely dry before re-arming, repacking or stowing away. Do NOT machine wash or dry, commercial dry-clean or use solvent-based cleaners or bleach.

Storage Instructions - Where should I store my life jacket when not in use?

Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area – away from direct sunlight. Remove CO2 cylinder and automatic bobbin when stored for long periods of time. (Follow “beginning of season” care & maintenance inspection before returning to service after storage.)

Testing Inflatable Life Jackets

It is important to test your inflatable life jacket to:

  • Make sure it floats you – comfortably and adequately for water conditions and optimum performance.
  • Make sure it works – to ensure product integrity. It should inflate quickly & easily with no leakage observed.
  • Learn how it works – by arming & activating CO2 inflation system, re-arming and using the oral inflator tube.

How do you test using the automatic inflator?

To test your life jacket you will need your fully-armed life jacket and a replacement re-arming kit approved for your specific model.

  • Don life jacket and enter shallow water, just deep enough that you can stand with your head above the surface. Life jacket should automatically fully inflate within seconds once the inflator is under water.
  • You should float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms & legs on how you float.
  • Exit the water and remove the used CO2 cylinder and used water-sensing bobbin from the inflator.
  • Deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.
  • Dry thoroughly, re-arm (with replacement Re-Arm Kit on hand) and repack the life jacket.

How do you test using the manual inflator?

To test your life jacket you will need your fully-armed life jacket and a replacement Re-Arm Kit approved for your specific model.

  • Don life jacket and actuate the inflation system by jerking firmly downward on the yellow manual pull cord.
  • Enter shallow water, just deep enough that you can stand with your head above the surface
  • You should float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms & legs on how you float.
  • Exit the water and remove the used CO2 cylinder.
  • Deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.
  • Dry thoroughly, re-arm (with replacement Re-Arm Kit on hand) and repack the life jacket.

How do you test using the oral inflation tube?

To test your life jacket you will NOT need any spare parts or Re-Arming Kit.

  • Remove CO2 cylinder (to prevent inadvertent activation).
  • Don life jacket and enter shallow water, just deep enough that you can stand with your head above the surface. (Weak swimmers or non-swimmers should partially inflate the life jacket to support you to be able to complete full inflation without touching bottom. Note this level of inflation because it is the minimum amount needed for you to safely use this device.)
  • Fully inflate the life jacket using the oral inflator.
  • You should float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms & legs on how you float.
  • Exit the water and deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.
  • Dry thoroughly, re-arm and repack the life jacket.

Caution: If oral inflation is used, do NOT allow chamber to be also automatically inflated. Remove cylinder and bobbin to prevent inadvertent over-inflation, which could result in damage to the life jacket.

Testing for air leaks – My vest seems to be leaking air, how do I test for leaks?

Device may be inflated and submerged in water to check for leaks. If bubbles appear by the oral inflation valve, invert the black cap and tap the green spring. If bubbles continue to appear anywhere throughout the vest chamber, the device should be removed from service and replaced.

Device may be donned, inflated and user may submerge themselves in a shallow lake or pool. A flow of air bubbles should not appear. If bubbles appear by the oral inflation valve, invert the black cap and tap the green spring. If bubbles continue to appear anywhere throughout the vest chamber, remove device from service and replace.

General Information

CO2 Cylinder Information:

Shelf Life & Disposal - What is the shelf life of a cylinder and how do I dispose of my used CO2 cylinder?

When properly stored and maintained there is no shelf life or expire date. If cylinder shows signs of abrasion, corrosion or damage, it should be discharged and replaced.

  • Gas cylinders are 100% recyclable steel.
  • Discharge gas before disposing of cylinder.
  • Misuse of gas cylinder can be dangerous. Do not incinerate CO2 cylinder, expose to sun or store above 120oF (50oC). Do not throw into open fire or dump at sea.

Usage – How often can I use my CO2 cylinder?

Cylinders may be used one time only to inflate the life jacket and cannot be recharged.

Cylinder Size - Can I use a different size cylinder or alter my mechanism?

Use of cylinder sizes other that what was originally designed for your specific model may result in damage to the life jacket and/or injury to person. It is imperative to use only component parts and correct size CO2 cylinder (both thread size and CO2 gram) for your specific model. Any alteration or modification to the device may result in injury or death and voids the Coast Guard approval.

Re-Arm Kit Purchase - Where can I buy replacement Re-Arm Kits?

Replacement Re-Arm Kits may be purchased from www.bluestormgear.com. It is imperative to purchase the correct thread size and CO2 gram size as recommended for your specific model.
NOTE: It is recommended to have a stand-by Re-Arm Kit available at all times.

CO2 Precautions - Are there any safety precautions when handling a CO2 cylinder?

The CO2 cylinder contains carbon dioxide, which is a non-toxic, non-flammable gas, in a pressurized cylinder. However, caution should be taken to avoid skin contact when the discharging the CO2 cylinder.

Bobbin Information:

Shelf Life & disposal - What is the shelf life of the bobbin and how do I dispose of used or old bobbins?

  • Inspect bobbin before each use to confirm white soluble substance is intact and there are no cracks, breaks or deterioration.
  • Bobbins have a three-year shelf life. A manufacture date code is stamped on the side of the bobbin. Example: FEB03 19 HR (Month∙Day∙Year) Manufacture date for this example is February 3, 2019.
  • Store in a cool dry environment. Yellow bobbins may be discarded in refuse.

NOTE: Bobbins exposed to excessive high humidity, high heat or vibration should be replaced more often.

Precautions - Is the white substance in the bobbin poisonous if ingested?

The white substance in the yellow bobbin is not dangerous or poisonous if ingested. It is a pharmaceutical grade of Microcrystalline Cellulose, commonly used as filler in medicine tablets.

Premature inflation with automatic mechanism – What causes it & how can I prevent it?

  • Exposure to excessive high humidity, high heat or vibration.
  • Improper storage – such as enclosed compartments under very high heat or humid conditions.
  • Replace bobbin on a yearly basis, more often in humid climates or when exposed to excessive high humidity or temperatures.

Cold Weather Use - Can I use my inflatable when ice fishing?

A fully discharged cylinder may not adequately inflate your life jacket when used in cold weather or below freezing temperatures. Do not use your inflatable life jacket under these conditions unless it is already partially inflated, with three or four puffs of air, using the oral inflation tube.

Caution: If device is fully inflated using the oral tube, CO2 inflation could over-pressurize and damage your life jacket. Also remember, an inflatable life jacket should be worn over all clothing – do not wear under any type of clothing!

What to do before preparing for an outing with your Life Jacket

Have I checked the status of the inflator and made sure that the CO2 cylinder is not punctured? Check both before each outing.

Have I checked my inflatable life jacket for leaks in the last two months?

Do I have the right life jacket for this activity?

How does my life jacket work in the water? Have I tested it this season?

Do I have the right size life jacket for each person (according to the label) and do they fit snugly?

Have I checked my other inflatable life jackets in the same manner in which I checked my own?

For more information about life jacket safety and requirements please contact the U.S. Coast Guard

Detailed Information and Manuals for your Bluestorm™ Inflatable

Download your Owner's Manual here: