Why can't I use my inflatable in freezing weather?

Our inflatable devices (life jackets / PFDs / buoyancy aids) are typically approved for use by Transport Canada or United States Coast Guard based on testing conducted by independent Underwriter’s Laboratories.  The typical performance standards are UL1180 and two new standards ANSI/CAN/UL 12402-5 (Level 70) and 12402-4 (Level 100).  These standards stipulate the inflatable device must be marked DO NOT USE BELOW FREEZING.

This marking is because cold air below 0C and cold water near 0C can negatively affect the inflator’s ability to puncture the CO2 gas cylinder (both manual and automatic); thus, the device does not inflate.  If it does inflate, the time to achieve buoyancy can also be significantly delayed, and it is possible the device will not produce the full amount of required buoyancy.

Inflatable flotation devices are not recommended for use in temperatures below freezing.  As temperatures approach freezing, your inflatable flotation device will provide less buoyancy and will inflate more slowly. At temperatures near freezing, the device should be worn partially inflated to ensure that some buoyancy is immediately available to you if you fall overboard. The oral inflator can then be used to top up the flotation device after CO2 inflation. Cold reduces the volume of gas and results in a reduction in buoyancy.

Remember, as your breath air cools down, it contracts in volume. You may require more topping up breaths to maintain an adequate level.

Caution: Do not fully inflate the device orally and then activate the CO2 cylinder. The resulting overpressure could seriously damage the device resulting in loss of flotation.  Inflatable flotation devices are not recommended for use in temperatures below freezing.

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