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Exclusive test: 10 of the best lifejackets tested to the max

We tested 10 of the best lifejackets on the market in a full-open water test to see how quickly they fire and how comfortable they are to wear

Crewsaver Ergofit 190N Coastal

Crewsaver ErgoFit 190N Coastal - beforeFeatures

  • Crotch-strap: Yes (double)
  • Light: Yes
  • Sprayhood: Yes
  • Harness: Yes
  • Firing mechanism: Hammer
  • Fastening mechanism: Zipped panel plus plastic buckle
  • Price: £165
  • Rating: N/A

Performance

Adjustment was easy, with two loose ends of webbing to pull on either side. The Ergofit is quite a big heavy lifejacket but it has that cool Navy SEAL look about it and feels reassuringly solid.

However, on test the Ergofit failed to fire automatically, despite Greg jumping in on two occasions. Firing it off manually only partially worked, with only the right hand side inflating.

Crewsaver ErgoFit 190N Coastal - after

Once out of the water and with a little prodding the second half burst into life. Back in the water, the sprayhood was easy to find but difficult to deploy – it needed a really good tug to separate the Velcro and enable the hood fixings to be stretched over the bladders.

On the plus side, the one thing that was very noticable was how well the Ergofit held the casualty in the water. Good design of the bladders kept the head held comfortably and well clear of the water.

The jacket also features a handy zipped pocket on the front, a Velcro tab to affix a PLB (personal locator beacon) and a clear window to check the status of the firing mechanism.

Take 2

After the initial failure we contacted Crewsaver, who responded by conducting a series of tests with over 60 identical lifejackets. In their tests they could not replicate the failure we experienced, despite extensive environmental and in-water testing.

They then supplied us with another Ergofit jacket of exactly the same specification which we took to a local pool to test. This jacket fired correctly and turned the casualty over in five seconds.

Crewsaver ErgoFit 190N Coastal - after2

Rearming

The Hammer rearming kit is about twice as expensive as the UML-5 and because the bottle is mounted inside the bladder it is a more complex operation to change. The Ergofit is also available with non-Hammer automatic inflation. Rearming kit: £39

Repacking

Spread out on the floor like some luminescent roadkill, the Ergofit looked like it was going to be a tricky customer.

Once I got going though it was relatively painless and although I wouldn’t say it was as neatly packed as when it came out of the factory, the firing mechanism was in line with the window and it looked OK.

Contact: Crewsaver

Tel: 01329 820 000

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