Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Hong Kong
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For the reasons outlined above, the autoinflaters with built-in harnesses are my favoured option. If you get clonked on the head either as a result of going overboard, or sending you over, you want the lifejacket to do the job for you and turn you right-way-up. All of them, btw, should have a little manual arming toggle so you can set them off before getting into the water when transferring to a liferaft or similar situation, and a filling tube you can operate by mouth while wearing the jacket.
It is still possible to buy Hammar (pressure triggered) or non-hammar (dissolving disc) options - the latter are a little more expensive (10-20%), but shouldn't go off if you get a green one down your neck. At the end of the day it's emergency equipment and not worth skimping on.
In terms of brands: go for the big name stuff: Plastimo, Crewsaver... and you'll be good. Get the top line stuff too. Cheaper jackets have less chafe protection on the inflatable bladders, meaning that with wearing these may start to leak.
Jacklines: any heavy-duty 1" nylon webbing will do. sew or have sewn very heavy-duty loops in the ends, and tie in place with 3-4 turns of 3mm nylon rope. If you're tying them onto things with sharp edges (eg: aluminium toe rail) either file the edges of the holes smooth with a round file, or use a mild steel or good quality stainless bow shackle.
just my 2 cents..