SwimVest inflates airbags to help swimmers stay afloat

Hexoray SwimVest Inflatable Airbag for Swimmers
The SwimVest activates three buoyancy airbags by pulling its handle. Images courtesy Hexoray

In the realm of open-water swimming, even the most adept swimmers face the peril of drowning under unforeseen circumstances. Addressing this critical safety concern, the innovative SwimVest emerges as a potential lifesaver. This article delves into the features, design, and functionality of the SwimVest, a brainchild of the Belgian startup Hexoray, currently gaining momentum through a Kickstarter campaign.

At the core of SwimVest’s appeal is its low-profile design, tailored explicitly for serious swimmers. Unlike bulky life jackets that hinder movement, the SwimVest maintains a sleek form, allowing swimmers to glide through water with minimal resistance. This streamlined design is credited to the use of Yamamoto neoprene, a calcium-carbonate-based material known for its superior softness, flexibility, and eco-friendliness compared to traditional petroleum-based neoprene. The vest is further enhanced with a smooth coating, optimizing it for effortless movement through water.

The safety mechanism of the SwimVest is ingeniously concealed within its unassuming exterior. It houses three woven-nylon, polyurethane-coated airbags – two situated on the chest and one on the back of the neck. These airbags are connected to a replaceable CO2 cartridge, which remains inactive during normal swimming activities.

However, in moments of distress, such as muscle cramps or being caught in a current, the swimmer can activate the airbags. By pulling a handle on the garment, the CO2 cartridge inflates the airbags within a fraction of a second, transforming the vest into a buoyant device that keeps the swimmer afloat, face-up.

Hexoray SwimVest Women Model
The women’s version of the SwimVest, shown both in its regular state (left) and with the airbags inflated.

The practicality of the SwimVest extends to its visibility and reusability features. In its final iteration, the airbags will be colored bright green, ensuring maximum visibility in open waters. After deployment, the airbags can be easily refolded into the vest. The only requirement for reusing the vest is replacing the CO2 cartridge, making it a sustainable choice for regular swimmers.

Hexoray SwimVest Not Activated
When inactive, the SwimVest does not impede a swimmer’s natural buoyancy or swimming technique.

Weighing approximately 500 grams (17 ounces) with the cartridge, the SwimVest is impressively lightweight. Its neutral buoyancy when not activated is a crucial factor, ensuring that it does not impede a swimmer’s natural buoyancy or swimming technique.

For those interested in securing this innovative safety gear, a pledge of €179 (around US$197) on the Kickstarter campaign will reserve a SwimVest. This investment could be a small price for the significant safety enhancement it offers to open-water swimmers.

Hexoray SwimVest Three Inflatable Airbags
All three airbags are connected to a single replaceable CO2 cartridge.

Source: Kickstarter