Streamlined SwimVest pops out airbags to keep struggling swimmers afloat
Just because you're a strong and experienced open-water swimmer doesn't mean you'll never get into situations where there's a real risk of drowning. That's where the SwimVest comes in, as it's a low-profile wearable airbag system designed specifically for serious swimmers.
Currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, the SwimVest is manufactured by Belgian startup Hexoray.
The exterior of the garment is made of calcium-carbonate-based Yamamoto neoprene, which is said to be softer, stretchier and more eco-friendly than traditional petroleum-based neoprene. A smooth coating helps it slide through the water.
Inside the SwimVest are three woven-nylon polyurethane-coated airbags – two of these are located on the chest, and the other is on the back of the neck. All three are connected to a single replaceable CO2 cartridge.
As long as everything is going OK, the vest remains flat and streamlined against the swimmer's body. Should that person run into trouble – such as if they cramp up or get caught in a current – they just pull a handle on the garment. Doing so causes the cartridge to inflate the airbags within a fraction of a second. The user can then float face-up in the water for as long as needed.
In the final version of the SwimVest, the airbags will be bright green for maximum visibility. After each deployment they simply get folded back into the vest – the only other thing the user has to do is replace the CO2 cartridge.
According to Hexoray, the vest tips the scales at approximately 500 g (17 oz) with the cartridge included. Importantly, it's neutrally buoyant in the water when not activated.
Assuming the SwimVest reaches production, a pledge of €179 (about US$195) will get you one. It's demonstrated in the following video.
Potential backers may also want to check out the waist-worn Restube and the back-worn Tekrapod, both of which deploy a single airbag that the user simply hangs onto. The neck-worn Ploota and the wrist-worn Kingii appear to have been unsuccessful in their crowdfunding campaigns.