Inflatable Recommendations for use as buoyancy aids


New member
I've been looking for inflatables to take as buoyancy aids on a long through trip which involves some sections of swimming. However, it's really difficult to tell which ones would withstand my planned use without recommendations, since the people writing online reviews don't generally seem to have taken them caving.

Does anyone have any recommendations for inflatables that:
- pack down easily for transport into the cave in a tackle sack
- can be quickly and easily inflated whilst underground (either by mouth or a very small hand pump)
- deflate easily to be packed up again
- are durable enough to withstand multiple trips

(the specific trip in question is the Verneau Traverse in Doubs, but the principle definitely applies to many other caves. We've got actual buoyancy aids for use in other caves in the region but think these would be too bulky to be convenient on this trip (?))


Well-known member
Go tubing. We have floated on large inner tubes through canals up to a km. Easy to progress. Comfy. You just need a bike pump. Inner tube rubber is pretty robust, not a blow up toy.

Blow up bouyancy aids are rare because they are easily damaged. Lifejackets that blow up you can’t swim in and are wildly unsuitable.
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I've used a large Heavyweight Ortleib Drybag whilst canyoning many times and I'd recommend them.

You can keep stuff dry inside them for most of the trip and when you get to a long swimming section you just open it up to fill it with air, roll the top over a few times then you can lean over it as you swim.

I've stored ropes inside mine to keep them dry whilst using it as a float. You need quite a large one to do that though.



Something like this. Mine must be either 59L or 79L, I'm not sure which. Once you've finished swimming you remove the excess air and stick it back in your tackle bag.


Active member
I borrowed an inflatable snorkelling life jacket, aka snorkelling vest, from a friend for the Chauveroche (swimming through gour pools) and although it was slightly awkward to swim in it was nice and neat to carry and it was very effective. If I can find a link I'll send it. It had a zip down the front, a mesh back, and straps underneath.


Well-known member
We did the Hundidero-Gato through trip a few years ago and all bought cheap inflatable rings which proved very vulnerable. In actual fact the best buoyancy aid I had was my Swaygo bag that has an Ortlieb style closure which carried my camera gear. It is worn with opening downwards. It was perfectly adequate and allowed me to drift along or paddle on my back through the lengthy swims in the cave. Unfortunately the company who are in the states haven't found a UK outlet possibly because they aren't cheap. See


Active member
Reminds me of an anecdote where there was a bit of a fuss about "out of date" life jackets being left in a cave for the convenience of cavers for a swimming section. It seemed best not to mention that other swimming aids left in situ included an inflatable dinosaur.