Air Vest Neck and Back Protection
One of the most common questions we get is which air vest provides the best neck and back protection. The most common equestrian spinal injuries are between the shoulder blades and the lower back.
When buying an air vest, inspect how the chambers on the back side of the vest are constructed. Make sure there isn’t a hinge or weak spot between the neck and back sections of your air vest. It should be one continuous chamber - one solid airbag from the top of the neck all the way down the length of the air vest.
In terms of neck inflation, you don’t want the air chamber to go so high and to be so rigid that your neck has nowhere to flex. The inflation around the neck should provide support but also allow the neck to move. If the neck chamber is too large, it actually risks a compression injury, so more air isn’t necessarily better.
You also want an air vest that provides continuous pelvic and hip coverage. Flaps that descend when a vest is inflated provides extra protection, but only when coupled with an air chamber that already sufficiently covers the pelvis and hips. A descending flap isn’t a substitute for an unimpeded air chamber that runs throughout the vest and allows the air to flow freely.
Inspect the air chambers of the vests that you try on and look for their certification. At a minimum, you should be looking for Satra M:38 and/or CRITT. The certification is important because it indicates that the vest has met a specific standard under comparable testing conditions. Manufacturer conducted lab studies are not sufficient on their own without external validation.