Liferafts like everything else can be cheap
or expensive... And should not be compared to by price
but the type of use and construction.
We had a guy in San Francisco
Bay that we trusted (Sal's Inflatables, Alameda).... He walked us through the various liferafts in his shop from Viking to Switlik.
I was surprised at the huge difference between the rafts construction, from cheap
seams to overkill.
We also had a friend that had a experimental catamaran
sink on him half way between New York
and London. He was floating around for 39 hours before a freighter rescued them.
We had another friend who was in the water
for 3 hours after loosing her boat to a whale strike of the coast of Baja California
. While deploying the liferaft, a wave washed over the cockpit
and took their water proof ditch bag over the side with a spare VHF
, water and food
. hey were left with what was inside the liferaft.
We were planning ocean crossings when we first started cruising and went with the Switlik SAR-6 for our boat. It is the same raft the USCG drops from their helicopter during rescues.
Yes Switlik is expensive, but if I have float around in the middle of the ocean for several days, I wanted something that would hold up to the extremes. The supplies inside the raft always worked at the repack dates and we supplemented the initial provisions at the first repack, doubling the water and food
So with that in mind, my recommendation would be to consider what will you be using the Liferaft for. If you are sailing in Bays, Near Coastal or Blue water. Then start thinking how long will it be for help to get to you.
With that information you can decide which raft is appropriate for your type of sailing situation.