Life Vests

How To Choose a Life Vest or Life Jacket That Fits

Safe Life Vest Fit & Life Jacket Chart for Adults to Infants

Our life jacket size chart is based on current manufacturer chest sizes for adults, teens, youth, children, and infants. If you want to skip this article, click here to jump to the size charts.

Safe fit versus unsafe fit: If you can put more than 3 finger widths in the gap between your shoulders and the shoulder area of the life vest, your life vest is too big, and will not keep your head above water.



NEVER have a huge gap in the shoulders.

Best test is in a swimming pool. If the vest floats you enough vertically to keep your mouth above water, it is safe. If the vest shoulders rise up above your nose and your mouth is under water, it is not safe.
For kids, if the vest rises up too much on the face when they raise both arms over the head, the vest is too big and the child can fall out. It is not safe.

The law says you must have one Coast Guard Approved life jacket for each passenger. In addition, boats must have one lifesaver ring or a throwable floating seat cushion. The one life jacket per person rule applies for all passengers including infants, kids, non-swimmers, and good swimmers. Unfortunately, there is no law that says life jackets must fit. That is your responsibility. Please click on video icon to learn more about the importance of life vest fits and shoulder gap.


The coast guard estimates that more than half of all boaters have life jackets that are way too big or the wrong type. Wearing a life jacket that is way too big or that has a huge shoulder gap is like not wearing a life jacket at all, and it will not keep you safe.

Neoprene Life Vests Versus Nylon Life Jackets

Neoprene life vests, as shown in the picture, should fit snug when dry. You must be able to stretch the vest 2" to 3" to zip it up. If your neoprene life vest is way too easy to zip up dry, that vest may be too big. When neoprene material gets wet, it stretches. That is why it needs to be tight when dry. It will feel more comfortable when in the water. Please see additional sizing tips for Neoprene vests used only for safety and relaxation where you may not actually go into the water.


Nylon life vests, as shown by in the picture below, should meet at the buckles and not overlap. If it overlaps, it is too big.


Another factor to consider is type of activity in the water. All manufactures size charts assume you will be using the life vest for action water sports, so chart sizes are specified for a snug fit on an athletic body. Legally, we are NOT allowed to modify those charts even if a customer complains that his life vest is too small. If you are fishing or cruising around in a boat, canoe, paddleboard, or other leisurely water activity, your life jacket does not have to be as tight as the life jackets used for high-speed sports such as wakeboarding or waterskiing. Remember to comply with the shoulder gap test. Even leisure life vests used in Fishing or boating should never have a huge gap in the shoulders because it will not be safe.

The newer Hybrid neoprene life jackets use a combination of materials including closed cell marine foam and neoprene. These advanced life jackets are made by Oneill, Connelly, Hyperlite, and HO Sports. These life jackets have Biolite, Hydrozote, or other proprietary neoprene materials that are lighter and dryer than traditional neoprene, and will NOT feel soggy or heavy when you are riding a waterski, wakeboard, wakeskate, or wakesurfer. Closed cell marine foam is a material that will not get soggy, and some manufacturers went a step further to make it with flexible foam sections or panels using proprietary materials as NytroLite which is even lighter than closed cell marine foam. Some have a flex back for comfort, and some have lumbar support for fatigue. They are designed to be light weight, comfortable, provide freedom of movement, yet retain Coast Guard Compliance. These newer life jackets do not stretch as much when wet, so they don't have to fit as tight when dry. These newer life jackets should still fit snug but comfortable.

Fit warning on newer advanced life vests: The newer advanced neoprene life jackets are not as stretchy as the lower priced regular neoprene life jackets so they are NOT forgiving on size. Advanced life vests for wakeboarding and waterskiing are designed to fit snug and the size charts run tight. They are designed for safety assuming that you are going to get towed behind a boat at high speeds.

Flex Back Life Jackets are Size Forgiving

 If you are a big man or woman trying to stretch into a 2XL or 3XL life jacket, make sure the vest has a flex panel on the back so it can stretch to make room for your mid section and tummy. Flex Back or no Flex Back, you will will need to go up a size if your lower torso is a lot bigger than your chest. If you are using it for leisure sports such as fishing, paddle boarding, canoe, or other relaxation use, buy a size bigger for comfort. Flex Back life jackets, or V Back, fit better and feel more comfortable than life vests without a flex back. Flex Back vests are more likely to fit when you accidentally buy a size that is a little small for you. The Flex Back feature is found on many 2019 Life Jackets by Connelly, Oneill, HO Sports, and Hyperlite. This feature is also called V-BackFlex Fit, True Fit, and U-Back. Below is a an example of flex back.

Oversized: For larger sized individuals who do not fit into a standard XX or 3X size, you can buy an oversized life vest up to size 7XL. Our largest Neoprene life vest is up to size 5XL-TALL. Our largest Nylon is up to 7XL.(See the Footnote * about to measure chest and tummy for the largest life vests).

How much weight will a life jacket hold up in the water?

If I weigh 400 lbs, will a life jacket float my weight? How much weight will a life jacket support? Fact: Coast Guard Approved Life jackets are rated by chest size, not by weight. A USCGA Approved life vest will safely float your weight if the life jacket fits you. Remember our bodies have at least 15% fat and fat is lighter than water. The boyancy in a USCGA life jacket is more than enough to support your weight in the water.

What is the difference between a REGULAR oversized and TALL oversized life jacket?

The biggest complaint about most oversized life jackets today is that they are too short and donít cover the entire abdomen area. Often people will wear a t-shirt underneath to protect from the sunburn and to cover the belly. A TALL life jacket is 3 inches longer than standard, and offers extra torso coverage. If you are over 6ft tall, we recommend a TALL. The picture below is a customer 6' 7" Tall at 350 lbs wearing the Hyperlite 4XL-TALL NEOPRENE Life Jacket.

Water Ski World is the only USA dealer selling the new HO Sports 5XL-TALL nylon life vest for big and tall men and the first to sell the Hyperlite Indy TALL NEOPRENE life jacket (Women buy these too.) The NEOPRENE LIFE VEST size 5XL-TALL is the largest neoprene life jacket in the world. Men up to 400 lbs and a little more than 400 lbs have tried it on and it fits. That size took a lot of neoprene and foam to reach the size 5XLT, thus it stretches more than the smaller sizes. It has extra strap length to allow it to stretch a little bigger than what is indicated in the 5XL-TALL size chart.

All size charts measurements are based on chest size. (See the Footnote * about to measure chest and tummy for the largest life vests.)

(Competition vests are not on our size charts and are not USCGA approved.)

Water Ski World Size Guide

www.waterskiworld.com

Gender/Age

Brand

Size

Chest Size

Weight*

Infant Life Vests

All Brands

OSFM

N/A

All Infant Life Vests are sized by weight 0-30Lbs

Child Life Vests

All Brands

OSFM

N/A

All Child Life Vests are sized by weight 30-50Lbs

Youth Small Life Vest

All Brands

SM

25"-27"

50-70lbs

Youth Large Life Vest

All Brands

LG

27"-29"

70-90lbs

Teen Life Vest

Connelly

OSFM

28"-32"

90-120lbs

Hyperlite

OSFM

28"-32"

90-120lbs

 

O'Niell

OSFM

30"-32"

75-120lbs

Womenís Life Vest

Connelly

XS

28"-32"

N/A

Connelly

SM

32"-36"

N/A

Connelly

MD

36"-40"

N/A

Connelly

LG

40"-44"

N/A

Connelly

XL

44"-48"

N/A

HO Sports

XS

28"-32"

N/A

HO Sports

SM

32"-36"

N/A

HO Sports

MD

36"-40"

N/A

HO Sports

LG

40"-44"

N/A

HO Sports

XL

44"-48"

N/A

Hyperlite

XS

28"-32"

N/A

Hyperlite

SM

32"-36"

N/A

Hyperlite

MD

36"-40"

N/A

Hyperlite

LG

40"-44"

N/A

Hyperlite

XL

44"-48"

N/A

Radar

SM

35"-37"

N/A

Radar

MD

37"-39"

N/A

Radar

LG

40"-42"

N/A

Radar

XL

42"-44"

N/A

Ronix

SM

35"-37"

N/A

Ronix

MD

37"-39"

N/A

Ronix

LG

40"-42"

N/A

Ronix

XL

42"-44"

N/A

Ronix

2XL

44"-46"

N/A

O'Niell Reactor

4

30"-33"

N/A

O'Niell Reactor

6

33"-36"

N/A

O'Niell Reactor

8

36"-39"

N/A

O'Niell Reactor

10

39"-42"

N/A

O'Niell Reactor

12

42"-45"

N/A

O'Niell Siren

4

30"-32"

N/A

O'Niell Siren

6

32"-34"

N/A

O'Niell Siren

8

34"-36"

N/A

O'Niell Siren

10

36"-38"

N/A

 

O'Niell Siren

12

38"40"

N/A

Menís Life Vest

Connelly

XS

28"-32"

N/A

Connelly

SM

32"-36"

N/A

Connelly

MD

36"-40"

N/A

Connelly

LG

40"-44"

N/A

Connelly

XL

44"-48"

N/A

Connelly

2XL/2XL TALL

48"-52"

N/A

Connelly

3XL/3XL TALL

52"-56"

N/A

Connelly

4XL TALL

56"-60"

N/A

Connelly

5XL TALL

60"66"

N/A

HO Sports

XS

28"-32"

N/A

HO Sports

SM

32"-36"

N/A

HO Sports

MD

36"-40"

N/A

HO Sports

LG

40"-44"

N/A

HO Sports

XL

44"-48"

N/A

HO Sports

2XL/2XL TALL

48"-52"

N/A

HO Sports

3XL/3XL TALL

52"-56"

N/A

HO Sports

4XL TALL

56"-60"

N/A

HO Sports

5XL TALL

60"-64"

N/A

Hyperlite

XS

28"-32"

N/A

Hyperlite

SM

32"-36"

N/A

Hyperlite

MD

36"-40"

N/A

Hyperlite

LG

40"-44"

N/A

Hyperlite

XL

44"-48"

N/A

Hyperlite

2XL/2XL TALL

48"-52"

N/A

Hyperlite

3XL/3XL TALL

52"-56"

N/A

Hyperlite

4XL TALL

56"-60"

N/A

Hyperlite

5XL TALL

60"-64"

N/A

Radar

SM

31"-34"

N/A

Radar

MD

34"-37"

N/A

Radar

LG

37"-40"

N/A

Radar

XL

40"-43"

N/A

Radar

2XL

43"-46"

N/A

Ronix

SM

31"-34"

N/A

Ronix

MD

34"-37"

N/A

Ronix

LG

37"-40"

N/A

Ronix

XL

40"-43"

N/A

Ronix

2XL

43"-46"

N/A

Ronix

3XL

46"-49"

N/A

Ronix

4XL

49"-52"

N/A

O' Niell Mens Reactor

SM

35"-37.5"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Reactor

MD

37.5"-40"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Reactor

LG

40"-42.5"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Reactor

XL

42.5"-45"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Reactor

2XL

45"-47.5"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Reactor

3XL

47.5"-50"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Assault

SM

35"-37"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Assault

MD

37"-40"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Assault

LG

40"-43"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Assault

XL

43"-46"

N/A

O'Niell Mens Assault

2XL

43"-45"

N/A

 

O'Niell Mens Assault

3XL

47.5"-50.5"

N/A

Oversized

All Brands

4XL-7XL

*

All information regarding sizing for plus sized life vests can be found in the vests description box

 

*Footnote for Oversized vests: measure your chest circumference under the arms and across the pecs. Also measure the belly sitting down. If your belly measurement is bigger than your chest measurement, the guide based on chest size will not be right and it is better to buy a size larger than what is indicated by your measured chest. Size charts are published by the manufacturer for a very snug safe fit on an athletic body to meet Coast Guard Compliance in active watersports. If you are overweight and using for relaxation, a bigger size will be more comfortable. Buyer is responsible for choice of size and waives all liability to seller for use of that vest. Chest size is not a guarantee of fit because people have different body shapes. Buyer is responsible for return shipping to return or exchange if it does not fit.

Water Ski World
West Coast Boat Center
Discount Life Jacket
4371 Granite Dr
Rocklin, CA 95677
Call: 1-916-723-2660
Toll Free: 1-877-723-2660

email: info@waterskiworld.com