Life Vest Sizes, Life Vest Size Chart, Life Vest Fitting
How to choose the Right Size Life Jacket
Our life jacket size chart is up to date with all our manufactures sizes based on chest size for 2018. If you are on an iPhone and want to skip the article, please click here to: Jump to the Size Charts
MOST IMPORTANT Life Jacket Fitting Guide: 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. That vest 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
For kids, if the vest floats up too far vertically 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 that you must have Coast Guard Approved life jackets in the boat for all passengers, even for the strong swimmers. Unfortunately, there is no law that says life jackets must be
properly fitted for size. That is your responsibility. Please click on the icon to view a safety video about life vest
size 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. A father hands out adult life vests to his kids,
because that is all he has. He should have purchased life vests designed for
teens. 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, as shown in the picture of the girl, should fit snug when dry. The size is
good if you stretch the vest 2" to 3" to zip it up. If your neoprene life vest
is too easy to zip up dry, that vest is too big. When Neoprene gets wet, it stretches. That is why it needs to be tight when dry. It will feel more comfortable in the water.
Nylon, as shown by the Connelly nylon vest 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. The Oneill Life Jacket picture below is an example of such a life jacket.
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 2018 Life Jackets by Connelly, Oneill, HO Sports, and Hyperlite. This feature is also called V-Back,
Flex Fit, True Fit, and U-Back. Below is a an example of flex back. Click on the picture below to go to that vest:
For big overweight guys and gals 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 4XL-TALL. Our largest Nylon is up to 7XL. We
are the only dealer selling the HO Sports Tall nylon life vest, and
the first to carry the Hyperlite Indy TALL Neoprene Life
Jacket. (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?
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
Hyperlite Indy TALL neoprene life jacket. (Women buy these
too). We will be first
to start selling the Hyperlite 5XL-TALL Neoprene Life Jacket, the
largest neoprene life jacket in the world for men over 400 lbs men.
We expect the 5XL-TALL Neo vest to be here by May 2019 after
Hyperlite finishes the Coast Guard Approval and starts
manufacturing that size. The TALL life jackets are 3 inches longer than
standard life jackets. That 3 inches allows a little more torso
coverage. The biggest complaint about most oversized life jackets today is that they are too short and dont cover a bulging gut. Most men wear a t-shirt underneath to protect from the sunburn and cover the belly,
but the fashion minded public may complain that a lot of life vests look more like a bra than a life jacket. The cosmetic problem is solved with the TALL life vest. The person modeling the HO Sports vest below is 6 ft 8 in tall and weighs 280 lbs. He is big and tall wearing the HO Sports size 2XL. The first picture
shows a regular oversized HO Infinite Life Jacket size 2XL. The second
picture shows the 2XL-TALL version of that same vest and standing next to the big oversized
Connelly Big Daddy Ski. Note how the bulge
in the belly is covered better on the TALL vest. If you are
over 6ft 1in tall, we recommend a TALL
Below is a customer 6' 7" Tall at 350 lbs wearing the Hyperlite
4XL-TALL NEOPRENE Life Jacket. Neoprene has more stretch than nylon
so it fits perfectly on this 350 lb man.
All life oversized life vests we sell, regular or TALL, are US Coast
Guard Approved and have compliant flotation for your size. All 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 because buyers are watersport experts who already know the correct size to buy. Comp vests are not USCGA approved.)