Life Vests

Life Vest Sizes, Life Vest Size Chart, What life vest to get, Life Vest Fit

How to choose a Safe Life Jacket that Fits

The life jacket size chart is based on chest size and up to date with all our manufactures sizes for 2018 and 2019. 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 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 passengers. In addition, boat must have one lifesaver ring or a throwable floating seat cushion. The 1 life jacket per person rule appplies for all inculding babies, kids, non-swimmers, and good swimmers. Unfortunately, there is no law that says life jackets must fit. 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 children, youth, or 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. 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 is too big. When Neoprene 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 were you may not actually go into the water.

NYLON, as shown by in 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.

Neoprene, Hybrid, Biolite Neoprene, and HydroZote Life Vests

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-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:

Oversized: 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 5XL-TALL. Our largest Nylon is up to 7XL.(See the Footnote * about to measure chest and tummy for the largest life vests).
Oversized 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 dont cover a bulging gut. Men wear a t-shirt underneath to protect from the sunburn and to cover the belly. Big men complain that regular length vests look like a bra or a kids vest. A TALL life jacket is 3 inches longer than standard, and looks looks better with the extra torso coverage. The picture below models HO Sports TALL NYLON vest 2XL-TALL at 6 ft 8 in tall and 280 lbs. The picture compares the TALL to a regular and shows him standing next to the big oversized Connelly Big Daddy Ski. See how the bulge in the belly is covered better on the TALL vest. If you are over 6ft tall, we recommend a TALL.

HO Sports Regular Life Jacket vs TALL life jacket

The next picture below is a customer 6' 7" Tall at 350 lbs wearing the Hyperlite 4XL-TALL NEOPRENE Life Jacket. (We have another pictures of a 405 lb customer wearing the 5XL-TALL). See product listing.

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 because buyers are watersport experts who already know the correct size to buy. Comp vests are not USCGA approved.)

Infant Life Vests
Shop Infant
All Infant Life vests
fit Infants 0 to 30 lbs
Child Life Vests
Shop Child
All Child Life vests
fit Kids 30 to 50 lbs
Youth Life Vests
Shop Youth
ChestWeight
25" - 29" 50 - 90 lbs
Youth SM 50 - 75 lbs
Youth LG 50 - 90 lbs
Teen Life Vests
Shop Teen
ChestWeight
Connelly Teen Life Vest
28" - 32" 90 - 120 lbs
Hyperlite Teen Life Vest
28" - 32" 90 - 120 lbs
O'Neill Teen Life Vest
30" - 32" 75 - 125 lbs
Women's Life Vests
Shop Womens
SizeChest
Connelly
Womens Life Vest
XS 28" - 32"
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL 44" - 48"
HO Sports
Womens Life Vest
XS 28" - 32"
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL 44" - 48"
Hyperlite
Womens Life Vest
XS 28" - 32"
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL 44" - 48"
O'Neill Money and Siren
Women's Life Vest
4 30" - 32"
6 32" - 34"
8 34" - 36"
10 36" - 38"
12 38" - 40"
O'Neill Reactor
Women's Life Vest
4 30" - 33"
6 33" - 36"
8 36" - 39"
10 39" - 42"
12 42" - 45"
Men's Life Vests
Shop Mens
SizeChest
Connelly
Mens Life Vest
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL 44" - 48"
XXL 48" - 52"
3XL 52" - 56"
HO Sports Mens Life Vest
Shop HO Mens
Including HO Oversized
and TALL
HO Sports Regular Life Jacket vs TALL life jacket
XS 28" - 32"
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL or XL-TALL 44" - 48"
2XL or 2XL-TALL 48" - 52"
3XL or 3XL-TALL 52" - 56"
4XL or 4XL-TALL 56" - 62"
5XL or 5XL-TALL 62" - 68"
Hyperlite
Mens Life Vest and TALL sizes
SM 32" - 36"
MED 36" - 40"
LG 40" - 44"
XL 44" - 48"
2XL or 2XL-TALL 48" - 52"
3XL or 3XL-TALL 52" - 56"
4XL-TALL 56" - 60"
5XL-TALL 60" - 66"
O'Neill Assault
Men's Life Vest
SM 35" - 37"
MED 37" - 39"
LG 39" - 41"
XL 41" - 43"
XXL 43" - 45"
3XL 47.5" - 50.5"
O'Neill Reactor
Men's Life Vest
SM 35" - 37.5"
MED 37.5" - 40"
LG 40" - 42.5"
XL 42.5" - 45"
XXL 45" - 47.5"
3XL 47.5" - 50"
Oversized Life Vests *
Shop Oversized
Full Throttle
Oversized Nylon 4XL 7XL
One size 4XL/7XL 60" - 70"
Nash Flotation Belt
Ski Belt Size Chart
Shop Belts
Size BeltWaist Size
Small DV100 25" - 30"
Medium DV200 31" - 36"
Large DV300 37" - 42"
X-Large DV400 43" - 48"

*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