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Water sports can be for everyone, no matter what your size. But finding life jackets for big and tall people is not always easy.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, there are various options that you can choose. We have put together a short guide to some of our favorite PFDs on the market today for larger water enthusiasts to help you find one that’s right for you.
8 Best Life Jackets For Big And Tall Guys (And Women!)
Here’s our list of the best PFDs for the bigger kayakers out there…
1: O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG Big And Tall Life Vest (best overall)
- Chest Size: 47.5 to 50 inches (XXXL)
- Type: III
This O’Neill Men’s Reactor USCG PFD is a Type III USCG approved PFD. It is made from neoprene so it’s designed to be lightweight and flexible, which can make it a little more comfortable to wear.
It features a zip closure front panel and benefits from adjustable straps that are conveniently hidden within the tall life jacket for added security and less bulk.
The two adjustable belts feature a safety buckle closure at the front so that it’s easy to put on and take off. The vest also benefits from having anatomical flex points so that it can move with you.
Additionally, the interior flotation foam is segmented so that it can better mold to the contours of your body.
Another great feature of this life jacket is that it has expansion panels. This means you can get a more secure fit, with the panels allowing you to move more freely and comfortably.
- Expansion panels
- Flexible neoprene
- Segmented flotation foam
- Some might find it a little short
2: O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest (the biggest)
- Chest Size: 57 to 60 inches (4XL)
- Type: III
The O’Neill Men’s Superlite PFD can be a great choice because of the range of sizes available and generous sizing in the chest area. The 4XL is designed to fit chests of between 57 and 60 inches so it can be a good option for larger paddlers and boaters.
It’s a USCG approved Type III life jacket that features a water resistant polyester shell with lightweight buoyancy foam inside to provide flotation.
As well as being lightweight, it’s also designed to offer minimal bulk, for added comfort and unrestricted movement.
It features four adjustable straps that each buckle at the front so that it can be easier to get a more customized fit for your body shape.
- Up to 60 inch chest
- Multiple waist straps
- No zip closure
3: Stohlquist Women’s Flo Life Jacket (best for women)
- Chest Size: Up to 46 inch busts
- Type: III
This Stohlquist Women’s Flo life jacket is a USCG approved PFD that is designed specifically for women. This means it can be a great choice, especially if you have a larger bust, because it has built-in supportive cups that can make it more comfortable and less restrictive, allowing for a full range of motion while kayaking.
The big and tall life jacket also benefits from mesh lining and open sides for increased ventilation.
It has a front zipper closure and the adjustable straps create a custom fit and help to keep the vest secure. The additional chest straps are designed to prevent the life jacket from riding up while you’re in the water and can be a useful feature on all PFDs, not just plus size life jackets.
This is a durable, lightweight tall life jacket that features a soft neoprene back band and benefits from front pockets to let you store small items such as sunscreen or a whistle. The high back design also means it can be a good PFD for kayaking and is one of the best life vests for tall women with added comfort in the chest area.
- Built-in bust cups
- Cinching chest straps
- Great for paddlesports
- Zipper can be tricky
4: O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo Life Vest
- Chest Size: 44 to 48 inch busts (XL)
- Type: III
This O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo is a lightweight neoprene big and tall life jacket that’s USCG approved.
It is designed to fit the contours of a woman’s body, so it can offer a more comfortable and secure fit. The XL is designed to fit bust sizes ranging between 44 and 48 inches, so it can be a good option for larger busts.
This soft, durable life jacket features a zippered front closure to make it easier to put on and take off. The two adjustable straps can be easily secured using the two buckles at the front of the vest.
The larger arm holes can be beneficial for activities where you may want more freedom of movement. However, for paddling long distances, the armholes on this big and tall life jacket may not be large enough to prevent chafing.
- Soft and lightweight neoprene
- Made for women’s bodies
- Large bust sizes
- Not great for long distance paddling
5: Full Throttle Adult Dual-Sized Nylon Big And Tall Life Vest
- Chest Size: 60 to 70 inches
- Type: III
The Full Throttle Adult Dual-Sized big and tall life jacket is designed to fit larger water enthusiasts. The generous dual sizes can give you a more comfortable fit for chests up to 70 inches.
There are three adjustable straps that each buckle at the front, letting you customize the fit around your body. There is a fourth strap that can be adjusted across your chest to help keep the PFD in place and prevent it from sliding up while you’re wearing it.
This Type III US Coast Guard approved PFD is designed with large arm holes and lightweight foam that wraps around your body for security and minimal bulk for increased mobility – something that’s important with the best big and tall life jackets.
- Large chest sizes
- Additional chest strap
- No pockets or extra features
6: Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports PFD
- Chest Size: 44 to 56 inches (XL/2XL)
- Type: III
The Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports big and tall life jacket can be an ideal PFD for kayaking, as it features a high back design which means the flotation foam can sit above your seat for added paddling comfort. It also has some great features.
This Type III US Coast Guard approved jacket features several points of adjustability to give you a more custom fit. The neoprene padded adjustable shoulder straps can be great for securing the PFD, along with the adjustable straps that secure at the sides. The armholes are large so you have a great range of movement.
It features a zippered front closure and a mesh back for drainage and comfort. It also benefits from a zippered front pocket and an attached whistle for safety. Additionally, there are reflective strips for increased visibility.
- Reflective strips
- Adjustable straps
- High back design
- Can feel bulky at the front
7: Mustang Survival Corp Inflatable PFD (best inflatable)
- Chest Size: 30 to 52 inches
- Type: V
This Mustang Survival Corp Inflatable PFD is a Type V US Coast Guard approved recreational PFD. It has a minimal design that can make it more comfortable to wear for recreational boating, unlike many other big and tall life jackets.
It has an automatic inflation system that is designed to inflate to provide buoyancy when in the water. However, because of this it may not be ideal for activities where you plan to hit the water frequently, such as water-skiing or wake surfing.
It is a lightweight, low profile life jacket that features an adjustable waist strap that helps to secure the big and tall life vest. It also benefits from additional manual inflation and a safety whistle.
The reflective strips help to improve visibility in a rescue situation and the D-ring means you can attach rescue lines easily. It also has a neoprene collar for added comfort.
- Low profile
- Automatic inflation system
- Reflective strips
- Safety whistle
- Not recommended for non-swimmers
- Not suitable for high impact water sports
8: Stearns Adult Classic Series Big And Tall Life Vest (best budget jacket)
- Chest Size: 52 to 62 inches (Adult oversized)
- Type: III
This is a Type III US Coast Guard approved life jacket with an open sided design that can be an ideal budget option for boating or even swimming and comes in big and tall sizes.
It is lightweight with open sides for improved breathability. It comes in an oversize version to fit chest measurements between 52 and 62 inches, with the two adjustable waist straps allowing you to tailor the vest to fit your own body shape with extra room in the chest area.
There is a third adjustable strap that can be secured across your chest to help keep the big and tall life vest in place while you’re in the water.
It’s made from lightweight, durable polyester shell with a foam core for instant buoyancy when you hit the water.
- Oversized option
- Adjustable chest strap
- No additional features
How To Fit For A Plus Size Life Jacket
Most life jackets are sized by chest sizes. This means it can be useful to measure around the thickest part of your chest in order to get a correct chest measurement – even more important for the best big and tall life jackets.
If you’re looking for the best big and tall life jacket it can also be a good idea to choose one that has adjustable waist straps or expanding panels, as this can help to make sure you get a snug fit that can be secured around the various contours of your body.
An adjustable waist strap can be even more important if you have a larger waist size. If you have a waist size larger than your chest, you may want to avoid big and tall life jackets with zippered front closures, as these may not be as forgiving as some of the ones with straps only.
Your life jacket should fit snugly around your body and shouldn’t ride up off of your shoulders when you pull up on it. You may find it’s easier to have someone else pull up on the shoulder straps for you when you’re fitting your big and tall life jacket.
Video: How To Properly Fit An Adult Life Jacket
What About Women With Larger Busts?
If you’re a woman, particularly with a larger bust, you may find that it’s more comfortable to wear a women-specific life jacket, as these tend to be tailored to accommodate a woman’s body. Often, women’s PFDs have bust cups for added support and a more perfect fit.
To get your bust measurement, measure around the fullest part of your bust using a measuring tape. Remember that this measurement will often differ from (and be larger than) your bra size.
This is because your bra size is usually your band size, under your bust and around your back (with the difference between bust and band sizes giving you your cup size).
Most life jackets for women will usually have sizes labeled in bust sizes. If you’re opting for a men’s life jacket, these sizes will usually be categorized by chest size.
Your bust size is generally the measurement you’ll need to match against the chest size on a men’s PFD or a bust size on women’s PFDs, whether you choose plus size life jackets or not.
> The best PFDs for women kayakers
Inflatable PFDs often come in one universal size. This can mean that they may not offer as much adjustability as the inherently buoyant PFDs that have a range of sizes.
If you’re a larger person, it could be more difficult to find a correct and secure fit with an inflatable life jacket. These may not offer the best big and tall options.
Big Life Vests: FAQs
How Big Do Life Jackets Get?
Big and tall life jackets generally go to around 50 to 60 inch chests but there are some models that can go up to 70 inches.
Are Life Vests Unisex?
Generally, yes, life jackets are unisex. But you can get a big and tall life vest that’s made specifically for women, which can allow for a better fit, particularly for larger breasts.
Is USCG (US Coast Guard) Rating Important?
The USCG rating is important if you’re required by law to wear an approved life jacket in a particular area or in certain situations.
The rating can give you an indication of whether or not the life vest is suitable for your activity and can keep you afloat in the anticipated conditions.
Are Life Jackets Comfortable For Large People?
They should be comfortable enough for you to wear for the duration of your activity. If your life vest is not comfortable, it’s possible that it doesn’t fit you correctly. It should be tight but comfortable for a perfect fit.
In our opinion, the best overall life jacket for big and tall folks is the O’Neill Reactor PFD – ideal to accommodate larger bodies of different shapes. It’s also lightweight and flexible.
If you’re a larger woman, we think the best life jacket is the Stohlquist Women’s Flo because it is made to fit a woman’s body and has the benefit of plus sizes and supportive bust cups.
Both of these life jackets are USCG approved PFDs, which can make them ideal for a range of water sports where you’re required by law to wear your life vest. Both also have soft flotation foam and are lightweight for added comfort and a perfect fit.
Remember to measure your chest or bust to find the right size and look for a PFD with plenty of adjustment options, as all of these life jackets will fit different body shapes differently.