Best Big and Tall Life Jackets in 2021

Last Updated on April 25, 2021 by KayakPro

Water sports are fun and exciting but they can be dangerous too. Wearing a life jacket is a must for everyone not just for kids. Shopping for a life jacket can be confusing for many people. And shopping for a plus-sized one is even harder.

You don’t have to wear an ugly, bulky or uncomfortable life jacket. Many manufacturers offer good quality big and tall life jackets for our larger water enthusiasts. We’ve put together a short guide to help choose the one big and tall life jacket that best suits you.

Our Top Picks of Big and Tall Life Jackets

We gathered the 8 best life jackets for our plus-sized water enthusiast. These life jackets offer a wide range of sizes and designs to fit your body perfectly.

Whether you’re a woman or a man, you’ll find a life jacket that fits you perfectly and suits your budget.

ONeill Mens Superlite USCG Life Vest

The Superlite life jacket features a lightweight polyethylene foam for flotation. This makes the jacket lightweight and not bulky. The durable polyester coated exterior dries quickly which is a bonus for those who store their life vests in their boats.

It also features four strong adjustable belts with quick-release buckles that allow you to achieve a customizable fit easily and prevents the jacket from riding up.

This life vest comes in a wide range of sizes starting from small up to 4XL. It can fit up to 60 inches for the chest area. A lot of female customers found it comfortable for them especially around the chest area.

What great about this life jacket is its minimal bulk design and wide arm opening. Even the bigger sizes won’t feel bulky or uncomfortable. It’s designed to fit snug on you for your safety and comfort. So we recommend buying it true to size following the measurements chart.

The US Coast Guard Type III life jacket comes in different colors for everyone’s liking. It’s a great choice for those looking for a big and tall life jacket that fits their budget. The only downside of this jacket is it can feel warm on hot summer days.

Airhead Trend Life Vest

This life jacket is available in 2XL and even 3XL for women. It has a wide chest area suitable for heavy busted women. The four adjustable belts allow you to achieve a secure and comfortable fit.

Airhead Trend life vest has a polyethylene foam inside to provide you with floatation while being lightweight. It also has a soft polyester coating on the outer shell to dry fast.

It’s designed to provide you with non-restricted movement with its anti bulk design and snug fit. The wide armholes are suitable for swimming, fishing, and paddling sports.

This USCG approved Type III life jacket will be your best bud. It’s stylish and feminine with its hot pink and black colors. It’ll keep you safe, comfortable, and looking chic throughout the entire trip.

The polyester exterior has a UV-resistant coating yet some customers complained about the colors fading out after a couple of weeks of sun exposure.

Keep in mind that it’s a tall life jacket. It might not be the best option for short women especially if you’ll be wearing this for kayaking.

Body Glove Method Nylon Life Vest

This is a USCG approved Type III life jacket. It’s available in sizes starting from size small to 6XL. The polyethylene foam interior provides flotation while being comfortable and not heavy at all.

This really fits like a glove on both men and women. The four heavy-duty belts with quick-release buckles are there to achieve a secure fit without riding up.

The Body Glove Method provides wide armholes and strategically placed drain holes for unobstructed movement to enjoy your time with extra comfort. One reviewer mentioned using this for kayaking and felt like wearing nothing as it’s thin, light, and of high quality.

It might not be the most affordable life jacket but a lot of the customers were happy to invest in this life jacket saying that it’s worth every penny. It’s available in two colors: yellow and blue.

Stohlquist Edge Life Jacket

The pre-curved extra soft foam contours the natural shape of the body and provides a more secure fit that is way comfortable than the conventional flat foam. The side entry zipper also helps to eliminate any bulkiness and matches the shape of the jacket to your body shape.

Stohlquist knows the importance of comfort for paddling. So they designed the shoulder straps to articulate away from your neck to reduce chafing. The wide armholes provide maximum mobility so you can paddle all day with no discomfort.

The USCG and Transport Canada approved Type III life jacket provides a foam body that matches each size. The XXL size has a larger foam body to provide the ideal buoyancy of 17 lbs, 8 oz.

It’s slightly more expensive than other life jackets. But we think it’s worth the investment. It features a roomy, top-loading front pocket and a center lash tap to carry all the needed essentials.

It also has mesh sides for ventilation on hot sunny days. And it has 3M reflective accents for high visibility for your safety. It’s available in three different colors.

Note that some women found this to be tight in the chest area. We don’t recommend this for heavy busted women.

ONeill Wetsuits Reactor Mens Life VestO’Neill’s Reactor is suitable for different types of watersports. It’s made from neoprene to fit snugly on you while being lightweight and stretchable for maximum comfort.

This life jacket isn’t bulky at all as the floatation foam on the inside is segmented to contour the body shape. It also features adjustable straps that are hidden within the jacket.

The expansion panels and the anatomical flex points provide the most comfortable fit and allow the vest to move with you for unrestricted movement all day long. And the best thing about it is it comes in a 3XL size for our big fellas.

The Reactor life vest should fit snugly on you of water as the neoprene material expands in water. So keep that in mind.

One user complained that the hidden straps can get tangled and it’s hard to untangle them as they’re hidden within the vest. Another couple of users complained that the foam absorbs water so you need to squeeze it well before storing it.

The Type III USCG approved life vest is available in 5 different colors. We think it’s a great option for those looking to invest in a big and tall life jacket.

OBrien Womens Impulse Neo Life Vest

This is another life vest made from neoprene. It is designed to be lightweight and fit your body comfortably.

This O’Brien’s life jacket is specifically designed to fit perfectly on women’s bodies and provide the support they need in the chest area. It’s available in XL that fits bust sizes up to 48 inches.

You can wear this life jacket while kayaking, paddle boarding, or even swimming. The front hinge and the wide armholes provide you with non-restricted movement all day long.

The BioLite material on the exterior is environmentally conscious. It adds breathability and allows the vest to dry faster.

It features a front zipper to easily put on or take off the jacket. It also has two adjustable straps so you can achieve a secure yet comfortable fit.

Women like the black and purple color of this vest. It’s girly and stylish.

This Type III USCG approved PFD features a PWC lanyard attachment ring. We think it could use a pocket as well.

Stearns Adult Classic Series Vest

This is a great life vest that does the job while being comfortable at an affordable price. It’s the biggest and tallest life jacket on our list. The oversized option can fit chest sizes up to 62 inches.

The nylon construction of the outer shell is durable and dries quickly. The polyethylene foam on the inside provides you with great buoyancy while being lightweight.

This Stearns life vest features 3 adjustable straps for a custom and secure fit. The large armholes make this life jacket great for paddling activities and swimming.

It’s a great option for both women and men who need a big and tall life vest on a tight budget.

This Type III US Coast Guard approved PFD comes in two colors: red and blue. It’s a simple life jacket with no extras but will certainly keep you safe.

ONYX Universal Paddle Life Vest

This one is a great option for kayaking and SUP. The ONYX Universal Paddle Life vest is designed to provide a contoured low profile fit. The high foam is designed to accommodate the high back seats.

The adult oversize option can fit chest sizes between 45 to 65 inches. The adjustable neoprene shoulder pads give you a secure fit with ultimate comfort. The front zipper prevents the life jacket from riding up.

The life vest features a front pocket to carry your essentials. It also has open sides and mesh lower back for breathability to keep you cool on a hot summer day.

It’s a Type III US Coast Guard approved life jacket. It’s budget-friendly which is always a bonus in every purchase. The red color is great for visibility.

Some users wished the front pocket had a zipper on it.

How to Choose the Right Big and Tall Life Jacket?

Shopping for plus size life jackets can be difficult with all the options available now in the market. There are some factors that you should consider before making a purchase.

Types of PFDs

Personal Floatation Devices come in different types and designs. It’s important to choose what is suitable for the kind of activity you’re doing. Here are 3 different types of PFDs:

Type I: This type of PFDs is designed primarily for offshore activities as they’re bulky to wear and difficult to swim in. But they have the advantage of turning an unconscious person to face up. It provides 22 lbs of buoyancy.

Type II: This is made for near-shore activities in calm water and provides up to 15.5 lbs of buoyancy. It can turn unconscious people to face up in the water but it’s not guaranteed.

Boaters like this type because of its inexpensive price and simple construction that is approved by the US Coast Guard.

Type III: All of the life jackets on our test fall under this category of PFDs. This type is comfortable and styles and it comes in many brands that offer a variety of features. That’s why it’s the best choice for different watersports.

It’s not guaranteed to turn unconscious wearers to face up. It offers buoyancy up to 15.5 lbs.


Now that you know the different types of life jackets and which type suits your activity best. You need to measure yourself to be able to choose the right fit for you.

Most life jackets are sized by chest measurements. So you need to measure around the thickest part of your chest especially for women. For men, you might need to measure around the thickest part of your stomach.

Some life jackets are recommended to size up and some are true to size. It’s best to check before purchasing.

Life vests especially of Type III should fit snugly on you but not tight to restrict your movement. It shouldn’t be big either so it won’t ride up.

It’s recommended when shopping for big and tall life jackets to look for options with adjustable straps and expanding panels. Check the zippers too. You might not like a front zipper closure so look for options that are low cut or have a side zipper.


Look for a material that will make you comfortable and is lightweight. Big and tall life jackets are mostly made of materials that are durable but lightweight and dries quickly.

Nylon and neoprene are good materials to look for in big and tall life jackets. On the inside, it’s mostly polyethylene foam that provides ultimate buoyancy while being comfortable and lightweight.


1- Do life jackets expire?

No, there is no expiry date for a PFD but we recommend upgrading your life jacket every couple of years to ensure your safety.

2- Can you machine wash a life jacket?

No, never put your life jacket in the washing machine or the dryer. Just clean with liquid soap and a brush. And let it air dry before storing it.

3- What is the best time to wear a PFD?

We recommend always wearing a PFD whenever you’re near, on, or in the water doing any sort of water activity.

4- Can women wear men’s life jackets?

Yes, if they fit comfortably on them. But some life jackets that are made for women specifically offer roomy chest area for large busts and maybe supportive cups too.

The Wrap Up

To make it easier on you, our favorite big and tall life jacket on our list is the O’Neill Men’s Superlite USCG Life Vest. It provides you with everything you need. The sizes go up to 4XL and it fits perfectly on your body while being stylish too and all that with an affordable price. What’s better than that?

And for our ladies, we recommend O’Brien Women’s Impulse Neo Life Vest. it’s made to fit the woman’s body perfectly and provide you with the comfort you need. It’s feminine and eco friendly too. We recommend investing in a good quality life jacket. This could save your life in the end.



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Ryan Stoltz

Ryan Stoltz

Avid kayaker and lover of the outdoors. Having been kayaking for over 7 years, I love sharing my experiences and learnings along the way. Currently kayaking in upstate New York and always open to new adventures!

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