Snorkel vests are an optional piece of snorkel gear that help keep you upright with your head down in the water.
Seasoned swimmers typically forgo a snorkel vest, but they make excellent purchases for kids or those uncomfortable in the water.
Not only do snorkel vests provide additional buoyancy if you get tired, but they also make you much more visible to passing boat traffic and those looking out for you in the water.
There are tons of snorkel vests on the market, making it tricky to know which one to purchase.
As a PADI Divemaster working on dive boats in the South Florida snorkeling industry, I’ve come across a fair amount of snorkel vests.
I’ve narrowed down my list of best snorkel vests down to just three options, each with distinct use cases, allowing to easily make the right choice.
I graded the snorkel vests on the following criteria:
- Comfort & mobility
- Vest material
- Air balance
- Manufacturer reputation
- Inflation method
- Color and style
- & more!
Let’s jump straight into the reviews!
Table of Contents
Best Snorkel Vests
- Unrivaled comfort and mobility
- Incredibly stable and balanced
- Highly versatile
- Rugged and long-lasting
- Easily adjustable buoyancy
- A little pricey
- Not as visible as other models
If you’re looking for the most comfortable and best-looking snorkel vest, then this ergonomically designed jacket from Wildhorn Palawan is for you.
Even at a glance, you can quickly see that this is a top-quality snorkel vest.
The side entry design and spandex panels make this snorkel vest super easy to put on and take off, as well as incredibly comfortable to wear.
A snug fit around the waist keeps it from riding up without needing that uncomfortable crotch strap (this means no wedgy!)
Thanks to its balanced design, you can easily maintain your preferred position in the water without having to fight.
There’s also an attached air valve that allows you to swiftly adjust the buoyancy.
This means you can dive down when snorkeling to get a closer look and then easily re-inflate once you’re back on the surface.
It’s also versatile. This snorkel vest can also be used for a wide range of watersports including paddleboarding, kayaking, and swimming.
Although the Wildhorn Snorkel vest isn’t the most affordable option, when it comes to stability, comfort, and style, it simply can’t be beaten. If you have the budget available, this snorkel vest really is worth the investment.
- Buoyancy: Great
- Material: Neoprene
- Inflation/Deflation: Lock Valve
- Sizes: Small-XLarge
- Color: Black + Light Blue
- Style: Single Sided Entry
- Best for visibility
- 3 different sizes available
- Reasonably priced
- Ultra-lightweight and packable
- Durable construction
- Waist and crotch straps keep vest secure
- Quite basic
- No D-rings or pockets
- Not suitable for small children
Mares Head Snorkel vest is a reliable and compact snorkel vest, offering all the basics you need in a lightweight and ultra-packable design, making this a great choice to bring on vacation or long haul trips.
Adjustable crotch straps help keep the vest comfortable and secure. It’s available in enough sizes to suit just about everybody and covers all the basics for a reasonable price. It’s reliable, ergonomic, and easy to spot.
- Buoyancy: Good
- Material: Nylon
- Inflation/Deflation: Valve
- Sizes: X-Small – X-Large
- Color: Yellow
- Style: Over the neck
- Breathable design
- Easy to put on and take off
- High visibility
- Compact and lightweight
- Two colors available
- Only one size available
- Rides up a little
The Omouboi Snorkel vest is designed for convenience and comfort, as well as safety. The front zip design makes this snorkel vest easier to put on and off than the traditional overhead designs. Plus the mesh sides and back offer superior breathability.
Its compact and lightweight design is easy to store and pack when deflated. The adjustable waist strap helps create a snug fit without being constrictive. Plus it’s available in 2 different high vis neon colors. All of this for a very low price makes this one of our favorite snorkel vests.
The main downside is that it’s another one-size-fits-all snorkel vest, which means if you’re especially large it probably won’t fit. And if you’re especially small then it tends to ride up without a crotch strap.
- Buoyancy: Great
- Material: Plastic
- Inflation/Deflation: Oral Valve
- Sizes: One size fits all
- Color: Many
- Style: Mid-zip
Why Wear A Snorkeling Vest?
A snorkel vest will help keep you effortlessly afloat in the water.
If you can’t swim well then a snorkel vest actually enables you to go snorkeling. Or if you’re particularly nervous in the ocean, then a snorkel vest can make you feel much more comfortable and secure.
But if you can swim comfortably, you might be wondering if you really need to wear a snorkeling vest?
While it’s very much down to personal preference there are a few benefits that even strong swimmers can enjoy by wearing a snorkel vest. The main one being safety.
Firstly, with a snorkel vest, you are significantly more visible. If you end up adrift, you’ll be much easier to spot and any boat traffic can easily see where you are and keep a safe distance.
Secondly, if you end up exhausted or unconscious, a good snorkel vest with its buoyancy on the chest and behind the head, will turn you on your back and keep your airways out of the water.
The other main benefit of wearing a snorkel vest is that it just makes snorkeling easier and more relaxing. You barely need to put in any effort at all, which helps extend your snorkeling sessions as you won’t tire as quickly.
They also allow you to rest during the snorkeling session. This is particularly helpful when you’re snorkeling in deeper areas.
Lastly, some people are just natural sinkers. If you find it difficult to float around at the surface then you need to try a snorkeling vest. It’ll make a big difference!
How To Choose The Best Snorkel Vest
These are our top tips to help you find the best snorkel best for your future adventures.
Check The Size Carefully
As with any piece of scuba or snorkel gear you buy, it’s important to make sure you check the specs on your new snorkel vest and make sure it’s suitable for your needs. In particular, you need to pay close attention to the sizing charts and weight ratings.
Not only is a bad-fitting snorkel vest uncomfortable but it can also be dangerous. If a vest is too big you could end up tangled up or slip out completely.
On the other end of the scale, if the vest is too small it won’t provide enough buoyancy to keep you afloat.
The weight ratings for snorkel vests indicate how much weight they can reliably keep afloat.
Make sure that the vest you chose can support a little more than your weight, as this will ensure you have enough positive buoyancy to stay safe in the water.
Look for a snorkel vest with adjustable straps, as this will give you the most flexibility to get a perfect fit.
Consider Your Needs
As you’re comparing the different snorkel vests we’ve recommended above, be sure to consider exactly how you plan to use your new piece of gear and what features will suit your needs best.
Will you only be using this snorkel vest for a one-off trip? Or do you plan on snorkeling several times a year?
If you’re only going to use the snorkel vest a few times then it’s more cost-effective to opt for a more budget option. But if you plan on using the vest often then investing in a more robust model makes sense.
Similarly, do you want to use the jacket for a variety of watersports? If so, then a jacket style snorkel vest will be more versatile than the basic over the head models.
Are you going to be taking pictures with a waterproof camera, such as a GoPro or an iPhone in a Lifeproof case or a action camera? If so, you’ll probably want to choose a snorkel vest with a pocket or a D-ring. But if these added extras aren’t important to you, you can save a little with a more basic version.
Don’t Be Tempted By Super Cheap Knock-Offs
Since most snorkel vests follow the same basic design, it’s no surprise that there’s a ton of cheap, shoddy knock-offs available. These are usually sold for $10 or less with brand names you’ve never heard of.
While the price is very tempting, it’s really not worth the risk.
They’re usually very badly made and break easily. And when you’re buying a piece of personal safety equipment, either for yourself or your family, it’s just not worth taking a chance on. Spend a little extra money for the peace of mind you get when you purchase a well-made vest from a legitimate manufacturer.
We highly recommend the Wildhorn Inflatable Snorkel Vest. Not only is Wildhorn one of the most trusted brands in snorkel safety, but they’re also the most innovative. Offering you products that are built to optimize your safety and your experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
A snorkeling vest is designed as a safety device to aid you whist swimming.
It allows you to maintain your buoyancy at the surface and swim freely reducing fear and anxiety.
Due to the fact that you can alter the volume of air inside the reservoir, the vest can be inflated depending on how much buoyancy you require at the time.
This allows you to swim submerged in the water with your head still afloat.
You will also be highly visible in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.
In the event of exhaustion a lightly inflated snorkel vest should turn the wearer on to their back and keep the face clear of the water.
To put it simply a life vest is used in an emergency to keep you afloat and keep your head way out of the water.
A snorkeling vest on the other hand is designed to aid buoyancy.
As previously mentioned, this allows you to swim submerged in the water with your head still afloat.
There are many reasons that you may be better off wearing a snorkeling vest.
Here are just a few that we can think of:
- You are weak swimmer
- You feel uncomfortable when in water too deep to stand
- You cramp easily when swimming
- You are swimming in open water and need to be visible to you buddy or group
- You are swimming in a location that may have strong currents
- You tire easily
- You are not as fit as you used to be
- You have a medical condition that affects your ability in the water
- You are a natural sinker
- You are swimming close to boat traffic