Snorkel vest for adults and kids buying guide

A snorkel vest is a useful snorkel gear accessory especially for people who use to struggle with buoyancy control or getting tired easily while swimming. Although it is not a life-saving device but an important safety item that can make adult and kids feel more confident in the water. Read our guide on how to choose the best inflatable snorkeling jacket and get useful tips on usage and maintenance!

Snorkel vest types

This useful safety accessory is a great addition to adult snorkel gear and a highly recommended part of a kids snorkel set. But before you make a purchase, it is good to know how to choose a snorkel vest that will fit you the most. There are two models available on the market, the horse collar over-neck and jacket design. Both are compact, lightweight, easy-to-use and are equipped with an oral inflation tube for easy and fast inflation/deflation, but are different if it comes to design.

No matter what model you choose, the snorkeling vest needs to be lightly inflated when in water providing enough lifting capacity. Never use it uninflated thinking you will do it when needed. Not only because an uninflated jacket is useless but also in case of emergency you lose valuable time if dealing with inflating.

Horse collar over-neck design

The simplest snorkel vest model that does the job very well! Technically, it is a small, inflatable roundish-oval shape air chamber that you need put over your neck and secure it with adjustable straps. The waist strap goes horizontally and the crotch strap vertically. The straps need to be tight enough preventing the vest riding-up and turning around. Some manufacturers add an extra pocket to store small items like key or room card.

Horse collar over neck snorkel vest

Jacket

Classical jacket design safety accessory that closes with zipper and/or straps. The fabric on the back is usually mesh, sometimes neoprene. This model is a good choice for those who don’t want to struggle with straps. However, these snorkeling jackets allowing less flexibility if it comes to adjustments so make sure the size you order will fit!

Snorkel Jacket

Note: some old models were equipped with CO2 cartridge in the past for quick and easy inflation but were discontinued due to safety reasons (cartridge can explore if overheated). If you would still find one of these, don’t buy it.

How to choose a snorkel vest?

Once you decided the style, the only important thing is to buy the right size! Before purchase, always check the manufacturer’s size reference! Generally, adult size is for people between 80-200 lbs (36-90 kg). Some manufacture offer X-Large size for adults 180 lbs (81 kg) and up. Should you buy a model with straps, check if they are long enough and adjustable so you can achieve a snug fit and prevent the air chamber moving around. If it comes to jacket design, search waist size reference! It needs to be tight rather than loose preventing riding up.

Tip: Since most models leave the back free (expect ScubaPro snorkeling jacket with neoprene back) wearing a UV Protection rash guard under the vest is highly recommended. Not just to protect yourself against sun exposure but also avoiding skin irritation that the nylon/canvas material can cause.

The best adults snorkel vests

In terms of quality and safety features, the recommended inflatable snorkeling vests that are available from Amazon are the following models:

SealBuddy snorkel vest

The SealBuddy ultimate inflatable snorkeling vest provides you with large buoyancy while snorkeling. The horse collar over neck design gives maximum comfort. Bright, neon colors provide the wearer with excellent visibility. Fast inflation, fast deflation through the convenient mouthpiece location.  The waist and crotch straps ensure a secure fit, with easy pinch buckles for fast removal.

SealBuddy snorkeling vest

  • Simply to put on and take of over-neck design for extra safety in the water
  • Sturdy but compact and comfortable float assist
  • In bright colors for excellent visibility

ScubaPro Cruiser snorkeling vest

This ScubaPro comfortable nylon and neoprene safety snorkeling vest is designed for warm water snorkeling. It helps to stay safe and keeps the wearer warm at the same time thanks to the 3 mm thick neoprene back. This design also protects from excessive sun exposure. The extra small pocket is perfect for storing personal things. The ScubaPro Cruiser is available from X-Small to X-Large. If you are between sizes, order the next size up.

ScubaPro snorkel vest

  • Bestseller swim jacket
  • Practical neoprene back that gives extra warmth and protect swimmer from sun exposure
  • With small pocket to store personal valuables
  • Available sizes from XS to XL

Rrtizan adult swim vest

This inflatable vest for adults increases your buoyancy and allows to rest when getting tired while snorkeling or swimming. The over-neck design keeps your head above the water. It is equipped with adjustable waist and crotch straps. Easily inflatable within 15 seconds by mouth through the inflation tube, and easy-to-deflate. The Rrtizan inflatable snorkeling vest is available in high visibility colors. The universal adult size is recommended up to 180lbs /81 kg.

Sale
Rrtizan unisex canvas swimming jacket

  • Compact and lightweight model made from tear-resistant fabric
  • Enables you effortless swimming with your head in the water
  • It takes only 10 seconds to fully inflate. In black and 3 bright colors
  • Made of durable nylon and TPU membrane

Kids snorkeling vest

Sizing is the most important when choosing snorkel vest for kids. Never buy too large hoping that your son or daughter will grow into it. A kids snorkel vest has to be rather tight than loose, but still a comfortable fit allowing free movement without the possibility of riding up. Inflate it well to keep the child afloat without turning her/him over. Youth/kids snorkeling jackets provide enough lifting capacity for children up to 80-100 lbs (max 36-45 kg) depending on the model.

Scuba Choice youth/kids snorkel vest

One of the best kids snorkel vest on Amazon that fits children up to 100 lbs (45 kg). The Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel Vest has removable straps to keep the vest from riding-up for maximum safety while snorkeling or swimming. Easy inflatable through the oral inflator even for kids. The bright neon yellow color ensures high visibility.

Scuba Choice kids snorkel vest

  • a recommended snorkeling vest for children
  • easy and quick inflation
  • fits to kids up to 100 lbs/45 kg
  • highly visible neon yellow color

Note: flotation device for kids does not replace adult supervision. Never let children alone in water even if they seem confident. Stay in safe distance so you can help if needed.

Snorkel vest vs life jacket – what is the difference

Sometimes life jackets and snorkeling vests look very similar, but there are some major differences in terms of use. An inflatable snorkel vest is meant to increase your buoyancy, while a life jacket is designed to keep even an unconscious wearer afloat. Life jackets are mandatory on airplanes, commercial boats and highly recommended while water sports. Wearing a life jacket is the best choice (often a must) for weak or non-swimmers to give them the best choice for survival if they accidentally end up in the water.

Life Jacket
Snorkel Vest
O'Neill Men's Superlite USCG Life Vest,Black/Black/Smoke/White,Large
SealBuddy Free Diving Vest
keeps the wearer afloat
helps to increase/control buoyancy
designed to help saving unconscious persons
wearer is conscious, just needs support to maintain buoyancy
constructed from foam or inflatable
orally inflatable
Life Jacket
O'Neill Men's Superlite USCG Life Vest,Black/Black/Smoke/White,Large
keeps the wearer afloat
designed to help saving unconscious persons
constructed from foam or inflatable
Snorkel Vest
SealBuddy Free Diving Vest
helps to increase/control buoyancy
wearer is conscious, just needs support to maintain buoyancy
orally inflatable

Wearing a life jacket for snorkeling is not so ideal. A life jacket will keep you in an upright position, meaning putting your head underwater needs more effort resulting in back and neck pain. In contrast, snorkeling vests allow you putting your face in the water while increasing your buoyancy giving you a better water experience. Life jackets are often bulky while safety swim vests are compact and lightweight to make them easily portable.

Tip: read our 10 snorkel safety tips to know how to prepare yourself for an enjoyable snorkeling session!

Snorkel vest for non-swimmers

It is a frequently asked question what is the best snorkel vest for non-swimmers. Once again, it is very important to repeat that flotation devices only help to increase and control buoyancy but are not lifesaving items. Non-swimmers have to wear a proper life jacket when in or around water. If you fell in love with the ocean but are a weak swimmer, learning how to swim is the first step of your underwater journey! Take swimming lessons and go open water once you are confident in the water. Use an inflatable snorkeling jacket as an additional safety accessory that will make snorkeling easier and more effortless, but don’t think about it as a lifesaving device. Moreover, if you feel sick or weak, don’t go swimming. Put always safety first!

Snorkeling vest maintenance

Although all safety accessories that are designed to use in the water made from durable canvas, nylon or PVC, salty water and UV rays weaken and damage materials in short time. Follow these tips on how to handle and store your swim jacket and any other snorkel gear so you can use them for a longer time:

  • Rinse them with fresh water after each use
  • For cleaning, use mild soap only
  • Protect it from direct sunlight and heat, dry in shade
  • Store in a cool place, keep far from sharp items
  • Check regularly the material and inflation tube, in case of any damage, the device needs to be replaced

Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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