Snorkel vest – snorkeling safety accessories

Snorkel vest can be a useful part of the snorkel gear especially for people struggling with buoyancy control or getting tired easily while swimming. Although it is not a life-saving device but an important safety accessory to feel you more confident in the water. Read our article about how to choose snorkel vest and get useful tips on usage!

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. 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 boat 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.

Wearing life jacket for snorkeling is not so ideal. A life jacket will keep you in upright position, meaning putting your head underwater needs more effort resulting back and neck pain. In contrast, snorkel 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!

Life jacket
Snorkel vest
  • keeps the wearer afloat
  • designed to help saving unconscious persons
  • constructed from foam or inflatable
  • helps to increase/control buoyancy
  • wearer is conscious, just needs support to maintain buoyancy
  • orally inflatable

Snorkel vest types

If you decide to add this useful safety accessory to your snorkel gear, 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 over-neck and jacket design. Horse collar ones can be secured with straps on your body, while jacket style models can be worn as a normal vest. Both are compact, lightweight and easy-to-use. Common feature is that they are equipped with oral inflation tube for easy and fast inflation/deflation. Please note, that your 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 model that does their job very well! Technically, it is a small, inflatable roundish-oval shape air chamber that you put over your neck and secure with adjustable straps. 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 extra pocket to store small items like key or room card.


Snorkeling jacket

Classical jacket design safety accessory that closes with zipper and/or straps. Material on the back is usually mesh sometimes neoprene. Good choice to buy this model for those who don’t want to struggle with straps, although snorkeling jackets allowing less flexibility if it comes to adjustments so make sure the size order will fit!


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 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 a 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 is highly recommended. Not just to protect yourself against but also avoiding skin irritation that the nylon/canvas material can cause.

The best adults snorkel vests Amazon

Based on hundreds of reviews the most recommended models are:

SealBuddy snorkel 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 snorkel vest: bestseller swim jacket. Practical neoprene back that gives extra warmth and protect swimmer from sun exposure. Only drawback is that the air chamber does not go around the neck. With small pocket to store personal valuables. Available sizes from XS to XL.
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.

Kids snorkel vest

Sizing is the most important when choosing a kids snorkel vest. 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 model.

Recommended kids snorkel vest Amazon:


Note: floatation 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.

Care and maintenance for long use

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. Learn how to handle and store your jacket and any other snorkel gear so you can use them for longer time:

  • Rinse it 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 it far from sharp items
  • Check regularly the material and inflator tube, in case of any damage, the device needs to be replaced

Summary: we often see the question of forum snorkel vest for non-swimmers. Once again, we’d like to remind everybody that simple floatation devices help to increase and control buoyancy but are not lifesaving items. Non-swimmers have to wear 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. Snorkeling jacket is an additional safety accessory that will make snorkeling easy and effortless, but don’t think about it as a lifesaving device. If feeling sick or weak, don’t go swimming. We wish you safe and happy adventures!

Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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