Looking at a snorkeling vest, you immediately think of a life jacket. Yet, there are large differences between them both. The purpose of a life jacket is to keep you afloat until you can be rescued. The design of a snorkeling vest also allows you to float. But foremost it gives you control over your buoyancy when you snorkel. This means you can control how low in the water you float when you snorkel. Choosing the right size will drastically reduce the effort you put in when snorkeling. We have spent many happy hours trying lots of snorkeling vests to bring you some of the best.
A look ahead at our choice of snorkeling vest
Before we begin: What is a snorkel vest?
A snorkeling vest makes floating easier. It is an inflatable vest that uses the principle of buoyancy. This is to keep you floating on or over the surface of the water. A life vest is designed to keep you on your back and your head and face out of the water. Snorkel vests or jackets, in contrast, will keep you on your stomach. This will allow you to keep your head underwater to make it easy to snorkel.
Does it keep you warm?
They are not designed to keep you warm though. If you go snorkeling in cold environments, then you will have to use a wetsuit. A snorkel jacket will not help you with the cold!
Are they all the same?
Snorkel vests come in various shapes and sizes. They do have a tube that allows you to blow the vest up more or less. This controls your buoyancy and you can regulate how deep you’ll go in the water. There are a few different types of snorkeling vests and jackets that we discuss below.
What to look for with a Good Snorkel Vest
Confusing a snorkeling vest with a life jacket is easy. There are some distinctive differences. The life vest is only there to keep you afloat and alive.
Snorkeling vests, on the other hand, do keep you afloat, but you can also control your depth in the water. This makes it a lot less strenuous when you go snorkeling with such a vest. It’s a pretty significant improvement in your underwater experience compared to not having one.
Floating with less effort provides a much-improved experience when you go snorkeling. You don’t have to work to stay afloat at a certain depth or right on the water. The vest takes care of that for you.
There are only three different styles you can choose from. The horse collar, jacket and hybrid types.
Snorkel Jackets – Jacket design
Snorkel jackets, as the name would already indicate, are built like a jacket. You put it on like you’d put on a jacket. Imagine a sleeveless jacket which is pretty much exactly how it looks and works.
It’s worn the same way as a horse collar vest even though it’s different in how you get into it. The main difference is that the air bladder covers the front of your torso instead of going all around you. This provides somewhat more stability compared to the horse collar type vest.
These snorkeling jackets either have a zipper to close them up or use nylon straps. These you can use to close the vest. You slip your arms through the holes and then zip it up or secure it with the straps.
The horse-collar snorkeling vest is the most common type you can find. It’s a single air bladder with the hole for the head nearly in the center. Usually, it’ll have one or two adjustable straps that allow you to fasten and tighten the vest around the body. The better vests use durable nylon for their straps to ensure they last a long time. The straps will fasten the vest around the body, so the bladder is kept firmly around the waist. It can’t by accident or through movement slide around.
The vest itself is shaped like an oval. It wraps around your torso and crotch. It pretty much consists of nothing much else than the straps and the inflatable air bladder.
Lately, some improvements have been introduced by some brands where they add extensions at the bottom of these jackets. These look like little wings and they increase the stability. Besides, they prevent the vest from riding up while you’re wearing it in the water.
The hybrid design combines pretty much the best of both of the other types. Surprisingly, so far only one brand offers these types of jackets.
The unique features are that ScubaPro combines the style of a horse collar vest with sleeves made from neoprene. So you can wear it like a jacket. Instead of closing in the front, the hybrid design has a zipper on the side. This makes it easy to put the jacket on or off.
Why should you use a snorkel vest?
The first and foremost use of a snorkel vest is to help you with your buoyancy during snorkeling. However, it has a variety of applications beyond that which are mostly related to your safety.
While life jackets mainly aim at keeping your head out of the water. snorkel vests allow you to swim with your head underwater. Since you can inflate the vest. You can adjust the amount of air in the bladder depending upon the buoyancy you need. A life jacket has no such inflation or deflation capabilities. Snorkel vests are a better option for children as compared to a life jacket.
They are ideal for first-time swimmers or those who are beginners in swimming lessons. However, a snorkel vest is not a life-saving device. Its job is to keep you floating on the surface of the water.
Finding the right size
The right size is also not depending on the physical size of the vest. But instead hinges on the lift in buoyancy it can provide. Most sizing is done in small, medium, regular and extra-large. This will depend on your weight and not on your height!
Each manufacturer pretty much defines how these size brackets relate to your weight. Make sure to check the size/weight chart of each manufacturer to get the correct match for you.
Be aware though that the hybrid and jacket styles have more limitations with regards to sizes. They wrap around the torso, and as such you might not find a perfect size if you have a big chest area. Horse collar styles don’t have that limitation so you might consider looking for that type in this case.
Besides the size, there are also a few other considerations to take into account. Let’s have a look at those in the following sections.
A snorkeling jacket provides buoyancy due to the air in its bladder. You have to manually pump that air bladder up through an oral inflator tube.
This tube also allows you to regulate how high or low you float in the water. By increasing or decreasing the amount of air in the bladder. The typical location of the tube is in the front so you can easily inflate the vest with your mouth. Nowadays pretty much all snorkel vests use a tube made of plastic for oral inflation.
Straps, zippers, and/or buckles keep the vest securely attached in place around your body. Most jackets will have straps or zippers depending on their design.
Using a snorkel vest to stay afloat
The horse collar snorkel vest design usually requires a few straps. They have squeeze clips to connect them. The straps typically are made from durable nylon and the clips from durable plastic. Most of these types of jackets come with a waist and crotch strap.
Hybrid and jacket snorkeling vest designs have a few zippers to adjust and close them. Most times the zippers are plastic but can also be made from metal. If you get a vest with anything metal on it, then make sure it’s rust-resistant, or you’ll end up with rusty zippers or rings!
There’s overall not much to consider in a vest. Once you have the right size, it comes down to the style you prefer. Looks and aesthetics come afterward.
Many of the newer snorkel vest designs do offer additional features like a variety of colors. Go ahead and pick the one you want depending on taste. You will also find more and more jackets providing pockets and D-rings to attach personal items. In those cases make sure that whatever you take with you will be waterproof. The pockets on a snorkel vest are not waterproof!
So which one should you go for?
After having had a look at the features you should consider. Let’s have a look at the reviews below to find the top-rated snorkel vest.
In conclusion, these are some of the top things to consider when choosing the right snorkeling vest. You will need to consider the weight aspect. Most traditional snorkeling vests have blow tubes for easy inflate and deflate. Look for bright colours so you can be seen easily for safety. Follow the above tips, and you won’t get disappointed or feel that your money hasn’t been spent in the wrong way. For our pick on the above snorkeling vests. Well it was tight and this time it was a tie between Lyuwpes & the Wildhorn. They were easy to use in the water & provided confidence to the users.
We would love to hear your thoughts & feedback on masks you have purchased.