Snorkel Vest vs. Life Jacket – Which is better for Snorkeling?

If you’re planning a snorkeling trip, you will need to prepare for the right type of snorkel gear to bring along with you on your journey. Aside from the traditional snorkel and mask, fins, and wetsuit, there may be something you’re not considering: a snorkel vest.

And if you think about it, do you need one or should you use a life jacket for snorkeling? What are the differences? Let’s check out what you need to know when it comes to comparing a life jacket vs snorkeling vest!

Comparing whether a vest or life jacket are the better options when you go snorkeling even for non-swimmers

Depending on where you are planning to snorkel a snorkeling vest may or may not be optional. Many professional snorkeling guided tour companies are starting to require that you either bring your own flotation device or use one of theirs.

This is because of the added safety you get from such a flotation device that you have in the water when using snorkel vests. Such a snorkeling vest can even allow non-swimmers to got and experience the world underwater.

Lyuwpes Inflatable Snorkel Vest
Lyuwpes Inflatable Snorkel Vest

What is a Snorkel Vest?

A snorkeling vest is a small inflatable piece of garment that you can use to help you maintain your buoyancy while floating. Typically, they contain no foam and will be inflated by the snorkeler.

You can achieve different levels of buoyancy depending on how much air you put into the flotation devices. More air in the snorkeling vest will keep you higher in the water while less air lets you float deeper inside.

In addition to being inflatable by the snorkeler, the snorkel vest comes in bright colors. Usually, neon-colored they additionally provide a snorkeler with high visibility when in the water.

When snorkeling in open water, it is essential to have this extra layer of visibility. Small boats and surfers can easily spot you and avoid a collision while you snorkel. Snorkel vests usually come in bright colors so you can be spotted in the water.

Snorkeling with a snorkel vest

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Why do you need one?

There are several reasons you may be in need of a snorkel vest.

  • The snorkel tour company requires you wear one.
  • You are not a good swimmer and need extra floatation.
  • You are in open water and need extra visibility from the guide boat.
  • State or local laws require you wear one.
  • You will be snorkeling for long periods of time and do not wish to get tired.

These are just a few examples of reasons that you will find yourself in need of a snorkel vest on top of other essential gear like a snorkel mask – best full-face snorkeling mask.

Usually, if you are taking a guided tour, they will provide a snorkel vest if they require you to wear one. But if you are hitting a local watering hole, you may need to bring your snorkeling vest if local laws require it.

Scubapro Cruiser Skin Dive Safety Snorkeling Vest
Scubapro Cruiser Skin Dive Safety Snorkeling Vest

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Weaker swimmers, people with musculoskeletal problems, people with medical concerns that could cause them to fatigue quickly, or snorkelers who want to take it easy, are all people who should use a snorkel vest.

If you have back injuries, a snorkel vest can help protect your spine and give you a break when you need it. Consider your medical status before declining a snorkel vest, even when they are optional.

How is it different from a Life Jacket?

You may be wondering why you can’t just grab a regular life vest to go snorkeling. The essential design elements of a life vest are very different from a snorkel vest. So is the purpose of the jacket.

The life jacket consists of dense flotation foam. The foam is designed to keep your head above water.

Because of that purpose, you have most of the foam on the front of the chest. There is a small foam strip to support your head.

Life vests are designed to keep you floating, with your head out of the water, while you await rescue.

Life Jackets keeps your head out of the water

If you are snorkeling, keeping your head out of the water may not be ideal. Trying to snorkel with a traditional life vest can be difficult.

Most people will find that they have a hard time putting their body in a prone position in the water when they are snorkeling with a life jacket. This is a good thing. It means that the life vest is working as it’s supposed to. That’s why life jackets are not so good if you are trying to snorkel.

STEARNS Adult Classic Series Universal Life Vest
STEARNS Adult Classic Series Universal Life Vest

Also, it is hard to swim forward when you’re wearing a traditional life vest. The big pieces of foam that rest on the chest create massive amounts of drag and make life jackets less than optimal to use when you snorkel. That’s a big convenience downside when you compare a life jacket vs snorkel vests.

This drag can make snorkeling extremely tiring. Most people would be hard-pressed to enjoy a snorkeling trip in a vest they could not swim in. Therefore, if possible get a horse collar snorkel vest (or any other kind of flotation device like a snorkel belt) as part of your snorkeling gear instead of a life jacket!

Snorkel Vest inflates – Life Jacket is made with bulky foam

When you put a snorkel jacket on the first thing that you will notice is that there is a bib on your chest and a loop around your neck. You can fill the snorkel vest with a lot of air or a little air, depending on the level of flotation assistance you need.

Also, since it is air and not foam, the air will move around inside the snorkel vest allowing you to assume a prone position with ease. There is also little worry about drag because you can deflate the snorkel vests as needed.

Using a life vest to snorkel

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What to consider when you buy a snorkel vest?

When you are buying a snorkel vest, you have a lot of construction elements to consider. Some of the main things to look at when buying a snorkel jacket are:

  • Height and Weight Classification
  • Zippers or Straps
  • Waist straps or leg straps

Height and weight classifications should be one of the first things you look at when purchasing a snorkel vest. Just because a snorkel jacket fits you, doesn’t mean it will support your weight.

All snorkeling vests have height and weight restrictions that you have to take into consideration or it will not function correctly.

Snorkel vests typically come with either straps or zippers. These are personal preferences for your comfort.

Many people enjoy the full support of a zippered snorkel vest while others like the minimal feel of a strap attached bib with a horse collar style.

These choices are entirely based on how you’re most comfortable. Try on multiple styles of snorkeling vests before making your purchasing decision.

Finally, you should consider waist or leg straps on snorkel vests. These straps serve to support your lower body during floatation. These straps are suitable for younger snorkelers who may tire faster than their adult counterparts.

Additionally, people with lower extremity weakness or lower back problems will benefit from the lower body support provided by leg straps or straps that go below the waist on snorkeling vests.

Now you have all the information you need to make a good choice when planning your next snorkeling trip. Remember each person in your party may have their personal preferences for a snorkel vest.

They may already own their favorite styles like a horse collar or jacket version. Getting you comfortably into the water is going to ensure you have the best snorkeling trip.

It’s easy to see that when it comes to snorkeling, the life jacket vs snorkel vest comparison is tilted heavily in one direction. As you have to get gear for snorkeling anyway, get the equipment that is made to fit the activity!

Comparing whether a vest or life jacket are the better options when you go snorkeling even for non-swimmers
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