Our oceans are truly awe inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful, but they can also be unpredictable and at times dangerous.
The ocean is a fantastic place to explore and If you’re not a confident swimmer then a snorkel vest might be the piece of equipment to give you the confidence to go from beach dweller to sea explorer.
The best snorkel vests can provide their wearer with the security, safety and comfort which is why they’re such a popular, and occasionally life saving accessory.
Snorkel vests provide a lot of benefits – Potentially more than you’re even aware of which we will break down in our snorkel vest buying guide below.
The Best Snorkel Vest 
buying guide - how to choose a snorkel vest
What Is A Snorkel Vest
A snorkel vest is a floatation device specifically designed for snorkeling.
Snorkel vests typically come in bright colors and have a device on them which allows the user to manually adjust their buoyancy by inflating or deflating the snorkel vest as and when they see fit.
Snorkel vests are an important, and potentially life saving safety device that work as a buoyancy aid for young children, people who aren’t the strongest swimmers, or simply to help you preserve energy whilst in the water.
Since snorkel vests are designed specifically for use whilst snorkeling, they should not be used as a substitute for a life jacket in other water sporting activities (like kayaking, boating or jet skiing for example).
Who Should Use A Snorkel Vest
If you are a strong, confident swimmer who is able to snorkel for long periods without getting tired then the answer here is that it’s really up to you if you wish to wear a snorkel vest. Wearing one will still provide you with a great deal many benefits, but it’s not essential.
However, you will find that if you go on a snorkel tour that most, (if not all), snorkel tours/excursion companies require that you wear a snorkel vest.
Owning your own ensures you have one that you are familiar with and that you know fits you comfortably (and doesn’t have any holes in it!).
While there are numerous benefits to wearing a snorkel vest (discussed further below), the benefit of being able to conserve your energy and snorkel for longer periods of time may be one of the most appealing benefits to you.
For children and people who aren’t as confident in the water, (or for anyone who thinks they may need one at any point) then I would absolutely encourage you to invest in a snorkel vest.
Benefits of wearing a snorkel vest
Considerations before Buying A Snorkel Vest
Types of Snorkel Vest
There are basically two different kinds of snorkel vest on the market – Each one offering its own unique style and benefits.
The choice of which type of snorkel vest you want will basically be the main decision you have to make when purchasing a snorkel vest.
We’ll discuss each type below so you can make an informed decision and decide on the best snorkel vest for you.
Horse Collar Snorkel Vest
The horse collar style snorkel vest is the most commonly used type of snorkel vest.
It is worn over your head and then tightened and secured in place around the waist and between the legs with adjustable straps.
There is a tube on the chest that you blow into to manually inflate the vest, and some designs also have pockets for storing personal items.
A horse collar snorkel vest typically comes in one size only but the adjustable straps allow them to fit most anyone. (Child size versions are also available).
A horse collar snorkel vest will fold up small making it a good option if you have limited luggage space.
Jacket Style Snorkel Vest
As the name implies a jacket style snorkel vest is worn like a jacket which zips up/fastens at the front or the side.
As with the horse collar it will also have an inflation tube on the chest at the side in order to manually inflate it.
A jacket style snorkel vest provides more coverage over your body, which has the benefit of providing more protection from the sun than a horse collar, and it will keep you warmer.
This type of snorkel vest is larger than a horse collar design however so it will take up more space in your luggage.
It also comes in many different sizes so it is very important if you’re going for this type of design to get the right fit.
As long as sized correctly some users find this kind of snorkel vest more comfortable than the horse collar.
Size & Fit
Once you’ve chosen which style of snorkel vest you prefer the next thing to consider before purchasing are any weight capacity and size restrictions of the snorkel vest.
You need to know that the snorkel vests straps will be able to go around you and that the vest itself will be able to hold your weight.
If you’re going for a jacket style snorkel vest, which are sold in multiple different sizes, you need to ensure that you purchase the correct size – Too big and it will ride up too much and move around, too tight and it will obviously be uncomfortable to wear.
A snorkel vest will take up a minimal amount of room in your gear bag.
Considering the numerous benefits that a snorkel vest provides, adding in the fact that they are very compact when deflated only adds to their list of many benefits.
Most snorkel vests come in very bright, neon colors. One of the main benefits that a snorkel vest provides is it’s high visibility.
And since one of the most common dangers for snorkelers are watercraft that may be in the area, such as jet skis or boats. Wearing a brightly colored snorkel vest will help other people to be able to spot you in the water.
If you have children then a brightly colored snorkel vest will also help them stand out in the water much better so you can keep a close eye on them.
With that being said, if you would rather go for style and not draw attention to yourself – The Jetty snorkel vest by Wildhorn Outfitters comes in a pretty stylish and indiscreet black.
Back in the day snorkel vests might have come with a CO2 cartridge that could auto-inflate the snorkel vest for you.
This type of inflation is generally discontinued as they would tend to corrode over time. (Salt water tends to do that a lot!). You may still find these being sold in some places but I would tend to avoid them.
Your snorkel vest will require manual inflation via a tube on the side of the chest.
You simply blow into the tube to inflate the vest as and when required – If you are not a strong swimmer then you should make sure to have your snorkel vest at least semi-inflated most of the time.
The most important factors with regards to the inflation tube is that it is positioned correctly on the vest (you shouldn’t have to struggle to reach it). And it should be able to lock in place when not in use, so as not to get in your way.
Your snorkel vest will be strapped into place possibly by a combination of fastenings like zips, buckles and clips
Horse collar snorkel vests tend to have long straps which are pulled tight to secure the vest. This makes this style of vest very versatile and able to fit a good many body types and sizes. It is also easy to secure making it a popular choice for children.
Buckle style fastenings (made of plastic), tend to last a long time and are a very secure style of fastening.
Snorkel vest vs Life Jacket
Although they look similar a snorkel vest and a life jacket are not the same thing, and have different uses and applications.
I would not recommend using a life jacket for snorkeling, nor would I recommend a snorkel vest used in place of a life jacket.
A snorkel vest is much smaller and less bulky than a life jacket and allows you the mobility to be able to swim around freely.
The buoyancy of a snorkel vest helps the user balance in the water whilst also allowing you to swim face down. You can adjust their buoyancy quickly and easily so you can deflate the vest and dive down underwater and then reinflate the vest again once you reach the surface.
Snorkel vests are not coast guard approved to be used as a PFD (personal floatation device), and should therefore not be used in place of a proper life jacket.
A life jacket is designed to keep the user upright with their head above water which will make trying to snorkel in them frustrating and difficult.
A proper life jacket should be coast guard approved as a PFD (Personal Floatation Device), and is typically what you would use for most water sports (jet skiing, windsurfing) or on a boat.
the best snorkel vests reviewed
Best Snorkel Vest
Wildhorn Inflatable Snorkel Vest
The Wildhorn is built to be comfortable to wear for an all day snorkeling trip. The jacket style of this snorkel vest provides good coverage over the body giving you more protection from the sun.
Whilst it is one of the pricier vests on our list it – it earns its price tag by being built from durable materials which will ensure this snorkel vest lasts for many adventures.
Best Budget Snorkel Vest
Rrtizan Inflatable Snorkel Vest
The most popular choice on Amazon, and also the best snorkel vest on a budget is the Rrtizan snorkel vest.
The cheapest in our list, the Rrtizan comes in a nice range of colors (for those who want to be seen and those who don’t), and includes a handy mesh carry bag.
Best Premium Snorkel Vest
Scubapro Cruiser Snorkel Vest
This high quality Scubapro is built with Neoprene which is soft and comfortable (and provides good warmth), and nylon which is durable. Unlike the Jetty the Scubapro also has a convenient pocket for securing personal items, and is available in two bright colors.
Best budget Snorkel jacket
OMOUBOI Snorkel jacket
If you’re looking for a snorkel jacket on a bit more of a budget – The Omouboi might be the jacket for you. It provides good coverage from the sun and is very easy to put on and take off. It also features individual leg straps instead of a crotch strap making it a popular choice for those who just don’t like the regular crotch strap design.
Best Snorkel Vest For Kids
scuba choice kids snorkel vest
The Scuba Choice Kids Snorkel vest is simple to inflate and deflate (even for children). It’s only available in bright neon colors so your child will be easier to spot in the water. This vest is suitable for children up to 100lbs – You should size up to an adult vest if more than that.
We’ve dug pretty deep into the best snorkel vests in this guide and hopefully you should now be aware of what a snorkel vest is (and what it is not!) and which snorkel vest will best fit your own personal needs.
A snorkel vest is an extremely valuable and helpful aid for people who are new to snorkeling or even for people who have been snorkeling for many years.
In terms of the overall quality of construction and comfort provided the Wildhorn is the clear winner from our list – It will also help provide extra warmth and protection from the sun!