People have a hard time in choosing and buying the best snorkel vest. It’s kind of a touchy-feely kind of subject. “The best” is a relative term, isn’t it? Are you tall, short, broad chested, flat chested? Are we talking about kids or adults? I’ve seen some people at snorkeling locations with intricate snorkel vests, most with basic, and some who prefer the basic “snorkel noodle“ for the added buoyancy.
It really comes down to what is best for the individual. Keep in mind that even though snorkeling looks easy from a distance, water is several hundred times denser than air (about 800 times denser!) and if you don’t want to over exert and just want leisurely float and snorkel then a snorkel vest is the way to go. Besides that, a snorkel vest offers huge peace of mind for parents with kids. Even if the little ones get tired and go too far, a snorkel vest is the buoyancy to keep their heads and body above water but it still should NEVER be considered as a life jacket.
You can read about the basics of what snorkel gear you need in this guide, also. Here is our deep tutorial on the different types of snorkel vests and how to buy one with a little bit of knowledge!
This type of snorkel vest resembles a warped donut. It can be round-ish, oblong, and rectangular. It is worn by placing the users head through the hold in the vest and it rests along the shoulders, upper back and back of the neck. This type of snorkel vest is secured to the body by one or more adjustable nylon straps. If it’s a 1-strap vest then it will secure around the waist area and most 2-strap designs will have an additional strap that is in the crotch/leg/lower back area so that the vest does not ride. Remember, the vest floats!
Also, with these types of snorkel vests the size and shape of the air bladder is usually the size and shape of the vest itself.
Just like the horsecollar snorkel vest, this jacket style is worn just the way the name is written…like a jacket. Or, more appropriately, like a vest. There are arm holes, and then you pull the vest secure and closed in the front with straps and clips.
With these types of vests, the bladder is usually kept in the front with the back being mainly material for comfort and so that it wears more naturally. Personally, when I do use a snorkel vest, this is the type that I prefer. It’s sportier and gets in my way much less while enjoying the time in the water more.
Choosing Size of a Snorkel Vest
Size is usually the confusing part about choosing a snorkel vest. However, most brands and snorkelers go with body weight and size of the person using the vest. Why? Because you have to make sure that the vest being used will provide adequate buoyancy in the water in relation to the size of the person.
Straps also come into play when choosing the size of your snorkel vest. Like we mentioned in the opening comments of this tutorials, the size of the person will vary. Larger people will need longer straps. Of course, you can always pick up a few snorkel vest strap extenders if need be. However, political correctness being what it is today, many manufacturers and brands will shy away from using the word “large” in sizes.
It is important to know that sizing may vary by manufacturer. Some smalls from one manufacturer may be listed for those whose body weight does not exceed 88 pounds (40kg), while the smalls from another manufacturer is designed for those whose body weight does not exceed 110 pounds (50kg). So if you do not see a size chart that includes weight, please do not purchase it.
Straps, Clips, and Buckles (and Zippers), Oh My
We recommend buying snorkeling vests with only male-female clips to secure the straps together and always buy plastic. Also, try to avoid zippers. Our reasoning is this: metal corrodes and rusts in salt water. Plastic clips are easy to replace. Zippers are difficult to replace and have sewn back in. If you want to keep and use your snorkel vest for a while follow this rule: clips, plastic, nylon (straps), zippers at last resort, metal never.
Inflating a Snorkel Vest
I’ve never seen a snorkel vest that wasn’t orally inflated and we’re pretty sure they are ALL orally inflated. These are usually easy to operate and consist of a locking ring that needs to be pushed or squeeze in order orally inflate and then release or tightened to keep air in.
Style and Color
This is the last thing you should worry about when choosing and buying a snorkel vest, but we know that it is a factor. No one wants to look like a bright yellow donut on a beach. There are many options for style and color and you’re sure to find one that you like, for that reason we won’t spend too much time on the “fashion” aspect of snorkel vest in this tutorial.