There are many life saving reasons to use a snorkel vest, and a number of other benefits as well. You might feel a bit dorky wearing one, but you would be a smart dork (and there are options that are more flattering). Below are the most common incidents where a vest could have made the difference.
Life Saving Reasons to Use a Snorkel Vest
Snorkeling vests save lives. If you feel any compulsion to use one, definitely get one. We read snorkeling news from around the world, and there are snorkeling related deaths weekly, and sometimes daily. Many of which could be avoided if those people had been wearing an inflated snorkeling jacket or vest.
What Happens If You Go Unconscious?
If you are unconscious or exhausted, a snorkel vest, lightly inflated, should turn you on to your back, and keep your face out of the water. It does this because it has buoyancy on your chest and behind your head, which keeps you afloat in the best way for survival.
Other Good Reasons to Use a Snorkel Vest
There are basically two types to choose from, vests and jackets. With both types you manually inflate it with a tube on your chest.
Horse Collar Snorkeling Vest
This type has an inflatable tube that goes around your neck, and it uses a strap you attach around your back and between your legs to secure it. Some of these have pockets for personal items
There are a ton of companies that make these, but the Scuba Choice snorkel vest is a good product that people like, at an affordable price. It comes in different colors.
And the Typhoon Snorkeling Vest is another good option that also gives you a pocket at a higher price.
This second jacket type is less common. Instead of straps, it has fabric on the back. Sometimes the back fabric is a thin neoprene that ads warmth. Some of these don't require a crotch strap. Pockets are an option depending on the brand.
The ScubaPro Cruiser snorkel jacket is more form fitting than the horse collar type vests above. It uses a left side zipper and a neoprene back to keep it in place. It has a small pocket in the front. One possible drawback to this one is that there is no inflation behind the head.
Finally, the ScubaMax Snorkel Jacket offers even more options. It has a neoprene back, two big pockets with mesh drains and strap closures.
Children's Snorkeling Vests
In most cases kids should wear some form of snorkeling vest. But you want to make sure and buy one that fits them correctly. The Scuba Choice Kids vest is a good option.
Most manufacturers have two or more sizes available. Check their sizing charts and read reviews to see if they run small or large. Your weight is used to help figure out how much buoyancy is required to stay afloat.
They Don't Do Much Good Uninflated
Your snorkel vest should be lightly inflated in the water to be life saving. Most people do not inflate them, thinking they will use it if they need it. That's not a great idea because you rarely know when that will be. It makes particular sense to inflate it ahead of getting really tired.
It's Worthless If It Rides Up
No matter what type of vest you get, you have to make sure it cannot ride up, because it becomes nearly worthless when it rides up high. So, if your vest has a crotch strap, use it, and keep it snug enough. The jacket type of vests rely on being tight around you to prevent riding up. Make sure it fits correctly for that purpose.
A snorkeling vest is not for everyone. If you are strong swimmer, and are not concerned about any health issues, then it may be fine to go without one. We don't use them. Honestly it would be safer for everyone to use one, because you never know what might happen. Go without at your own risk.
Use a Regular Life Jacket?
What about just wearing a normal boat PFD life jacket? You could. They generally have more buoyancy than you would want, making you float too high for comfortable viewing underwater. And they are bulky, making swimming more difficult.
Use a Ski Belt or Water Noodle?
Some people choose to wear a ski belt, which is basically a belt with built in flotation. Or in a similar fashion, folks use a foam pool noodle for flotation. These may help keep you afloat, but do nothing to keep your face out of the water if you have a problem, so we don't recommend them.
A Great Snorkeling Camera