This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which snorkel vests are best?

Snorkeling around the ocean can be one of the most illuminating experiences anyone can have. A view of the amazing world underwater can change one’s perspective. But snorkeling can be dangerous without the proper protective gear, especially without a good snorkel vest.

The best snorkel vest is the Wildhorn Outfitters Inflatable Snorkel Vest. It comes in four sizes and is adjustable in three areas, and protects against ultraviolet light.

What to know before you buy a snorkel vest

Types of snorkel vest

There are two types of snorkel vest: jackets and horse collars.

  • Jacket vests look like life jackets. They have a front panel that inflates and a back panel for sun protection and security. Some jackets also have an inflatable rear-neck strip. Some jackets secure around the waist, though these may ride up. Others secure with a crotch loop, though this can be uncomfortable over a long period. They’re usually expensive.
  • Horse collar vests slip over the neck and have no backing. The entire piece inflates, meaning in front of the chest and around the neck. They secure around the waist and crotch, meaning they can both ride up and be uncomfortable over a long period. They fit poorly on those with large chests. However, they rarely cost more than $20.

Size and weight limit

Snorkel vests are available in one-size-fits-all and specific sizes. Unlike life vests, which don’t necessarily need to fit perfectly, a poorly fitted snorkel vest can make snorkeling more difficult. Two examples: it can slide around, causing chafing, and it can imbalance your floatation.

Vests also have a weight limit — how much weight they can hold when fully inflated. If your weight is over the limit, it could fail to keep you floating.


Snorkel vests are designed to be as bright as possible, for safety. Bright colors make you more visible to boaters, to rescue personnel and to your group. Some vests add reflective light strips to make you even more visible.

What to look for in a quality snorkel vest


Some snorkel vests have pockets to keep important items close while you dive. The best pockets are tightly secured with zippers, while others use drawstrings. Always keep an eye on your pockets to make sure your items remain secure. Rarely, pockets are waterproof for storing electronics. Even then, it’s risky to take electronic items snorkeling with you.

UV protection

Some snorkel vests use UV-protective coatings or materials on their backs to help protect you from sun damage. This is usually only found in jacket vests.

How much you can expect to spend on a snorkel vest

Vests that are used occasionally and have limited features cost less than $25. Vests meant for regular use can cost up to $100, but have the durability, comfort and features to make them worth the investment.

Snorkel vest FAQ

What’s the difference between a snorkel vest and a life jacket?

A. The biggest is that snorkel vests are not Coast-Guard approved personal flotation devices. This means you can’t wear your snorkel vest in the boat on the way to the reef, for both safety and legal reasons.

In more detail: life jackets are built to keep you floating upright, with your head above water, for long periods of time. Snorkel vests are designed to keep your chest afloat while you lie facedown in the water. Snorkel vests also require you to fill them with your breath, and they leak air over time. You also can purge them intentionally to dive.

How inflated should a snorkel vest be?

A. Those who rarely snorkel or are new to snorkeling should inflate their vest to maximum before getting in the water. This is the safest method. Those who regularly snorkel can get away with entering the water with no inflation and adding air as needed, but this is still risky. All snorkelers should constantly check the water and weather around them and fully inflate at any sign of negative circumstances. 

What’s the best snorkel vest to buy?

Top snorkel vest

Wildhorn Outfitters Inflatable Snorkel Vest

Wildhorn Outfitters Inflatable Snorkel Vest

What you need to know: You can’t find a more durable, effective snorkel vest.

What you’ll love: It’s available in four sizes: small through extra large. It’s light when not in use and folds up for easy storage. Unlike most vests, it has a back plate for sun protection. It has adjustable straps on both shoulders and around the waist.

What you should consider: This is one of the most expensive snorkel vests. It’s not lined when inflated as it appears to be in its image.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top snorkel vest for the money

Rrtizan Inflatable Snorkel Vest

Rrtizan Inflatable Snorkel Vest

What you need to know: This low-cost vest is perfect for the occasional snorkeler.

What you’ll love: It comes in three colors: yellow with black accents, black with yellow accents and light blue with black accents. Inflation is quick and easy. It has adjustable straps around the waist and crotch, and includes a mesh transportation and storage bag.

What you should consider: It fits poorly on those with large chests. It also tends to ride up the neck while snorkeling, which can rub the skin and make swimming uncomfortable.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Lyuwpes Inflatable Adult Snorkel Vest

Lyuwpes Inflatable Adult Snorkel Vest

What you need to know: This is another great, low-cost choice for occasional snorkeling.

What you’ll love: It comes in five bright colors for maximum visibility: green, orange, pink, blue and yellow. It folds up to the size of a smartphone in storage and is easy to put on, secure and take off. Inflation is quick and easily adjustable.

What you should consider: The straps can be uncomfortable around the waist and crotch. It can ride up during snorkeling.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.