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Can You Wear a Life Jacket When Snorkeling?

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If you’re not the most confident of swimmers, or you just want to feel extra safe in the ocean, you might have thought about wearing a life jacket when snorkeling. So, is it recommended or even possible to wear a life jacket when snorkeling?

The short answer: Life jackets are not ideal for snorkeling because they are designed to keep you upright with your head out of the water. However, a life jacket is highly recommended for non-swimmers because of these characteristics. For more confident swimmers, a better option is a snorkeling vest.

In this post I’ll cover the pros and cons of both life jackets and snorkeling vests to help you decide which is best for you. I’ll also offer some recommendations for great life jackets and snorkeling vests for you to check out.

Life Jackets vs. Snorkeling Vests

Below I will compare life jackets with snorkeling vests to help you decide which option will be a better choice for you. Remeber, when you choose between them, safety is the most important factor to consider.

Life Jackets

In short: Required for non-swimmers but not recommended for confident swimmers.

Life jackets are more bouyant than snorkeling vests and are designed to keep you upright and your head out of the water. Of course, when you’re snorkeling, you want to be laying flat with your head IN the water which is why life jackets aren’t ideal for snorkeling.

Having said that, since life jackets are designed to keep your head above the water, they can literally be a life saver if you find yourself in a bad situation. A snorkeling vest won’t do this and is more of a useful aid than a real safety measure (although they do offer some level of safety). So if you’re a non-swimmer or you’re not a confident swimmer, a life jacket is the way to go and is worth the more awkward experience you will have trying to get your head in the water.

Life jackets are usually filled with foam so you can’t deflate them like you can with a snorkeling vest. This means they will take up quite a bit of room. You might want to consider renting if you would prefer to use a life jacket.

Recommended Life Jackets:

The O’Neill SuperLite Life Vests have great reviews on Amazon. They are USCG approved and wearers have had positive experiences when snorkeling. (The Links below will take you to Amazon.)

Snorkeling Vests

In short: Great if you don’t want to dive down but not a suitable life jacket alternative for non-swimmers.

Snorkeling vests differ from life jackets in that they are specifically designed for snorkeling. This means they are less buoyant and allow you to easily keep your head in the water. At the same time, they give you enough buoyancy to comfortably stay afloat with no effort on your part.

If you’re a strong swimmer, a snorkeling vest isn’t 100% necessary, but there are a few reasons why it would be a good idea to wear one even if you are a confident swimmer. If you will be snorkeling where there are strong currents or rough water, wearing a snorkeling vest is a good idea. Even the strongest of swimmers will find themselves in trouble if they’re caught in a strong current. Another reason to wear a snorkeling vest is if you are prone to muscle cramps, heart problems, or other medical issues which could prevent you from treading water.

One thing worth noting is that you can’t dive down whilst wearing an inflated snorkeling vest.

Snorkeling vests are usually inflatable so you can inflate them until they are at a comfortable level for you. This means they take up less room too. Since they are more portable and usually cheaper than a life jacket, it’s a good idea to purchase rather than rent a snorkeling vest.

Recommended Snorkeling Vests:

The Seal Buddy Snorkel Vests are a popular choice for adults. They’re not too expensive, they’re bright, and they’re effective. For children, the Faxpot Childrens Snorkel Vests are a popular choice and are suitable for kids aged 5 – 14 years old. (The Links below will take you to Amazon.)

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