We love snorkeling for all sorts of reasons, from the amazing sights to the low-impact exercise it offers. However, if there’s one thing we love more than anything else, it’s how relaxing snorkeling can be! There’s nothing quite like swimming leisurely around a reef, following whatever underwater delights you encounter. The best snorkel vests allow you to do all that without having to even think about keeping yourself afloat!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of shopping for a snorkel vest, whether you’re in the market for one for yourself or one for a child in your life. We’ll also introduce you to our favorite snorkel vests being sold today!
Read on to find out which snorkel vests we currently recommend and to find out why!
|Picture||Product Name||Size Options||Cost|
|Mares Head Snorkel Vest||X-Small, X-Large, Regular||$|
|National Geographic Snorkeler Yellow Adult Snorkel Vest With Front Pocket||one size fits most||$$|
|Aqualung Sport Snorkeler Vest||Medium||$$|
Best Snorkel Vest Reviews (2019)
Mares Head Snorkel Vest
The least expensive snorkel vest we recommend at the moment is made by Mares and sold under the Head brand name. It’s an affordable, serviceable vest that should suit any snorkelers on a budget. We suggest it for newcomers, casual users, and those looking to outfit kids.
Unlike most snorkel vests sold today, it’s not a one-size-fits-all design! While one-size snorkel vests such as the National Geographic model included in this guide work very well for most people, it’s always nice to be able to find the perfect fit. That’s where the Mares Head excels!
It’s available in a standard size, as well as extra-small and extra-large variants. The smaller size option is ideal for young snorkelers, and rated for up to 80 pounds. The standard size is rated for 80 to 180 pounds, and the larger version is appropriate for folks as heavy as 250 pounds.
Having this many options is really great. Especially for those shopping for kids and folks who are on the heavier side, those extra-small and extra-large sizes will be ideal.
It’s very bare-bones. There aren’t any extras like D-rings or pockets, such as the ones you find on the National Geographic model below.
It’s not as rugged as the Aqualung model we’re recommending in our top slot.
National Geographic Snorkeler Yellow Adult Snorkel Vest With Front Pocket
This National Geographic snorkel vest is our recommendation to most buyers. It’s a one-size-fits-all model, but in this case it pays off for nearly all users. There’s enough of a range of adjustments to make it comfortable for practically everyone, children and adults. Plus, the National Geographic adds a lot of value with its accessories. We think that unless you definitely need a smaller or larger size than average, you’ll have the best snorkeling experience with this.
It’s very well-made, especially for a branded product like this. Usually, magazines slap their logo on any old crap and mark up the price to make a high profit margin. In this case, the National Geographic vest is as good as most scuba brands are making! It’s rugged and shows excellent quality control.
While nearly all snorkel vests follow the same basic design as the Mares Head and Aqualung models we’ve recommended in this guide, the National Geographic has a few additional tricks up its sleeve. As well as the adjustment straps and inflation straw, it sports a D-ring and a zippered pocket.
These might seem like small differences, but they add up to a much more convenient piece of equipment:
There are all sorts of reasons why you might want a pocket while snorkeling. Not all of us have zippered pockets in our swimsuit! This is a secure, convenient place to store keys, found shells, and any other small items you want to take with you on the water.
The D-ring is especially handy if you’re planning on taking lots of photos on your next snorkeling trip. These days, with GoPros and waterproof smartphones available cheaply, who isn’t? You can easily attach anything with a clip to the National Geographic’s D-ring and keep it safely alongside you as you snorkel!
It’s not as rugged as the Aqualung vest below. While we don’t think there’s anything to complain about with the National Geographic, the Aqualung is probably the better choice if you’re more concerned with ruggedness than with convenience.
It’s not available in multiple sizes. While this one will fit the vast majority of folks (including kids over 100 pounds), it’s not going to be a perfect fit for everybody. If you’re over 200 pounds or are shopping for a child weighing less than 100 pounds, you’ll want to go with the Mares Head or the Aqualung.
Aqualung Sport Snorkeler Vest
The Aqualung Sport is our top quality pick for a snorkel vest at the moment. While it lacks the National Geographic’s conveniences, it sports stellar construction quality and a color that you’ll see absolutely anywhere. It’s a good choice for folks who want a premium vest in a range of sizes, as well as for those who know their kids will put their snorkel vests through the wringer.
It’s extremely visible. All our recommendations are brightly-colored and easy to spot out on the water, but the Aqualung is in its own league here. It’s incredibly bright.
It’s the most rugged snorkel vest we’ve come across. The Mares Head and National Geographic models above are well-made and as rugged as the average buyer could want, but this is definitely the winner in the durability category.
It’s available in a range of sizes, like the Mares Head. While the National Geographic is suitable for the vast majority of snorkelers, it won’t fit everybody comfortably. This one comes in three different sizes, just like the Mares Head. That’s why it’s a better premium option for small children and particularly heavy adults.
It’s extremely comfortable, especially when you factor in the size options. Again, our other recommendations are very good in this department, but the Aqualung ekes out a win again.
Even our most premium recommendation can still be had for less than $50. This is more than the casual snorkeler needs to spend on a vest, but it’s a worthy investment for folks who snorkel frequently and want something for the long haul.
It’s expensive, compared with the other snorkel vests we recommend. This one costs nearly twice as much as the Mares Head, and more than the National Geographic.
While the construction quality and durability on this one are superb, it’s hard to justify the extra cost over the National Geographic. That’s especially true if you consider the fact that the Aqualung doesn’t have the National Geographic’s helpful accessories. This one’s worth the investment if you want something durable in a range of sizes, but most folks will probably be happier with the National Geographic.
Which of these snorkel vests should you buy for your future adventures?
The Mares Head is the best choice if you’re on a budget, since it’s the least expensive model we recommend. It’s available in enough sizes to suit just about everybody, and covers all the basics for a very low price. It’s reliable, ergonomic, and easy to spot. However, it’s not as comfortable, well-equipped, or rugged as the pricier snorkel vests we recommend. Spend more if you’re able to, unless you’re shopping for kids.
The National Geographic is our suggestion to most folks, since it strikes a great balance of value and versatility. While it’s only available in one size, it’s rated for a wide range of users and is easy to adjust to suit different body types. It also has added features such as a pocket and a D-ring that are going to come in handy for most snorkelers. However, if you’re particularly heavy or shopping for a smaller child, you may want to go with one of our other recommendations in order to have a suitable size option.
If you’re determined to find the best dry snorkel, we think you should go for the National Geographic since it suits all body types and has some great added features.
The Aqualung Sport is our top quality recommendation, and our suggestion to users who value rugged construction and comfort over convenience and versatility. It’s available in multiple sizes and is easy to make comfortable on any body type. It’s also extremely rugged and ought to last for years of use. This one doesn’t have the National Geographic’s conveniences, though, and since that model also has a great track record over the long term, we think most folks can stick with that one and get a better bang for their buck.
Check The Specs
As with any piece of scuba or snorkel gear you buy, it’s important to make sure you check the specs on your new snorkel vest and make sure it’s suitable for your needs. The specs you’ll want to pay close attention to in this case are the weight ratings and measurements. Snorkel vests are given weight ratings which indicate how much weight they can reliably keep afloat. You should make sure that the vest you’re considering is not only rated to support your weight, but that it’s rated to support a little more. You don’t want to be taking chances at sea.
Know Your Needs
As you’re comparing the different snorkel vests we’ve recommended in this guide, be sure to consider exactly what you’re looking for in your new piece of equipment.
For starters, who’s going to be using the vest? Are you shopping for yourself or for a child? If you’re shopping for a child, make sure that smaller sizes are available, or that the vest can be tightened sufficiently to be comfortable and safe for their use. If you’re shopping for yourself, be sure to check that any vest you consider is rated to keep you afloat on the open water.
Then, think about the specific features you want in your snorkel vest. Do you want a pocket? Are you going to be taking pictures with a waterproof camera, such as a GoPro or an iPhone in a Lifeproof case? If so, you’ll probably want to choose a snorkel vest with a D-ring. That’ll allow you to secure your camera to yourself as you explore. If these added extras aren’t important to you, you can usually save money and end up with something more durable by keeping things simple.
Don’t Be Tempted By Chintzy Knock-Offs
Since most snorkel vests follow the same basic design, it’s no surprise that a large number of companies are cranking out generic models and slapping their logos on them. These are usually sold for $10-$20, and have brand names you’ve never heard of. They’re made extremely cheaply by factories in China and then rebranded for whoever’s selling them. We strongly recommend avoiding these tempting models. They’re cheap, but they’re likely to fall apart quickly. That’s not something you want to take chances on! If your child’s snorkel vest starts leaking out on the water, they could be in serious danger. Spend some extra money for the peace of mind you get when you purchase a well-made vest from a legitimate manufacturer.
Now that you’ve reached the end of this buying guide, you know everything you need to in order to purchase a new snorkel vest like a seasoned pro! Click on the links in our reviews to learn more about the models we’ve included here–as well as to check current prices and see size charts.
You’ll also want to check out the rest of our snorkel-related buying guides, such as our roundups of the best dry snorkels, snorkeling fins, and snorkel masks! Be sure to read our complete guide to the best snorkel gear here!