Do You Go Snorkeling with a Life Jacket?

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Snorkeling with a life jacket can help keep you safer in the water and is an essential part of your snorkel gear, especially if you’re more of a novice.

If you want to have the best snorkeling adventure without worrying about putting yourself or others at risk, make sure that you have a snorkel vest or life jacket. Snorkeling with a life jacket can help keep you buoyant while still enjoying all that the ocean has to offer. 

Is It Necessary To Go Snorkeling with a Life Jacket?

Life jacket is it necessary

It’s not totally necessary to don a snorkeling vest or life jacket when you’re out snorkeling. But you might want to wear a life jacket if you’ll be in the water in less than ideal conditions or if you’re not a strong swimmer. 

These personal flotation devices are highly useful when you’re bobbing around reefs or tidal pools. Even good swimmers should consider having a personal flotation device on hand if they’re out in unfamiliar waters.

Some people find it helpful to think about snorkeling vests and life jackets like seatbelts. You might not need them to go from a-to-b, but having a buoyancy aid on hand can come in handy if you run into problems.

If you’re snorkeling rather than scuba diving, you will spend a certain amount of time on the surface anyway, so a snorkel jacket won’t hinder you whatsoever.

Snorkeling Vests

Snorkeling vests are ideal for exploring the shallows. Although they are just as buoyant as your traditional life jacket, they tend to be much smaller. 

They make it easier to navigate places like reefs or shallow pools while still having the security of a life vest. In addition, snorkeling vests predominately consist of foam. 

Although they’re not ideal for serious open-water situations, like shipwrecks, they will keep you afloat during a typical snorkeling trip.

Your typical snorkel vest has a substantial collar that covers your chest and a strap that winds around your legs. These vests give you a little bit more leeway in the water, but if you’re snorkeling in rougher waters, you might want to consider a typical life jacket. 

How Do Life Jackets Work?

Life jackets work

Life jackets work by keeping you upright and above the waves in deep or shallow water. They’re essential for people who aren’t strong swimmers and can save your life in the event of a storm. 

So, how does it work?

Life jackets tend to be much more robust than snorkel vests, with several pieces of foam holding your body above the water. They’re also fluorescent or very bright colors, making them useful in the event of a sea rescue.

Life jackets keep you above water because foam is much lighter and less dense than both your average person and the surrounding waves. As a result, you can stay upright and safe for longer. 

They’re excellent for people who either don’t know how to swim or are too exhausted to keep swimming because you don’t need to tread water to stay afloat.

Which Type Should I Look for?

Type should i look for

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a life jacket or snorkeling vest, there are a few things that you should definitely keep in mind. 

First, both of these personal floatation devices require you to put them on appropriately to work. So, focus heavily on fit and comfort when selecting the right one for you.

The Right Fit

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a life jacket that fits one person will suit everyone. Your flotation device, be it a snorkeling vest or life jack, needs to conform to your body.

Make sure that children have child-sized snorkeling vests or life jackets, and look at the suggested weight and size for adults.

Make sure that the life jacket or snorkeling vest fits snuggly, but not too tight, around your abdomen, but that you can still move your arms and legs. Adjust the straps so that it doesn’t chafe or irritate you while you’re in the water. 

It’s far better to make any adjustments to your snorkeling vest while on land rather than in the ocean, where it might be tricky to adjust the straps.

Automatic or Manual Life Jackets

If you’re using a snorkeling vest, you won’t have to worry about automatic or manual options, but those donning life jackets will need to consider both options. 

A person physically needs to activate a manual life jacket. Usually, you can do this by yanking on a cord or pulling some kind of level. All life jackets vary, so it’s essential to determine how your particular jacket operates.

Automatic life jackets get activated as soon as they come into contact with the water and are not necessarily a good option for snorkeling. However, if you opt for a life jacket, use one you can control. 

By staying in control of it, you’ll be able to make the most out of your snorkeling adventure while still staying safe.

Should I Wear a Life Jacket?

Should i wear a life jacket

Whether or not you should wear a life jacket or snorkel vest depends mainly on the destination you’re going snorkeling in and your skill level. Snorkel vests give you much more control over what you’re doing and the option to explore tighter places, like reefs. They also allow you to go below the surface more easily.

You should wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer and if you would prefer to dunk your head just below the surface to check out the marine life below rather than diving down.

Inflatable life jackets and personal flotation devices definitely can hinder how far you can dive, but they will keep you safer.

Snorkel Vest and Life Jacket Benefits

Life jacket benefits

If you’re still on the fence about whether snorkel vests or a life jacket are for you, consider these benefits. You will get everything you want out of your snorkeling adventure, but you’ll just be a lot safer doing so.

  • You will have additional protection in bad weather or unsafe conditions
  • Snorkel vests and life jackets come in handy when you’re fatigued
  • You can explore different types of terrain without worrying about problems
  • You’ll be much better equipped to deal with emergencies like rip tides
  • Snorkel vests give you the ability to swim in tighter places
  • Unless you’re scuba diving, you really don’t need to be that far under the water

Even if you’re not sure if you want to wear it, having a snorkeling jacket or snorkel vest on hand as an option is a really good idea. Even if you don’t need it, there’s a good chance that someone in your group might feel much more comfortable wearing it. 

Also, since these items aren’t very expensive, you don’t need to pay all that much for top-notch peace of mind.


Whether you wear a snorkel vest or a life jacket while snorkeling is a personal decision. Still, it’s a good idea to consider wearing some form of flotation device while you’re out in the ocean. Just wearing your snorkeling mask may not be enough.

Flotation devices like life jackets can come in handy if you run into some rough weather or want to check out a more complex or deeper part of the ocean.

If anything, just keep a life jacket or snorkel vest in your car. You never know when you might need it, and it’s a great thing to have if you’re by the water.

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