Life Jackets, Flotation Belts, and other PFDs for Snorkeling

By Boss Frog's
Reserve Maui Snorkeling Gear
We specialize in Molokini Snorkeling

When it comes to snorkeling, there are a couple of main options for flotation devices: a belt, a jacket, or a snorkeling vest. They all have their pros and cons, and it can be tough to decide which one is right for you. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between these flotation devices so that you can make an informed decision about which is best for your needs. Let’s get started!

Why You Need A Personal Flotation Device

The ocean is a strong force, that can sometimes be extremely unpredictable. As we aren’t inherently buoyant, a personal flotation device can and will save your life in the event something goes wrong. Depending on where you decide to snorkel, you’ll be dealing with waves and potential rip currents that can pull you out to sea and disorient you. 

A personal flotation device allows you to use less energy while snorkeling, so not only is it helping you stay out longer it allows you to stay on top of the water. A bright-colored PFD is also recommended as it will be easier to spot you. 

Flotation Belts

A flotation belt is a strip of buoyant material, typically foam, that goes around your waist. It is easy to put on and take off and does not restrict your movement like a life jacket. Additionally, a flotation belt provides more freedom of movement than a life jacket, since you are not confined by the arms of the jacket.

These belts are highly recommended for beginner snorkelers who are confident in their swimming abilities and are comfortable in the water. Overall, these tend to be the best option for snorkeling as you they keep you floating and allow you to maneuver in the water.

Alternatively, these swim belts can be used in a variety of water aerobics and related water activities.

Life Jackets

A life jacket is a flotation device that covers your entire upper body and has straps that go around your arms and legs. Life jackets are more cumbersome than belts, but they provide more support for those who are not confident in their swimming abilities.

We recommend life jackets for children or beginner snorkelers who need extra support in the water.

Snorkeling Vests

If you are looking for a flotation device that provides more support than a belt but is not as constricting as a life jacket, then a snorkeling vest might be the right choice for you. Snorkeling vests are similar to life jackets, but they do not have straps that go around your arms and legs.

Snorkeling vests are another good option for children or beginner snorkelers who want more support than what a belt can provide.

Basic Snorkeling Safety Tips

  • Always snorkel with a buddy! You and your snorkeling partner should stay close by and keep track of each other
  • Stay aware of the waves and currents near rocks and coral reefs, both while entering the water and exiting
  • Don’t swim against the current, swim diagonally across
  • Check the local conditions, this will help you stay aware of any dangerous conditions
  • Stay aware of the local marine life and animals, and read up on any potentially dangerous ones
  • Stay hydrated, and take frequent breaks

Understanding Personal Flotation Device Ratings

It’s always good to know what your personal flotation device is meant for, as these are regulated and Coast Guard approved ratings.

  1. Type I – Provides the most buoyancy and is effective for all waters. It is designed to keep your head above water in the event you lose consciousness.
  2. Type II – Intended for calm, inland waters where a quick rescue is expected.
  3. Type III – For conscious users in calm inland waters where is a good chance of a quick rescue. Requires some effort from the user to keep their head out of the water.
  4. Type IV – Intended for calm, inland waters with heavy boat traffic where help is always present. It is designed to be thrown at someone.
  5. Type V – Intended for specific activities and can be carried. You will most likely not have to use a Type V flotation device unless doing highly specific activities.

You’re Ready to Snorkel!

So, there you have it! The three main types of flotation devices for snorkeling: are belts, jackets, and vests. If you’re still unsure of which to use before you go out, ask the local guides as to what would be best for the current conditions. It all comes down to your ability to swim in ocean waters, and how confident you are. Having the right personal flotation device is an important aspect of snorkeling safely. 

We hope that this blog post has helped you to decide which type of flotation device is best. Call us now at (808) 661-3333 to learn more and get help planning your snorkel trip.