Best Scuba Diving Vests

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

51 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best scuba diving vests

Whether you need a lightweight alternative to a wetsuit for use in warm water or want to add an extra layer of insulation on a cold day, look no further than a scuba diving vest. More commonly known as rash vests or wetsuit vests, these garments keep your core warm and protect your skin while allowing your arms full range of motion.

Your perfect scuba diving vest will vary depending on how you intend to use it. Someone who wants to wear it as a rash vest for surfing will probably choose a different model than someone who wants to wear it under a wetsuit to scuba dive in frigid conditions. Scuba vests are meant to be lightweight, so bear this in mind when choosing one. This means they can fit under a wetsuit for cold-water use and won't cause you to overheat when using one alone in warm water. You'll also want to pay particular attention to sizing because a good fit is essential. 

Read our buying guide for all the information you need to help you find your ideal scuba diving vest. We've also included our top vests for your consideration.

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Wearing a scuba vest under your wetsuit can help prevent chafing on cold days.

Key considerations

Purpose

Despite the name, scuba diving vests aren't just used just for scuba diving; they have a range of other uses, too. How you plan to use your vest will determine the right one for you.

Scuba vests are often paired with either board shorts or wetsuit pants for surfing. The vest protects your chest and torso when lying on the board and paddling without making you too hot in warm-water conditions. You may also wear a wetsuit vest for swimming, kayaking, or other water sports when it's too hot for a full wetsuit but not quite warm enough to go without.

When used for scuba diving, you have two options. You can wear just a scuba vest and scuba pants if you're diving in warm water and aren't going too deep (since water temperatures drop the deeper you go). Or you can wear your scuba vest under a full wetsuit in cold water to give your torso and vital organs an extra layer of insulation.

Thickness

Scuba diving vests are intentionally lightweight since they're either used on warm days or as extra insulation. They're made from either 2- or 3-millimeter-thick neoprene. On its own, this thickness is ideal for prolonged use in waters of 71°F and above or use for a short amount of time in waters of 65°F and up. Alternatively, you can layer your vest under a 2- or 3-millimeter wetsuit for use in cold water of 54°F and up or beneath a 4- or 5-millimeter suit in cold water below 54°F.

Size

Your wetsuit vest should be snug but not so tight that it's uncomfortable. If the vest is too large, it will let in too much water and won't keep you warm. Plus, if you wear it under a wetsuit that does fit correctly and snugly, it will bunch up. All manufacturers provide a sizing chart that tells you the measurement of each size in inches. Measure yourself in the required spots (for scuba vests, you usually only need to measure around the largest part of your chest) and you should have a well-fitting vest. However, check customer reviews because some vests can run either large or small.

Stitching

The seams on scuba vests have different types of stitching, each with its own benefits and properties. 

Flatlock stitching involves laying the edges of each panel over the other and stitching through. The resulting seams are strong and flexible, but they let a fair amount of water through, which is fine for warm weather use but not great when diving in cold conditions.

Overlock stitching is when the edges of the panels are rolled together and then stitched. It's a simple and effective way to make the seams watertight, but it results in greatly decreased flexibility, so it's usually only found on cheap wetsuit vests. 

Blindstitched seams are glued together before being stitched on the inside. This effectively keeps water out, so they’re often found on vests designed for use under a wetsuit in cold water.

Not all neoprene is created equal. Spending more on a vest from a well-known brand means you're likely to end up with better-quality neoprene.

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Features

Hood

Some scuba diving vests have a hood to keep your head warm when you're underwater. Since humans lose a good portion of their body heat through the head, a hood is essential when diving in chilly waters. If you're buying a scuba diving vest to wear under your wetsuit when it's cold, it makes sense to buy one with a hood since it saves you from purchasing a hood separately.

Zippers

Some scuba diving vesta are fastened using a zipper up the front, whereas others simply pull on over the head like a sweater. Those without zippers are better for use under wetsuits because it reduces the chance of chafing. Scuba vests with zips tend to be easier to put on, however. If you choose a vest with a zipper, look for YKK zippers because they're industrial-marine-grade quality and proven to be reliable over time.

Sealed seams

By sealing the seams on a wetsuit vest, less water can seep through. 

Liquid-taped seams are the best option available because they're comfortable, flexible, and 100% waterproof. 

Full-taped seams are second best and usually significantly more affordable. 

Spot-taped seams are only taped on the most crucial areas, which is better than nothing but not ideal.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Scuba diving vests leave your arms free, allowing you a better range of motion for swimming and water sports that require flexibility.
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Scuba diving vest prices

Inexpensive: Basic scuba diving vests from little-known manufacturers are as low as $20 to $30. These are fine for occasional use, but if you're serious about diving or other water sports, they probably won't cut it. 

Mid-priced: For between $30 and $50, you can find some excellent if fairly simple vests, including some from well-known brands. 

Expensive: High-end scuba vests cost from $50 to $100. These are made using the latest wetsuit technologies (especially at the top of the price range), and some have extras like a built-in hood.

Smooth skin scuba vests often feel slightly warmer than standard vests because water runs straight off them, but they're more delicate and wear out more easily.

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Tips

  • Consider how you'll use your diving vest. Those used for surfing or similar need to be durable because they experience more wear and tear. Vests worn under wetsuits are more comfortable if they don't have a zipper. 
  • Look for a good return policy. No matter how carefully you check the sizing chart, sometimes you can end up with a vest that has a cut that just doesn't work for you. In this case, free and easy returns are a must. 
  • Learn how your scuba vest works. Scuba diving vests keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of insulating water — warmed by your body heat — between your skin and the vest. Worn under a wetsuit, it gives you an extra layer of neoprene to keep your core warm.
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When surfing, snorkeling, or partaking in other sports where you aren't fully underwater, a rash vest offers you some protection from the sun.

FAQ

Q. Are scuba diving vests good for kids? 

A. Since children are unlikely to be undertaking any deep-sea diving, scuba diving vests can be a good introduction to wetsuits for kids. They're great for a range of activities, including snorkeling and surfing on warm days, plus they offer some protection from the sun while kids are playing in the water. They feel less restrictive than full wetsuits or even shortie wetsuits, so children are often more comfortable in them. 

Q. How do I keep my scuba vest in good condition? 

A. Scuba vests don't need loads of care and attention to maintain their condition, but you need to be careful how you handle your vest after use. It's a good idea to rinse your vest in freshwater after you've worn it in the ocean to remove any salt deposits, then hang it to air-dry. Never fold or twist your vest while it's wet, and always make sure it's fully dry before putting it away to prevent mold and mildew. 

Q. Do scuba diving vests really keep you warm? 

A. The answer to this isn't quite as simple as yes or no. It depends on the conditions. When worn alone (obviously with something on your bottom half), scuba vests are designed for use in warm water, such as in tropical climates or the Mediterranean in the summer. On the other hand, when worn under a standard full-length wetsuit, a diving vest is a great extra layer of insulation in cold water.

 

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