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Better Buoyancy: Seaview Palawan Inflatable Snorkeling Vest Review

Seaview Palawan Inflatable Vest(Photo/Palawan)
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Ditch the orange rectangle: Palawan’s adjustable snorkeling vest lets snorkelers choose whether they want to bob gently along the surface or get up close and personal with the ocean floor.

In life, everyone gets a late start at something. For me, it was swimming in the ocean. As a kid, I’d spent years swimming in the lakes, pools, and even some questionable rivers in the Midwest.

So, when the opportunity to do some snorkeling around the Mexican island of Cozumel came up, I was eager to give it a try. Already a strong swimmer, I’d spent the last few weeks doing laps in the pool at the local YMCA to prepare myself for my first dunk in the ocean. When a friend and guide suggested I purchase a specialized snorkeling vest, I was skeptical. I asked what he’d recommend.

“I’ve got this one,” he said in the group chat. “It’s a little bougie, but it works great.”

I opened the link, and there was the Palawan — $80 worth of neoprene, 350D nylon, and poly webbing. After a few minutes of hunting for alternatives, I decided to go with the expert’s recommendation. And boy, am I glad that I did.

Seaview Palawan Inflatable Vest
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Why Use an Inflatable Snorkeling Vest?

Life jackets are usually fairly bulky, right? And when I imagined my first time in the ocean, gliding above the reefs and fish, the thought of one of those bulky, orange rectangles with a head-hole cut in the middle really spoiled the picture.

But this maritime marvel — the Seaview Palawan Inflatable Vest — was specifically designed “for leisure surface snorkeling and other low impact water sports,” according to the marketing material. So, I was looking forward to trying out the contoured fit of the Palawan.

And, the day after arriving at the resort, I finally got the chance.

After figuring out the adjustment points in the shoulder and side straps, I was able to secure the vest with little difficulty. Its fit, much like I’d hoped, was more of a snug, comforting presence than the standard flotation device.

In just a few minutes, I was stroking effortlessly out into the cove. Over the next couple of hours, the thick straps kept the Palawan securely in place, and the Velcro-like material on the side closure never so much as slipped.

Seaview Palawan Inflatable Vest - velcro
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

Ease of Inflation

The vest features a lock valve on its air system, posted near the end of the tube that runs up one shoulder. To inflate the vest, you simply press down on the tab and blow into the tube. It takes only about two to three deep breaths, after which the valve springs back into place.

Snorkeling is fun and all, but sometimes you want to get up close and personal with a rock formation. This is where my favorite trick of the Palawan comes into play.

In order to shed your buoyancy, all you have to do is press the valve down with your finger. The water surrounding you will force the air up and out of the tube, leaving you more or less at the mercy of your own swimming. After deflating the vest, I was able to dive down several feet without much added effort.

Then, when I felt like taking a break, a quick puff or two back into the tube was all it took to bring me back to a leisurely equilibrium.

Seaview Palawan Inflatable Vest - valve
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

It should be mentioned that Seaview included a locking mechanism on the tube. I didn’t wind up using it, because I enjoyed the fluidity of inflating and deflating at will. But if you’re worried about bumping the release, the valve can be twisted away from its open indicator and into a locked position.

Pay to Play

At just under $80, the Palawan may seem a bit pricey for a piece of specialty equipment. This becomes especially true when you search its competitors on Amazon. There’s a wealth of options out there, most clocking in at well under half the price of this luxury model.

But, for my money, the thoughtful design of this vest is worth every cent of its added cost. The comfort, ease of use, and quality of its materials far and away exceed the cheaper options on the market. And, if a situation had arisen where I truly needed to rely on its buoyancy, the solid construction gives me additional peace of mind.

Palawan Inflatable Vest
(Photo/Josh Wussow)

So, if you’re looking for a lightweight, form-fitting alternative on your next snorkeling or boating trip, the Palawan inflatable vest might just be for you. It helped make my first swim in the ocean a memorable one, and I’m happy to pass on the recommendation.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’ll be looking for another excuse to get back to the beach.

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