How to choose the right snorkel and different types of snorkels
Providing the right snorkel mask, plus full-face masks vs. traditional mask-and-snorkel sets
Here’s everything you need to know about snorkeling gear.
If you’re looking for more information on snorkeling techniques, we cover the basics here.
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When choosing a snorkeling mask, opt for one with a relatively small volume, meaning that the air space trapped inside the mask isn’t larger than necessary. This will make it easier for you to clear it of water, should any seep in. A small-volume mask is also easier to equalize if you dive below the surface.
Also consider the mask’s field of vision when you’re making a choice. If necessary, you might consider getting a prescription snorkel mask. The two types of masks you’ll encounter are single lens, meaning that the mask is made with one large piece of glass, and dual lens, which means that there’s a separate piece of glass for each eye with a divider in the middle. Though most snorkelers prefer a single lens, this is a matter of personal taste.
In warm water, full-heel fins are the better choice, since all you need to do is slip them over your bare feet.
However, if you’ll be snorkeling in cold water and you’ll be wearing booties, an open-heel fin is the right choice.
Scuba divers can use their fins to snorkel, but fins purchased specifically for snorkeling might not be up to the job when it comes to diving. Read about some key differences between dive fins and snorkel fins here.
When it comes to fin construction, look for fins with a reasonable amount of flexibility but stiffness around the foot. If you intend to stick to the water’s surface and will be traveling with them, you may want to consider shorter fins, which are easier to pack. If, however, you’ll be doing breath-hold diving, consider traditional freediving fins, which tend to be longer and give more thrust in relation to energy used.
Classic J-style snorkel
This is likely what you picture when you think of a snorkel. It consists of a simple plastic tube, bent in the shape of a J, and a mouthpiece. The most affordable snorkel, the J-style is great for beginners as it’s easy to use, though it can easily flood with water if the top is submerged.
This type of snorkel features a valve at the top that completely blocks water and air from entering when it’s fully submerged. There’s also a purge valve at the base, making it quite easy to expel water from the tube once you resurface. This is a great choice for snorkelers who want to duck dive and resurface without constantly clearing the snorkel tube, but the top valve can become blocked, which makes it difficult to breathe.
The semi-dry snorkel offers a great combination of a classic and dry snorkel. A splash guard at the top prevents water from entering the tube, and some also feature a purge valve at the base. Tubes can be constructed of rigid or flexible plastic. Note that some of the purge valves and splash guards work with a moving mechanism, which is not ideal if a grain of sand or small particulate gets stuck, causing the mechanism to break or leak.
Finally, flexible snorkels are great for both snorkelers and scuba divers. The flexible tube features a purge valve and fits more snugly around the face than a traditional J-style snorkel. There is no valve at the top to block water from entering, however, and if any particulate matter gets stuck in the bottom purge valve, the tube can become blocked.
When it’s time to make your choice, opt for a snorkel that isn’t too long in relation to your face and head shape, as the longer the snorkel is, the harder it will be to breathe from. Make sure you can attach your snorkel to your mask strap, either via a plastic hook on the snorkel itself or a snorkel keeper, to make sure you don’t lose it mid-snorkeling session.
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