Choosing The Best Snorkel Gear
Earth’s oceans cover over 70% of our planet yet the majority of it is undiscovered. This makes underwater exploration that much more fun and snorkeling is a great way to do so. Snorkeling allows you to experience new sights and immerse yourself in the wonders of our oceans. It’s a simple and fun activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, young or old. Snorkeling is by far the easiest water sport to learn and requires little gear or any prior training. However, it’s more than just a one-time activity to do on your family vacation, it’s an exciting experience that offers limitless possibilities for exploration!
How to Choose the Right Size Snorkel Gear
The snorkel mask is the most important equipment for snorkeling, as it allows you to see underwater. When buying a mask, there are a number of things to look out for. The most important thing to make sure of when buying a mask is that it’s made specifically for snorkeling or diving.
You want to choose a mask with a lens made from impact resistant, shatterproof glass so it can withstand pressure while you swim deeper underwater. Do not purchase one made from plastic, as they cannot withstand high amounts of pressure.
Snorkeling masks are either high or low volume, which simply refers to the amount of air inside the mask. Avoid high volume masks, as they trap in an excess amount of air. They also sit farther away from your face, creating more buoyancy. I recommend purchasing a low volume mask. These are easier to seal and create less pressure that you have to equalize as you dive deeper into the water. Also, in the event that water does seep into the mask, it’s much easier to remove.
There are a number of different types of lenses.
- Classic lens – This lens has one large piece of glass. Your nose sits inside the mask. These are high volume and don’t seal well.
- One lens – This is the most popular type of mask. These have a separate nose pocket and allow you to see forward without obstruction. However, the downside of these masks is that they usually have less room for your nose bridge.
- Split/two lens – These masks provide more room for a bigger nose bridge and are generally low volume.
- Three/four lens – These masks add side windows, allowing better peripheral vision and more light to enter. They merely allow you to see motion more naturally. The downside of these is that adding the side windows increases volume.
The strap should feel snug at the widest area towards the top back of your head. If you wear the strap at the base of your head, water will seep in. So, if you’re out swimming and find water seeping into your mask, check the placement of the strap, it may be too low.
Another thing to consider when purchasing a mask is the material of the skirt or the lining that seals the mask around your face. Skirts are made from either plastic or silicone. Plastic skirts are generally cheap and low quality. They’re less flexible, don’t properly seal on your face, and don’t last long. You want to avoid masks with plastic skirts. Instead, choose one that has a silicone skirt. They’re more durable, form a better seal, and can last for years.
Another thing that’s extremely important is for your mask to properly fit your face. To check if it fits, hold the mask up to your face and breathe in through your nose. If the mask seals perfectly and stays in place without holding it, it fits. If air leaks into the mask, it doesn’t fit. Don’t wear the mask too tight, as the water should apply enough pressure to secure the mask in place.
The snorkel is a curved tube that enables you to breathe with your face underwater. Snorkels are typically shaped like an “L” or a “J” and are made out of plastic or rubber. On one end of the snorkel is the mouthpiece that allows you to breathe. On the other end is a hole that sticks out of the water, through which air travels to your mouth.
When purchasing a snorkel, it’s most important to choose one that is long, comfortable for your mouth, and easy to clean water out of. It’s also recommended to purchase a snorkel with a wave deflector. This attaches to the top of the tube and reduces the amount of water that enters into it so you don’t swallow water when going under a wave.
Fins are also essential for snorkeling. Without them, you won’t be able to swim properly. They protect your feet from scrapes and allow you to tread water more easily, saving you energy. When choosing a pair of fins, it’s also important to make sure they fit you properly. They should fit snugly on your feet. However, they shouldn’t be too tight. There should not be any hard spots rubbing against your foot, as this will create blisters. Another thing to note is that they are more difficult to put on when your feet are dry. Once you get your feet wet, it’ll be much easier.
There are two main types of heels on fins– closed foot and open foot. Closed foot fins weigh less than open foot fins, making it easier to move your body in the water. Open foot fins, on the other hand, have a strap around the back of your heel, allowing you to wear a boot in the water. But this is not necessary for snorkeling. Open foot fins can be stiffer, heavier, and bulkier than closed foot fins. If you’re a casual snorkeler, choose a pair of closed foot fins.
The blade of the fin also differs. The two main types of blades are paddle fins and split fins. Paddle fins are the standard type of fins. These allow you to accelerate more quickly and offer good control and maneuverability when swimming near coral. However, your leg strokes in these fins will be long, slow, and powerful, offering less speed than split fins. Split fins are designed to send the water force directly behind you, which propels you forward more easily. Your leg strokes are smaller, easier, and more rapid, allowing you to move forward more easily. The downside of these is that you have less control over your movement in the water because you’re not pushing against it as much.
As I said before, your fins should fit snugly on your feet but not too tight. However, if you’re unable to find a pair that fits perfectly, go for the one that’s a little too big rather than too small. Your feet are going to hurt if they’re too small, making swimming a challenge.
You don’t necessarily need a wetsuit for snorkeling, but it may be a good idea if the water is cold. When buying a wetsuit, some questions to ask yourself are where will you be snorkeling, what the time of year will be, and what the air temperature will be?
If you’re going to be snorkeling in a tropical area with water temperatures between 65 to 75℉, choose a wetsuit that’s between 2-3mm thick. For cooler water temperatures, you’re going to want something thicker to protect you from the cold.
Wetsuits can be either short or long. Short wetsuits, called springsuits, are ideal for warmer temperatures. Long wetsuits are ideal for cooler temperatures.
Wetsuits are supposed to have a snug fit, but not too snug. They’re usually made from neoprene material, which protects you from the cold. However, the thicker the neoprene, the more challenging it is to put on. A tip for putting your wetsuit no is to put it on over your socks, as the neoprene slides over your feet more easily.
Our Top Snorkel Gear Recommendations
Snorkel and Masks
Speedo Hyperfluid Mask/Snorkel/Fin Set
The Speedo Hyperfluid Mask/Snorkel/Fin Set comes with both a snorkel and a mask. This set is basic and to the point. The mask has four lenses, providing peripheral vision, and a silicone skirt to seal it into place. The snorkel comes with a wave deflector, making it splash resistant to those unexpected waves.
Speedo Hyperfluid Mask/Snorkel/Fin Set is a great choice for a one-time snorkel. However, because it’s very basic, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the Speedo Hyperfluid Mask/Snorkel/Fin Set if you’re going to be snorkeling more than just one time.
Speedo Reefseeker Mask, Snorkel, and Fin Set
Speedo’s Reefseeker Mask, Snorkel, and Fin Set comes with everything you need in one! It has a double lens mask with tempered glass and a stretchy strap to provide you comfort. The snorkel has a wave deflector, allowing you to confidently go under waves, and a pair of closed foot, paddle fins. It even comes with a bag to store all of your new gear in.
The Reefseeker set is a little pricey, going for $69.95. It may not be the best purchase if you’re going to be snorkeling just once, but if you plan on going out more often, this is a great choice.
TYR Voyager Mask Snorkel Fin Set
The TYR Voyager Mask Snorkel Fin Set is for more serious snorkelers. The unabridged anterior of the voyager mask delivers extended peripheral vision for 360 degrees, offering great field-of-view. The fins are constructed with hydroflex technology which means each fin is built to maximize power output and fluid movement through the water while using minimal energy and avoiding lower leg strain. Its upward turned edges eliminate discomfort while side foot vents enable drainage and treaded soles increase grip. In this package, you’ll find everything you need for underwater excitement.
Bullet Head Snorkel
The Bullet Head Snorkel is ideal for fast swimmers looking for stability. This snorkel is hydrodynamic yet has a minimalist design to promote excellent stability at high speeds. It has a silicone, adjustable headband to provide you comfort and a removable silicone mouthpiece for easy cleaning.
Xenon Full Wetsuit
The Xenon Full Wetsuit is one of the top wetsuits on the market right now. Its neoprene material is 1.5mm thick, making this long wetsuit good for warmer temperatures. It has a special coating that keeps the suit from sticking to your skin and a comfortable collar holds tight while still reducing chafing. Whether its snorkeling or scuba diving, this is the wetsuit of choice by both beginners and experts.
Dolphin 2.2 Zipfree
The Dolphin 2.2 Zipfree is designed for performance. The best thing about the Dolphin is that it’s an eco-friendly wetsuit! Unlike other suits that are made of neoprene, this is made from 2.2mm thick Limestone stretch technology and recycled polyester from used plastic bottles. It is a long wetsuit, keeping you comfortable regardless of the temperature. More commonly used for scuba or deep sea diving, the Dolphin 2.2 Zipfree is also a possibility for snorkeling in colder temperatures.
O’Neill Epic 4/3 Wetsuit
The O’Neill Epic Series has many of the same great features as O’Neill’s high-end wetsuits, including 100% UltraFlex neoprene, double seal neck closure, LSD (lumbar seamless design) and re-engineered covert blackout zip. It is made with Ultranex neoprene and an interior thermal lining designed to absorb body heat. Unlike the other wetsuits listed here, the Full Zip comes with a hood. This wetsuit is ideal for snorkeling or scuba diving in colder temperatures.
Hammer 1.5 MM Long Sleeve Crew Rashguard
If you don’t need a full wetsuit, consider a rashguard. The Hammer 1.5mm Long Sleeve Crew Rashguard is designed for performance. It’s made from 100% Super Stretch material, giving you a free range of motion while fitting snugly on your body. It’s almost as if you have a second layer of skin. So, if you don’t need a heavy duty rashguard, you should check out other options.
Speedo Fitness Rashguard
The Speedo Fitness Rashguard is one of our favorite rashguards. It offers 50+ UV protection to shield your torso from the sun, is Short-sleeve, loose-fit rashguard, and has a chafe-free design. If you’re looking for a basic and affordable rashguard, I highly recommend this one.
Basic Skins Short Sleeve Rashguard – Women’s
The O’Neill Basic Skins Short Sleeve Rashguard is the women’s version of the O’Neill Basic Skins Rash Tee Shirt. The Basic Skins offers 50+ UV Protection with cleanly designed graphics and minimal seam placement for rash prevention.
Carve Designs Cruz-Rashguard – Women’s
The Cruz Rashguard is a lightweight, long sleeve rashguard. It offers 50+ UV protection with long sleeves and a zip up collar for maximum coverage. Its quick dry fabric is great for water sports or hiking and the zip neck and shirred sides allow for flattering fitted shape and cooling options.
Psycho Tech SL 3MM Diving Gloves
You should never touch coral, but if you accidentally do then gloves are a great way to protect your hands from scrapes. The Psycho Tech SL 3mm Diving Gloves is one of the highest-quality pair of diving gloves on the market. They’re used by world-class athletes as well as snorkelers and scuba divers.
Sub Pluma Snorkeling Fins
The Sub Pluma Snorkeling Fins are my favorite pair of fins. These closed foot paddle fins are lightweight and comfortable. Your insert your foot into the bottom of the fin, offering a bigger thrust area and excellent protection for your feet.
Sub Pro Light Fins
The Sub Pro Light Fins are a pair of open foot, paddle fins. These are made of a lightweight weight design, allowing you to kick more easily. However, I wouldn’t recommend open fins if you’re not going to wear a boot.
Open Diving Fin
The Seac USA Corp. Open Diving Fin is designed for high-performance swimming. Like the Sub Pro, it also has an open foot, paddle fin. The anatomic foot pocket, roomy and comfortable, features a vulcanized rubber strap with new quick-adjustment buckles that are simple, practical and efficient.
After reading this snorkeling buyer’s guide, I hope you feel more confident when buying your gear. So, the next time you’re thinking about going for a swim in the ocean, grab your snorkel, mask, and fins, and transform it into an underwater adventure. Whether you’re snorkeling with the sea creatures in your local beach or exploring unique species in a far away ocean, you’re bound to have an exciting time!