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How To Choose the Best Snorkeling Gear For Your Next Vacation

How To Choose the Best Snorkeling Gear For Your Next Vacation

Posted by David Morgan on May 27th 2022

Because snorkeling is such a popular activity for those who live and vacation near the ocean, the equipment is very simple and easy to find.

The basic snorkeling gear includes a snorkel, mask, and fins but there are several different styles of gear, accessories, and additional tips for choosing snorkeling gear of your own.

Snorkel Mart has outlined exactly what gear you need, what you don't need, and how to make sure your equipment works properly before heading into the ocean. 

How To Choose Snorkeling Equipment

When shopping for snorkeling equipment, don't be afraid to ask for help to ensure you’re getting the best products for your next snorkeling trip.

  • Buy a Silicone Seal Mask– Ensure that the mask you’re buying is silicone and not plastic. It should have a nose covering and goggles molded together with a strong silicone seal to prevent slipping.
  • Look for a Quality Snorkel- The best snorkels will have a soft mouthpiece that doesn’t require a lot of “biting” to hold in place, and have a lip guard to stop saltwater from getting into the mouthpiece. 
  • Find Fins that Fit Your Feet– Try on fins as you would try on shoes. They should hug your feet, but not squeeze them. Fins should be easy to walk in without falling off but lose enough that they don’t cut into your skin.

What To Look for When Choosing a Snorkeling Mask

When you start shopping for a snorkel mask, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices available.

There are really only three things that matter when choosing a snorkel mask:

  1. Construction - Make sure the mask is a “real” diving or snorkeling mask. It should purposefully be made for snorkeling, not just swimming.
  2. Design- When choosing a mask, be sure to consider different lenses and materials used. You want to pick the design that feels comfortable while providing a good field of vision.
  3. Fit – To test the fit of your mask, put the mask on your face without putting the strap around your head. Inhale lightly through your nose and put your hands down. If the mask stays on your face, and is comfortable, it’s the perfect choice. 
  4. Cost of Snorkeling Mask – There’s a wide range of pricing in snorkel masks. You can find a quality mask for as little as $20 or a mask full of extra features for up to $200. There is no reason to spend more than necessary to get the product that best fits your needs. 

How To Get Perfect Snorkeling Fins

  • While fins are not required for snorkeling, most users agree they make a world of difference. If you choose to use fins for snorkeling, here are a few tips to choose the perfect pair.
  • Choose the Style - Choosing your first pair of fins is simple. There are two main options you can pick from:
    • Full Foot - these wrap completely around your foot like a sock. They should be snug and comfortable. A thin Lycra sock can be worn to help prevent rub spots.
    • Open Heel - these fins fit more like a sandal with a strap on the back that keeps your foot in place. The fins do not cover the entire sole of your foot and the strap is adjustable to fit your comfort level. Open heel fins may be worn with or without dive boots.
  • Try It OnStart with your normal shoe size and try on both styles. Pay attention to the length of the foot pocket. If you’re going to be wearing the fins barefoot, then try them on barefoot in-store too! It is normal to wiggle and struggle to get your fins on the first time. As long as they are comfortable once you get them on, they are a good choice.
  • Use Fin Socks – If you prefer the feel of socks under your fins, you can find fin socks made of Lycra or thin neoprene. Socks can also be a good option if you’re between sizes and the fins feel a bit loose.
  • Fin Tightness - The fin should be just tight enough to keep the fin on your foot without squeezing any part of the skin. If you need to tighten excessively, the foot pocket is likely too big. Your fins should be comfortable enough for you to swim for a couple of hours without getting chafes or sore spots.
  • Cost of Snorkeling Fins - Decent snorkel fins typically start around $15 and can climb up to $200. The wide range in price is due to the additional technology, fabrication, and different fin materials. However, most first-time snorkelers find that the simple, inexpensive fins are the perfect choice. 

How To Find the Perfect Snorkel

A good snorkel is an essential part of your snorkeling gear. Your snorkel is the tube that allows you to breathe air while your face is in the water, clearly it’s a critical piece of your snorkeling experience.

  • Select the Type - There are three main types of snorkels. Unless you are an experienced diver, we always recommend starting with a dry snorkel.
    • Dry – This style has a self-regulating valve that senses the difference in weight between air and water. It seals automatically when submerged and reopens when you resurface. This makes your snorkeling experience easier while automatically keeping water out of the tube.
    • Semi-Dry - Semi-Dry snorkels have a splash guard at the top. While semi-dry snorkels keep out a majority of water, they do not block your air source completely as dry snorkels will. They allow even breathing and more flexibility on choppy days, but you'll still need to clear it.
    • Open Top -As the name suggests, these snorkels have a completely open top. Some have a purge valve at the bottom for easier clearing, some don’t.
  • Look for a Purge Valve and Splash Guard - A purge is helpful in clearing the water out of the snorkel and the splash guard minimizes water entry while at the surface.
  • Check the Material - Cheap snorkels typically use Silitex, Silita or PVC as a silicone substitute. These are all hard materials, which makes the snorkel uncomfortable to use. They can also warp and lose their shape over time. Look for an authentic silicone mouthpiece. It should feel soft and flexible.
  • Tube - The snorkel tube itself should be a rigid, circular cross section tube.
  • Mask Strap Retainers – The snorkel retainer is the small section that connects the mask to the snorkel tube. Simple snorkels typically have clasp retainers that are simple, but difficult to adjust once the mask and snorkel are on. Instead, look for retainers that allow the snorkel to slide up and down for optimal positioning.
  • Lower Curved Section – The lower section of the snorkel should round towards the mouth and fit comfortably without pulling.
  • Chamber and Mouthpiece - For comfort, the entire mouthpiece chamber should be made from 100% pure high grade silicone.
  • Cost of a Snorkel – A dry snorkel may cost anywhere from $40 to $70 dollars, whereas a traditional open top snorkel is closer to $10 to $20, but more difficult to use and has less features. 

Additional Snorkeling Equipment

Aside from your mask, fins, and snorkel, there are a few additional pieces of snorkeling gear you may be interested in to make your experience more comfortable.

  • Snorkeling Vest – For swimmers with less stamina or those who aren’t confident in their swim skills, a vest is great for buoyancy. It simply keeps you floating at the surface with minimal effort.
  • UV Protection - Snorkelers spend a lot of time with their back exposed to the sun, so they should be protected against UV rays as well as any possible stings or burns from marine life. A UV swim shirt is a great option.
  • Snorkeling Bags – A snorkeling bag, or swim bag is a great way to keep your snorkel gear in one place. Choose one that is easy to carry and uniquely marked so you don’t get your stuff mixed up with another.

Buying vs Renting Snorkeling Gear

Anywhere you will be snorkeling, you’ll have the option to rent snorkel equipment, or bring your own.

There are pros and cons to each choice.

Renting Snorkeling Gear

  • Allows you to travel lighter
  • No concern about leaving something at home or on a boat or at the resort
  • Costs less if you’re not a frequent snorkeler

Buying Snorkeling Gear

  • More likely to make time for snorkeling in the future
  • Equipment will likely be more comfortable and more sanitary than rental equipment
  • Right size of mask and fins with no risk that they “run out” of your size

FAQs About Snorkeling Gear

How do I know what kind of snorkel to get?

We recommend snorkelers start with a dry top because it’s the best way to keep water from entering the tube. As you practice your breath control, you can move to a more traditional snorkel. A semi-dry top is a little bit of both worlds and is a good choice for those who also go diving.

Do I need a specific type of snorkeling fin?

Any fins will work for snorkeling. However, snorkel fins tend to be shorter than scuba or freedive fins because you’re staying closer to the surface.

Should I rent or buy snorkeling gear?

Buying snorkel gear is the best way to ensure that your gear will fit properly and comfortably and is the most sanitary option.

There are so many snorkel masks out there. How do I choose the right one?

The most important feature of a mask is comfort. Make sure you can try it on in the store, or the online purchase has a reliable return policy. Once you find a brand/style that is comfortable, consider your field-of-view preferences, lens, and skirt coloring. The right mask should fit naturally and comfortably so that you barely even know it’s there.

Are You Up For the Adventure?

Snorkeling is an easy sport that allows you to explore a whole new world with minimal equipment.

With reliable snorkeling gear that is comfortable, reliable, and easy to use, you’ll enjoy hours of under-the-sea exploration you’ve never seen before.

Join the millions who have discovered the joy of snorkeling in coral reefs, caves, and open water oceans around the globe.