Diving, Gear

What Gear Do You Need To Go Snorkeling and How To Choose The Best Snorkeling Gear

Last updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Snatler

Snorkeling is an enjoyable, rewarding water activity for swimmers of all ages. Equipped with the proper snorkel, mask, and fins, you can fully immerse yourself in the scenery of an underwater world— whether it's in your backyard pool, the nearest lake, or a far-flung diving destination.

Below, we've provided a practical snorkeling equipment list to ensure you're fully prepared for your next snorkeling adventure, wherever it may be.

What gear do you need to go snorkeling?

The simplicity of snorkeling gear is one of the things that makes it so popular around the world. Unlike scuba diving which requires expensive regulators and tanks, snorkeling equipment can be relatively affordable too. All you need to get started is a snorkel, mask, and fins. If you're a dedicated snorkeler, it's worth investing in some additional gear that'll help make each swim safer and more enjoyable.

Snorkel Gear

Undoubtedly, the most important piece of snorkeling gear is your snorkel itself.

The practical swimming device allows its wearer to breathe while its nose and mouth remain underwater. But unlike scuba tanks, which come equipped with their own air supply, snorkels do not help their wearer breathe when fully submerged underwater. While there's no need to turn your head or resurface, the top of your breathing tube will need to stay above the water's surface whenever you take a breath.

Most snorkels consist of a short, J-shaped plastic tube extending from a mouthpiece or full face mask. The device should work effectively and fit comfortably in your mouth to eliminate jaw fatigue and other unnecessary distractions during your dive. Let's examine a few popular types of snorkels to ensure you find the right one.

Dry Snorkels

While no snorkel can keep out 100% of the water, a dry snorkel can get pretty close. Together, a splash guard, purge valve, and seal prevent water from entering your breathing tube and whisk away any that happens to sneak inside. This allows wearers to fully submerge themselves underwater without needing to continuously clear water out of their snorkel. Dry snorkels are an excellent choice for free-diving, spearfishing, and snorkelers who like to dive deeper to take a closer look at their surroundings.

Semi-dry snorkels

Semi-dry snorkels also come equipped with a splash guard and purge valve to prevent water from getting inside. But unlike dry snorkels, they don't create a watertight seal when fully submerged. They're comfortable, versatile, and easy to use. Plus, they create less drag than buoyant dry snorkels do.

Open-Top Snorkels

An open-top snorkel is precisely what it sounds like. The traditional swimming device consists of a mouthpiece and simple J-shaped snorkel tube without a purge valve, splash guard, or watertight seal. Though undoubtedly the most affordable option, their rigidity can lead to jaw fatigue during long dives.

Mask

Your snorkeling mask can make all the difference during your time underwater. While the right one will provide an unobstructed view of your surroundings and sit comfortably on your face, the wrong one will fog up, leak, and make it impossible to see. Some divers prefer to use masks with a built-in snorkel or a full-face snorkel mask.

Traditional Snorkel Mask

A traditional snorkeling mask is easy to wear with a mask strap to adjust your face. They are much cheaper than full-face snorkel masks, but you must purchase snorkel gear separately. It can be uncomfortable and hard to empty the water if water does go in.

Full Face Snorkeling Mask

Some will say full-face snorkeling masks are the best snorkel mask as they give you a wider view, are more comfortable, and a more natural way to breathe using both nose and mouth. However, compared to traditional masks, full-face masks are much more expensive.

full face snorkel mask

Snorkel Fins

Snorkeling fins help you move through the water with ease. Try snorkeling without them, and you'll see what a difference they make! There are two main types of fins to keep an eye out for: standard open-heel fins and full-foot fins.

The main difference between the two is the open-heel fins are typically worn with a thick-soled dive bootie, and the full-foot fin can be worn barefoot. This means open-heel fins are a better choice for colder water activities.

Anti-Fog Mask Cleaner

A foggy mask is the fastest way to ruin a great snorkeling trip. You must clean your snorkel mask well before hitting the water. Not only can greasy sunscreen residue, fingerprints, and other particles inside your mask drive you crazy, but they can also attract moisture that interferes with your vision. While every experienced snorkeler and scuba diver seems to have their own unique cleaning technique— toothpaste, baby shampoo, saliva— we suggest sticking with a reliable anti-fog mask cleaner designed specifically for the task.

Wetsuit

Wetsuits are essential for cold water activities— whether it's snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, or boogie boarding along the shore. Though a bit of an investment upfront, they're certainly worth the splurge if you spend a lot of time in the water. With proper care between uses, a wetsuit can last through years of frequent use.

Snorkeling Vest

Snorkeling vests are personal floatation devices designed specifically for snorkeling. Unlike your average life vest, they allow the wearer to swim face-down while keeping them afloat in the water.

Though it may seem a bit uncool to wear one, it can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. Should you have a heart attack, muscle cramp, or health problem in the water, your snorkeling vest will keep you afloat until help arrives. But your life vest will do more than just increase your safety in the water. It'll conserve your energy when treading water, boost your confidence in strong currents, and ensure you're clearly visible to passing boats.

Surface Marker Buoy or Dive Flag

A dive flag or surface marker buoy (SMB for short) is a crucial piece of safety equipment for open water swimming and snorkeling. As the name suggests, the small inflatable device floats on the surface to indicate the diver's position in the water below to boat traffic and fellow snorkelers.

Many popular snorkeling destinations have laws requiring snorkelers and divers to use a dive flag or buoy. It's worth tossing one in your gear bag to ensure you're fully prepared for any snorkeling scenario.

A person snorkeling

FAQs

Is it better to rent or bring your own snorkeling gear?

Rent snorkeling gear sure does save packing space, especially the fins. The fins can be bulky and awkward, while masks and snorkel are light and take up minimal space. If you want to bring your own snorkel gear but have limited space, renting fins and bringing the rest yourself is best.

The biggest advantage of having your own snorkel gear is you will never have to put on a snorkel that has been in other people's mouths. Buying snorkel gear also ensures that your gear fits on your properly and comfortably.

Another thing to consider is how often you will be snorkeling. If you snorkel once or twice a year, it may be worth investing in your own gear. But if you rarely snorkel, then rent may make more sense.

What are the best snorkel gear brands?

The answer to this question will depend on the individual snorkeler. However, six brands offer high-quality snorkel gear that you can find online and in dive shops: Cressi, AquaLung, US Divers, Promate, TUSA, and Seavenger.

Can kids use adult snorkeling gear?

Kids over the age of 12 can transition into adult-size snorkeling gear. Depending on your kids, the adult gear may not fit them properly, and it's best to stick with kids' snorkeling gear. The best way to determine if they can or can not use adult snorkel gear is to have them try it on.

How to clean snorkeling gear?

The snorkel set should be cleaned after each use. First, rinse your snorkel gear set with fresh water to remove any debris or sand. Then soak them in warm water with a silicone-based cleaning solution or mild dish soap. Never use a cleaner that contains alcohol or petroleum. Also, only use warm water and not hot water. Rinse them in warm water and wipe all gears dry using a nonabrasive cloth. Once they are dry, you can store them away in gear bags.

About the Author

Ben Snatler

Ben is a veteran boat captain, scuba instructor and sailing instructor. He grew up on boats and spent nearly the past 20 years working on all types of boats, yachts and even cruises doing all sorts of jobs, from maintenance to safety. He is fully certified with the american sailing association.