Snorkeling Equipment: The Complete Guide To Snorkeling (Part II)
Do you Love snorkeling?
Here’s everything you need to know about snorkeling gear.
Get your flippers on with our guide to getting the most from your snorkeling
Read guide: Covering the Basics of Snorkeling
In this second installment we’ll look at equipment for snorkeling.
We often think of snorkeling as an equipment-light kind of activity, and often just rent or borrow gear when we go snorkeling. Still there are numerous advantages to having our own, or at least have an idea of what we like when we’re presented with selecting gear from a big box on the boat or dive shop.
The Basic Snorkeling Equipment
Snorkeling doesn’t require much gear, compared to scuba diving. But the lower amount of gear doesn’t make selecting that gear any less important.
Also read: What To Look For When Buying a Mask
The basics of snorkeling are a mask, fins, a snorkel, and possibly some exposure protection.
What to Look For When Choosing a Snorkeling Mask
The mask allows to see underwater, and seeing as we’re snorkeling to experience the underwater world, this is of course critical.
Make sure your mask of choice is a “real” diving or snorkeling mask. By this I mean that it should be made for the purpose of diving or snorkeling, rather than a cheap mask bought in a supermarket.
Properly constructed masks will feature shatterproof glass, and are made so they can withstand pressure if you go for breath-hold dives.
How should the Mask be designed
When choosing a mask, pick 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 to clear if water should come in, and makes it easier to equalize it if you dive below the surface.
Go for one with a good field of vision. I prefer mono-glass masks, meaning that the mask is made up with one large piece of class, rather than two pieces, one for each eye, but this is a matter of personal taste.
How to check if the Mask fit
The fit of the mask is crucial, but can be done in a few easy steps:
- Put the mask on without putting the strap around your head
- Inhale lightly through your nose
- Let the mask go
If the mask sticks to your face simply from the vacuum you create by inhaling, it has a reasonably good fit.
Put the mask strap on and exhale from your nose. You should be able to force the exhaled air out under the mask skirt without too much effort. Otherwise, emptying the mask if water comes in will be difficult.
Wear the mask for a few minutes and make note of anywhere the mask puts uncomfortable pressure on your face.
Typical places are the underside of the tip of the nose, between the eyes and on the forehead. If all of these are comfortable, you’re well on your way to finding a good mask.
Learn How to Defog a Mask
Choosing Fins for Snorkeling
Most people snorkel in warm water, so full-heel fins are the better choice here.
If you’ll be snorkeling in cold water, where you’ll be wearing booties, an open-heel fin is a better choice.
Go for a fin with a reasonable amount of flex, but stiffer around the foot.
Comfort is key, so try some on.
If you intend to do basic snorkeling, sticking to the surface, and will be travelling with them, you may want to consider a shorter fin, which is easier to pack. If you’ll be doing breath-hold diving, consider a traditional freediving, which tend to be longer and give more thrust in relation to energy used.
Choosing the Right Snorkel
A snorkel is a fairly basic piece of equipment. Go for one that isn’t too long, as the longer the snorkel is, the harder it is to breathe in.
A good, medium length will work well in making breathing easy while being elevated enough to keep it out of the water.
A variety of oneway-filters are used to prevent water from entering the snorkel, and these can be a benefit for snorkeling in choppy water, or for people looking to do breath-hold dives.
Make sure your snorkel of choice can be somehow attached to your mask strap so you don’t drop it accidentally.
Choosing a Snorkeling Wetsuit
For tropical waters, “exposure protection” may simply be swimwear and lots of SPF50.
But a rash guard can be helpful for a bit of protection against the sun and a bit of warmth for extended snorkel trips.
For cooler waters a neoprene top (short-sleeved, sleeveless or full-sleeved as you prefer) can help keep you warm, and for even cooler waters, consider a wetsuit, either a shorty or a full-length.
If you do wear any neoprene elements, do factor in the buoyancy of these, and if you chose to do any dives, consider adding a bit of weight on a weight belt to allow you to submerge. Err on the side of caution, though, and better to be a pound too light, rather than a pound too heavy, when breath-hold diving.
Do I Need To Bring a Knife for Snorkeling
Some snorkelers bring dives on their trips. Largely, these are unnecessary, as entanglement is typically not a big risk during snorkeling.
If you are going to areas where sea kelp or old fishing nets can pose a risk, a knife can be a good idea, though.
Choose a small one that can be attached on your lower leg.
Your Snorkel Equipment Setup?
What equipment do you bring on a snorkeling trip and what do you choose to rent? Have you ever had a bad snorkel equipment experience? Bad rental gear etc.? We’d love to hear your snorkel gear stories right here.
Read the next article in the series: Fine tuning your Snorkeling Skills