Marine life on Discovery channel and National Geographic is intriguing to look at. Don’t let the fascination end there, learn how to access this beautiful world beneath the waters and experience the mesmerizing beauty yourself.
There is no easier way other than snorkeling to experience marine life first hand.
By the end of this article, you will be able to understand what snorkeling entails and how you can choose the right snorkeling mask, snorkel and fins for yourself.
Oh, you want to Scuba dive too? That will be a separate article very soon. Warning: Submerging beneath the ocean can be a highly addictive activity!!!
For more about the differences in snorkeling and scuba diving, click here.
Now that you understand briefly what snorkeling entails. Let us now talk about the primary gear you require to embark on your snorkeling adventure and how to choose the best snorkeling gear possible:
The Snorkeling Gear
One would primarily require 3 things for snorkeling i.e A mask, snorkel, and fins. Optional items would be a wetsuit, buoyancy vest and a lycra rash guard.
A mask comprises of four basic components:
- LENSES, to look through;
- STRAPS, that sit at the crown of your head to keep the mask sealed to your face;
- SKIRT: the rubbery component on the perimeter of the mask that seals to your face; and a
- FRAME that holds everything together.
Make sure you consider these factors when choosing a mask :
a) Mask Lenses
Firstly, lenses come with either a single viewing pane or a dual viewing pane(separated at the nose bridge by the frame).
It is best to buy ones with a single viewing pane as it allows for a richer panoramic view.
Although dual pane lenses can come handy if you want to fit corrective lenses to it as the single pane glasses cannot be fitted with corrective lenses.
Secondly, the lenses themselves could be either made out of plastic or glass. Always opt for glass as it is more resistant to scratches than plastic.
It is best to go for ‘tempered’ glass lens as these add durability to your lens since tempered glass is known to be shatterproof.
As I said before underwater exploration can be an addictive activity, hence you won’t regret buying durable snorkeling equipment regardless of it’s higher price, it will be a great one-time investment.
b) Mask Skirt
The skirt is the part of the mask that surrounds the complete edges of the mask and sits on your face.
In other words, it is the contact surface between your face and the mask. You can choose between an opaque or a transparent skirt.
An opaque skirt will help you avoid any glare from entering your eyes if the water is too bright.
Although, an opaque skirt can cause the feeling of tunnel vision which some divers are not comfortable with.
For beginners, I recommend using the clear/transparent skirt glasses as they do not tend to block peripheral vision which beginner snorkelers/divers might get uncomfortable with.
Moreover, make sure that the skirt is made of 100% silicone and not any other cheaper material like plastic or PVC(PolyVinyl Chloride).
Silicone is durable and more resistant to tears.
c) Should be Airtight
If it is not airtight, then it would let water in, blurring your vision, and irritating you.
The best way to test this is to wear the mask against your face like you would normally without strapping it behind your head, now inhale, if the mask is now stuck to your face and it won’t fall off then it is safe to say that the mask satisfies the airtight test.
But, in addition to the mask sealing on well to your face, inhale and feel if there is any air coming in from any side of the mask. If you hear or feel air seeping in, it means there are gaps in the mask skirt and you should look for another one.
Choose the one in which no air passes through when you inhale as different mask shapes and sizes fit different face shapes and sizes.
d) The Comfortable fit
Most importantly, you need to feel comfortable wearing them, otherwise, you should look for the one you are really comfortable with.
One good rule of thumb is to press the mask a little harder towards your face in order to see if you’ll be comfortable in the water as the mask would be a little firmer against your face due to underwater pressure.
Check our top snorkeling mask picks below
A snorkel comprises of 4 components, a top which allows the air to enter the snorkel (this top can be open or closed as mentioned below); a breathing tube that allows air to pass through; a clip that attaches to your mask’s side strap; a mouthpiece that sits inside your mouth allowing you to receive the inhaled air.
Consider these factors while buying a snorkel:
a) Tube width
As a beginner, if you would just like to simply wade through the water marveling the scenic marine life, then the average tube width out there in the market would suffice.
On the contrary, if you are the kind who snorkels to get a good cardiovascular exercise, and you huff and puff in more air, a wider tube would allow more air to pass through.
The simple logic behind having a wider tube is simply to increase the airflow and thus the air inhaled and exhaled.
So, it is always best to have a snorkel with a breathing tube as wide as possible.
You need to look for an ergonomic mouthpiece that sits comfortably in your mouth without causing any jaw fatigue.
Silicon mouthpieces are soft and comfortable and it is best to opt for them.
In addition, check if your mouthpiece is hypoallergenic to ensure you don’t have that plasticky taste from your mouthpiece.
c) Tube material
Flexible hoses for breathing tubes work best, as rigid hoses might feel like they are pulling your face while tilting and turning as the snorkel is attached to your mask.
d) Open top / dry top / splash top
Traditional snorkels come in an open top form, where the water will enter the snorkel if the snorkel is submerged in the water.
A dry top snorkel includes a mechanical device at the opening of the breathing pipe at the top which automatically shuts the air inlet via a mechanical float piece when the water level rises.
Hence, not allowing any water to enter the snorkel at all.
Best for those who are not comfortable with any amount of salt water in their mouth.
A splash top snorkel resists water from entering the snorkel partially when the snorkel is not submerged but waves are crashing over the snorkel.
In other words, a splash top snorkel falls somewhere in between the dry top and the open top snorkel in terms of resisting water entry.
e) Purge valves
Some snorkels have valves. These valves open to let water out of the snorkel.
They are situated at the bottom of the breathing tube near to the mouthpiece. Blowing hard through the snorkel will force these valves open and expel the water.
Having a purge valve in your snorkel means you won’t have to come up to the surface of the water to clear your snorkel, you can just do it underwater.
By simply blowing hard through the mouthpiece.
Your fins are your main source of locomotion in the water, as you move your legs in an up and down motion, the fins cut through water and help you propel forward.
The fins mainly comprise of 2 components, a foot pocket to wear the fins via placing your feet in it, and a blade that extends from the foot pocket whose job is tp propel you through the water.
a) Foot pockets
Foot pockets come in two variants. An open-heeled and a closed foot.
Open-heeled fins are usually one size fits all. As they have straps around the heel area to adjust to the length of your foot.
If your fins are open heeled then you might have to wear neoprene socks as the foot pockets of open heeled fins are usually not comfortable for the skin.
Although there might be a few open heeled fins that do not require you to wear neoprene socks, you can ask the dive shop you are purchasing the fins from about this.
Full foot fins come without these straps and a complete foot pocket, so your foot just slides into the foot pocket.
You could have to spend some time finding the right size for your feet. These are snugger and you can wear these fins barefoot.
So, if you find the right size in strapless or closed-foot fins, personally we recommend you should go for it.
When we go shoe shopping, we usually prefer shoes that are a little lose and therefore comfortable.
It is not right to go shopping for fins with the same mindset. This is because you would be better off choosing perfectly snug fins rather than little loose ones.
Since your feet could rub against the internal surface of the foot pocket due to the movement involved in snorkeling.
This might cause chafing, blisters and eventually lead to discomfort.
Shorter fins are easy to carry in your luggage but longer fins deliver better performance i.e more thrust power to propel forward in the water.
Our team decided to find fins that deliver above-average performance while not being too long.
You can find them in the “Recommendations” section below.
This goes without saying, the lighter the fins, the easier to carry, in addition, the lighter they will feel on your feet while snorkeling.
Improvement in fins technology has given birth to a lot of lightweight high-quality fins.
We have put in some work and filtered through the many masks, snorkels and fins available online to find and shortlist those, that are in line with possessing the aspects and features we have talked about above with regard to each of the 3 pieces of equipment:
Considering the need for a high-quality MASK that includes a single viewing pane, tempered glass lens, clear silicone skirt. and a good quality frame to hold them all together, we have shortlisted 4 snorkeling/diving masks:
1. Cressi Liberty Triside Spe Diving Mask
One single viewing lens in the front, and 2 separate lenses on the side that allow for a panoramic view.
The frame is made out of durable polycarbonate making the mask lightweight. Features tempered lens as well.
If you care about looks, probably the best looking in terms of appearance among the three.
Features a Large single lens, tempered glass, silicone skirt and easy to adjust straps.
Single viewing lens, tempered glass, high-quality silicone, a 100% silicone skirt and straps, easy to adjust straps.
Importantly, note that this mask is suited for smaller face sizes.
4. Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Mask
If you are looking for a slightly cheaper option, the Phantom Aquatic Panoramic mask is a great option.
It also features 2 side lenses like the Cressi liberty triside providing a wider view.
Comes with an all transparent silicone skirt, providing great peripheral vision
Although, quite some people have noted that this mask fogs up pretty quickly.
As with SNORKELS, we chose the one with a dry top, flexible hose and a silicone mouthpiece :
1. Cressi Alpha UltraDry
We have recommended only one snorkel as we could find no other close competition to it given its features and build quality.
This is a top-notch superior quality snorkel that features a dry top, a flexible hose and a drop-down silicone mouthpiece.
A drop-down mouthpiece means you can simply remove the mouthpiece from your mouth and let it hang while not in use due to its flexible nature.
Moreover, the snorkel also sports a lower purge valve making it easy to expel any water out of the snorkel while staying underwater with one blow.
All of this while maintaining superior quality given its use of high-quality silicone throughout the snorkel.
This is the perfect snorkel to put beginners at ease.
If you are looking for an ultra-compact snorkel then Aqua Lung’s Nautilus would be your perfect companion.
This snorkel does not come with a purge valve or a dry top. It can completely roll up and fit in a case/pouch.
It fits into a case that you can easily hold in your hand. Complete silicone build allows it to be soft, lightweight and compact. Great for travelers!
For the FINS, we chose the ones with an average length(not too long and not too short) that provide enough thrust to snorkel as well as beginner scuba dive and at the same time are compact enough to travel with. In addition, we chose close-footed fins given the advantages we have mentioned of closed-foot fins above.
Great performance delivery, lightweight and comfortable. Features closed-foot pockets ensuring a comfortable fit.
Medium sized fins make it suitable for use in both snorkeling and beginner scuba diving. Fin size is 22.6 inches for shoe size 42.
2. Cressi Agua
Easy to use fin, and probably the most comfortable fin on the market, thanks to its “Self-adjusting foot pocket” system.
Features full closed-foot pockets as well. Slightly shorter at 21.5-inch lengthwise for someone of shoe size 42, making it easier for traveling with.
The Cressi Rondinella is a great choice for beginners given its comfortable fit and slightly shorter size than the Rondinella.
Compact snorkel fins, not suitable for scuba diving at all. These can be used for leisure snorkeling.
You will have to kick harder in these to propel forward as they do not provide as much thrust as the others mentioned above due to its short blade size.
Comes with a closed-foot pocket as well.
You can save up on space by having these but the downside will be the performance.
P.S- The reasons we chose only Cressi’s products as recommended is,
1. That Cressi is very descriptive and transparent about the make, quality, and features of their products, making it easy to make an informed purchase decision. ( A quick google search should be witness to the fact)
2. Based on our research, we would say that about 80% or more of the user reviews online are in favor of Cressi’s products(the ones we have recommended).
In addition, we are not compensated for this article by Cressi or any other entity, and our recommendations are purely based on our team’s research work.
Snorkel gear- Our Winner Picks
|The Mask||Cressi TriSide SPE diving mask||The best viewing lens, offering an unobstructed wider view while having all the features of the other masks.|
|The Snorkel||Cressi Alpha UtraDry||One stop shop for an all-inclusive snorkel. Possesses everything, a dry top, a lower purge valve, a flexible hose and a flexible mouthpiece. Perfect for beginners.|
|The Fins||Cressi Agua||Delivers excellent performance while having shorter fins than the Rondinella. A soft and elastic foot pocket provides a comfortable fit.|
To choose the right gear for snorkeling is important as it affects the quality of your experience.
In a nutshell, the mask, fins, and snorkel are the necessary equipment you require for your snorkeling trip.
We have as you have read covered the aspects and features of each of the three types of equipment that should be looked into before making a purchase decision.
To know how to swim is not really required for snorkeling, thanks to the availability of buoyancy jackets that will keep you afloat and fins that will move you through the water with little effort.
Breathing underwater with a snorkel as long as you are near to the surface of the water should be smooth and seamless.
This guide should suffice for anyone who is researching in order to find the right primary gear for snorkeling.
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