Snorkeling is often seen as a simple hobby. You can pick up snorkeling gear from every beachside store going.
If you’ve ever picked up one of these $5 snorkels, you’ll know that they’re hardly worth the $5.
The mask is usually too big or too small, it will start to leak and fog up as soon as you get in the water, the mouthpiece is so big your cheeks ache and breathing through the snorkel feels like you’re sucking air through a straw.
This is not how snorkeling should be.
With the right kit, snorkeling is a great way to see the underwater world. The mask should feel comfortable and the snorkel should let you breathe comfortably.
So how do you make sure that you get the right snorkeling gear?
We’ve put together a buyer’s guide which will give you all the info you need to make the best selection. We’ll tell you what you need to look out for and what you should avoid.
We’ve also gathered five of the best snorkeling kits and explored their strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, you’ll find something you like here. If not, you’ll at least have a good idea of what to look for as you search for your snorkeling gear.
This snorkel and mask set is hugely popular with customers. There are over 1500 5 star reviews that praise everything from the fit of the mask to the feel of the mouthpiece.
The mask has a food-grade silicone skirt which is highly effective in keeping water out. It is also fairly flexible which means that it won’t put too much pressure on your face. This is great news as all too often these masks are blindingly uncomfortable to wear.
The lenses are curved to give a panoramic view. They use tempered glass and have an anti-fog coating that seems to work wonderfully.
There are one or two reviews that mention slight fogging after extended use in colder waters. This is to be expected to an extent. These customers also mention that a quick rinse was able to clear the fog and keep it at bay.
The snorkel has a dry top which is very effective. The purge valve is an efficient way to clear any water that does sneak in.
The mouthpiece is a soft silicone design with fairly large bite prongs. The product listing does mention that the mouthpiece is designed to reduce jaw fatigue. This does seem to be the case for the most part.
One or two reviewers mention that they found the bite prongs too large which made their jaws ache.
This is a complete snorkeling set that is ideal for all users. It is made with high-quality materials and has some excellent design features.
The mask is made from hypo-allergenic silicone making it suitable for all users. It is ergonomically designed and features an easily adjustable strap that allows you to create the perfect fit.
The glass is tempered and treated with an anti-fog coating. This lets you enjoy the panoramic view without interruption. This mask is suitable for surface snorkeling and diving below the surface.
The snorkel is a dry top snorkel which effectively seals the tube and prevents water from entering. It has a purge valve near the mouthpiece which allows you to quickly and easily remove any water that does find its way inside.
The mouthpiece is slim but comfortable and is made from food-grade silicone. A flexible lower jaw bore prevents jaw fatigue on the longest snorkeling expeditions.
The fins are short but powerful and make moving through the water a breeze. They feature anti-slip lines that allow water to easily drain in and out of the fin. This prevents water from building up inside or dragging against the outside.
There are some issues with sizing on the fins and the mask. This seems to be a common theme across a lot of these sets.
Another issue mentioned in reviews is the feel and placement of the snorkel clip. Some customers find that it digs into the side of their head which is not ideal.
This snorkel and mask set is a great budget option. It performs well when compared to similar snorkels with a higher price tag.
The mask uses a ‘liquid silicon skirt’ which is essentially a softer silicone than some other masks. This allows the skirt to fit more comfortably and completely to your face. Most customers report a snug fit that effectively prevents leaks.
The adjustment straps allow you to create a personalized fit. The buckles can be easily adjusted underwater as well as on the surface.
The snorkel is a dry top snorkel with a flexible connection between the mouthpiece and the tube. This lets you adjust the mouthpiece for a more comfortable fit.
The mouthpiece is food-grade silicone and fits comfortably in the mouth. The bite prongs are designed to fit neatly between your teeth. This helps reduce jaw fatigue.
Most customers are very happy with the mouthpiece and find that it is comfortable and effective.
The Cressi company was founded in 1946 and have been producing high-quality equipment ever since. They are a brand you can trust in the water.
This kit features the first Cressi snorkel to have a dry top. However, it performs superbly despite its newbie status.
The soft, silicone mouthpiece reduces jaw fatigue but feels substantial in the mouth. It is comfortable to wear for longer snorkeling trips. Customers are overwhelmingly positive about the mouthpiece which is rare for a snorkeling kit.
The mask features tempered glass, panoramic viewing, push-button adjustments, and a hypoallergenic silicone skirt. These all come together to make a brilliantly reliable mask.
The soft nose pocket is comfortable to wear and allows the mask to equalize easily when first worn. Ultimately, this mask is designed for comfort and functionality and it smashes both.
There does seem to be a bit of an issue with fog in the mask. Some users treated the mask with toothpaste or anti-fog sprays and found that the problem went away.
It’s not ideal but considering the superb quality of the rest of the mask, it’s certainly not a deal-breaker either.
This is a complete snorkeling set that includes a mask, snorkel, fins, and a carry bag. It is ideal for casual and experienced snorkelers and divers. This set has a lot to love for a relatively low price.
The mask has four viewing panels and uses tempered glass. This means that you can use this mask to dive as well as snorkel.
A hypoallergenic, silicone, double edge, feather skirt provides a comfortable and complete seal around your face. This will most definitely keep the water outside of your mask where it belongs.
The snorkel is a dry snorkel and it performs admirably. Water is most definitely kept out of the tube when you go underwater.
The mouthpiece is a little large and several customers mention that they found it uncomfortable in the mouth. However, the flexible connecting tube should allow you to position the mouthpiece more comfortably than a fixed snorkel.
The fins come in two sizes; SM/MD and LG/XL. You will need to buy according to your shoe size. They use a vented blade design to make moving in the water effortless.
Some customers find that the fin sizing is off. Some reviews claim they are too small and that you can’t fit a scuba boot underneath.
Other reviewers find that they are too large. Ideally, the manufacturer would have had four separate sizes which would be more accommodating.
Best Snorkel Gear Buying Guide
What is snorkeling gear?
Snorkeling gear refers to the mask and the snorkel. You can buy these two items as a set or as individual items.
Buying a mask and snorkel separately allows you to find the perfect combination that suits you and your needs. You’ll also find that you might need multiple snorkels for different situations.
Obviously, these bits of kit are very different from each other and you need to look out for different features in each bit of kit.
The first thing to think about is the size. Masks are measured by their volume which is the total space within the mask.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. If your mask has a massive volume it will be harder to clear should any water leak in. Go for a mask that sits closer to the face to reduce the volume.
You’ll find it much easier to move through the water with a low profile mask as it will create less drag.
The next thing to think about is the lens. You want lenses that are pretty large so that you have a wide field of view. After all, you want to be able to see the wonders that lay below you!
Shaped lenses can allow you to have peripheral vision. These will often wrap around the side of your head slightly.
The lens should ideally be made of tempered glass. This is stronger than normal glass or plastic and can withstand the pressure of diving. If you are just planning to snorkel on or near the surface, you may not need to splash out on tempered glass.
You also want to look out for masks that have anti-fog treatments on their lenses. This will make the whole experience more enjoyable and less hassle.
The final big thing to think about is the adjustment straps. You need to make sure that there is enough scope on the band to fit your head. If you have a particularly large or small head, look out for straps that will accommodate you.
Make sure the adjustment mechanism is easy to operate under the water as well as out of the water. If you need to tighten or loosen your mask mid-dive, you need something that can be done one-handed. Ideally, you want a mechanism that doesn’t require too much dexterity as you may be wearing gloves.
The snorkel is literally your lifeline. It is the tube that provides you with air when you’re near the surface.
The first thing you’ll need to decide is what kind of snorkel you want. There are three options: wet, semi-dry, and dry.
Wet snorkels are the ones we are all familiar with from those beachside shops. They are simply a tube connected to a mouthpiece with an elbow joint.
With a wet snorkel, if you dive below the surface the tube will fill with water and you’ll need to empty it before you can breathe again. These are the most basic kinds of snorkel. If you don’t intend to dive then a wet snorkel will serve you just fine.
Semi-dry snorkels have a splash guard attached to the top of the tube. The splash guard is designed to stop water from entering the tube while it’s above the surface. Essentially, it stops waves from lapping over the top of the snorkel.
The guard is usually a plastic cap with slits along the sides. These slits overhang so that water is directed away from the tube.
A dry snorkel has a float valve that rests inside the splash guard at the top of the tube. When above water, the valve is free in the tube. However, when you dive below the surface, the valve floats to the top of the tube and seals it. This stops water from entering the tube.
These snorkels are ideal for divers as they won’t fill with water when you dive down. If they don’t fill with water then there is no need to empty them as you return to the surface.
Both dry and semi-dry snorkels tend to have purge valves near the mouthpiece. These are button operated and can be used to expel any water from the tube.
The other important thing to think about when buying a snorkel is the mouthpiece. This is the bit that goes inside your mouth. It should feel comfortable but substantial in your mouth. If it’s too large your jaw will start to ache.
The best way to decide if the mouthpiece is comfortable is to try them. Obviously, this isn’t always possible. In this case, make sure to check out reviews. Look specifically for mentions about the mouthpiece.
One feature you could look out for is a flexible elbow joint between the mouthpiece and the tube. This will allow you to position the mouthpiece more comfortably in your mouth.
Not all dive and snorkel fins are alike. For the most part, there are short snorkel fins and longer fins. A lot of the fins that come in snorkel packages lean toward being on the shorter side.
Generally, snorkeling is a common hobby for tourists and many people who are unacquainted with the water and may not have quite as strong aquatic skills. Short snorkeling fins are easier to control and need less technique to get the most out of. Thus, even beginners can use short fins for body positioning and won't be quite as awkward when out of the water.
However, short fins don't provide as much propulsion and will generally tire you out quicker.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use swimming goggles instead of a mask?
It is possible to use swimming goggles for snorkeling. However, you’ll have a few problems which will make the experience uncomfortable.
The major difference between goggles and a snorkel mask is the nose pocket. Snorkeling masks cover and block your nose. Obviously, when you’re breathing through a snorkel you need to use your mouth.
For most people, this is unnatural as we prefer to breathe through our noses. The nose pocket prevents you from accidentally inhaling water through the nose.
Swimming goggles don’t have that feature. Most people will struggle to prevent themselves from breathing through their nose while wearing swimming goggles. You can use a nose plug in conjunction with goggles but by that point, you might as well just wear the mask.
What else do I need for snorkeling?
There are some other pieces of equipment that you can get to make your snorkeling or diving experience easier and more enjoyable. They’re not necessary by any means but they will improve your time in the water.
The first thing to look at after the mask and snorkel is a wet suit. Depending on where you plan to snorkel, this might be essential. If you are in cold waters a wet suit will insulate your body and stop hypothermia from setting in.
Warmer and tropical waters won’t make you cold so wet suits aren’t strictly necessary. However, wet suits also help you move through the water easier as they are more streamlined than traditional swimwear.
The final bit of snorkeling gear you might want to consider are flippers. Sometimes called fins, these are shoes with long extended pieces that look like, well, flippers.
They help you move through the water without splashing and thrashing. This is important because you are less likely to disturb the wildlife around you with flippers.
Are full-face snorkels safe?
Full-face snorkel masks look like something out of the space age. They are masks that go around the whole face with a small snorkel tube sticking out of the top.
They are mostly sold as recreational toys rather than serious snorkeling gear. In fact, most divers and snorkelers hate these masks. And it’s not simply a cosmetic issue.
Full-face snorkels are actually quite dangerous. The large volume and the fact that you breathe through your nose and mouth means that a lot of dead air gets trapped in the mask.
Dead air is essentially carbon dioxide that is exhaled when we breathe. In a normal snorkel, this air is exhaled out of the top of the tube before we take our next breath in. We can clear the dead air because there is a relatively small volume we need to clear.
In a full-face mask, you need to clear the whole volume of the mask of carbon dioxide in one exhale. This just isn’t possible. There’s no tube to direct the air out of the snorkel at the top so the carbon dioxide just sits in there. This can lead to asphyxiation.
So, no, full-face snorkels are not safe.
Do you need fins for snorkeling?
Unless you are in very shallow water, close to shore, on a completely flat day with virtually no current at all - yes, fins should be used for snorkeling.
The surface area of your snorkel fins allows you to exert more force on the water as you kick. Because of this, you can swim for longer periods without exerting too much energy. You will also be able to swim effectively against waves and currents with far less struggling.
Fins are also essential for proper body control in the water and allow you to more safely maneuver around coral and ocean life without damaging or disturbing it.