Tips For Buying Snorkel Gear
Low quality snorkel gear that doesn't fit can ruin your snorkeling experience. Cheap snorkeling gear or snorkel gear that fits improperly is the number one reason for a bad snorkeling trip. It can add to your anxiety when in the water and cut your snorkeling short. With a few simple tips, you'll be able to select the right snorkel gear and be outfitted to thoroughly enjoy your snorkeling experience.
Snorkel masks come in a variety of sizes with different glass and seal materials. There is no one-size fits all. First, be sure to select a mask that has tempered safety glass for the window (not plastic). Tempered glasses have a light transmission rating, so try to choose the highest rating possible (>85%). Second, generally choose a low-volume mask if comfortable to get the best view. While some snorkelers may say a low-volume mask reduces fogging, this isn't necessarily true. Masks come with either one single wide lens or twin lenses. The single lens tend to have higher volume while dual lens have lower volume. Third, select a mask with a feathered, double-skirt made from soft silicon rubber. Lastly, try-on the mask to ensure proper fit. Place the straps around your head and place the mask over your eyes and nose. Adjust the straps for a snug fit but not too tight. You should be able to breath in through your nose and feel the mask sucking tighter to your face without air leakage. If there is any air leakage and the mask doesn't suck to your face when you breath in, then you need a smaller size mask. With the mask on, you’re eyes should be centered in the lenses and the upper seal should be above your eyebrows. Don't worry about how much the mask fogs up while you are testing them. Another fogging concern with a new snorkel mask the protective film from the manufacturing process. That film needs to be thoroughly cleaned off both the inside and outside of the glass, otherwise the mask will definitely fog underwater. Some snorkelers use a basic non-whitening toothpaste to clean that film, but you should check with the manufacturer. It may take up to three washes to remove the invisible manufacturing film. It’s also wise to wash with soap before and after every use, and to sanitize before long storage.
A highly-rated mens snorkel mask is the Matrix Mask by Promate.
A highly-rated womens snorkel mask is the Mini Shadow Mask by Oceanic.
A highly-rated childrens snorkel mask is the Ondina Kids Mask by Cressi.
After the snorkel mask, the second most important piece of gear for a good snorkel dive is anti-fog drops. Also known as defog drops, a drop or two of this liquid is squirted into the inside of the mask lens and rubbed around to prevent lens fogging while snorkeling. Lens fogging is a very common problem, which can truly ruin a snorkeling dive experience and significantly add to anxiety in the water when you can not see. Make sure to select a defog solution that is environmentally friendly. A bottle of this inexpensive drops is like gold when you are heading out for a snorkel dive.
A highly-rated anti-fog drop solution is Sea Drops Anti-Fog Cleaner by McNett
The proper snorkel tube can make or break a snorkel trip. Today, it is so much more than just the open J-tube most people are familiar with from days past. The design of the snorkel tube can be the old open, wet-snorkel, or the modern dry-snorkel. Most rental gear and tour boat gear are the old open, wet-snorkels, which can be very difficult to use especially for beginners. It is highly recommended to always use a dry snorkel with a splash guard that has a valve on top to prevent water from coming in the top, and also has a blow valve on the bottom to purge water out.
Snorkel tubes also come in a variety of lengths and diameters along with different size mouth-pieces. The mouth-piece should fit comfortably inside your mouth when you bit down. Adults should use longer tubes with larger diameters. Children and beginner women need shorter tubes with a smaller diameter to ensure that they can complete clear the air volume when the breath out in order to get fresh air. After each use, make sure to rinse with fresh water to keep the parts fresh and moving smoothly. Also, it is wise to sanitize before long storage.
Snorkel tubes can also be one solid piece or can have a flexible-bend. The flexible bend tends to be more comfortable since it allows you to adjust the position of the mouth piece.
A highly-rated mens snorkel is the Ergo Dry Snorkel by Mares.
A highly-rated womens snorkel is the Supernova Dry Snorkel by Cressi.
A highly-rated childrens snorkel is the Junior Dry Snorkel by Cressi.
Snorkel fins come in a variety of lengths and foot sizes. There is no one-size fits all. The main design feature on snorkel fins is the length. The longer the fin, the more energy required to use them. The longer the fin, the faster you can go but that is not really necessary when snorkeling. Longer fins, such as over 18 inches, are more common for use in scuba diving. Shorter fins are preferable for snorkeling since they are easier to use and pack better for traveling. You may find shorter fins listed at boogie-board fins.
Snorkel fins come in either fixed foot cup sizes or come with adjustable straps. Fins with a fixed foot cup require more space for packing. The fins with adjustable straps can be much more comfortable, are easier to put on and pack down smaller. If you are looking for adjustable strap fins, try to find ones with neoprene straps for the most comfort. As a final note, there are also medium length “split” fins with built in power elastics that can be a good compromise between power and ease of use.
Most rental gear and tour boat gear are the longer fins without adjustment straps, since they tend to cater to the scuba crowd. These are not ideal for beginner/intermediate snorkelers.
A highly-rated mens snorkel fins are the Sport Trek Travel Fin by Aqua Lung.
A highly-rated womens snorkel fins are the Palau Short Fin by Cressi.
A highly-rated childrens snorkel fins are the Kids Fins by Cressi.
DIVER DOWN FLAG
For dive sites with any potential boat traffic, a diver down flag is important to alert boaters of snorkelers in the water. In some regions, a diver down flag is required by law for all snorkelers, such as in the State of Florida. In other regions, it is an absolute necessity where there is plenty of high-speed coastal boat traffic, such as Ambergris Caye or Indonesia. The use of a diver down flag is best in the morning when the wind is usually lower.
Typically, a diver down flag consists of an inflatable float base with a raised red/white stripped flag that connects to the snorkeler by a cord to the ankle (or dive belt). Ideally, the base and flag should pack small so that you always want to travel with them. The cord should be about 10 feet long and the ankle cuff should be made of neoprene for comfort. In many cases, the float and flag are purchased together, and then you need to separately purchase the cord and cuff, such as those used for surf boards
At a minimum, when in doubt, you should carry an inflatable signal marker tube. If you wear a dive belt, the marker tube can be clipped to the dive belt. In an emergency or if boat traffic unexpectedly enters the region, you can manually inflate the six foot marker tube.
A highly-rated diver down drag is the Delux Diver Below Float by Scuba Choice
A highly-rated inflatable marker tube is the Dive Signal Marker Tube
Small and easy to carry on every snorkel dive, a dive whistle can save your life. The dive whistle is extremely loud, even when wet, and can be heard over motors and surf. It can be carried in a pocket or left clipped to the mask strap.
A highly-rated dive whistle is the JetScream Whistle by UST
There's only one way to go when it comes to underwater photography, and that's GoPro Hero 4. With it's ProTune mode, it has exceptional low-light sensitivity that offers great color depth.
Of course, you've got to have some way to hold on to the GoPro camera that won't sink if you drop it. Make sure to get a floating hand grip, like the GoPole Bobber.
Seawater absorbs red light waves making everything underwater look blue. The deeper you go, the more red is absorbed. To correct for this effect, it is highly recommended to use a light red filter when snorkeling. The FLIP filter series has several grades of easy to use filters available - the Shallow filter is perfect for snorkeling in waters over five feet deep.
The highly-rated GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition.
The highly-rated GoPole Bobber.
The highly-rated FLIP 3.1 by Backscatter.
A long-sleeve dive shirt can be a valuable piece of gear for sun protection and warmth. While floating on the water surface enjoying your snorkel dive, the sun is reflecting off the water surface and can really bake your back. A traditional rash-guard long sleeve shirt usually offers at least SPF 50 level sun protection.
In addition, when snorkeling in cooler water such as Hawaii or the Galapagos, having a thin neoprene shirt can make all the difference, especially for children. A thin 3mm neoprene surf shirt offers excellent protection for cool water shore dives and offshore boat dives. It will add 20-30 minutes of snorkel time for most kids and is worth the investment. Plus, it does add some buoyancy, which can help the little ones.
A highly-rated mens dive shirt is the Superlite Jacket by O'Neil.
A highly-rated womens dive shirt is the Thermo Long Sleeve Rashguard by O'Neil.
A highly-rated childrens dive shirt is the Hammer Long Sleeve by O'Neil.
A self-inflatable dive vest is another valuable piece of gear. While it does impede aggressive swimming, the adjustable buoyancy and safety features can make these life vests a worthwhile investment. The vest straps around the back and below the waist, and they have a blow value tube located near the neckline. Typically, you will not want to fully inflate the vest unless you are in trouble - about one-third full is usually enough for good buoyancy while snorkeling. A dive vest is very useful for children, even if they are good swimmers.
A highly-rated inexpensive dive vest is the Snorkel Vest by Promate.
A highly-rated neoprene-backed dive vest is the Cruiser Safety Snorkel Vest by ScubaPro.
DIVE WEIGHT BELT
Experienced snorkelers may have noticed that it can be difficult to dive underwater for long periods of time without naturally resurfacing due to buoyancy. To reduce your bodies natural buoyancy, advanced snorkelers can use a dive weight belt with just a couple pounds of weight.
The usage of a dive weight belt is only for very experienced snorkelers in excellent physical condition. A dive belt can be dangerous if used improperly. Everytime you plan to use a dive weight belt, you will want to reverify the correct amount of weight to use since it varies with your body weight and the salinity of the water. First, in standing water depths, test various weight combinations. A proper weight is found when you can breath out completely and sink up to your eyes but no further. Second, in standing water depths, make sure to practice a quick belt release since you need to be prepared to drop the weight if you get exhausted or need to help rescue your buddy. Never use a dive weight belt when snorkeling with beginners or children since they count on you.
A highly-rated dive belt is the Nylon Weight Belt by Cressi.
Highly-rated dive belt weights are the Vinyl Coated Weights by Sea Pearls.