2018 Review Of The Best Snorkeling Sets

2018 Review Of The Best Snorkeling Sets

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For 2018, our annual gear review was held on Grand Cayman across a dozen boat and shore-accessed snorkeling spots over eight days. Our experienced snorkeling staff reviewed the top snorkel sets of 2018 from leading dive manufacturers including Aqua Lung, Promate, Seavengers and US Divers. Each snorkel set contained a mask, snorkel and pair of fins.

What Makes The Best Snorkeling Set?

When it comes to buying a complete snorkeling set, no one wants a foggy/uncomfortable mask, a wet/difficult to use snorkel, or uncomfortable fins. But, what exactly are the features that affect those aspects. Let’s dive in to the features of the mask, snorkel and fins that make them comfortable, easy to use and work well.

The snorkel mask must fit you. The width and height must fit your facial features without leaking. Most mask descriptions will typically say that it fits large faces, or medium faces, or small/junior faces, but sadly there are no standardizes measurements for you to know precisely what fits your face. Next, the rubbery skirt that seats on your face must prevent leakage. After physical mask size, the skirt materials, feathering and shape are critical for maintaining a good water-tight seal around the face. Then, the clarity of the glass and its resistance to fogging are important factors for an enjoyable snorkeling experience. Each of these factors and more are thoroughly discussed in our 2018 Snorkel Mask Review article.

The snorkel tube needs to breath well without water intrusion. The proper snorkel tube can make or break a snorkel trip. Snorkel tubes come in a variety of styles, materials and sizes. It’s length and diameter must be balanced for your lung size/volume. The main issue isn’t necessarily oxygen intake but the ability to clear the carbon dioxide dead space in the tube. The larger the tube barrel diameter and length, the greater the volume that contains lingering carbon dioxide from when you exhale. After sizing, the next most important factor is the ability to keep water out. A snorkel tube can be open, semi-dry or dry depending upon devices on the upper end of the tube. Each of these factors and more are thoroughly discussed in our 2018 Snorkel Tube Review article.

The snorkel fins must be comfortable with a good fit and easy to move in the water. They come in a variety of lengths, widths and sizes. While scuba divers tend to prefer sized long fins, most snorkelers enjoy short, wide fins with adjustable heel straps. Fins can come in specific foot sizes with a fixed cup, or they can come in broad size ranges with an adjustable heel strap for size refinement. A long fin is nice underwater for power, but when snorkeling on the surface it can slap the water and be tough to maneuver.

What Were The Test Conditions In Grand Cayman?

For our snorkeling set review, we couldn't have asked for better snorkeling conditions on Grand Cayman Island. Every day was mostly sunny with a high temp of 85F. The surface water temperature was about 82F. We had over a dozen test snorkeling dive spots including both shore-accessed within 30-300 feet of the beach and boat-accessed inside the fringing reef. There was light surf from 1-3 feet. Now, on to the actual snorkeling set tests.

AQUA LUNG ADMIRAL / ISLAND DRY SET

Aqua Lung's best mens snorkeling set has the Admiral 2LX mask, the Island Dry 1LX snorkel and the Trek fins. The Admiral LX mask has a silicone face skirt for comfort, tempered glass twin windows for safety, and swiveled, push button strap buckles. The Island Dry LX tube is a dry-snorkel that uses Pivot Dry technology to keep water out and a one-way purge valve at the lower end for clearing water. The Aqua Lung-branded Trek fins have a compact travel size that are shorter and wider along with a comfortable foot pocket and adjustable strap.

Our snorkelers found the Admiral 2LX mask to fit very comfortably on large mens faces, and the silicone skirt seated well with little leakage. For snorkeling sets, this is a very nicely designed mask of good quality. Our testers really liked the clear sides which seemed to increase the field of view and made it easy to know if someone was snorkeling next to you. The Island Dry 1LX snorkel functioned nominally and the float valve at the upper end operated smoothly. The flex tube section and the silicone mouth piece were comfortable with little jaw fatigue, but they could have been a little softer still. The Trek fins are the gold standard of snorkeling fins with a good width of the blade and their short length. The foot pocket was very comfortable and adjustable strap makes the fit a range of mens foot sizes. It would have been nice if the strap had the neoprene cuff that some rebranded models have preinstalled. Also, from past experience, we do know the material of these Trek fin blades tends to curl under after about two years.

MSRP $80.00 USD               

AQUA LUNG DIVA / ISLAND DRY SET

Aqua Lung's best womens snorkeling set has the Diva 1LX mask, the Island Dry LX snorkel and the Trek fins. The Diva 1LX mask has a silicone face skirt for comfort, tempered glass single windows for safety, and swiveled, push button strap buckles. The Island Dry LX tube is a dry-snorkel that uses Pivot Dry technology to keep water out and a one-way purge valve at the lower end for clearing water. The Aqua Lung-branded Trek fins have a compact travel size that are shorter and wider along with a comfortable foot pocket and adjustable strap.

Our snorkelers found the Diva 1LX mask to fit very comfortably on large than average women's faces, and the silicone skirt seated well on those large faces with little leakage. For snorkeling sets, this is a very nicely designed mask of good quality. However, this mask is not sized for small or average women (our testers) without discomfort and leaking. The comments were that it almost seemed like it was sized for men. The Island Dry LX snorkel functioned nominally and the float valve at the upper end operated smoothly. The flex tube section and the silicone mouth piece were both too stiff and resulted in jaw fatigue on our women testers. The comments on the tube noted that again it seemed sized for larger women or designed for men, not our average sized women. Also, the tube volume was too large to clear the deadspace easily resulting in hyperventilating. The Trek fins are the gold standard of snorkeling fins with a good width of the blade and their short length. The foot pocket was very comfortable and adjustable strap makes the fit a range of mens foot sizes. It would have been nice if the strap had the neoprene cuff that some rebranded models have preinstalled. Also, from past experience, we do know the material of these Trek fin blades tends to curl under after about two years.

MSRP $80.00 USD               

SEAVENGER ADVANCED SNORKELING SET

Seavengers high-end snorkeling set for both men and women comes with the Panoramic mask, the Dry Top snorkel and fins. The Panoramic mask has a silicone face skirt for comfort and tempered glass for safety. The Top Dry snorkel uses a top float valve to keep water out and a one-way purge valve for clearing water. The fins are compact travel size with comfortable foot pockes and adjustable straps. As a bonus, the Seavenger Advanced Snorkeling Set includes a gear bag.

During testing, our snorkelers like the single window Seavenger Panoramic mask. It was definitely adult sized and tended to fit the men better than the women testers. It didn’t fit our smaller adults or our kid testers either. The silicone skirt was not as soft and pliable as other masks tested, so it wasn’t quite as comfortable, but it did keep the water out. The Seavenger Dry Top snorkel functioned nominally, bu the the flex section of the tube did not flex much resulting everyone reporting jaw fatigue. The fins were very narrow and packable. They were also comfortable with good strap adjustability. The fins did seem a little bit too narrow and didn’t offer enough power for our snorkeling testers preference.

MSRP $39.95 USD               

PROMATE JUNIOR PURGE

The top of the line kids’s snorkeling set from Promate comes with the Chico Purge Junior mask, the Nino Junior snorkel and the Pace Junior fins. The Promate Chico Junior Purge mask is sized for small faces including kids under 12 years old. This low volume mask has a single tempered glass window and has a silicone double feathered skirt. The Nino Junior snorkel uses Pivot Dry technology to keep water out and a one-way purge valve for clearing water. The Pace Junior fins are compact travel size with adjustable straps. The snorkel set comes with a mesh travel bag.

While these were reviewed by our younger snorkelers during this 2018 Grand Cayman test series, the Promate Junior Purge snorkel set has been tested previously in Bora Bora and Roatan over the past two years. It is certainly a favorite for comfort and dryness. Contrary to the marketing, this snorkel set seems sized for young kids and not teens. It seems like 10 years old is the max for the fins and tube, while the mask might make it to 12 years old.

The Chico Purge Junior mask gets high marks for its soft silicone skirt, and the purge valve makes clearing any leakage easy for kids.The Promate Nino Junior Dry snorkel tube may look familiar - it looks identical to ones sold by other brands including Head/Mares. Our guess is that this snorkel is manufactured by one plant and resold under various brand names. Regardless of its origin, it functions nicely for young children. It has a small soft silicone mouthpiece sized for kids mouths. And, the shorter contoured tube has a smaller diameter and length that is easily cleared of carbon monoxide and water by smaller lungs. The top float dry valve and the silicone purge valve kept the tube dry and easy to use for our 8 and 10 year old snorkelers. The Pace Junior fins were very comfortable and easy to adjust. They seemed to max out at size 2 kids feet.

MSRP $49.95 USD               

HEAD BY MARES PIRATE JUNIOR

The best kids’s snorkeling set from Head By Mares comes with the Pirate Junior Kids mask, the Head Dry snorkel and the Allegra Junior fins. The Pirate Junior Kids mask is sized for small faces including kids under 12 years old. This low volume mask has a tempered two window glass and has a silicone double feathered skirt. The Head Dry snorkel uses float valve technology to keep water out and a one-way purge valve for clearing water. The Allegra Junior fins are compact travel size with adjustable straps. They come in two broad sizes. The set comes with a zipper travel bag.

Contrary to the marketing, this snorkel set seems sized for young kids and not teens. It seems like 10 years old is the max for the fins and tube, while the mask might make it to 12 years old as well. The Pirate Junior mask has a soft silicone skirt and strap, which the young snorkelers noted rarely leaked and was comfortable. The Head Dry snorkel tube may look familiar - it looks identical to ones sold by other brands including Promate. Our guess is that this snorkel is manufactured by one plant and resold under various brand names. Regardless of its origin, it functions nicely for young children. It has a small soft silicone mouthpiece sized for kids mouths. And, the shorter contoured tube has a smaller diameter and length that is easily cleared of carbon monoxide and water by smaller lungs. The top float dry valve and the silicone purge valve kept the tube dry and easy to use for our 8 and 10 year old snorkelers. The Allegra Junior fins were easy for the kids to adjust and were comfortable and easy to adjust. They seemed to max out at size 2 kids feet.

MSRP $49.95 USD               

Where Are The Full Face Snorkel Masks?

Over the past year, there has been a controversy brewing in regards to the safety of full-face snorkel masks. Here is our article on whether full face snorkel masks are safe to use.

Snorkeling Gear Manufacturers

• Atomics Aquatics / Oceanic

• Aqua Lung / US Diver

• Cressi

• Mares / Head

• Promate USA

• ScubaPro

• Seavenger

• TUSA