Planning for the first time a snorkel trip in a beautiful destination and you don’t know what snorkel equipment to look for? Indeed, there are so many different types of masks, snorkels, and fins options that it makes it difficult to find the right set! You can be reassured. In this article, you will find all you need to know about how to buy snorkeling equipment so that you can explore the underwater world comfortably.
Table of Content
- What Mask Skirt Material, Plastic or Silicone?
- Mask Straps
- What Skirt Colors, Clear or Dark Silicone?
- What Lens, Glass or Plastic?
- How Many Lens Do You Need?
- Full Face Snorkel Mask
- Frameless Mask
- What Is High Volume Mask?
- What Is Low Volume Mask?
- Purge Valve Mask?
- How to Choose the Snorkel?
- What Fin to Choose?
- Prescription Snorkel Mask
- In Conclusion!
What Mask Skirt Material, Plastic or Silicone?
Mask skirts made of plastic are one of the cheaper, and among the worst that you can find on the market as they are not flexible enough, the material is not durable and are usually not comfortable. So avoid choosing the plastic masks!
Masks skirts made of silicone are the best you can find on the market. Silicone material is incredibly strong, flexible and durable. There are different types of silicone substances such as Crystal or liquid, and both are more or less equal in term of quality.
Neoprene masks are comfortable and useful for people with long hair as these prevents from twisting the hair in the strap and are easier to take on and off.
What Skirt Colors, Clear or Dark Silicone?
Clear masks are extremely popular and are greatly appreciated by divers as they offer a more peripheral vision in the water than the dark masks.
Dark masks are more utilized by photographers as they cut glare and allows them to focus easier on their viewfinder when taking pictures underwater.
What Lens, Glass or Plastic?
First of all, It is important to Choose a good snorkel mask with high-quality resistant glass lenses and avoid plastic lenses material! Plastic lenses can have a bad impact on the fit and also on the volume of air inside the mask!
Also, scuba masks can be used for snorkeling while snorkeling masks are not really suitable for scuba unless the lenses are made of tempered glass as there are more adaptable when the diver descend and ascend into the water.
They have a better resistance to scratch than the plastic lenses and are even stronger than regular glass.
How Many Lens Do You Need?
The classic has a big round lens, the eyes and the nose are placed inside of it. These masks are not of high quality and do not seal comfortably to the face!
The mask with single lens contains a nose pocket attached to the lens. These masks offer clear visibility under the water, but the inconvenient with these are that they offer less room around your nose than the double lenses mask. The double lenses prevent from pressing on the nose when the water pressure pushes on the mask.
As mentioned above, the two lenses masks offer more room around the nose than the single lens. Also, they are low volume, meaning, less air inside the mask. As a result, seats closer to the eyes, allowing a wider view angle and are easier to clear.
Three Lenses & Four Lenses
The three and four lens masks, both have small windows added to the side. With these, you will have a much better peripheral visibility and clearer view of motion. Know that the windows added on the side increase the volume air. Thus these don’t sit as close to the face as the two lens masks.
Full Face Snorkel Mask
The full face masks are for those who are having a hard time breathing in and out with a regular mask using a snorkel.
With the full face mask, you can breathe like you usually do as it is equipped with a separate breathing chamber and the mask covers the whole face.
The full face masks come with a detachable snorkel made of stiff plastic that comes on and off. Also, there is a small valve located on the top of the tube to stop the water from getting inside when the snorkel goes under the water.
These masks are designed especially for snorkeling on the surface of the water but not for freediving.
The frameless have a lack of thick plastic frame, meaning these are easy to fold up and to store in a pocket and can be used as a spare mask. The frameless have buckles that can be attached directly to the silicone skirt.
These are incredibly lightweight and sit closer to the eyes which offer a wider field of vision. The Frameless mask is awesome. If you find the one that suits you well, then get it!
What Is High Volume Mask?
High Volume means, more air inside the mask, these offer a wide peripheral vision, but they are harder to clear and sit farther from your eyes.
What Is Low Volume Mask?
Low Volume means less air inside the mask. These sit closer to your eyes and can be cleared of water easier.
Purge Valve Mask?
A Purge Valve is a small piece of plastic called flap valve situated at the bottom of the nose pocket. The purge valve purpose is to help you drain the water out quickly by exhaling through your nose.
There are plusses and minuses to using a purge. It may prevent you from learning how to clear properly. Also, some people find the valve being annoying around the nose. Some will love it while others won’t.
So What is Better, A Purge or A No Purge Mask?
Honestly, it is a question of personal preference. But my suggestion is, learn first how to purge on a regular mask and once you know well the technique, you may try a purge mask and see what you like the most!
How to Choose the Snorkel?
It is essential that the snorkel fits well to your mouth so that you are comfortable with it during your underwater excursion. The mouthpiece has to be soft and comfy, and the tube needs to meet your requirement.
The basic snorkels often called ” J-tube” are the cheaper on the market and are less comfortable than the flexible ones. The tube is made with a thick plastic including a mouthpiece, making it less comfortable to wear.
These classic snorkels don’t have any purge valve. So, if the water gets inside the tube, which in most cases happens. You’ll have to exhalate strongly to drain the water out!
Flexible tubes are usually more comfortable than classic snorkels. The bottom of the flexible snorkel is quite rigid, and the top can be flexed to different angles for a better fit.
Some divers will just love this feature, and some will simply dislike it. It is a small valve located near the mouthpiece that prevents the water from getting into your mouth.
In fact, it collects the water that enters in the bottom of the tube. This feature makes it much easier to remove the water from the snorkel after a good dive!
Semi-dry snorkels have a small splash guard placed on the top of the tube to prevent splash water from getting inside the snorkel while swimming on the surface. Contrarily to the dry snorkels, the semi-dry won’t stop the water enter inside the tube if submerged.
Dry Snorkels have a small valve situated on the top of the tube which prevents the water from entering into the tube if the snorkel is submerged of water. It supposes to drain the water out without interrupting breathing. It could save a lot of energy and allow to swim long distances without having to stop all the time to remove the water of the tube.
What Fin to Choose?
It is much simpler to pick a pair of snorkel fins than a mask or a snorkel. There are fewer types to choose from! Swimming with fins is not really necessary if you just stay on the surface of the water, but using them will make your snorkeling experience much easier and enjoyable if you choose the right set!
Full-foot fins enclose the feet and the heels completely. These fins weight less than the open heel fins and are usually worn without booties.
Also, they turn out to be less expensive since they don’t require wearing booties.
The only inconveniences with the full foot are that it is a bit hard to take them on and off and are less adjustable.
Open-heel fins are equipped with an adjustable heel strap that surrounded the feet. The open-heel are often used in cold water but can also be worn in all water temperature.
Many divers wear scuba booties with the open heel fins to protect their ankles and feet against cold, hot water, and injuries generally caused by rocks, corals, etc.,
The open heel fins are more expensive than the full foot, plus the need to invest in booties will add extra cost.
Split fins are a bit similar to how a boat propeller work in a way that when you kick, the water goes through the blades, then the water create vortices which push you instead of you pushing the water.
Since the water passes through the blades easily, it is light and comfortable on the legs. There is almost no effort to get the expected results. Also, these allow you to save a lot of air and energy.
Overall the split fins are great, and they make the snorkel excursion much more enjoyable, but not everyone seems to like them. Some will prefer Paddle over Split fins!
Paddle fins are made of former plastic, thick rubber and have nice strong rails on the side, preventing the fins to bend and curve too much in the water. The Paddle fins are fantastic in current since these are powerful, and they perform well for maneuvering in the water. Since the paddles are made of stiff rubber, they are heavier than the Split fins.
What to Choose, Paddle or Split?
The split fins are excellent to moving forward, but not so good for controlling movement in the water. Many divers state that it is easier to do some technical diving like turn left, right, do helicopter turn, and kick backward with the paddle fins than with the split fins.
Of course, many people love the split fins and will never give up on them. To be honest, it all boils down to personal preference. You need to choose the fins according to the type of diving.
Prescription Snorkel Mask
Do you really need to wear a prescription mask to explore the beautiful underwater world? To answer this question, it depends on your personal preferences. There are a couple of good options available which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Bonded Corrective Lenses
Here we go, the first option is Bonded lens. A bounded lens offers the same correction as your optical glasses.
How does it work?
You send or give the mask and your glass prescription to a dive mask shop.
They will then, fit the right lenses to the prescription of your glasses and will cut the lenses to the same shape of the mask lenses, which they will glue onto the inside of the glasses mask. This procedure may take several weeks and can be quite expensive.
It is definitely one of the best options as the lenses offer great visual correction and can be adapted to any prescription like bifocals, astigmatism, and prism. Before pursuing the bonded lens option, it is best to dive with the mask several times to make sure that it fits well and that it does not leak.
The downside of the bonded lens is that they don’t give a full field of view if the lenses are not the same shape of the mask lenses.
Custom Prescription Lenses
The Custom method is similar to the bonded lens option. The only difference is that the lenses of the mask are replaced with glass lenses that suit to your prescription. This option gives a better result, especially if you have a strong prescription but is more expensive than the bonded lens method.
Be aware that the custom mask and lens will cost a few hundred bucks depending on the exact prescription.
Both bonded and custom prescription mask methods are efficient and are made to fit your eyes. Though, the custom offers a better field of vision than the bonded lens.
Drop In Lens Mask
Another alternative is to buying a mask with removable lenses. You can replace pre-made correction lenses yourself if you know what your prescription is.
This method is the cheaper and the easier one, but it is not recommended for people with astigmatisms. Although, there are a variety of masks with removable lenses adapted to bifocal prescriptions.
A great and inexpensive solution for a prescription mask is “reading glasses.” These are small flexible circles that stick on the mask glasses. Usually, divers use them to be able to read their dive computers, but it can be used as well on regular glasses or even on sunglasses.
Choose the Right Mask
The most important piece in the snorkel set is the mask, it must fit correctly to your face. Otherwise, it can be painful or annoying, and therefore may ruin your snorkel trip!
Check If The Mask Fits Well
It is very simple, just place the mask on your face without using the strap and breath in through your nose. If the mask sticks on your face, it means that the water will not get in and it is the right fit.
Make Sure the Mask Isn’t Leaky
Lay a tissue paper on a table and put the mask on top of it. Pour a bit of water into the mask, then leave it for a couple of minutes, take the mask off and if the water didn’t leak out, then it is not a leaking mask!
That’s it! This article should help you choose the right snorkel equipment for your next underwater adventure. Just know that everyone has different tastes and at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preferences. What really matter is that you feel good in your equipment!
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