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How to Buy Snorkeling Equipment – Best Beginner Guide!

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Snorkel equipment set

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.


What Mask Skirt Material, Plastic or Silicone?

Plastic

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!

 

Silicone

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.


Mask Straps

Neoprene

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?

Dark Silicone Snorkel Mask

Clear

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

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?

 

Classic

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!

 

One Lens

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.

 

Two Lenses

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.


Frameless Mask

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.

Snorkel tube for snorkelling

Basic

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

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.

 

Purge Valve

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

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

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

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

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 Fin

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 Fin

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.

Prescription snorkel mask

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.

 

Magnifiers

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.


Tips

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!


In Conclusion!

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!

 

Want to Know More About Snorkel Gear?

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What’s your favorite snorkel gear? Feel free to share your experience in your comment below!

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. This is exactly what i was looking! I was always confused with all the types of snorkeling equipment out there, and never was sure what do i actually need! this post offered me everything on one place! i love to snorkel, and never seem to find the perfect mask for me! One more thing – i heard that the best way to prevent fogging of the mask is to spit in it and smudge and then wipe. heard that from my friend, scuba diver. Is it true?

    • Hi Bob,

      Thank you for the comment!

      Indeed, it is not always easy to find the right snorkeling equipment. The best is to learn and try them on:)

      I am glad that you’ve found this post useful and I hope it will help you find the right snorkeling gear!

      Your friend is totally right. Spitting prevents the mask from fogging. It is one of the best technique!

      Thanks again and wish you a great day!

  2. Hi Daniella!

    I really didn’t know that there were so many things you needed to take into account when choosing snorkeling equipment.

    I thought you just chose any glasses and tube, and you’re good to go.

    Thanks for the thorough review on all the elements involved. I’ll take it easy next time when choosing the equipment! 😉

    • Hi Israel,

      Thank you for the comment!

      Yes, every beginner in snorkeling thinks the same:) I was satisfied with just a simple mask and a snorkel until I realized that my mask was leaking and fogging and that water was getting inside my snorkel and finally, I couldn’t enjoy my snorkel adventure anymore. So, I took the decision to buy the right set and believe me, there is a huge difference!

      Thanks again and I wish you a lovely day!

  3. I live here in the Florida Keys and although I own snorkel equipment, it was not until recently that I actually found a great mask and snorkel that fit me perfect! It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most expensive one either.
    I really enjoyed reading this and learned more about the full face masks which I was curious about. We do a lot of free diving and spearfishing here and I thought it might be good for that but it sounds like it is not easy to clear. Have you had much experience with the full-face masks?
    Thanks for posting such a great article!

    • Hi Loren,

      Indeed, snorkel equipment doesn’t have to be expensive! As long as it suits well, that’s what matter most!

      That’s right. The full snorkel mask is not easy to clear as your nose is inside the mask and you cannot hold it. When freediving, you need to equalize the pressure and the fact that the full face has more air inside than any other regular snorkel mask, so if you dive just 1 meter deep, the mask will become really uncomfortable to wear, and you’ll have the sensation that your ears explode. When you’ll get to the surface, the pressure will compress your face that you would look like a fish:)

      Full face mask is only for snorkeling on the surface of the water. I wouldn’t suggest using it for freediving or spearfishing!

      I live near the sea and I often snorkel with my children and my husband. He does spearfishing, Yes, I do have full face called Easybreath from Tribor. It is a fantastic mask and I am going to purchase more for my children as well:) I love it because I don’t have to bother with purging the snorkel and with breathing.

      I hope it helped and if you need more info, please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’ll be more than happy to assist!

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

  4. Hi Daniella
    Thank’s for the helpful information here. I like to snorkel a lot. Sometimes I rent the gear, but that is mostly disappointing. Now I want to buy a real good gear for myself. I could get a good picture of what kind of mask I want.
    Can you give me a tip how I should store my diving gear, I don’t need it all the time and think I should conserve it a bit during the year. Here we have a very hot and humid climate, and things rot quite quickly.
    Thank’s again and have a great day

    • Hi Stefan,

      The problem with snorkel gear rental places is that they don’t always have the equipment that corresponds to your size. Also, it is not really hygienic!
      If you dive quite often, then it is better to buy your own gear, works out to be less expensive than if you rent it.

      However, to answer your question on how to conserve your snorkel equipment.

      1. You need to rinse off all your gear with fresh water and let it dry completely.

      2. Place your snorkel mask into a hard case to protect its glasses from breaking or scratching. Also, you should always store the mask separately from other gear.

      3. As for the fins, put them back into the plastic bag it came with when you bought it to keep its shape of the foot pockets well. The same for the tube!

      I hope it helped and if you need further information, feel free to contact me, I’ll be happy to help!

      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

  5. I appreciated the tip about how the right mask can help you avoid a painful or annoying snorkeling trip. My husband wants to go for our next vacation. These tips seem like it’ll help make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

    • Hi Estrada,
      I am glad you’ve found the tips useful and I hope they will come in handy for your next vacation:)
      Thank you for the comment and wish you a fantastic day!

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