Big Island Snorkling Tours Blog

Snorkeling Gear 101 – What do I Need to Snorkel?

Kona Snorkeling 2

Some who join us on our snorkel tours are new to the snorkeling experience and find they love it!  For those who want to continue here are some good tips from Divers Direct on snorkel gear.

In comparison to scuba gear, your snorkeling gear checklist is quite minimal. All you really need is a snorkel, mask, and fins. That’s it! Although, if you’re snorkeling in cooler waters like California or higher UV areas such as Southern Florida and the Bahamas, you may want to consider wetsuits, rashguards, and reef-safe sunblock as well. Take it from us, after a long and wonderful day of snorkeling in the sun, your backside will be feeling the burn if you’re not properly protected. Additionally, if you’re either not the strongest swimmer or prefer an easier, more relaxing snorkel experience, you may also consider getting a snorkel vest for added buoyancy on the water. And finally, you’ll need a proper bag to carry it all in.

Whether you’re looking for just one or all of these items, Divers Direct has everything you need to get you snorkeling. You’re welcome to get each item individually if you really want that EVO mask with a Seac snorkel and Mares fins—again, the reason we have such a myriad of high-quality snorkeling gear is so you can find exactly what works best for you—but we do also offer a wide variety of Snorkel Sets so that you get everything you need in one quick buy. It’s up to you, and we are happy to help you figure out the right gear for your adventure.

Selecting a Snorkeling Mask

Finding the right snorkeling mask is the difference between a fun day and a memorable day in the water. Your mask may seem like a minor piece of the puzzle, but when you find the right mask, you’ll understand. The best snorkeling mask for you should be comfortable, leak free, and crystal clear. Your mask should conform to your face and provide unrestricted views of the underwater world. Some masks even offer the option of prescription lenses or insertable magnifying lenses so you can see underwater as you can above.

Let’s start with the parts of a Snorkeling Mask: Strap, Skirt, Lens(es), Nose Pocket.

Mask Strap: This is the strap that attaches to the sides of the mask and is used to secure the mask to your head. Typically, the strap that comes with the mask is made of rubber or silicone which are soft and flexible. Masks typically feature buckles at the sides which the strap threads through so you can adjust the tightness of the strap easily. Some straps are a single wide band while others offer a split design. The one that is most comfortable and keeps the mask in place for you will depend on the size and shape of your head. Additionally, there are replacement mask straps/wraps that are made from neoprene. These replace or wrap over the strap your mask comes with and generally reduce hair pulling and tangling.

Skirt: The skirt is the part of the mask that sits against your face and forms the seal. Silicone is a popular material due to its softness and flexibility. A feathered skirt provides additional comfort and typically allows for a better seal.

Lens(es): The lens of a snorkeling mask is usually single or double. Some masks offer additional lenses on the sides to increase your field of view. Lenses are usually made out of durable, scratch-resistant tempered glass with anti-reflective coatings to provide clear vision underwater. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Single lens masks typically give you a wider, uninterrupted view while dual lenses offer the ability to put different prescription lenses in each side.

Nose Pocket: The nose pocket is exactly that. A pocket for your nose in the mask so that clearing your mask is easier. Some nose pockets have a purge valve while others don’t. A purge valve is a one way device that allows any water that seeps into the mask to drain with little to no effort from you.

Low-Volume vs. High-Volume – What’s that mean?
You may have heard people refer to their mask as low-volume. When talking about masks, volume means how much air is inside of the mask. A low-volume mask means that the lens(es) sit closer to your face and the mask is more streamlined. In other words, there’s less space, or air, between your eyes and the glass. In contrast, a high-volume mask means that the lens(es) sit further away from your eyes. The best one for you will depend on your preferences, size of your head, and what feels comfortable.

Full Face Snorkeling Masks

A full face snorkeling mask, also known as a dry mask, is ideal for snorkelers who don’t like getting their face wet or biting onto a mouthpiece. This mask covers your entire face and fastens in the back with comfortable straps. You’ll enjoy unparalleled 180-degree vision and fog-free lenses. The unique full-face design allows you to breathe normally as the snorkel is built right into the mask. The dry-top built-in snorkel has a cap that prevents water from getting into the tube allowing you an easy day in the water.

All About Snorkels

A good snorkel is an essential part of your snorkeling gear. Your snorkel is the tube that allows you to breathe air while your face is in the water. And, believe it or not, there are options to consider when purchasing a snorkel. You want to find a snorkel that is most comfortable for you. That may mean the mouthpiece is most important, or you might focus on one that has a vent or valve at the bottom of the tube, or you may want the dry snorkel with the cap that keeps water out.

There are 3 main types of snorkels: Dry Snorkels, Semi-Dry Snorkels, and Purge Snorkels.

Dry snorkels have a self-regulating valve that senses the difference in weight between air and water. The snorkel top seals when submerged and automatically reopens when you resurface, keeping water out of the tube.

Semi-dry snorkels have a splash guard at the top. While semi-dry snorkels keep out a majority of water, they do not block your air source completely as dry snorkels will. They allow even breathing and more flexibility on choppy days, but you’ll still need to clear it.

Open Top snorkels have a completely open top> Some have a purge valve at the bottom for easier clearing, some don’t.

The most important thing in choosing a snorkel is that it’s comfortable for you. The mouthpiece is key because there is such a thing as Jaw Fatigue. This can result in a mild pain and escalate to a headache which will cut a day of underwater exploration short. So again, there are many options and when you find the right one, you’ll know it.

Snorkeling Fins – Which Are Right For You?

The right snorkeling fins are the difference between slicing through the water like a marlin or exhausting yourself between breaths. Snorkeling fins are available in the same styles as scuba fins: full foot or adjustable, and full blade or split fins. You won’t realize how much they help until you take them off and try to swim.

Full foot snorkeling fins: These have an opening for your foot, like a shoe. You don’t need socks but can choose to wear thin lycra dive socks with them if you so choose. These fins are best in places where the water is always warm and typically when you are snorkeling from a boat. You can slip them on, just like a water shoe, and jump in the water—ready to snorkel and explore.

Adjustable snorkeling fins: These have a heel strap with a foot pocket and are also referred to as open heel fins. You need dive boots with these to protect your feet. These fit a wider range of feet and are quickly and easily adjustable. These snorkel fins are designed for multiple environments. They are good for different conditions where the water may not always be as warm or when you may have to walk across rocks to get to the water.

Split snorkeling fins: These provide high propulsion and less resistance with each kick. Great for those with knee problems.

Full blade snorkeling fins: These have a greater top speed as most are now designed to store energy from the 2nd half of your kick to propel you further in the first half of each kick. They can require more muscle to get moving, but have a greater top speed.

Whichever type of snorkeling fins you ultimately choose, make sure they fit comfortably. If there is any discomfort, it’ll only get worse once you’re in the water. For all snorkeling fins, your shoe size is a great place to start.

Buying vs Renting my Snorkeling Gear

Truth is, there are advantages to both. If you’re honestly only going to snorkel once or twice a year, do you really need to buy gear? Let’s explore both options.

Renting Snorkeling Gear

Advantages include traveling lighter, which means you won’t have to pack up all your snorkeling gear or worry about weight limits or the potential cost of an additional checked bag at the airport. Another advantage is that when you rent gear, you have everything you need, there’s no leaving something at home (or on the boat) accidentally. Often, we think another advantage to renting is that it costs less if we’re not snorkeling often. This can be true, but there are times when it’s not.

Buying Snorkeling Gear

When you buy snorkeling gear, you’re making an investment, not just financial, but an emotional investment as well. When you have your snorkeling equipment at home, you’re more likely to be active in the sport and you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. So the question becomes…are you up for adventure?

We highly recommend that you take the time to research gear before you buy. The best snorkel gear for you will be very different from the right gear for your kids or spouse. Your height, weight, build, and physical fitness all play into what snorkeling gear will be right for you.

And for the stuff nobody wants to talk about: rental gear is…well…used. Think about the fact that spit is the best de-fog out there…yeah. And that snorkel goes in your mouth. Lots more we could talk about here, but we think you get the gist.

One last thought on buying. We’d be remiss if we didn’t address kids’ snorkeling gear. The most important factor is that most places that rent snorkeling gear don’t carry a wide array of kid’s sizes. If you don’t buy their gear and take it with you, you run the risk of them not having gear and missing out on the adventure. Kids snorkeling gear includes snorkels with a smaller overall length and smaller mouthpiece for easier use. Sets are usually the best way to go with kid’s snorkeling gear.

It all boils down to this: When you snorkel, you want gear that’s comfortable so you can maximize your time exploring and have fun. Do you want to risk a leaky mask or ill fitting fins when you’re trying to relax and enjoy? Traveling with snorkel gear isn’t cumbersome at all. A mask, fins, and snorkel tuck easily into just about any bag and don’t add much weight.


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