How To Choose A Snorkel, Mask & Fins?
What's the best snorkelling gear?
Everyone's different, so what's best for one person might not be best for the next. The best snorkelling gear for you depends on:
- Where you'll be snorkelling (in warmer or colder waters, or where there are waves?)
- If the gear is for an adult or child (and if they're a big kid or a more compact adult)
- Whether it's for a strong swimmer (or someone with less water confidence)
- How long you want to snorkel for at a time (and how comfortable you want to be)
- If it's just for snorkelling on the surface (or also breath-holding underwater swimming)
- How easily you want size adjustments to be (easy enough for kids to do themselves?)
- How often you'll be snorkelling (just on an upcoming holiday, or every summer?)
- How long you want it to last (for a few weeks or for many years of snorkelling?)
Working out which snorkelling gear to buy is easier when you break it down into these five steps:
Snorkelling gear has a few key parts, and each one has a few main factors to compare:
- Is a breathing tube so you can swim without having to lift your head to take a breath.
- Comes in different types:
- A simple curve which is just a tube (so no special features).
- With a purge valve that makes it easier to clear out water.
- With a splash guard so it's harder for water to get in the tube.
- With a dry top valve that doesn't let any water get in the tube.
- Splash guard and dry tops are best for rougher water and deep diving.
How do you use a snorkel?
When swimming on the surface, just breathe normally (not too quickly or deeply).
If you want to dive down underwater, before you do:
- With the snorkel in your mouth, take a big breath in and hold it.
- Cover the mouthpiece breathing hole with your tongue.
- Keep holding your breath while the snorkel is underwater.
- Once you've resurfaced, make sure the snorkel is out of the water.
- Powerfully blow out the air you've been holding in to push the water out.
- Gives you a crisp, clear view of everything while you're snorkelling.
- Allows you to hold your nose to equalise your ears underwater as the pressure changes.
- With a face seal that's double edged will be better at keeping water out than a single edge.
- With a purge valve makes it easier to clear out water that gets into your mask.
- With one window has no nose-bridge for a full view (but has more glass so is heavier).
- With two windows has a nose-bridge but can have a corrective or bifocal prescription.
- That's for snorkelling may not be suitable for scuba diving (check the depth it can handle).
- With tempered glass is shatterproof if dropped and can also handle deep-dive pressure.
May have a GoPro mount so you can attach an underwater camera and capture the magic.
A pair of flippers:
- Helps you move through water faster so you can snorkel for longer before you get tired.
- With short, soft fins are the easiest to use, so these are best flippers for kids and beginners.
- With long, hard fins give you more water resistance, so these are best for muscle strength.
- That have a full foot and closed heel:
- Covers your whole foot like a shoe.
- Are best for a secure fit but may rub.
- That have a half foot and open heel:
- Strap on to the back of your ankles.
- Give you less chance of blisters (but are less secure).
- Are usually tougher so tend to last longer.
- Give you more power for deep diving.
- Can be worn with boots to protect and keep feet warm.
A pair of dive boots:
- Are popular for scuba diving and snorkelling.
- Protect feet in the water and on the sand.
- Keep feet warm when the water's cold.
- Can be worn with half foot fins (but not full foot fins).
- With no zips keep feet completely dry.
- With zips are easier to get on and off but let water in .
2. Size & comfort
- For kids has a smaller mouthpiece (and may be best for small adults).
- With a shorter tube length is easier to use (but easier for water to get in).
- With a soft silicone mouthpiece is more comfortable than a hard PVC mouthpiece.
- With a flexible bend keeps the mouthpiece away from your face when out of your mouth.
- Test the snorkel before you go in the water to ensure it's sitting comfortably.
- With a soft silicone strap and skirt will be more comfortable and easier to adjust than PVC or rubber.
- With a wide head strap distributes pressure so the strap doesn't dig into your head.
- Needs to be the right size so it doesn't fill up with water or fall off in the ocean.
- Is the right fit if it stays suctioned to your face without the strap (so test that in store).
- Shouldn't leave red marks on your face (if it does, your strap's too tight so loosen it).
- Shouldn't feel uncomfortable anywhere (check the pressure on your nose and forehead).
A pair of flippers:
- Made from soft rubber are softer on your feet and more comfortable than a hard rubber.
- With a half foot:
- Are perfect for those whose feet are in between full shoe/flipper sizes.
- Can be adjusted over time as kids grow and their feet get bigger.
- Are easy to adjust so you can change the size to suit similar-sized people.
- Suit warm and cold water snorkelling (can be worn with boots for warmth).
- That are shorter and lighter are more compact to pack and easier to take travelling.
- Need to fit you properly otherwise they can rub uncomfortably or fall off:
- Full foot - should only have a small finger space from your heel to the flipper.
- Half foot - the foot pocket should stop just before your ankle (but not touch it).
3. What to wear when snorkelling
- SPF50+ sunscreen - you'll be on your stomach so put lots on the back of your legs and feet!
- A rash vest - to protect you from the sun and marine life (or wetsuit to keep you warm).
- A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) - that allows you to snorkel face down and stay afloat.
4. Safety when snorkelling
The keys to snorkelling safely are:
- Be aware that snorkelling can sometimes lead to dehydration or hyperventilation.
- Always snorkel with a buddy - never alone - so they can keep an eye on you.
- Supervise kids snorkelling at all times after explaining how to breathe and be safe.
- Watch out for jet skis and boats - they may not see your snorkel sticking out of the water.
- Be careful near coral
- If it scratches you it can sting or cause allergic reactions (so wear protective clothing).
- Be aware of local snorkelling and diving regulations, especially in protected areas.
When you're weighing up which snorkelling gear to buy, think about quality versus cost:
- Basic plastic snorkelling gear is cheaper but won't last as long as glass and silicone gear.
- Silicone is softer and more comfortable on your body than hard plastic.
When it comes to how much you should spend on snorkelling gear:
- If the kids just want to try snorkelling, then cheap gear should do the trick (then you can upgrade later if they've got the hang of it and want to do more).
- If you want comfortable snorkelling (and less whingeing about pinching!) for many happy beach days ahead, it's worth spending a bit more on good-quality gear.
- Think of it this way, whatever you spend on a snorkelling gear, you're saving on renting gear on future holidays because you can BYO instead.
How much is snorkelling gear?
When you go to the Beach & Surf section on the Anaconda website (under Water in the menu), you'll see tick box filters down the left hand side of the page. Using these filters makes working out which gear to buy easier and faster because you can choose to filter what you see by:
- Categories - so you can choose to only see snorkelling gear.
- Price - so you only see gear that's within your budget.
- Deal - so you only see gear that's on sale or at clearance prices.
- Size - so you can see the gear that's the right size for you.