How to Snorkel in Cold Weather

Expert: Cameron – I have been active in all water-based adventures since 2014. While working overseas I obtained my advanced PADI diving certificate and when needing to fly within the day I go snorkeling instead. Snorkeling in particular has been a hobby of mine since I was a child. I have snorkeled in sub-freezing waters and know what it takes to jump into these frigid temperatures.


Snorkeling is a fascinating activity that allows us to explore the mesmerizing underwater world.

While many people associate snorkeling with warm tropical waters, it’s also possible to enjoy this adventure in cold weather.

In extreme cold temperatures there is no time I would recommend getting into the water in case of hypothermia.

On top of this, never allow your children to enter any water that is below 70°F (20°C), this is the same rule I base for my children.

Snorkeling in cold weather presents its own set of challenges and considerations, but with the right gear and techniques, it can be an exhilarating experience.

I have snorkeled in everything from tropical waters to sub-freezing temperatures and know the specific techniques and gear that you can utilize and bring with you to jump into and snorkel in nearly any water on Earth.

In this article, we will guide you on how to snorkel in cold weather, ensuring your safety, comfort, and enjoyment.

How to Snorkel in Low Temperature Waters

Snow on the Beach
#1

It may be freezing, but snorkeling in cold waters is definitely worth it.

Bring the Right Gear and Equipment for Cold Weather Snorkeling

Read: Is a Wetsuit Needed for Snorkeling in the Winter?

When it comes to snorkeling in cold weather, having the appropriate gear and equipment is crucial.

There are some waters that do not require specific gear or wetsuits and the techniques you need to use will be discussed further on in this guide.

Here are the essentials you’ll need:

  • Wetsuit or Drysuit: A wetsuit or drysuit is essential to provide insulation and keep your body warm in cold water. Opt for a thickness suitable for the water temperature.
  • Hood and Gloves: A hood and gloves help to retain body heat and protect your extremities from the cold. Look for neoprene options that provide insulation.
  • Snorkel and Mask: Choose a reliable snorkel and mask set that fits comfortably and provides a clear view underwater. Ensure a proper seal to prevent water from entering.
  • Fins and Boots: Fins provide propulsion and maneuverability, while boots offer protection and insulation for your feet. Invest in high-quality options that fit well.
Snorkel Gear Inside

In all general snorkeling adventures I head on I bring a light wetsuit and my boots/fins since the fins I use require booties to use.

My dive instructor used an old pair of converse for his but this is not a great option for colder waters since there is no insulation.

Proper Techniques for Snorkeling in Cold Water

To fully enjoy snorkeling in cold water, it’s important to master the following techniques:

  • Deep breathing and relaxation: Take slow, deep breaths to relax your body and conserve energy. This technique also helps to minimize fogging in your snorkel mask.
  • Equalizing ear pressure: Learn how to equalize the pressure in your ears by gently pinching your nose and blowing gently. This technique prevents discomfort and potential ear injuries.
  • Proper buoyancy control: Maintaining proper buoyancy control is crucial for efficient snorkeling. Practice controlling your buoyancy by using your breath and adjusting your weight distribution.
  • Clearing your snorkel: In cold water, your snorkel may accumulate water more frequently. Learn how to clear your snorkel by exhaling forcefully, ensuring clear airflow.
  • Slow and controlled movements: In cold water, it’s important to conserve energy and avoid rapid movements. Move slowly and steadily to minimize heat loss and maximize your snorkeling time.

It is understandable that you would assume to move more frequently to generate more body heat when your cold, however it is the opposite.

When in water your body produces the same amount of heat that you would outside of the water.

The difference is that the water immediately saps out the heat making everything in the vicinity the same temperature as itself.

If you need more proof, according to the Red Cross, movement will lead to your body get cooler faster, which will speed up the effects of hypothermia.

Preparing for Cold Weather Snorkeling

Proper preparation is key to enjoying a comfortable snorkeling experience in cold weather.

Consider the following tips:

  • Layering clothing for warmth: Wear thermal or insulating layers underneath your wetsuit or drysuit to provide extra warmth. Opt for materials such as neoprene.
  • Applying sunscreen and lip balm: Even in cold weather, the sun’s rays can still be strong. Apply a waterproof sunscreen and protect your lips with a moisturizing lip balm.
  • Warm-up exercises: Perform some warm-up exercises before entering the water to increase blood circulation and prepare your body for the cold.
  • Mental preparation and relaxation techniques: Cold water can be invigorating but also a bit challenging. Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques to calm your mind and adapt to the cold.

Choosing the Right Snorkeling Locations for Cold Weather

Strytan Iceland
#2

When selecting a snorkeling location in cold weather, consider the following factors:

  • Water temperature: Choose locations with slightly warmer water temperatures for a more comfortable snorkeling experience. Look for areas with less exposure to cold currents.
  • Marine life and visibility: Research the marine life and visibility in different locations. Some areas may offer better visibility and more diverse marine species, enhancing your snorkeling experience.
  • Accessibility and facilities: Consider the accessibility of the snorkeling site and the availability of facilities such as parking, restrooms, and changing rooms. Easy access and amenities can add convenience to your snorkeling adventure.
  • Local regulations and safety: Familiarize yourself with any local regulations or restrictions related to snorkeling. Additionally, inquire about the presence of lifeguards or safety measures in the area.

It may be difficult to find a location with a lifeguard, but if there is one you most definitely want them out there for any unsuspecting accidents.

Read: Top 4 Adventurous Snorkeling Spots in Iceland

Staying Warm and Comfortable During Cold Weather Snorkeling

To stay warm and comfortable throughout your snorkeling session in cold weather, follow these tips:

  • Keep moving: Constant movement generates body heat and helps to keep you warm. Swim around, explore different areas, and maintain an active snorkeling session.
  • Avoid hypothermia: Be aware of the signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, fatigue, and confusion. If you start experiencing these symptoms, exit the water immediately and warm up.
  • Use a thermal hood: Consider using a thermal hood to provide extra insulation for your head. The head is a major source of heat loss, so keeping it covered can help maintain body temperature.
  • Take breaks and warm-up: Take short breaks out of the water to warm up if needed. Use a warm towel or blanket to regulate body temperature before getting back in the water.

Constant movement does is not the same thing as irradic movement.

Rapid movement may warm you up in the short-period, but the water will sap out most of the heat you produced and leave you exhausted.

Extra Safety Tips for Cold Weather Snorkeling

Snorkeling in cold weather requires extra precautions to ensure your safety.

Follow these important safety tips:

  1. Check weather conditions and water temperature: Before heading out, check the weather forecast and water temperature. Avoid snorkeling in extreme weather conditions or when the water is too cold.
  2. Buddy system and communication: Always snorkel with a buddy and establish a clear communication system, such as hand signals, to stay connected underwater.
  3. Proper hydration and nutrition: Stay hydrated and nourished before and after snorkeling. Cold water can cause dehydration, so drink plenty of fluids and have a nutritious meal beforehand.
  4. Know your limits and stay close to shore: Be aware of your swimming abilities and physical fitness. Snorkel within your comfort zone and stay close to the shore to minimize risks.

Summary

Snorkeling in cold weather can be an exciting and rewarding experience for adventure enthusiasts.

Remember to never enter extremely cold waters unless you have proper training and never let children enter waters under 70°F (20°C).

By following the proper techniques, wearing suitable gear, and taking necessary safety precautions, you can fully enjoy the wonders of the underwater world even in colder temperatures.

Remember to choose the right snorkeling locations, stay warm and comfortable, and always prioritize your safety.

So, grab your gear, embrace the chill, and embark on an unforgettable cold weather snorkeling adventure!


[Sources and References]

Think Twice before Going near Cold Water or Ice – American Red Cross, www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/atg/PDFs/Take_a_Class/Think_twice_before_going_near_cold_or_ice.pdf. Accessed 24 Jan. 2024.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

#1 Image by Laura
#2 Image by Emily