What to Wear When Snorkeling

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Expert: Cameron – I have been snorkeling for over two decades and have a certification with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. During this time I have learned that there are certain necessities needed when snorkeling and those that could enhance your experience.


With the proper equipment and understanding, anyone can become a master snorkeler.

What do you need to wear when you are snorkeling?

To properly and safely enjoy your snorkeling experience you need the right gear. The essentials to snorkeling include your snorkel mask, snorkel, properly fitted fins, a PFD, and depending on your location a wetsuit. However, if you are minimizing your snorkel trip you will only require a snorkel and mask.

There are other items to include, depending on the type of snorkeling you plan on partaking in; what are these categories and what other equipment do you need for your adventure?

What Snorkeling Gear Do You Need?

As mentioned previously, the basics of snorkeling would include firstly you mask and snorkel, and at times snorkel fins and a wetsuit.

Not all snorkel gear listed is necessary to snorkel, but having them can give you greater fulfillment and bring you more fluidity when it comes to certain situations in the water.

Wearing the Bare Minimum Snorkel Gear

I would rank to bare minimum snorkel gear required to a snorkel mask and a snorkel.

But typically you would include fins and possibly booties for those fins but the booties are definitely not required or typical for most snorkel enthusiast.

Snorkel Mask

Your mask provides you with clear vision underwater.

When deciding on the mask you want it is imperative that it fits properly to ensure you do not have any leaks and is not causing any unnecessary friction with your face.

I have personally had issues with masks that worked wonderfully but rode tightly on the bridge of my nose causing pain and discomfort with extended use.

Still, your mask should fit snugly against your face with no gaps to ensure a proper seal in order to prevent water from leaking into it.

There are several types of snorkel masks to choose from and the different options along with benefits are sub-listed below.

When fitting the right snorkel mask to your face shape these are the mask types you will be able to choose from.

Two Window Snorkel Mask
Two Window Snorkel Mask
#1

These masks hold two separate windows within the mask housing.

They are held closer to the face which makes it easier to equalize when free diving down.

Be mindful of the pressure that is applied to your nose when fitting this mask since greater pressure will cause discomfort over extended use.

Single Lens Snorkel Mask
Snorkel Mask and Toothpaste

A single lens mask provides one lens that extends the view range.

These are what is more typical when looking for masks to snorkel with since it provides a greater range of vision.

Panoramic Snorkel Mask

These masks are more of a side feature from the previous two options.

They provide side windows and are more protruded out to increase your field of vision.

Full Face Snorkel Mask

As the name suggests, these masks cover your entire face.

They are gaining popularity within snorkeling mainly because it allows you to still breath through your nose.

Most, if not all models of these masks come with the snorkel already attached so you will not have to worry about looking around for a separate snorkel.

Snorkel

A snorkel is what is used to ensure breathing while looking underwater.

Your snorkel should be simple to clear (pushing out water) when it becomes blocked when either diving down or a wave comes by.

If your mask is sold separately, you need to make sure that your snorkel feels comfortable and does not restrict your breathing.

Depending on who you ask there are three or more types of snorkels.

Classic Snorkel

These snorkels are usually paired with your average snorkel combo when purchasing.

They are rigid and produce less drag because of it when free diving into the water.

It has an open top and is what you would typically picture when thinking of a snorkel.

Semi-Dry Snorkel

A key feature of these snorkels is the splash guard which prevents waves from coming through your snorkel with slits cut into the side of the guard.

It has a flexible tube the curves toward your mouth making it a more universal fit.

A purge valves sits underneath the mouthpiece to release water when coming back up from a dive as well.

These also come with a snorkel clip that attaches to the side of your mask.

Dry Snorkel

These also have a splash guard.

What makes them unique is the dry valves that will seal when fully submerged into the water.

This ensures that upon resurfacing you will not have to purge your snorkel like the semi-dry model.

Just as the previous model mentioned they also have a flex tube.

This can be great for new snorkelers who find purging techniques difficult.

Flexible Snorkel

Similar to the classic, there are typically no splash guards with this type.

The key difference here is that the body of the snorkel is made with silicone instead of a hard plastic which allows flexibility to a degree that it can completely bend in half then pop back into its shape.

Snorkel Fins

Read: Do I Need Snorkel Fins to Snorkel?

Not really, but snorkel fins are used to assist in propelling you through the water.

They need to fit comfortably and properly to provide the most efficient propulsion while you snorkel.

Important things to consider when choosing your fins is type, proper fitting, and if you will need booties or dive socks to prevent friction sores from forming on your feet.

Personally, I have gone diving with fins that I did not have any dive socks or booties and the friction sores that formed greatly hinder your experience since you are constantly rubbing up against certain parts of your feet.

Additional Snorkel Gear

Additional here just means not typical or required when snorkeling.

You will need these items or equipment depending on circumstance like cold weather, snorkeling remotely, snorkeling in rough waters, etc.

First we will go through some safety snorkel gear then head on towards extra equipment like wetsuits and other snorkel attire.

Wearing Flotation Devices or PFDs While Snorkeling

Snorkeler with a PFD
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You can still snorkel if you can’t swim.

Flotation devices or PFDs provide additional buoyancy, allowing you to stay afloat with less effort.

These are wonderful to bring if you are just focused on surface snorkeling as mentioned previously.

Most importantly, if you cannot swim or are not a strong swimmer it is imperative that you bring a PFD on your snorkeling excursion.

Additional Snorkel Safety Equipment

There are several additional safety equipment’s that can be useful to snorkeling especially if it is an activity that you regularly participate in.

Safety Whistles for Snorkelers

Whistles are a good addition to warn those around you of dangerous marine life or signaling for help.

These can also be much better than shouting to others that have their heads underwater since sound has a difficulty traveling underwater.

Remember that your whistle will only work above water.

Signaling Mirror

A signal mirror can be a lifesaver if you are swept up by a current and carried out to a distance difficult for others to see.

This can be a good tool to get the attention of any lifeguard on shore if you are too far out for a whistle to reach them as well.

Emergency Snorkel Flotation Device

Besides your usual PFDs, there are emergency flotation devices that can be purchased to allow rapid inflation.

These usually come in a square pouch with a pull rope that will immediately inflate and keep you above the surface to conserve your energy.

Wetsuit for Snorkeling

Preferred Water Temperature for Snorkelers

While they aren’t for every occasion, you might be considering snorkeling in colder water during your vacation.

While snorkeling during the winter or just in colder weather, using a wetsuit provide a way to keep you warm while in these colder waters.

These can also protect you from stings or abrasions depending on your location and the marine life around you.

I really wish that I brought my thinner wetsuit when I took a trip to the Philippines since the waters we snorkeled in were teeming with tiny jellyfish.

Proper fitting and thickness are important factors to consider when choosing your suits.

Thinner models will also provide a great protection to UV light.

Full Suit
Woman Snorkeling While Wearing a Wetsuit

These provide greater protection against colder waters, marine life stings, and abrasions.

This is the suit you will want if your snorkeling adventure brings you to waters below 75 degrees F.

They come in either two pieces or one.

Springsuit or Shorty

These are made with a thinner material and therefore provide less protection than the suit previously mentioned.

Since the material is thinner, they are also easier to get on and off.

This is one you would bring to a warmer temperature environment above 75 degrees F.

They also come in two piece or one piece options.

Booties or Dive Socks for Snorkel Fins

Booties allow for additional protection and warmth to your feet when snorkeling.

There are some snorkeling locations that do not have just soft sand when entering the water and having booties is an extreme bonus when dealing with coral ground of a rough terrain.

Besides this protection, booties and diving socks prevent friction sores with your snorkel fins.

Be mindful when choosing booties since you will need fins that fit over them properly to even wear them.

If your fins do not fit with booties on there is no need to have them, however most dive socks will keep your fins fitted properly.

Be mindful of thickness when deciding on booties for colder water, the thicker the material the warmer your feet will be.

Gloves While Snorkeling

Gloves are another addition that can protect your hands from cuts or abrasions as well as provide warmth in cooler waters.

They are usually all made from a neoprene material and can come in a variety of thicknesses depending on your needs.

Choose the size properly before buying because an improperly fitted glove will deeply break down your dexterity (ability to use your hands).

Snorkel Bags

This can mean different things depending on how you read it, but a snorkel bag can either carry your snorkel gear and fins or be a mesh bag for your findings.

Fins can be long and burdensome to travel with and having a bag that they fit in is so convenient that you will wish you never went without it.

Besides a gear bag, having a mesh bag to carry any trash you find in the water or shells you want to take home is a great addition to your kit.

Summary

Snorkeling is a fun and exciting activity that allows you to explore the underwater world.

Having the right gear will allow you to snorkel comfortably and safely.

Your main gear should always include at least a snorkel and mask if not fins.

It is also important to take care of your gear in order to keep it in good condition.

Be mindful of sizing and your location to ensure you have everything necessary to have a wonderful adventure.


[Sources and References]

“Swimming Temperature Guide (With Chart).” SeaTemperatures.net, http://seatemperatures.net/blog/swimming-temperature-guide/. Accessed 26 February 2024.
“Coastal Water Temperature Guide.” National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), NOAA, https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/products/coastal-water-temperature-guide. Accessed 26 February 2024.

[Image Attribution and Licensing]

#1 Image by Leopictures from Pixabay
#2 Image by confused_me from Pixabay