Whether you’re pumped to adventure into the great outdoors during the warmer months or you’re planning a tropical vacation, being able to dive in and explore the underwater world is one of the best ways to get the most from your time around the ocean, the sea or even lakes and rivers. While you could go full throttle and sign up for scuba diving lessons right away, it might be a good idea to try snorkeling first to see how you enjoy spotting marine life and breathing while swimming at the surface.
To help you out with the best snorkeling gear, we turned to the experts.
Eric Albinsson, Instructor Development Programs Specialist for PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), tells SPY, “Snorkeling is a great first step towards experiencing the underwater world. Top tips include ensuring your mask fits properly and using defog spray, taking your time swimming so you do not spook the fish, always have a snorkel buddy with you, respect aquatic life and — most importantly — have fun!”
In addition, Eric has provided SPY with more detailed snorkeling and safety tips below:
Top Snorkeling Tips
1. Take the time to make sure your mask fits properly. There are few things as annoying as a leaky mask. Hold the mask against your face with your hair out of the way on your forehead, and gently inhale with your nose a little bit and then briefly hold your breath, just a second or two. The mask should stay on your face without you holding it in place until you exhale again.
2. Use defog spray/gel on the inside of the mask just before entering the water to prevent it from fogging up. The second most annoying thing when snorkeling is a fogged-up mask.
3. Swim slowly on the surface to conserve energy and to avoid spooking the fish you are looking at.
4. Bring a small waterproof camera to take photos or film what you see.
5. Ask a local PADI Dive Center or Resort for tips on where to go to see interesting things.
6. Carry a small mesh bag to collect any trash you swim by.
7. Have fun!
1. If you haven’t snorkeled before, have a PADI Divemaster or Instructor show you how with the PADI Discover Snorkeling program or PADI Advanced Snorkeler course.
2. Never snorkel alone. Stay within 10 feet of a buddy.
3. Consider wearing, or using, something that helps you float such as a wetsuit, snorkeling vest or marker buoy. You don’t want to be negatively buoyant (sink) while snorkeling. You mainly want to stay on the surface.
4. If you do dive down underwater, don’t make those dives more than a couple of feet in depth and only for a few seconds.
5. Stay aware of where you are. Look up to get your bearings to the shore/boat regularly to avoid getting too far away from your exit.
6. Familiarize yourself with any hazards in the area you want to snorkel in such as currents or areas with very shallow water. Currents can pull you away from your exit point and swimming against them will tire you quickly. Very shallow water could mean you scrape your legs or belly as you swim over them.
7. Don’t touch any aquatic life. While rare, injuries such as bites, stings and scrapes, can happen but are usually as a result of the snorkeler trying to touch/grab/ride the animal.
8. Swim slowly to avoid cramps or overexertion.
9. Don’t walk over coral to get into deeper, swimmable water. Plan your route before entering the water.
Now that you’re prepared to snorkel well and safely, keep reading to learn more about the best snorkeling gear necessary for enjoying the underwater world and our top picks for the pieces you’ll need to fill out your collection.
Best DIY Snorkeling Gear
When purchasing the best snorkeling gear, you have the choice to buy a premade set or create your own set with the specific gear you would like to use. Keep in mind that a basic snorkeling set should include a mask, a snorkel and fins. However, you can go above and beyond by purchasing all the gear listed below.
1. Beuchat Maxlux S Mask
Comfort is the main factor to consider when buying a snorkeling mask. Luckily, masks have come a long way from stiff plastic and uncomfortable straps. Today, many of the best snorkeling masks have soft, silicone skirts (the name of the plastic around the glass lens). This Beauchat Maxlux Mask is particularly comfortable thanks to the compact nature of the skirt and the large, panoramic view. Just be sure to purchase the right size for your face. You may also want to consider buying a strap cover like this one if you have long hair.
2. TUSA Imprex II Hyperdry Scuba Diving Snorkel
When it comes to choosing a snorkel, you’ll have a wide variety of choices available both online and in big box stores. Unlike freediving snorkels, snorkels designed for snorkeling often include a dry top and purge valve systems. In addition to those attributes, the TUSA Imprex II Hyperdry Scuba Diving Snorkel also boasts an ortho-consciously designed mouthpiece and a silicone flexible neck for easy traveling.
3. Oceanic Viper Open Heel Fins
Although you may think you can wear any old fins and enjoy a pleasant snorkeling session, the choice you make when buying fins is one of the most important to ensure a safe and pleasant trip into the water. That’s because fins give you the power to move across the surface of the water, whether there’s a hefty current or there’s a particularly quick fish you want to see. That’s why we recommend the Oceanic Viper Fins. The shape of the fins provides power and efficiency. In addition, the open heels are more comfortable and flexible than full foot fins. While masks and snorkels are obviously important pieces of snorkeling gear to buy, you should never overlook the best snorkeling fins.
4. OMGear Store Water Socks
BEST ACCESSORY FOR COMFORT
When you wear open-heel fins (and even when you wear full-foot fins), covering up your feet in a pair of water socks or booties is a good idea. This helps secure the fins to your feet and prevents blisters at the same time. As an added bonus, if the water is chilly, these socks will keep your feet a tad bit warmer. We love these 3mm beach booties from OMGear thanks to their adjustable velcro ankle strap and the range of colors available.
5. PACEARM Packable Swim Bag
BEST ACCESSORY FOR TRAVEL
It might not be as equipment-intense as scuba diving, but there’s still a lot of gear needed for snorkeling. Sure, you could throw the snorkel, mask, fins and socks into your suitcase and hope for the best, but it’s a much better idea to have a dedicated swim bag for your gear. This will allow you not only to keep all the pieces together in your traveling bag but also to transport them to the beach, too. Just look for a mesh-style bag, like this one from PACEARM, to ensure sand and water build-up isn’t an issue.
6. Scubapro Definition Shorty Wetsuit
BEST FOR EXTENDED SNORKELING SESSIONS
If you’re visiting the Caribbean or somewhere else tropical and only intend to snorkel for about 30 minutes at a time, a bathing suit (and maybe a rashguard) will likely be enough exposure protection. However, for longer snorkeling sessions or snorkeling somewhere with chillier water temperatures, you’re going to want a wetsuit. A 2.5mm shorty is easily packable and will provide warmth for water temps above 65°F. Anything colder, and you may want to look at a full wetsuit for more protection.
7. OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera
BEST UNDERWATER CAMERA
Pics or it didn’t happen, right? Whether you subscribe to that mantra or not, it’s always nice to have photos of your expeditions, especially when they involve colorful fish and coral reefs. You likely have a smartphone that’s waterproof, but you definitely don’t want to take it into saltwater with you. It’s not designed to handle the corrosive properties of salt for extended periods of time. So, we recommend grabbing one of the best entry-level underwater cameras available. The OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 is loved by underwater adventurers, so much so that it’s even used by plenty of professional photographers.
Best Pre-Made Snorkeling Sets
Although you may be tempted to put together your own snorkeling gear sets, you’ll have likely noticed by now that there are a lot of pieces involved. That’s why if you’re particularly crunched for time or you’re looking for the best value snorkeling set, you may want to look for an option that’s already been put together for you.
1. WACOOL Snorkeling Package Set
In the event that you only need a mask and snorkel, one of the best options available on Amazon is this WACOOL Snorkeling Package Set. Not only is it one of the cheapest sets on the market, but it’s also of a high enough quality to last you through a few seasons (just ensure you rinse it off with fresh water after any trips into the sea). The comfortable mask fits most adults, and the snorkel comes complete with a purge valve and splash guard. Plus, this set is available in nine fun colors.
2. U.S. Divers Adult Cozumel Set
Although not a great choice for scuba diving, U.S. Divers is one of the top manufacturers of snorkeling gear sold in the United States. Available in six colors, this set comes with a comfortable mask, an ergonomically designed snorkel with a one-way purge and splash guard, a pair of full-foot fins and a mesh gear bag. All you need to do is add water to enjoy an exciting snorkeling excursion with this U.S. Divers Adult Cozumel Set.
3. SEAC Motus Tris
For those who are curious about the freediving trend, we recommend investing in the SEAC Motus Tris. This set is designed for freedivers with its extra-long blade fins and tempered glass mask boasting a super soft silicone skirt. While the non-valved snorkel with its easy-to-detach clip is ideal for freedivers, it’s important to note that this snorkel is not as practical for standard snorkeling as it doesn’t include a purge or splash guard. Still, if you’re interested in potentially crossing the line between snorkeling and freediver in the future, this would be a great choice. Just be sure to sign up for proper freediving training before you start to dive on breath holds.