Finding the Best Snorkeling Gear for You
There are many options for snorkeling gear, but the basics stay the same. One of the great things about snorkeling is how easy it is to try and how inexpensive it is to get started. Here is a general guide on the basics of equipment for going snorkeling.
The Basic Snorkeling Gear – Mask, Fins, and Snorkel
The essentials for any snorkeling gear include mask, fins, and snorkel. These can be bought in a set, or individually. When going on a tour, these things are generally provided, but it is good to check beforehand. It is recommended to have your own set if you plan on going snorkeling more than once as it allows you to go snorkeling anywhere and also lets you be at ease knowing you are the only person putting the snorkel in your mouth.
Additional snorkeling gear and equipment sometimes needed – Wetsuits, rash guards, stinger suits
Depending on where you are going snorkeling will determine what kind of gear you need. The water might be quite cold in which case you would need a wetsuit to be comfortable. The sun causes burns and jellyfish (stingers in Australia) can also be a concern in certain areas in which case rash guards or stinger suits are recommended.
In general, if you are going somewhere tropical, you do not need a wetsuit as part of your snorkel gear. As you will be close to the surface and the rays from the sun will keep you plenty warm. However, even tropical snorkeling spots can be cold so it is good to check the water temperature beforehand.
Generally, if it is below 24 C or 75 F, It is recommended your snorkeling gear include at least a short wetsuit on if you are going to be in the water for a substantial amount of time. If the water is below 20 C / 68 F, a full wetsuit would be recommended.
The Mask and Snorkel
Selecting the mask and snorkel are generally done together when collecting gear, although they can be done separately. While you can go snorkeling with contacts, some people require glasses and for them there are prescription masks available.
Picking the right mask
There are three main styles of masks, but in general they are generally one size fits all. The average person just starting out and wanting to get a mask is generally best starting off with an inexpensive set and go from there. Some of the most experienced snorkelers and divers just get the cheapest set every time since they oftentimes wear out or get damaged through travel or the elements (sun and salt water).
Single lens mask:
These masks have a single glass lens with a frame attached to the straps. In general, these are good for people with a slightly wider face or problems with masks pressing on the bridge of the nose. These are recommended for most people snorkeling as they fit everyone.
Twin lens mask:
These masks have a lower volume than a single lens mask and have two separate lens. The lower volume means that they are closer to the face and allow for better peripheral vision. When snorkeling with a prescription lens, this should be done with a twin lens mask.
Frameless masks create a lower volume which makes it easier to deal with pressure changes when descending to deeper depths. When snorkeling, this is not typically an issue, but if a person finds themselves diving a lot, this mask can be very useful.
A note about mask skirts:
In general, for those snorkeling or that want a wide view of light, a clear silicon mask is recommended. However, black silicon masks are favored sometimes by videographers as they cuts out glare from the sides.
Picking a snorkel:
When selecting a separate snorkel, this gear that is often obtained with the mask. However, here are a few of the options for snorkels including the semi-dry and dry snorkel.
Semi-dry snorkel – these snorkels have a canopy that prevent water from coming in
Dry snorkel – these snorkels have a dry canopy that does not allow water to enter into the tube of the snorkeler
Picking a fin:
The fin is relatively easy to pick and if you get a snorkeling set, whatever fin is included will be sufficient for starting out. However, it is good to know the difference when purchasing snorkeling gear separately.
When looking at fins, there are 2 main types of fittings for fins and 3 types of blades for the fins. The main types of fittings are either adjustable, open heel fins, or closed heel / full foot fins. The 3 types of blades include the standard paddle blade, split fins, and classic style fins.
Closed Heel / Full Foot Fins: These fins are designed to let people wear the fin directly on their feet and should fit snugly, without wedging the toes at the top of the fin.
Open Heel / Adjustable fins: These fins are typically designed to fit over a reef booty, good for reefs or nasty ladders on boats. Adjust the strap at the end to fit snugly in the booty. There are some that can fit without a reef booty, but it is generally recommended to wear with a booty as they can oftentimes cause blisters if there is nothing covering your feet.
Standard Paddle Blade: These fins are the most basic and recommended for most just starting as they are generally more inexpensive. They have one blade but this blade generally have multiple components on that single blade such as rubber and plastic fittings. The most important thing to look at when picking a standard paddle blade fin for snorkeling is that they have strong rails to prevent bending and curving too much.
Split Blade Fins: The split blade fins are great for snorkelers or divers going long distances. The blade being split allows for a propeller like motion while kicking and they give more thrust. However, they do lack maneuvering that the standard paddle blade provides if there are lots of turns you are making while under water.
Classic Style Blade Fins: The classic style blade fins are made from heavy rubber. They are generally for commercial or professional divers and designed to move heavy gear or loads through the water. They also have vents to allow for maneuvering