We have a lot of experience with snorkel bags, from the simple mesh ones to big backpacks. And over the years we have figured out what works best for us. Even though we try to keep our snorkel gear simple, we still end up hauling a lot of gear around. So comfort and durability are important.
First you have to figure out what you are going to carry.
We have found over the years that we prefer to have one bag for all the gear for both of us. It just makes things simpler.
So here is what we will often have in our snorkel bag when going out for a day, from the beach or from a boat:
And then when we are snorkeling we will often stick clothes, shoes, hats, and sunglasses into the bag.
You see, it is a lot of stuff.
Even if you are splitting it up and carrying individual bags, it still weighs a decent amount.
Besides being able to carry all of the stuff above, we have found that a good snorkel bag has the following things as well:
After going through several cheap bags, we decided to invest in a quality bag. So we did a bunch of research and ordered one online. We knew we wanted something durable, with two padded shoulder straps, made from quality materials that would dry quickly.
We ended up with a Stahlsac Panama Mesh Backpack and love it (pictured at right).
It has been fantastic on several trips. It is very durable, has a super tough bottom with a drain and very padded and comfortable backpack straps.
It has a full length inner pocket that is waterproof to keep your dry stuff in. This pocket also protects your back from getting wet when you wear the bag. It also has a front pocket for some of the small stuff. It easily carries all the gear we listed above, with extra room.
If there is one drawback to this near perfect snorkeling gear bag, it is maybe a little bit too big. But I would prefer too big to too small. Stahlsac also makes a smaller similar bag (18"x 12" vs. 28"x 13") called the B.V.I. Mesh Backpack (pictured right), but it only has one shoulder strap and no dry pocket inside.
If the above bags aren't right for you, another good company of bag makers for snorkeling gear is Akona. If we were going to get a bag to carry a single set of gear, we would get the Large Akona Snorkeling Gear Backpack for fins longer than 22" (see picture at right).
If your fins are 22" long or less and you only want to carry your own gear, the Small Akona Snorkeling Gear Backpack is a very good option (see picture at right).
Since we have tried many different bags, we thought you might want to know what we did not like about certain ones so you don't waste your money.
These simple mesh snorkel bags have a thin string for a shoulder strap. You often get these free with a snorkel kit purchase. These are good because they are lightweight and take very little room in your travel bag and dry easily. But otherwise they are pretty miserable. The thin strap hurts your shoulder very quickly. And you don't have enough room to put everything in you really need to carry. Which means you will end up taking another bag. Finally, they don't last. They almost always rip out.
We have tried several U.S. Divers snorkel bags (including the Explorer bag) simply because they are more commonly available at Walmart and the like. They are cheap. But unfortunately every one we have owned has torn out pretty quickly. So if you plan on using your snorkel bags more than a couple of times, we would avoid the U.S. Divers bags.
Good snorkel bags are a worthwhile investment, if you value your shoulders. We certainly appreciate ours.