Believe us, good snorkel equipment makes your time in the water a joy, compared to a leaky fogging mask, a snorkel that floods easily, or fins that blister your feet. Perfectly fitting snorkel gear gets out of your way, out of your mind, enabling you to relax and focus on the great stuff underwater.
Here you'll learn all of your snorkeling equipment options, and how to get a perfect fit for your face, feet and mouth.
That's why it is best to buy vs. rent, even for beginners. Rentals rarely fit right. And once you have a good set of snorkeling gear, it will last you for years with minimal care. We have taken ours all over the world.
There are just three pieces of snorkel equipment that you have to have, a mask, snorkel and fins.
Snorkel masks come in a large variety of styles and sizes and materials. You can get them with one window, or up to four. Some have plastic skirts, but 100% silicone is far better. The main thing is to get one of good quality that fits you perfectly. Our snorkel mask choices page at left will walk you through everything you need to know to make a good choice.
A perfectly fitting mask is essential for a good snorkeling experience. Learn what to look for.
And if you wear glasses, and don't use contacts, then get yourself a mask that will allow you to see like you have your glasses on.
Then learn our tips on how to prevent snorkel mask fogging.
Snorkels seem simple, but they come in a bunch of different styles and types and sizes. And getting the right one is important for your mouth shape and preferences. Some have splash guards on top, or dry valves, with purge valves on the bottom. You can get them as a one piece tube, or with a flexible silicone tube section on bottom. Explore all your options on our snorkel page.
Full face snorkel masks are a new option that combine a snorkel and a mask into one unit. For some people these are great, but they also have some disadvantages. We go over all the pros and cons as well as explain what brands to go with on our full face snorkel mask page.
Depending on your skill level, strength and if you like to free-dive or not, your choice of snorkeling fins is pretty broad. You can get them with a closed or open foot, with split fins or solid, or compact travel versions. All you need to know is on our fins page.
If you are just starting, buying all your essential snorkel gear in one set can save you a lot of money on your snorkel equipment. It just may not all fit as good as selecting each part individually.
The snorkel equipment below may not be essential, but you might be a bit crazy not to have and use it. Protection from the sun in particular deserves your full attention. And if you are not a good swimmer, then a flotation device is critical to have.
We have used many different sunscreens for snorkeling, and have done careful side-by-side tests to see which ones are the most water resistant and provide the best protection. Click on our best snorkeling sunscreen page at left to read about these tests and find out what products won.
Besides your protection, using a reef friendly sunscreen is important, because the chemicals in most sunscreens are hurting sea life. In some places you may not be allowed in the water if you are not using a biodegradable sunscreen. Learn about reef-friendly sunscreens and our application tips.
Using sunscreen is good, but when we go in and out of the water several times in a day, it becomes a pain to re-apply every time. So we wear long sleeve rash guard shirts when we snorkel. This reduces the area we need to sunscreen by a bunch. And the rash guard provides a small amount of insulating warmth and jellyfish sting protection. If you want extra warmth, we recommend a thin 1 mm long sleeve wetsuit top.
A snorkeling vest is basically an inflatable life preserver. If you are a strong swimmer you don't need it. It is essential if you are at all unsure about your swimming skills. And they are highly recommended for children.
Many snorkel tour companies make you wear them. If you feel like you need one it is better to use your own, because we have found those provided by renal/boat companies often have leaks. We have gotten out of the water with them full of water more than once, which is just dangerous.
The snorkel equipment suggestions below are not essential, but we have found they can really make snorkeling easier and more fun.
A well made snorkel bag with padded backpack strap(s) can really make your shoulders happier when walking or hiking to your next beach. A good sized bag will hold all your gear, keeping it organized and allowing it to dry. There are a variety of types and we have tried most of them and suggest a couple favorites.
What about your car keys and wallet when you are snorkeling from a public beach? On all of our trips we use a waterproof box for keys, iPods, cell phones and wallets to keep them from getting stolen. It works great. Nicole just straps it around her waist on a snorkeling belt. On the page we also share other options, like waterproof bags and swim buoys.
A snorkeling belt is a great tool for carrying your waterproof box, shoes and your camera if you need your arms to swim. It is easy to make your own perfectly fitting elastic belt.
Make freediving easier with a weight belt. It allows you to stay down to get that perfect picture or see under that ledge. Read Galen's recommendations for buying a weight belt and his tips for being safe using one.
Even if you wear closed foot fins like we do, you can wear snorkeling shoes for those rocky beach water entrances. You just have to have a belt to carry them with you. Open foot fins have the option of wearing boots in the fins, but you need to make sure the fins are big enough to fit them.
Long hair driving you nuts when snorkeling? Does it get stuck in your mask strap, or under your mask making it leak? Snorkeling swim caps or Buff Headwear are great solutions. They both have the added benefit of protecting your head and ears from the sun.
Particularly for folks with long hair, having a mask strap cover can be very nice. These are neoprene covers that go over your face mask straps. It keeps long hair from getting caught up in the sticky rubber straps, and spreads the pressure from the straps over a wider area. It also makes taking your face mask on and off easier.
You can buy nice little neoprene bags to store your mask or camera housing in when traveling. They are much better for traveling with than the hard plastic ones you may get with your mask. You can pick them up at Amazon here, and they come in 4 different sizes.
Don't forget to throw a towel or two into your gear bag, for hanging out on the beach and wiping yourself down after your snorkel. We have found that an MSR Packtowl is a great, lightweight, quick-drying towel to travel with.
A snorkeling watch is a useful tool to keep an eye on how long you are spending in the water. Read about what depth rating you need and see analog and digital options for affordable and high end watches.
After snorkeling you will want to know what it is you saw while out there. It is essential that you own some identification books. Most popular would be identifying the fish you saw, but you could also get guides to help you identify the other creatures and corals you saw. This page gives you some options for good guides.
If you like to go night snorkeling, then getting a quality light that is designed for the purpose is actually essential. We provide a detailed look at all of your options for night snorkeling lights.
Although not an essential piece of snorkel equipment, a waterproof snorkeling camera is great fun to have and use, to record your experience.
Everything you could need to know about selecting and using a waterproof camera is at this section of our site.
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A Great Snorkeling Camera