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 a couple things that have worked well for us. Even though we try to keep our snorkel gear simple, we still end up hauling a lot of it around. So comfort and durability are important when choosing the right bag.
For many years we carried one large backpack with both of our sets of gear in it. It made things simple, but weighed a lot for one person to carry on longer hikes to beaches. So, now we have 2 smaller bags so we can each carry our own gear for longer hikes.
Before you decide what size bag is best for you, you have to figure out what you are going to carry.
So here is what we will often have in our snorkel bag(s) 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. We knew we wanted something durable, with padded shoulder straps, made from quality materials that would dry quickly, and was large enough to carry all our snorkel gear.
Our first great bag was a Stahlsac Panama Mesh Backpack and we loved it and used it for many years. 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. The waterproofing in this pocket is what finally failed after using it for 7 years. It also has a front pocket for some of the small stuff. It easily carries all the gear we listed above, with extra room. This bag measures 28 inches in height and has a diameter of 15 inches.
There is one drawback to this near perfect snorkeling gear bag. It is a bit too big, which makes it very heavy for longer walks. After using the Stahlsac Panama for 7 years, we decided to get 2 smaller bags so we could each carry our own gear. We ordered 3 different possible bags to check out and sent them all back (we say which ones and why we returned them further down the page).
Then we ordered smaller bags by the same company, Stahlsac BVI Mesh Backpack, and they are perfect for the purpose. They are made from the same tough mesh and they have nice tough bottoms, though they are not as thick as the Panama bag. This bag measures 24 inches in height and has a diameter of 12 inches. The BVI bags do not have the inner waterproof pocket or the small outside pocket that the Panama has. We kept our sunscreen and defog bottles in the little outer pocket, so it was useful. (If you are handy you could sew on an outside pocket, or just carry a smaller bag inside the larger one to keep things separate.) And since they are smaller they only have one backpack strap, but it is well padded, comfortable and plenty support for carrying full of gear.
Be sure to notice the bag height and measure the length of your fins before deciding on your snorkel bag. You want your fins to fit.
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 have been redesigned recently. We got a good look at the large version Akona Snorkeling Bag. It is pretty big and looks like it would carry one person's snorkel gear. The bag is designed so that the narrow foot end of the fin goes in first, so the bag is narrower on the bottom than the top; we like this feature. The single backpack strap is padded and it has quick release buckle. The big plastic zippers look like they might last in a salt water environment. It has 3 zippered pockets, a top one for quick access, an expandable front one and the large back one for fins and snorkel.
The deal killer on this bag for us is that there is only one small area of mesh at the bottom of the main compartment. The other compartments have no drains or mesh for drying them out. And while the waterproof coated fabric is robust feeling, it is bulky for compacting down for travel. So because it will not compact down very well, and will not dry out well, it is a pass for us.
We checked out the ScubaPro Snorkel Bag and it is decent. It has one flat bigger zippered pocket suitable for sunscreen, etc. and 2 smaller pockets, one zippered, one mesh. The large fin pocket is big enough for normal fins, but there is not a lot of room for much else. It has a nice padded strap with a quick release buckle. It is fairly lightweight and well made, but the zippers are too small and will fail with rigorous use in a saltwater environment.
Besides the wimpy zippers, we did not keep this bag because it is just not big enough for all the stuff we take when hiking to a snorkel spot; water bottle, towel, waterproof valuables box, camera in housing, etc.
The Promate Snorkel Bag is quite tall, at 30 inches, so there is lots of room inside for other stuff with some regular sized fins, although the space is awkwardly placed at the top end of the fins. There is a good sized extra pouch on the front for sunscreen, etc. And on the front of that there is a useful bungee attached to hold towels, etc. This is a great feature that we wish more companies would add. There is a good padded strap with a quick release buckle. You can get one with a separate mask pocket, which cannot be used for a mask if you leave your mask attached to your snorkel. But you could use the pocket for other stuff if you like that option.
What turned us off this bag is that it is very stiff and bulky for compacting into luggage. And the zippers are very poor quality, even when new, which means they won't last long at all with even normal snorkeling use. Lastly, even though the large compartment seems big, we don't think this bag would hold all the stuff we would like to carry on a hike to a snorkel beach.
We have tried several U.S. Divers snorkel bags 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.
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.
Good snorkel bags are a worthwhile investment, if you value your shoulders. We certainly appreciate ours.