With over thirty years of combined snorkeling experience, we know that good snorkel equipment makes all the difference in how much you enjoy your time in the water. Nothing will ruin your time like a leaky mask, not being able to breathe freely in a full face mask, a snorkel that floods easily, fins that blister your feet, or getting a bad sunburn.
On these pages you will learn what snorkeling equipment you need and how to get a perfect fit, so that you can have a wonderful experience snorkeling. The right fitting snorkel gear gets out of your way, out of your mind, and enables you to relax and focus on the great stuff underwater. We also have some suggestions for non-essential gear that will increase your comfort and organization while snorkeling.
We Only Recommend Gear We Use Ourselves or Have Tested
We love our gear, and recommend snorkel equipment we use ourselves. We also test new snorkeling gear on every trip, so that you have honest, real, hands-on (and feets-on) reviews. If we talk about a piece of gear we have not used, we tell you. This is important, because we see many websites by people who have no in-the-water experience with the snorkeling gear they are recommending. They are just trying to make a buck linking to Amazon, without your safety in mind. We also may make a small commission if you purchase items from links on this site. But we think you will find our honest suggestions helpful, and so won't mind supporting us in this way.
There are just three pieces of snorkel equipment that you have to have, a mask, a snorkel, and fins.
Snorkel masks come in a variety of styles, sizes and materials. We suggest you ignore features to start, and get the mask that fits you perfectly. Our snorkel mask buying guide
will walk you through everything you need to know to select the right
mask for you. We suggest specific tested masks that fit different face shapes. Also learn your options, from how many lenses a mask has, mask volume, and the pros and cons of skirt material and colors.
A perfectly fitting mask is essential for a good snorkeling experience. But everyone's face is different. So knowing the dimensions of your face will help you choose a mask to try. Learn how to choose a properly fitting mask for your face shape on our snorkel mask fitting tips page.
And if you wear glasses, and don't use contacts, then you will need
to get yourself a prescription mask that allows you to see like you
have your glasses on. Learn about the three different options on our prescription snorkel mask page.
you only wear reading glasses and you have something you need to read
in the water, like your camera settings, a fish guide, or a watch, there
is an affordable solution. You can add magnifying lenses to your mask.
Galen wrote this DiveOptx review of the brand he tried.
Then learn our tips on how to prevent snorkel mask fogging.
Full face snorkel masks combine a snorkel and a mask into one unit. For some people these are great but they also have some disadvantages, and some have potential dangers. On our full face snorkel mask buying guide we go over all the pros and cons and possible dangers of these masks as well as explain what brands to go with. You definitely will want to avoid inexpensive options that have not been tested for CO2 buildup.
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 buying guide page.
Depending on your skill level and strength, you have many fin choices. You can get them in full foot or open heel options and wear them with or without boots. How you plan to enter the water will help you choose. The winners of our tests and what we use is on our snorkeling fins buying guide page.
If you are just starting, buying all your essential snorkel equipment 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. See our snorkel set page for tips on saving money this way, and suggested kits.
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 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 have been proven to kill coral and fish, and to increase the chance of coral bleaching. 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.
If you also want to protect your lips from sunburn, you will need a water-resistant lip sunscreen balm. We tested and share our reviews of reef friendly snorkeling lip sunscreens on this page.
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 hooded long sleeved rash guard shirts and full length leggings when we snorkel. Then we don't have to use sunscreen. And the rash guard provides a small amount of insulating warmth and jellyfish sting protection. See our snorkeling rash guards page for full details.
If you want extra warmth, you can get a thin neoprene top or a full or shorty wetsuit.
A snorkel vest is basically an inflatable life preserver. It is a very useful tool and a good idea for most people. Read our snorkel vest page to learn the good reasons to use one even if you are a confident swimmer, find some recommendations for good vests to buy, and read about how to use them correctly.
A snorkeling dive flag is an important piece of safety equipment. It shows boats that there are people in the water and they should watch out for you. But normal dive flags are difficult to handle and get tangled in your fins, so we did not like using them. Then, we found this wonderful product that is easy to use and solves all the problems of a normal dive flag. Read more here.
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 snorkel equipment, 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 on our snorkel bags page.
It is not an essential piece of snorkel equipment, but being able to take pictures underwater of what you have seen is great fun, and helps you share your experiences with friends and family.
Our snorkeling camera pages will answer everything you need to know about selecting and using a waterproof camera.
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 our waterproof snorkeling bag 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 snorkeling 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. Nicole now uses a hooded rash guard for sun protection, but still needs the Buff to control her hair.
Particularly for folks with long hair, having a mask strap cover can be very nice. These are neoprene covers that go over your mask strap. It keeps long hair from getting caught up in the sticky silicone straps, and spreads the pressure from them over a wider area. It also makes taking your 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. Our snorkeling fish guide 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.
Like a lot of you, we travel to our tropical snorkeling destinations. Traveling can have some challenges, but we have some favorite travel gear we use that really helps make traveling easier and more fun.
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A Great Snorkeling Camera