Snorkel Equipment Buying Guide and Fitting Tips
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 snorkel equipment 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.
Snorkel Equipment Essentials
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.
Snorkel Mask Fitting Tips
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.
Prevent Snorkel Mask Fogging – A foggy mask is very common and very annoying. Fortunately it is fairly easy to prevent if you follow our suggestions.
Prescription Snorkel Mask Options
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 your three different options.
If 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 we use.
Full face snorkel masks combine a snorkel and a mask into one piece of snorkel equipment. For some people these are great but they also have some disadvantages, and some have potential dangers.
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 or dry valves on top, with purge valves on the bottom. You can get them as a one piece tube, or with a flexible silicone tube section before the mouthpiece. Explore and learn about all your options.
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. Find out the winners of our tests and what we use.
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 tips on saving money this way, and our suggested sets.
If you are finding these tips useful, you will love our free monthly newsletter. Get yours.
Snorkeling Safety Equipment
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, or have health issues, 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. Read all about these tests and find out what products won.
Snorkeling Sunscreen Tips
This page is filled with important information every snorkeler should know about using sunscreen. What do the water-resistant ratings on sunscreens mean, and which one should you use for snorkeling so it stays on in the water? Did you know the major brands use chemicals known to be toxic to marine environments? So what makes a sunscreen reef-friendly, and what should you look for? What SPF rating do you need for snorkeling? This page will leave you informed and give you some essential application tips so you don’t get burned.
Favorite Lip Sunscreen
Don’t forget to protect your lips from sunburn, with a water-resistant lip sunscreen balm. Read the results of our tests and our reviews of reef-friendly snorkeling lip sunscreens.
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.
If you want extra warmth, you can get a thin neoprene top or a full or shorty wetsuit.
Like the rash guards above, a wetsuit protects you from the sun and jelly stings, but it also provides warmth for when you are snorkeling in cooler water or snorkeling many times per day.
Choosing a wetsuit can be a daunting task, but we recommend some we like and we give you some tips for purchasing the one that is right for you.
A snorkel vest is basically an inflatable life preserver. It is a very useful piece of snorkel equipment and a good idea for most people. 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 snorkel 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. Really they are a highly visible marker buoy, not a dive flag.
Snorkel Equipment Accessories
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.
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, cell phones, and wallets to keep them from getting stolen. It is a great piece of snorkel equipment. Nicole just straps it around her waist on a snorkeling belt. We also share other options, like waterproof bags and swim buoys.
A snorkeling belt is a great piece of snorkel equipment 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 full 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 heel fins have the option of wearing boots in the fins, but you need to make sure the fins are big enough to fit them.
Contain Your Hair and Protect Your Head From the Sun
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 snorkel equipment 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.
Other Equipment Accessories
Mask Strap Cover
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.
Mask and Camera Protective Bags
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 most of the hard plastic ones you may get with your mask. You can pick them up at Amazon at the link above, and they come in four different sizes.
MSR Travel Packtowls
Don’t forget to throw a towel or two into your snorkel equipment 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. We suggest some options for good guides for various parts of the world.
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.