The world is a wondrous place that has barely been explored. The Earth is 70 percent ocean, and much of it has yet to be explored! We can barely imagine what sort of creatures live in the depths of the oceans!
While we may not be able to explore the ocean in submarines or scuba gear without being certified, we can use a snorkel mask and go snorkeling off the coast to see a few feet into the water.
What Is Snorkeling?
Snorkeling is an incredible way to experience what it would be like to be born with fins. With snorkeling, you don’t have to go through extensive training and become certified. All you need to snorkel is a snorkel mask, fins, and a snorkel. That’s pretty much it.
Now, a lot of people confuse snorkeling with other aquatic activities. Here’s a breakdown of the most common aquatic activities and the differences between each:
Snorkeling isn’t the only activity where you’ll use a snorkel mask, there are other fun activities where you can use them too! These activities include:
- Bog Snorkeling - This activity is popular in the UK and in Australia. To do this sport, competitors must complete travel down two lengths of trenches filled with water in a peat bog. The competitor is outfitted with snorkels and flippers, and they cannot use any other swimming stroke—they must rely on flipper propulsion alone
- Fin Swimming – This is an underwater sport that uses four swimming techniques where the participant utilizes fins and a snorkel (if done on the surface of the water), or underwater with a monofin and an open circuit scuba diving gear
- Spearfishing – For this activity, the participant will use snorkeling gear to fish with a spear. Spearfishing can be a sport or it can be a way to gather food
- Underwater Hockey – This is a competitive team sport that’s played in swimming pools. Players use snorkeling gear, sticks and a puck
- Underwater Rugby – This is another competitive team sport but players swim in a deeper pool and they use snorkeling gear, as well as baskets and a ball
What Is Snorkeling Gear?
As you can see, there are many activities where snorkeling gear will come in handy! It’s not just for playing around in the pool or watching fish at the beach.
But… One might ask what is snorkeling gear exactly? Is it just a snorkel mask? In this section, we’re going to shed some light on all the components that can be found in the typical snorkeling gear pack.
First, we will start off with one of the most important components—the Snorkel Mask.
To the random person, a snorkeling mask is going to look like what scuba divers use when they are going underwater. However, that isn’t the case at all.
While they look very similar to one another, there are subtle differences that makes one perform best in deep water (the scuba mask), and the other will perform best in shallower water (the snorkel mask).
The snorkel mask is going to be made from much lighter materials than the scuba mask because you don’t have to worry about pressure from when you go deeper into the water. If you do encounter a problem, you can quickly resurface, remove the mask, and breathe easily.
In a high quality snorkeling mask, you’ll find that the lens is made from tempered glass instead of plastic or a regular glass. The tempered glass is the best option because it greatly reduces the chance of the lens fogging up while you’re submerged under water.
Also, the tempered glass is less likely to shatter. Of course, the tempered glass masks will be a little pricier, but if you intend on getting a lot of use out of your mask, then the tempered glass is the way to go.
Before you run out to purchase the best snorkel mask any old mask, there are some things you’ll want to consider first. There are two types of snorkeling masks:
Standard Snorkeling Mask
Also known as a diving mask – These masks are the most common type of mask you’ll see people using.
They come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and are made from a variety of materials.
These masks cover just your eyes and nose and you’ll need to use a snorkel with it to breathe.
The key components of these masks include:
- Skirt - This is an important component of the mask because it’s going to keep the water out of the mask, so it should be made from a durable but comfortable material. Most often, the skirt is made of one of two materials (PVC Plastic and Silicone). Not only is the material of the skirt important, but so is the color of the skirt. Most of the silicone skirts you come across will be clear, but you can find some black silicone skirts too. The black skirt is often preferred by photographers who are trying to limit the amount of light that comes in through the side of the mask, which makes it difficult to see the camera’s view finder. A downside of using a black skirt is that it can cause a feeling of claustrophobia and it will limit your periphery.
- Nose Pocket - The nose pocket is where your nose will go. Some masks will have a purge valve at the bottom of the nose pocket. This is going to let you hold the mask against your face and blow lightly from your nose. This will purge any water that may have gotten into the mask, without having to actually remove the mask.
- Lens - It’s always important to opt for a mask with a tempered glass lens because they’re incredibly durable and they are a lot safer for the user. However, you can still find lenses made from a plastic material. You can find masks with up to four separate lenses:
- One Lens – These masks do not have a bridge piece, so you can get a clear view of the water without any obstructions
- Two lenses – These masks are going to be closer to your face and provide you with a wider range of view. Also, these generally have a lower volume inside the mask, making it easier to clear. These masks are also ideal for those who wear glasses and need prescription lenses put into the mask
- Multiple lenses – These masks will have a side window that will increase your periphery vision while under water
- Frame - The frame is what holds the lens to the skirt. You can find frameless masks, which is going to attach the skirt directly to the lens. With a frameless mask, they will usually sit closer to your face and they will give you a better field of vision than the mask with a bulky frame. Some people like the frameless snorkeling masks because they can be folded up nice and flat and tucked into your pocket or backpack.
- Strap - The strap of the mask is going to be how you adjust the fit of the mask. The straps will have some kind of locking mechanism (typically a buckle of some sort) to hold the mask in place. The buckle is the most effective
- Volume - When you’re looking at mask descriptions, you may notice some will say high volume or low volume and you may wonder what the difference is. With a high volume mask, it is going to have more air in your mask because it sits further away from your face, making it more buoyant. With a low volume mask, it is going to be closer to your face, thus having less air inside and it will be less buoyant. This is going to create less pressure on your face as you dive, which may be something you’ll want to take into consideration if you intend on doing some freediving
Full Face Snorkeling Mask
A full face snorkel mask is a device that looks something straight from a Halloween store.
These innovative masks combine the snorkel mask and the breathing tube into one cohesive mask.
These masks allows the snorkeler to breathe like they normally would while they are in dry land.
These masks will have a dual airflow system integrated into the unit so that when you exhale, the moisture is removed, which helps to keep the mask fog-free.
Should you get any water in the mask, there is a purge valve located not under the nose pocket like with the other mask, but near the bottom of your chin. With this purge valve, all you have to do is lift your head out of the water and it will remove the water from the mask.
The tube of the mask is usually a bright color, so the snorkeler can be seen when the water is on the rough side. The tube also features a mechanism that prevents water from coming into the mask should a wave crash over you, or if you want to dip a little deeper into the water. When you resurface, you can continue breathing like normal.
The mask usese a single lense, which gives you a 180 degree field of vision, and the lense is often are made from tempered glass. If you wear glasses, you can have prescription lenses installed with these masks as well!
The snorkel is also another important, must have piece of snorkel gear. If you are going with a full face snorkeling mask, you don’t have to worry about this. However, if you are opting for the traditional mask, you will want to choose a snorkel that is going to:
- Fit your mouth comfortably
- Has splash guards at the top or even dry valves so water doesn’t get into the tube
- Have a purge valve at the bottom of the tube
- Has a flexible silicone section near the lower portion of the snorkel
Snorkeling without fins is possible, but it is going to change your experience. Fins can be found in a variety of styles and are designed for different skill levels. Some fins are solid while others have a split in them. Some fins have an open foot while others do not.
Other Useful Snorkeling Gear
The snorkel mask, snorkel, and fins are the three main things you’ll want to have when you go snorkeling, but there are also other items that you may want to bring with you.
Wetsuit Or Vest
A wetsuit isn’t necessary for snorkeling, but if you’re going to be snorkeling in cold water, that suit will help keep you warm while you’re exploring the water. A vest is a usually a good idea because you never can be too safe—even if you’re a strong swimmer.
Whether you choose to go with a plastic bag, a backpack, or a special snorkeling bag, you’ll find that storing and transporting all of your gear is going to be so much easier. A good bag will give you enough storage space for your snorkeling gear while keeping it organized and dry.
A waterproof container is a must have! These containers will keep your things safe and dry while you’re out exploring what lies beneath the surface of the water.
If you were wondering how you were going to carry your waterproof container, you can wonder no more! A snorkeling belt will let you hook your valuables (in the waterproof container!) to your waist. Some belts you find are weighted, which will make freediving easier.
How To Snorkel
Now that you know what you need to enjoy an exciting day snorkeling, you might not know how to snorkel! Most places that offer snorkeling as an activity will have instructors that will help you, but if you want to get ahead of the game, we have a quick guide that will help you learn: (8)
Choose A Location
You can snorkel anywhere there is water, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Who really wants to spend a decent amount of money and go snorkeling in a dirty pond?
The best places to go snorkeling where you can truly be in awe of the experience is somewhere there is clear water and vibrant aquatic life. Shoot for locations that have a shallow reef system, are easily accessible, and a great beach to hang out on.
Inspect Your Gear
Make sure that before you begin your snorkeling adventure, you inspect your mask and snorkel. Look for any signs of damage like cracks, breaks, and the like.
Get The Proper Seal
Place the snorkel to your face and adjust the straps so that the mask fits snugly against your face. You don’t want it too tight because it will be uncomfortable and if it is too loose, well, obviously it isn’t going to create that good seal.
When you snorkel, you’re going to be breathing through your mouth through the tube. Just remember to breathe normally. It may take some getting used to, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll feel like a pro.
If you’re snorkeling for the first time, or teaching someone how to snorkel, it’s quite possible that a wave of panic may rush over. It’s a completely new experience, after all. Just relax! Take a deep breath and remember that snorkeling is supposed to be fun!
Look Ahead, Not Down
You’d be surprised by how many people think that when you’re snorkeling, you’re supposed to keep looking down. That would be wrong because you’ve got to watch where you’re going! Instead, look ahead of you and down at a slight angle.
When you’re like this, you can see the ocean floor, but you can also see if there are any obstructions in your path like people, reefs, boats, and so forth.
Like everything else that you spend money on, you’re going to want to take care of it so it lasts a long time.
Here are some simple steps on how to properly care for your snorkeling gear:
- Clean your mask with a bit of toothpaste (any brand will do). Rub it on the lens with your fingers and rinse it away. Do this twice more and that film manufacturer’s put on them will be gone. You can use your saliva or a defogger to prevent the lens from fogging up when you’re in the water
- Attach a snorkel keeper around the left strap of your mask. This will make the snorkel feel more comfortable while you’re wearing it
- Rinse all of your gear in fresh, clean water. Then, lay the gear on a table or a blanket in a shaded spot to air dry
- Store your fins by hanging them by their straps or lay them flat on the ground
- Never leave your gear in direct sunlight—this can damage the integrity of the gear and it isn’t going to last as long. We recommend using a snorkeling bag or some other bag. The bag will help with storage, transportation, and keeping your gear in one neat spot
Snorkeling is a great way to enjoy your time with your friends or family, but it can also open your eyes up to a world that many people don’t get to see.
When you want to get out there and take part of this fun past time, you’re going to want the best snorkel mask that you ca get your hands on. But what one do you choose? We have created a buying guide to help you find that perfect mask for yourself or your loved ones.
Leave us a comment below and tell us your list of top places to go snorkeling at!