How To Buy Snorkeling Equipment
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Having the proper and best fitting snorkeling equipment for you is important for enjoying days spent out on the water. Proper equipment may include: snorkeling masks, snorkeling fins, the snorkel itself, snorkeling gloves, snorkeling boots, and wetsuits. DICK's Sporting Goods even offers full snorkel equipment sets including the mask, fins and snorkel.
The snorkeling mask is the most important piece of equipment to buy and fit correctly. An ill-fitting mask will lead to water leaks and could be too tight on the face, leaving unwanted marks and general discomfort.
- Mask skirts are typically made of plastic or silicone — most snorkelers and divers prefer silicone.
Plastic: extremely inexpensive, less flexible and while still safe, less desired than silicone snorkel masks.
Silicone: more durable than plastic, forms a better seal on the face, and has a softer, more comfortable fit.
There are a few choices of lens type when selecting a snorkeling mask: single lens, split or two lenses, and three/four lens masks.
- Gives the user a large, unobstructed view looking forward.
- Typically fits medium size faces but provides less room for the bridge of your nose than other snorkel mask types.
- Split window mask—lower volume positions lenses closer to the eyes allowing for improved peripheral vision.
- More room for the bridge of your nose, allowing the mask to fit comfortably on both big and small faces.
- Split window with smaller peripheral windows on both sides of the mask.
- Allow for more light to enter the mask and allow you to see motion in a more natural way—easier to keep track of your diving partner.
Making sure your snorkeling mask fits correctly is important—it prevents water leaks and unnecessary tightness while snorkeling. Here are some guidelines to appropriately fitting your snorkeling mask.
- Pull the straps over the top of the mask and try the mask on your face, without putting the strap around your head. Make sure the mask does not press too tight on your face since water pressure will push the mask inward slightly.
- Make sure the mask isn't too narrow and properly fits around your eyes—same with the nose; make sure the mask doesn't press too tightly on your nose or between the eyebrows.
- Inhale through your nose to suction the mask to your face, and release your hands. The mask should stay on your face without continuing to inhale.
- If your mask passes the suction test, place the mask strap high on the back of your head, not resting on the ears. Make sure the mask fits comfortably while adjusting the straps—not too tight, but not too loose. It should be comfortable and not painful.
- Once you fit the mask to your face, try it with the snorkel in your mouth. Make sure the seal does not break after using the snorkel.
What mask fitting comes down to be is sealing and comfort. Make sure the mask is properly sealed on your face, but not sealed tight enough that it leaves marks or feels uncomfortable.
Snorkeling fins are an important piece of equipment, allowing you to swim quicker against any currents and protecting your feet from rocks and coral in the water. When choosing the right pair of fins, the main aspect to keep in mind is comfort. There shouldn't be any deep marks on your feet or unnecessary rubbing against your skin causing discomfort—this typically occurs if the fins are too tight.
There are two types of snorkeling fins you can choose from: open-foot and closed-foot fins.
Open-Foot Snorkeling Fins
- Open-foot fins are constructed with a soft, rubber foot pocket for comfort. You have the option to wear a snorkeling boot, which may improve comfort and provide warmth in colder or deeper waters.
- These types of fins tend to be slightly heavier but easier to size up since they are adjustable at the heel.
Closed-Foot Snorkeling Fins
- Costs less than open-foot fins, and you don't have to purchase snorkeling boots since your foot is completely covered by the fin itself.
- Weighs less and is more flexible— preferred fin for traveling to distant locations.
Swimming Fins vs. Snorkeling Fins
The main difference between a pair of swimming fins and snorkeling fins is the length of the fin. Swimming fins are shorter and ease up pressure put on the knees while kicking through the water.
Snorkeling fins are longer, and despite requiring a more strenuous effort to move, propel you faster through waters with any sort of current.
Your snorkel is how you breathe while swimming face down in the water. It has a soft mouthpiece, fully equipped to seal out any unwanted water while keeping the user comfortable. It attaches to the side of your face mask, allowing you full mobility while swimming.
Types of Snorkel
- Simple, tube with a silicone mouthpiece allowing the user to breathe with their face down in the water.
- Specifically shaped to fit the contours of the face and position the airway above of the water's surface
- The valve at the top of this type of snorkel has a guard that redirects splashing water away from entering the tube.
- A preferred snorkel for those that plan to stay at the surface.
Dry Top Snorkels
- The valve at the top is designed to completely seal when the user dives beneath the surface of the water, thus eliminating the need to clear the snorkel of water upon surfacing.
- These can occasionally be top-heavy but are preferred by those that like to explore below the surface.
- One-way valve at the bottom of the snorkel.
- Used to eliminate excess water from snorkel tube.
- The diver exhales and water is easily forced out of the valve.
Snorkeling Boots, Gloves, and Wetsuits:
Snorkeling boots, snorkeling gloves and wetsuits are available as accessories to different types of snorkelers. If the water temperature is cold, using one or more of these pieces of gear is an optimal choice.
- Designed to be worn with open-foot snorkeling fins—open-foot fins are the common choice for colder waters since they can be paired with a pair of boots.
- Durable reinforcements on the back of the foot and heel to avoid any injuries due to hitting a stray piece of coral or a rock.
- Lined with neoprene to ensure proper insulations.
- Ideal for hands-on divers to avoid any external injury while in the water.
- Generally made of neoprene with metallic material inside for slipping the gloves on and off your hands
- Available in different sizes to fit any size hands appropriately—designed using flexible technology.
- These are also referred to as 'springsuits' or 'spring wetsuits'.
- Shorter wetsuits are generally used in warmer waters, and they ensure extra protection from external elements in the water.
- Made with super-stretch neoprene to ensure a comfortable fit.
- Features wider armholes and a smoothskin collar to avoid any chafing.
- Designed for use in cold water—keeps the user warm and insulated while protecting them from external elements in the water.
- Made with stretchable materials to ensure a comfortable fit for all users.
Snorkeling Equipment Sets:
DICK's Sporting Goods offers snorkeling equipment sets that come with snorkeling fins, a snorkeling mask, a snorkel, and even some with a carrying bag to keep your equipment together and organized.
- Fully equipped with a mask, snorkel, fins and carrying case.
- Different sets carry gear with different materials—ensure, through product descriptions, that these types of materials are acceptable for what types of waters you plan on using your snorkeling equipment in.
- Inexpensive way to get a full set of snorkeling gear—useful for beginning snorkelers.
Snorkel and Mask Combos
There are other equipment snorkel combos available like the one featured just above. These sets contain just the mask and snorkel. It's ultimately up to the user what type of gear they need when purchasing the right snorkeling set for them.