Snorkelling is (and should be) classed as a sport all by itself. There are a number of reasons why you may have chosen to snorkel:
- To build confidence in the water as a step towards diving
- Because you don’t want to dive and are happy at the surface
- As a family activity
- You were once a diver but are no longer
- You are unable to dive, perhaps because of a medical condition
Either way, there are so many snorkelling destinations across the globe - and indeed in the UK – to enjoy. You are going to need the right set of gear that is comfortable, practical and will serve you for many years along the reefs, caverns, channels, coves, rivers and beaches of your chosen environment. Please see our guide below to essential snorkelling equipment, starting with the ABCs.
Never “invest” in a cheap supermarket version. The plastic skirt might split or perish after prolonged contact with salt water, and it will feel hard or irritating against the skin. Buy a good silicone mask which will stand the test of time because your snorkelling adventures are valuable. It should have “tempered” glass which will withstand pressure if duck diving under the surface and if broken, it will crumble safely as opposed to shatter.
Mono or single-lens masks (like the Aqua Lung Reveal X1 for example) give you a good field of view and are favoured by people who don’t like hard plastic over the bridge of their nose. Twin lens masks (such as the TUSA Freedom Ceos) are a more traditional design and are great for adding prescription lenses. This can be done either as a complete piece of prescription glass or as a corrective lens which can be added to the existing glass. Read our blog How to Choose and Buy a Prescription Mask for further information.
Never tighten your mask too much as this can cause a squeeze effect around your eyes and will give you a headache (as well as making you look like the local wino!) Some people opt for a more comfortable fabric strap (like the Mike's Dive Store Mask Strap Cover) and there are some great anti-tangle features on the market for people with long hair like the Scubapro Comfort Strap. Don’t forget to invest in a good anti-fog such as Sea Gold Gel to keep your mask crystal clear. This avoids some uncouth drooling around friends and avoids the build-up of bacteria which can rot your mask over time.
A full face snorkelling mask like the Ocean Reef Aria QR+ gives a massive panoramic view. They reduce the risk of inhaling water, allow you to breathe through your nose (which is more natural) and there is no need to grip a mouthpiece, which can create jaw fatigue over time. There is no risk of CO2 build-up with our range of full face snorkelling masks as they are built by experts in their field and have an added anti-fog air circulation system.
For more information about the anatomy and fit of a mask read our blog Choosing the Best Mask.
Snorkels are far more complex that you might think. Basic snorkels are ergonomic pipes preferred by beginners and freedivers alike, such as the Zoom Snorkel. They are cleared by blowing hard to push water out. Some have a one way purge valve at the bottom (like the Mares Ergo Flex) underneath the mouth piece which makes clearing easier. Others comprise a dry top snorkel with a float or flat valve which blocks any possibility of water ingress (TUSA Hyperdry Elite II Snorkel). This is helpful when snorkelling in choppier waters.
Snorkels can be corrugated, bent to reduce drag, have special mouthpieces or are collapsible (is that a snorkel in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me??) We have come a long way since hiding from baddies in the river breathing through a hollow reed!
Fins are designed to help you move more efficiently through the dense water. This a) saves energy and b) gives you propulsion in current, swell or when trying to keep up with awesome marine life! Fin choices are wide and complex – there are long or short blades, split fins, some with hinges, and they vary considerably in weight. The preferred finning technique of snorkellers is the flutter kick so this should influence the type of fin you choose. Never buy anything too heavy as these can make you negatively buoyant and cause cramp.
Full foot fins are good for tropical water. They are good value for money, effective and are usually sized the same way as a shoe. You may choose to wear some specially designed fabric socks with them like the Sharkskin Chillproof Socks to avoid rubbing or to stay warmer. Open heel fins are donned by pulling an adjustable strap or spring over the heel to keep them in place and tend to be sized Small, Medium or Large.
Special features include channels along the blade that act like an oar (as found on the Oceanic Viper), bars that give the blade more strength (like the Scubapro Go Travel Fin), vented blades for thrust (as seen on the Tusa Solla Strap Fins) and pads to avoid slipping on wet surfaces. For further information please read our blog Choosing the Right Diving Fins.
Rash vests offer extra protection in warmer water from both marine life (plankton and jellyfish can be irritating) and UV rays. They are also good underneath a wetsuit to stop any friction against bare skin. Some thicker types of rash guards like those found in the Sharkskin range can also prevent wind chill and have more thermal properties for longer/colder exposure.
Your body loses body heat 25 times faster in water than in air. The small amount of water that gets trapped between the insulating layer of neoprene and your skin, uses your body heat to keep you warm. A wetsuit should therefore fit snugly to avoid flushing, while still offering flexibility. Good wrist, ankle and neck seals in addition to an effective zip are highly beneficial to snorkellers. Some suits now even have thermal plush linings like the Waterproof W4 5mm Wetsuit and some are made from eco-friendly materials/recycled plastic (Fourth Element 4/3mm Surface Wetsuit).
Skinsuits tend to be neutrally buoyant and are often made of hyper-allergenic material; a shorty can be used by itself in tropical water or layered up over a longer suit in cooler climates; we stock 2-3mm full length wetsuits all the way up to 7/8mm semi-drys, so whether you are snorkelling the coral reefs of Raja Ampat or the bogs of Wales, Mike’s Dive Store has exactly what you need!