Snorkels: What You Should Know

by Grant

It must be important if they named the activity after it

A snorkel is the tube that allows you to breath while being face down in the water.  The concept is pretty straight forward so I’ll just skip ahead to a few quick things you should look for before purchasing a snorkel.  These simple points will pay big dividends in the ocean.

What You Should Look For in a Snorkel:

Dry snorkel – “Dry” snorkels are called such because they have a splash proof opening at the top and a one way water purge valve at the bottom.  The splash proof top helps to minimize water flowing into the opening and into your mouth.  The purge valve allows water that does get in to be flushed out when you exhale.  This is a huge improvement over traditional snorkels where you have to be careful not to splash water into the top or you would get a stomach full of salt water along with your next breath.

A word to the wise: Stay away from snorkels where the splash guard operates via some type of moving mechanical gizmo.  Many of the moving parts in these mechanisms jam and become stuck when sand gets into them.  Sooner or later those moving plastic parts will cause you problems.  A splash guard should work kind of like the rain guard on a chimney; nothing fancy just a means to guide water away from the opening.  Simplicity is the key to durability.

Large diameter tube – All else being equal, a larger diameter tube will allow a greater and easier air flow during breathing.  The more air, the more oxygen to your lungs while swimming.

A comfortable mouth piece – Usually this is not a problem, but if you’re renting or especially if you’re purchasing, make sure your snorkel is comfortable in your mouth.  You should not have to bite down to keep your snorkel from popping out of your mouth.  Your snorkel should sit comfortably in your teeth and should stay put when you jaw is relaxed.

Rigid or flex – Snorkels either have a rigid or a flexible bend at the bottom adjacent to the mouth piece.  The flexible type allows for some give when the angle of the mouth piece doesn’t line up nicely with the attachment point on the mask strap.  When the angle isn’t quite right the snorkel will twist in your mouth making it uncomfortable.  You can almost always fix this problem by taking a moment to position the snorkel properly before jumping in the water.  I happen to like the rigid type because the top of the snorkel doesn’t flop around as much when I’m swimming.  It’s all a matter of personal preference.  Just something to keep in mind.  Get the type that’s most comfortable for you when you try it on.  Speaking of trying it on…

To Avoid Any Unforseen Problems:

Try your snorkel on with the mask that you will actually be using – Because all masks are slightly different when it comes to shape, buckle placement, etc., try the snorkel on with the mask that you will actually be wearing while swimming.  After trying both items on together, you’ll know if your mask and snorkel are just right for each other and for you.

One last thing: Anytime you lift your head up out of the water, be sure not to let the tip of your snorkel point down into the water behind you or your nifty new snorkel turns into a nifty new straw.

See, I told you that would be quick!

Other Helpful Snorkeling Gear Pages:

What you should know about snorkeling masks
What you should know about snorkeling fins
What you should know about sunscreen

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