Two things that always go hand-in-hand beautifully are snorkeling and travel.
For the majority of us humans on the planet who don’t live right on a coast in the tropics, we need to travel somewhere to find excellent snorkeling. And, even if you are lucky enough to live right next to world-class snorkeling, there are still countless unique snorkeling experiences around the world waiting for you to travel there and discover them.
The quality of your gear can really impact how enjoyable your snorkeling is. So, if you want to travel to find awesome snorkeling around the world and have an awesome experience to match, you should find the best snorkel gear for travel specifically.
There’s a ton of snorkel gear out there. Some of it’s great all around. Some of it is great for snorkeling, but not great for travel. And, still other gear might be great for travel, but lacking when it comes to actual snorkeling.
So, how do we figure out what’s the best snorkel gear for travel?
For me, the best snorkel gear for travel needs to rank highly in the following areas:
- Lightweight. I’d rather save money on airline overweight baggage fees for my trip and spend it on guided snorkel tours instead.
- Sturdy. While we definitely want our gear to be lightweight, flimsy gear that’s not going to last isn’t going to help us in the long run.
- Compact. There’s always a lot to pack for any given trip, so let’s make sure our snorkel gear doesn’t take up too much room.
- High Performance. Lightweight, sturdy and compact gear is great for travel, but we want our snorkel gear to perform well for us once we actually get in the water.
Not all snorkel gear — even if it’s undeniably awesome in the water — ranks well on all four points, and it can be tough to figure out which gear does without actually taking it on a trip.
So, let my experience with lots of different gear over bunches of snorkel trips be a guide. Here’s my take on the best snorkel gear for travel, and everything you’ll need for a successful trip.
Fortunately, snorkel masks aren’t huge and won’t take up a lot of room in our suitcase no matter what. So, we start out ahead on compactness.
But, different types of snorkel masks travel differently. For example, some masks have a more rigid skirt (the part that encircles the mask and connects the lens to your face) which can be more awkward to pack than a mask with a flexible silicone skirt that folds down effortlessly.
There are also some differences across snorkel masks regarding their features and what skill levels they’re made for. So, I think there should be two mask entries under “best snorkel gear for travel”; one for beginners, and one for intermediates or more advanced snorkelers.
Beginners: Cressi F1
The Cressi F1 frameless snorkel mask (look on Amazon) is an excellent option for a travel snorkel mask for more beginning snorkelers (or people who just don’t snorkel very often). And, it’s also my pick for the best all-around beginner snorkel mask in our gear guide, so that means it’s also going to perform well in the water.
The biggest benefit the Cressi F1 gives travelers is that its skirt and strap are both made of super-flexible silicone which molds into suitcases without much issue (and has sprung back to its normal shape reliably when unpacked). It’s also a generally-compact design on its own, and uses tempered glass in the lens which has proven very durable throughout my luggage’s bumps and bruises.
The F1 is also going to perform very well in the water for beginning snorkelers. Its straps and buckles have been very solid (meaning it won’t loosen up on you as you snorkel), and the silicone skirt with its high flexibility has always created a very comfortable and tight seal between my face and the ocean.
You won’t find more advanced features like double-skirts or extra-large fields of view in this mask, but those shouldn’t be deal-breakers for beginning snorkelers who are just out for a good time on the water’s surface. And, at about $30, the Cressi F1 (Amazon) is incredibly inexpensive and perfectly-priced for beginners or very-occasional snorkelers.
Intermediate and Above: SCUBAPRO Solo
If you snorkel more than a couple of times a year, upgrading to a higher-end mask is going to make a difference in the quality of your snorkeling.
In my experience, the SCUBAPRO Solo (look on Amazon) is the best intermediate-plus mask for our best snorkel gear for travel list.
First, like the Cressi F1 beginner mask, the SCUBAPRO Solo uses a flexible silicone skirt that packs well in luggage. But, unlike the F1, the Solo uses a dual-skirt design that creates a higher-quality seal with your face. That’s been huge when doing more advanced snorkeling like diving underwater.
Next, The Solo also has a huge field of view through its outsized lens. That means that it gets docked a point or two under compactness, but in the grand scheme of all of your luggage, it makes relatively little difference.
An upgrade to the SCUBAPRO Solo will also get you some super-high-quality materials in its construction, so much so that you can even use it for scuba diving if you like. Still, even with the tempered glass lens, sturdy buckles, and dual skirts, its been very lightweight and I can’t tell the difference between this mask and a smaller mask in the water.
The SCUBAPRO Solo (Amazon) will run you about $115, which is definitely more of an investment. But, if you snorkel more than once or twice a year like I do, having something of higher quality and higher performance that still travels well has definitely paid for itself over the years.
The beautiful thing about snorkels themselves when it comes to travel is that they hardly take up any space at all, and can easily be wedged into your luggage. That means we don’t have to compromise when it comes to performance because we needed something smaller.
There are some snorkel versions that can actually fold in half to decrease their length footprint like the Cressi Alpha Ultra Dry (look on Amazon). The Alpha Ultra Dry is a decent snorkel and could be worthwhile if you routinely find yourself with super-small luggage. But, if that’s not the case, looking at a higher-end snorkel is more worthwhile since it’s probably the most important part of your gear.
After trying a lot of different snorkels, the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (look on Amazon) has risen to the top as my go-to snorkel under the best snorkel gear for travel list.
Most importantly, the Ultra-Dry 2 is a dry snorkel, meaning a one-way valve sits on the top of the snorkel tube and is meant to keep water out while still letting you breathe normally. In my experience, Oceanic snorkels do a great job at that important task, and I think dry snorkels are too awesome to pass by in favor of a traditional or semi-dry snorkel (which don’t have the one-way valves) unless you maybe want to use your snorkel for scuba diving as well.
The Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (Amazon) is also nicely compact (some snorkels can get kind of ridiculously long) and it also flexes between the mouthpiece and base part of the snorkel tube which lends it some give when throwing it in a suitcase.
(For more on these snorkels, and why dry snorkels are so important for snorkeling now, read our full guide on the best dry snorkel we’ve found anywhere.)
Fins are a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the best snorkel gear for travel. They really serve to make your snorkeling a ton better (and safer) — allowing you to go farther, faster and with overall less effort — but they can be bulky, heavy and can take up a ton of room in your suitcase.
So, it’s important to pick fins that actually work for travel.
If I’m checking a bag for my flight, chances are that I can fit normal-sized fins in my suitcase without much issue. Regular fins are definitely best to have on-hand (they’re much more powerful) if you can pack them, but usually they’re too big to fit in a carry-on.
(For our guide on the best regular-sized fins for snorkeling, check out our full-length guide on the best snorkel fins.)
If I need something smaller to pack, my pick for fins among the best snorkel gear for travel are the SCUBAPRO GO Sport (look on Amazon). They’re formatted well for travel, using a shorter design that takes up less room in your luggage with lighter-weight material (monprene, which is a high-end fin material) than the old traditional rubber fins that seem to always weigh a ton.
They won’t give you quite as much boost as a full-length fin, but the positive difference between having no fins and using a smaller-format fin like the GO Sport is huge. The GO Sport averages only about 20″ in length (it varies a little depending on your shoe size) and only about 1.5lbs in weight, so it has always packed easy for me, even in a carry-on. And, I’ve found the foot pockets to be very comfortable and solid, helping to provide about as good of thrust as I’ve found in a travel-size fin.
Plus, the SCUBAPRO GO Sport (Amazon) has an adjustable foot strap, so you can easily share it with travel companions (helping us not to have to pack extra gear if we can avoid it). Though, with the foot strap, it’s usually most comfortable to wear a neoprene boot with the fin like the Cressi Minorca Neoprene Anti-Slip (Amazon), but you can usually get away without having a pair for more limited snorkeling.
Snorkel sets — which include a snorkel mask, snorkel and fins all in one package — can often be a great way to save a few bucks since they’re usually priced lower than the money you would spend if you had bought each of the items separately.
However, in my opinion, there isn’t a travel snorkel set that would actually qualify as a “best travel snorkel set”.
Since travel snorkel gear is a little bit more of a specialized and smaller market (mostly because of the unique size and technology of the fins), the more well-known snorkel brands haven’t put any full travel snorkel sets together to date. Instead, online marketplaces are filled with claims of the best travel snorkel set from plenty of companies, but the brand names aren’t recognizable and the manufacturing quality is unknown.
Since having reliable snorkel gear is crucial for having an enjoyable, safe time on the water, this is one area where I would actually recommend skipping anything advertised as a “best travel snorkel set”, and instead look at buying the individual items from the mask, snorkel and fins sections on this list to put together your own best snorkel set for travel. Having quality snorkel gear with you on your vacation will be well worth it!
One of my all-time favorite parts of snorkel travel is capturing incredible memories with an underwater action camera (like a GoPro). Because of these cameras, I’ll always be able to hold on to the epic experiences of swimming the whale sharks, gliding alongside playful dolphins, floating among breaching humpback whales, and tons more. Photos and video adorn my walls, family emails, Instagram, and plenty else. It’s been awesome.
The specs (5.3K video with 240fps @ 1080p, 27MP photos, 88 mins @ 4K battery, 10m/33ft waterproof depth, and plenty of other helpful gibberish) are better than just about any other competitor. That’s true and it’s all helpful.
But, what really makes the Hero11 Black stand above the rest are two features that really change the game for snorkelers: Horizon Lock and and Hindsight (both new in the Hero9 Black).
GoPro’s HyperSmooth image stabilization has always been great, and really helpful for snorkelers since it’s nearly impossible to actually stay still (even if you feel like you’re still) while filming when snorkeling. But, the Hero11 Black’s Horizon Lock setting takes that stabilization to a whole new level. When activated, the camera will keep your video perfectly upright and level, amazingly, even if you were to be twisting and turning all 360 degrees. It’s been huge for helping me get snorkel video that looks much more professional.
Then, there’s Hindsight. One of the trickiest parts of using action cameras when snorkeling is figuring out when to record and when to not. If I record all the time, I’ll fill up my memory card and drain my battery quickly. If I only record when I see something cool, I risk missing something awesome (like a group of manta rays gliding by in perfect frame for a photo), which is dang frustrating.
Instead, Hindsight will constantly keep recording for you, discarding anything you don’t want after either 30 or 60 seconds. If I do have something within that time period which I want to keep, I just hit the regular record button and it saves it to the memory card for me. I haven’t had to worry about missing anything awesome since Hindsight came out.
Along with the excellent specs, Hindsight and Horizon Lock have really helped me up my game with forever capturing my snorkeling memories. The Hero11 Black is also tiny and lightweight (way, way more so than your typical camera), and I usually just hold it in my personal item that I can take on the plane so that I’m able to keep track of it and not have to wonder if it will disappear from any checked baggage.
All of this makes the GoPro Hero11 Black (Amazon) the best action camera on this “best snorkel gear for travel” list.
There’s also a lot more to learn about it, so if you’re interested, check out our full review on the GoPro Hero11 Black for snorkelers and our complete guide on the best underwater action cameras for snorkeling (including the best GoPro for snorkeling) if you’re hungry for more detailed information on snorkeling action cameras.
One thing that often gets overlooked when it comes to snorkeling and traveling is travel medical insurance. I’ve certainly been guilty of making it an afterthought, but it’s hugely important for me in case some sort of problem should come up and it can help avoid a potentially very expensive situation should I need medical care or even something extreme like medical evacuation (who knows?)
One of the tricky things about travel medical insurance, though, is that many insurance providers don’t cover things like snorkeling by default, and even sometimes explicitly exclude them. So, it’s hugely important to me to pick a travel medical insurance provider that does include snorkeling.
My go-to for travel medical insurance tends to be World Nomads. Ultimately, their plans work great for me because they do explicitly include snorkeling and scuba diving (and lots of other things), and are meant for more adventurous travelers who do a lot of active stuff on vacation (which certainly describes me) with coverage for medical expenses, trip interruption, medical evacuation and plenty else.
There’s a lot more you may be glad to know, and I’ve written up everything that you’ll need in Does Travel Insurance Cover Snorkeling? 3 Critical Realities.
Another often-overlooked but crucial piece to the best snorkel gear for travel is what to bring for sun protection. And, you’ll definitely want to plan ahead.
First, the obvious one: sunscreen.
While bringing sunscreen is obvious, why one sunscreen might be better over another for snorkel travel might not be. Ultimately, there’s one extra key factor you need to make sure that your sunscreen has: being reef safe.
Traditional sunscreens have a lot of chemicals in them that have been demonstrated to damage marine life and contribute to the decline of coral reefs [source]. Reef-safe sunscreens avoid those chemicals, and typically use biodegradable substitutes that keep the water healthy and your skin protected. Plus, some popular destinations like Hawaii have outright banned non-reef-safe sunscreens, so you want to be sure to bring the right kind with you.
The best reef-safe sunscreen that I’ve come across is Alba Botanica’s Sensitive SPF 50 (look on Amazon). It’s reef safe, biodegradable, and I highly prefer the spray format (rather than rubbing greasy sunscreen on myself). It’s a win.
(For more on the ins and outs of reef-safe sunscreen [yes, there’s actually more], check out The 2 Best Snorkeling Sunscreens [Reef Safe & Biodegradable].)
I also recommend picking up something else for sun protection: a simple rashguard.
Rashguards are form-fitting, water-resistant shirts that you wear in the water while snorkeling (or surfing, boogie boarding, etc.) They provide some extra benefits like a little added insulation, but the biggest pro for snorkeling is added sun protection. They’ll protect your back, shoulders and arms from the sun while snorkeling, and rashguards let you cut down significantly on the sunscreen you’ll need to use to cover any exposed skin.
I really like the Volcom Men’s Solid Short Sleeve Rashguard (look on Amazon). It’s held up really well over the years and saved me (and the ocean) tons of sunscreen use. There are also excellent versions meant for women like the REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard (look on Amazon), which my wife uses. Both are super light and fold down small, making the packing impact similar to just adding an extra shirt.
Once you have all of your best snorkel gear for travel in hand, you’ll need something to put it all in at your destination. Otherwise, it’s just too awkward trying to carry everything around the boat or beach and you risk dropping your gear and getting sand in the sensitive dry snorkel valve (not that I speak from experience or anything…)
A normal backpack is a decent option, but they’re often not tall enough for snorkel fins and aren’t meant for wet items, so inevitably you end up with a soggy backpack. It’s definitely worth it to pay a few bucks for a specific snorkel gear bag.
My favorite is the Stahlsac Panama (look on Amazon). It works just like a normal backpack, but its tall enough for most any snorkel fins and uses durable mesh throughout most of the bag to let any water drain out after you’ve spent your day on the water. The portion of the bag that contacts your back is solid and water-resistant, though, which has kept my back dry when wearing it with a shirt.
It’s been durable over the years and the mesh, which seems like it should wear over time, has held up surprisingly well. The Panama is big enough to hold both my gear along with my wife’s, and the extra dry pockets on the bag are really nice for stashing the odds and ends which I don’t want to carry but also don’t want to get wet.
Stahlsac also has a simpler version known as the Stahlsac BVI (look on Amazon) that is a bit cheaper and which has the same helpful set-up, but lacks the extra dry pockets and a bit of thickness in its materials. Both the Panama and the BVI weigh almost nothing and collapse down nearly flat, so they’re ideal for travel.
(I’m also a huge fan of dry bags, which are completely waterproof sacks that will actually trap air along with what’s inside so that they’ll float if they ever got knocked in the water. I always throw my phone, keys and anything else I absolutely wouldn’t want to lose or get wet in my Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag Roll-Top Dry Compression Sack [look on Amazon] when on a snorkeling trip.)
The Deep Dive
It’s certainly possible to rent snorkel gear in most places you’re traveling or to borrow some from any snorkel guides whom you might hire, but you’re almost certain to end up with so-so gear that may not work great for you.
Instead, picking out your own gear pretty much guarantees that you have something excellent that works well for you and that also allows you the freedom to snorkel whenever and wherever you like. And, if you’re going to be picking out snorkel gear to use when you travel, you definitely want to make sure to pick out the best snorkel gear for travel specifically.
Ultimately, we want our travel snorkel gear to be lightweight, sturdy, compact and high-performance. It’s not always easy to balance all of those factors, but if you follow our guide above, you’ll be well on your way to excellent snorkel gear for excellent snorkel travels.
Look up the gear mentioned in this best snorkel gear for travel guide on Amazon:
- Beginner Snorkel Mask: Cressi F1
- Intermediate+ Snorkel Mask: SCUBAPRO Solo
- Snorkel: Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2
- Fins: SCUBAPRO GO Sport
- Best Travel Snorkel Set: None
- Snorkel Action Camera: GoPro Hero11 Black
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads
- Sunscreen: Alba Botanical’s Sensitive SPF 50
- Men’s Rashguard: Volcom Men’s Solid Short Sleeve
- Women’s Rashguard: REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve
- Snorkel Gear Bag: Stahlsac Panama
- Dry Bag: Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag Roll-Top Dry Compression Sack
Or, check out more of our guides on picking out the best snorkel gear below: