Dry top snorkels (also known as just “dry snorkels”) are one of the biggest game-changers to come along in the sport of snorkeling in recent years, and maybe even ever.
It used to be that your choice of snorkel was limited only to an open tube that connected your mouth to the air above the water while you swam. They came in different shapes and sizes, but for a long, long time, all snorkels worked pretty much the same.
That definitely changed with the invention of the dry snorkel.
Dry snorkels have made such a big difference in snorkeling that I recommend them to pretty much everyone now, no matter if they’re a beginner snorkeler or someone who’s been snorkeling for years.
In fact, I think a dry snorkel can even be one of the most important pieces of safety gear for snorkeling (and especially so for beginners).
So, let’s look at how dry snorkels work and also what I’ve found to be the absolute best dry snorkel during my travels.
So, how do dry snorkels work? Dry snorkels work with an added one-way float valve in the top of the snorkel tube which activates to close the snorkel opening when the valve comes in contact with water, keeping that water out of the tube, while remaining open when no water is present to allow the wearer to breathe in and out normally.
Essentially, when the opening of your dry top snorkel comes in contact with water, it closes up to keep the water out of your snorkel. When it isn’t coming in contact with water, it opens so that you can breathe like you normally would. [Source]
That’s so huge. If you’ve ever done any snorkeling with a traditional open snorkel (or “wet snorkel”), you know that keeping water out of your snorkel can be one of the hardest parts of snorkeling, especially if the ocean is at all choppy or you make any splash while swimming.
This makes snorkeling a lot easier for beginners, but I also think dry top snorkels are beneficial for more advanced snorkelers as well. No matter how many times you’ve been snorkeling, you can always have an ill-timed chop or splash hit your snorkel tube. Accidentally sucking in some unexpected sea water is always at least annoying, but can also be super dangerous, so I like using dry snorkels to minimize that possibility as much as I can.
The only real drawbacks to using a dry snorkel are that you do need to be extra careful to keep or clean any sand out of the dry valve (it doesn’t work as well with sand granules in it), and that it adds a little extra buoyancy when diving underwater since the valve will close and trap a bit of air in the snorkel when you dive. In my opinion the extra buoyancy is minimal and it’s not tough to keep sand out of the valve (or just clean it thoroughly), so I think that the positives way outweigh these minor nags.
There are a lot of “top 10”-type lists for the best dry snorkels out there on the internet, which drives me nuts since it’s pretty clear that these lists are just general product searches copied and pasted to try to get more clicks.
If you actually use these dry snorkels, there’s no way that you have ten different dry snorkels that work for you about the same, or close enough to include them all on the same list.
For me, it’s all about finding that one best dry snorkel that makes the biggest difference. Who cares about the other 9 from those copied lists?
There are several good dry snorkels out there, but the one that I always keep coming back to is the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (on Amazon). In my experience, it’s been the best dry snorkel for me by a notable margin across all of the various dry snorkels I’ve tried.
The most important thing about any dry snorkel is going to be the dry valve itself, and I’ve found the valve on the Ultra-Dry 2 to be the most reliable of any dry snorkel I’ve tried. It just seems to work in all sorts of snorkel conditions, and the reliability and peace of mind that gives has been really nice.
The valve isn’t absolutely perfect (no dry snorkel valves are), and you will still get the occasional dribble of water down into the tube. That’s normal, but with some lesser dry snorkels, it can build up and become an issue.
With the Ultra-Dry 2, however, dribbles haven’t become an issue for a couple of reasons. First, it has a small reservoir beneath the mouthpiece that holds any water that happens to leak into your snorkel away from your mouth, so most of the time you won’t even notice any water.
Second, if you do get a little water build-up, there’s a purge valve attached to the bottom of the reservoir that allows you to exhale (harder than normal, but nothing over the top) and eject the reservoir water out the bottom of the snorkel.
Any candidate for the best dry snorkel should have a purge valve. If you haven’t used a snorkel with a purge valve before, it makes a huge difference in your ease of snorkeling (no more having to tilt your head back and try to blast the water through the top of your snorkel like a rocket), and the Ultra-Dry 2’s purge valve has shown itself to be well-tuned. That means normal breaths don’t activate it (so you aren’t bubbling around all over the place), and you don’t have to explosively exhale like a crazy person to get to work.
I’ve also appreciated that the Ultra-Dry 2 is a little more compact than some of the other best dry snorkels out there. I do understand the reasoning why some of them are so giant (in theory it keeps the dry valve further away from the water, and it should be needed less as a result), but some of them look like a big plumbing pipe attached to the side of your head.
Instead, I find that a huge snorkel isn’t needed if the dry valve works well (which it does on the Ultra-Dry 2), and a more compact design makes it way easier to travel with. I’m able to fit the snorkel easily along the edge of my suitcase (a good spot for snorkels in sturdy luggage) in either the length or width orientation, and it takes up virtually no room. Helpful since I almost always fly with my snorkel gear.
One complaint I could probably have if I wanted to is that the Ultra-Dry 2 is priced toward the higher end of snorkel price ranges. That really doesn’t get me too upset, though, because snorkels are relatively cheap anyway.
Also, you might be surprised by how large the mouthpiece feels in your mouth at first, especially if you’re new to snorkels with purge valves. This form factor is actually a great benefit, though, because if you have at least a medium- or larger-sized mouth, you’ll actually end up using way less energy creating a seal with your lips around the snorkel mouthpiece. This may not seem like a big deal, but you’ll definitely notice a lot less fatigue in your facial muscles after a day of snorkeling. (If you have a smaller mouth, check out The Best Dry Snorkel for Small Mouths below.)
The Ultra-Dry 2 usually goes for about $60 and you can usually get a decent dry snorkel for $40 or so, but an extra $20 for something that I know is going to be super reliable and effective (and the best dry snorkel as far as I see it) is more than worthwhile for me, especially for something that has such a huge impact on my safety and enjoyability in the water.
So, after all of the dry snorkels I have tried, I’ve found that the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (Amazon) is definitely the best dry snorkel for me because of its excellent dry valve, its well-tuned purge valve and its perfect size for travel. I also like to get my family and friends set up in them (excellent reviews there as well), and think it’s worthwhile to check it out on Amazon further.
I would say that if you snorkel even a couple of times a year (or plan to), opting for the Ultra-Dry 2 above is totally worthwhile. If you snorkel less than that (or only do very simple, calm snorkeling in ideal conditions) and want to save as much money as possible, no worries! I do also have a pick for the best dry snorkel which also costs the least money.
If you don’t snorkel much and do want a dry snorkel, but also want to spend as little money as possible, check out the Cressi Supernova Dry (Amazon) which goes for about $20. That’s about as little as you can spend without having to wonder if you’re getting a total piece of junk.
The Supernova performs admirably for it’s price point. Its dry valve might not keep as much water out as higher-end versions, but it’s still a huge improvement over traditional open snorkels. It does also have its own smaller purge valve and it is relatively compact and easy to travel with.
Cressi is a solid snorkel gear manufacturer that has been around for a long time, so that’s a plus. Between its good-value performance for its price point and a compact design that travels well, I’ve found the Cressi Supernova Dry (Amazon) to be the best dry snorkel that also needs to cost as little as possible.
If you happen to have a smaller-than-average mouth as far as adults go, the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 above may be a little too big to really be comfortable. Instead, I would recommend a dry snorkel with a purge valve with a bit smaller of a form factor.
To that end, the TUSA HyperDry Elite II Dry Snorkel (here on Amazon) provides very similar high-end performance as the Ultra-Dry 2, but with a more compact mouthpiece which tends to work a lot better for adults with smaller mouths, making it our best dry snorkel for smaller mouths. It’s also a great go-to if you’re looking for an excellent dry snorkel for a kid who isn’t a child anymore but isn’t quite a grown adult.
(If you’re looking for good dry snorkels for smaller kids, check out the snorkel section of The Best Snorkel Gear for Kids: Masks, Fins, Snorkels & More.)
The Deep Dive
Gone are the days of traditional open-top snorkels that let any water into your snorkel that may come along. Instead, dry snorkels have really revolutionized snorkeling and keep way, way more water out than anything before them.
The best dry snorkels need to have a very effective dry valve, a well-tuned purge valve, and a design that isn’t burdensome and can travel well. In my experience, the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (Amazon) ranks the highest in all of these areas and is absolutely worth checking out as the best dry snorkel.
Get more info on our recommended best dry snorkels on Amazon:
- Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (the best dry snorkel overall)
- Cressi Supernova Dry (the best dry snorkel on a small budget)
- TUSA HyperDry Elite II (the best dry snorkel for smaller mouths)
Also, make sure that your other snorkel gear is up to date with some of our other best-snorkel-gear guides: