Snorkeling is an incredible way to make lifetime memories, glide through underwater worlds that can often feel like another planet, and spend time alongside regal marine life in their natural habitat. It’s a beautiful, unique and relatively easy sport.
But, as with most sports, snorkeling does require some equipment to get started. Fortunately, though, compared to something like scuba diving, snorkeling requires very little equipment and very little money to get started having those incredible experiences. That’s awesome.
However, again as with most sports, some of the equipment available can vary widely in purpose, price, quality and a lot of other details that you might not know how to sort out unless you’ve been actively obsessed snorkeling for many years (like yours truly 🙂).
What Snorkel Gear Should I Buy?
Usually, the first question I get from both new snorkelers and established snorkelers just looking to have even better experiences out on the water is, “what snorkel gear should I buy?” Fortunately, the only gear you absolutely need to start snorkeling are a mask and snorkel, but there is a lot of other gear like rash guards, sun protection, flotation devices or fins that can make your experience safer and more fun.
There are so many gear options out there that it can sometimes get confusing. That’s why I’ve created this complete guide to what snorkel gear you need and the best snorkel gear so you can get out on the water affordably and confidently.
I see the best snorkel gear breaking down into three main categories: snorkel gear you absolutely need, snorkel gear that is highly recommended, and snorkel gear that is just nice to have. I’ll detail what’s in each category as we go and give you my recommendations for the best snorkel gear.
One of the beautiful things about snorkeling is that the only absolute necessities to get in the water are a mask and a snorkel. Most importantly, you’ll want to consider the materials used in their construction, available features, the quality of the seals, and the various price points. But, from there, there are about a million and one options, though, so let’s take a look specifically at what gear I think is the best snorkel gear for beginners which will get you get started snorkeling.
Step one is going to be to buy a snorkel mask to cover your eyes (and nose) so you can see underwater. And, for something so important, we don’t want to skimp, but we also want to make sure that anything we buy is going to give us very high value for what we pay.
If you’re now beginning with snorkeling and just looking to get your feet wet (ahem), our favorite simple beginner mask is the Cressi F1 (view on Amazon). It comes with a bit of an upgraded tempered-glass lens (a plus for safety and clear vision) and fits a frameless design format, meaning that there’s no rigid frame around the perimeter of the mask which a lot of people like for comfort and quality of the mask seal.
Cressi also is a highly-respected and established snorkel manufacturer which is key to note since it’s so easy to find questionable knock-off snorkel equipment in the beginner category all over the internet, which may or may not be safe.
At about $30, the Cressi F1 (Amazon) delivers an incredible value for the money spent. Plus, it comes in a ton of different colors, which is always a bonus.
If you’ve established yourself a bit with snorkeling (or would just like to dive in with a higher-quality mask), our top pick is the SCUBAPRO Solo (view on Amazon).
The Solo works fantastically in the intermediate category with features like its huge unified tempered-glass lens (so you can see more and see better) and a double-silicone skirt which helps create a more reliable mask seal around your face to keep out unwanted water.
My experience with this mask’s durability has been very positive, holding up well to a lot of accidental abuse (not that I ended up banging it around a lot or anything…), and the same goes for my feedback on comfort: I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the Solo.
At around $110, the SCUBAPRO Solo snorkel mask (Amazon) is definitely more of an investment, but if you see yourself snorkeling more than once or twice a year, the upgrade to better snorkel gear is going to be worthwhile to give you a better all-around experience every time you’re in the water.
Are you looking for the best snorkel gear that money can buy? Yeah, I’m right there with you. These type of advanced masks don’t leave anything behind in terms of style, comfort or performance.
There’s nothing much skill-related that requires you to be an advanced snorkeler to use one of these masks. Rather, they just tend to have the most advanced features that experienced snorkelers love.
Our top pick for the best snorkel mask out there is the Atomic Venom Frameless (view on Amazon). In our opinion it’s just an incredible snorkel mask, no buts about it.
Personally, my favorite feature about the Venom (and a lot of Atomic’s high-end masks) is the super high-level performance of its ultra-clear tempered glass lens. You wouldn’t think that something like the type of tempered glass used in a snorkel mask would make a difference (and I was skeptical, too), but it can be a noticeable improvement, especially in less-clear water.
Then, the comfort, seal technology, lightweight construction, and pretty much everything else on down the list is top notch. Plus, it looks sweet and I haven’t heard a bad thing about the mask from anyone I’ve talked to who also owns a Venom.
The Atomic Venom Frameless snorkel mask (Amazon) will set you back about $170, which is toward the higher end of what snorkel masks are going to run. If you are a regular snorkeler or want the best, though, the extra few bucks is totally worthwhile on this gem.
Also, a quick note for those of us who don’t necessarily have the most eagle-eyed of vision and need some sort of corrective lenses to see clearly: there are actually a lot of helpful snorkel mask options available, from snorkel mask lens inserts to drop-in lenses to bonded lenses to integrated lenses and several other options.
The methods for choosing the right snorkel mask for someone who needs prescription eyewear to see can vary widely by cost (anywhere from $30 to $300) and effort, and the topic really deserves its own article to sort out the various benefits and trade-offs of each. So, if your vision isn’t 20/20, check out our article on being able to snorkel and see underwater for glasses-wearers.
Next, we need to find a good option for the actual snorkel itself. Snorkels again break down into a few different categories, and each has a slightly different purpose and target audience. Make sure to read about each type below to figure out the best snorkel that will work best for you.
Back in the old days of snorkeling, there was just one type of snorkel: a traditional tube (also called a wet snorkel) that just connected your mouth to the air above the water’s surface. But, snorkel technology has come a long way since then.
Now, dry snorkels, which include a small one-way valve at the top of the breathing tube that aims to keep any surprise water from getting in (which can and does happen while snorkeling) while allowing you to breathe normally. Typically, they’re remarkably effective.
Dry snorkels are fantastic for snorkelers of all levels, but are especially huge for newer snorkelers and are absolutely in the “best snorkel gear for beginners” category. One of the hardest parts of learning to snorkel effortlessly is getting used to managing any unwanted water, and dry snorkels take a huge chunk out of that learning curve to help those learning how to snorkel for beginners get started much more confidently.
The only real drawback to dry snorkels is that they provide a little bit of buoyant resistance from the trapped air between the mouthpiece and the dry valve if you are looking to snorkel and dive underwater. That means you generally wouldn’t be able to also strap one on when scuba diving, but the resistance is hardly noticeable for anyone other than the most finely-tuned advanced snorkelers, however, so I don’t think this is a deal-breaker by any stretch.
When considering a dry snorkel, make sure that you’re looking at snorkels from established manufacturers with good safety records since the quality of the valve at the top of the snorkel is of paramount importance.
Our top pick for the best dry snorkel is the Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 (view on Amazon) because of its excellent dry valve coupled with a super-helpful purge valve (which allows you to blow any stray water that does happen to drip in your snorkel out the bottom of your mouthpiece).
The Ultra-Dry 2 is also really lightweight (a lot of the time you can hardly feel it) without introducing any durability issues, and the mouthpiece is very comfortable which is hugely helpful for longer snorkel sessions.
The Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2 will run about $60 which is toward the higher end of dry snorkel prices, though you do get what you pay for here.
If you aren’t quite ready to spend $60 on a snorkel, though, we also really like the Cressi Supernova Dry (view on Amazon) for beginners. It’s relatively inexpensive at about $20 and includes many of the same features as the Ultra-Dry 2. And, while it may not quite have the same level of finely-tuned performance, it’s a great option if you’re a beginner with an eye on the best snorkel gear but not quite ready to upgrade.
Semi-dry snorkels are also a somewhat-recent advent in snorkel technology, and they kind of aim to split the difference between dry snorkels and wet snorkels. They include an open breathing tube like a wet snorkel, but try to capture some of the water protection of a dry snorkel by including a splash guard at the top of the breathing tube to keep out stray water. They don’t do as great of a job at this as dry snorkels, but do a much better job than traditional wet snorkels.
The target market for semi-dry snorkels is usually going to be intermediate-to-advanced snorkelers who want as much water protection as they can get without sacrificing any performance whatsoever for more advanced things like extended diving underwater.
When you re-open the top of the breathing tube which potentially lets at least some water into the tube on occasion with semi-dry snorkels, you want to look for something with a really effective splash guard to keep out as much water as possible along with a finely-tuned purge valve to easily expel any water that does make it in.
For us, the top of the class of semi-dry snorkels among the best snorkel gear is the Atomic SV2 (view on Amazon). It does come in at the top of what you’re going to spend for a snorkel (about $70), but at this intermediate-to-advanced level, performance is hugely important and I don’t want to have to worry about buying something less well-designed than the SV2 and having an issue out on the water.
The Atomic SV2’s curved design with it’s angled splash guard is highly-regarded when it comes to limiting splash intake, and the purge valve works well with minimal forced air. So, it definitely fits the bill when it comes to the need for a high-performance semi-dry snorkel.
Lastly, traditional wet snorkels with a fully-open top are still going strong for some advanced snorkelers, old-school snorkelers who are just used to this format, and for those that want something as no-frills as possible to also use while scuba diving.
So, wet snorkels do still have their place, but with the advent of dry snorkels, a wet snorkel really shouldn’t be for you if you’re a beginner or more intermediate snorkeler. The added safety of a dry snorkel (or at least a semi-dry snorkel) is just too compelling.
Still, if you are indeed a more advanced or old-school snorkeler wanting a great traditional snorkel under the “best snorkel gear” banner, we really like the Aqua Lung Impulse 3 (view on Amazon). Some snorkel technology has still followed this particular wet snorkel with a nice flexible design, highly-comfortable mouthpiece and a really easy purge valve. It’s not your grandfather’s wet snorkel (fortunately).
Full-Face Snorkel Masks
There’s also a new kid on the block which combines both your traditional snorkel mask and a dry snorkel: full-face snorkel masks.
These full-face snorkel masks consist of a dome that covers your entire face from forehead to chin for added visibility with an integrated dry snorkel at the top of the mask that has the same sort of one-way valve that keeps water out while allowing air in.
It’s a really awesome idea. But, these masks have become a bit controversial over the last few years after reports that some people were experiencing distress or injury while using them in the water, very possibly from the integrated valve not releasing enough exhaled CO2 and not allowing enough fresh air into the mask on inhale.
There are plenty of people who swear by these masks, though, and the biggest difference-maker seems to be whether or not the mask is made by a high-quality manufacturer with a good safety record. Anecdotally, it seems like some of the lower-quality or knock-off masks might have had inferior valves installed.
Ultimately, the jury is still out on whether someone can officially deem full-face snorkel masks “safe” or not. Hawaii’s Department of Health is researching it and has stated that right now “there is currently not enough information to prove a direct association to increased risk.” But, you will definitely want to do more of your own research to determine if this type of mask is right for you as well as test it out before getting in the water to make sure that the valve allows you to breathe fully well.
I’ve personally tried a full-face snorkel masks on leisurely swims that don’t call for any diving (the trapped air in the mask makes it too buoyant to dive easily) and my own experiences have been fine. But, you might be different and you’ll of course want to draw your own conclusions and make your own decisions.
Two of the manufacturers that we’ve seen get consistently high marks for full-face snorkel masks are Tribord and Mares/Seaview. Both of their full-face mask offerings are very similar between Tribord’s Subea Easybreath (view on Amazon) and Head by Mares’ Seaview (view on Amazon). They both do well to encapsulate all of the benefits of a full-face snorkel mask — increased field of view, dry snorkel technology, better comfort, etc. — and the first-hand reviews from customers are positive.
If the valve stories are a concern to you, you can certainly just pick up a regular snorkel mask and dry snorkel and have a great time on the water. It’s as easy as that. If you’re interested in the full-face variety, though, the one I’ve personally used for several years is the $90 Tribord Subea Easybreath (view on Amazon) variety. For me, the valve has worked well at keeping water out and allowing me to breathe fine, and the mask has been a great companion for simple snorkel dives when I want to comfortably see as much as possible while having maximum water protection.
Now that we’ve outlined our bare essentials (the mask and snorkel), let’s look at some things that, while you can certainly snorkel without them, I would really highly recommend taking a look at because they have such a high impact on safety and having a positive experience.
Keep your skin healthy! It’s crazy important. And, what’s also crazy important is to keep the ocean healthy while you’re at it.
While snorkeling (or just prepping on the boat, sitting on the beach, etc.), you’re almost certainly going to be in the sun and should be applying sunscreen regularly. But, not all sunscreens are created equal when it comes to the snorkeling.
For one, you need to find a water-resistant sunscreen. Since you’ll be spending extended time in the water, a sunscreen that washes off right away isn’t going to do you any good. And for another, you need to choose a “reef-safe” sunscreen since many sunscreens that we would normally use for land-based activities contain chemicals that are damaging to coral reefs and marine life.
Some destinations like Hawaii have even passed bills to outlaw the sale and use of sunscreens containing things like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been known to contribute to reef damage even if not directly used in the ocean (for example, excess spray when applying sunscreen on the beach can soak into the sand and eventually wash into the ocean, or the sunscreen that you rinse off in the shower at the end of the day can also eventually make it into the sea) [source].
If we want to keep being able to snorkel in beautiful places, we need to protect our skin well and protect the ocean we’re snorkeling in at the same time. Definitely don’t compromise on either.
My favorite reef-safe sunscreen is Alba Botanica’s Sensitive SPF 50 sunscreen (view on Amazon). I’ve found it to be solidly water-resistant (officially to 60 minutes), cover easily, protect well with the 50 SPF rating, and it’s actually biodegradable. It also ranks much better than most sunscreens on the Think Dirty app which scores products based on the “cleanliness” of their ingredients.
Also, as an interesting honorable mention, Safe Sea’s Sunscreen & Jellyfish Sting Protective Spray both acts as a reef-safe sunscreen and as a repellent to jellyfish and sea lice. The reviews for the product almost all go along the lines of “I wore it and didn’t get stung by anything,” but there’s no certain way to know if it was the sunscreen that did it or if the reviewers wouldn’t have been stung anyway, even without the spray. Who knows?
Still, I throw it on when I’m in waters that are known to have jellyfish or sea lice (but still avoid water if there are known to be large amounts of jellyfish or dangerous varieties, because that’s just common sense.)
(For more information on how reef-safe sunscreen works and why it’s important, check out our guide on the best reef safe and biodegradable sunscreens for snorkeling.)
Also, if you have kids with you on the beach or boat, you’ll need a kid-oriented sunscreen that is friendly to the ocean, and my favorite reef-safe sunscreen for kids is Goddess Garden’s Kids Sunscreen (here on Amazon). It is indeed reef safe, has a high SPF50 sun protection factor and is water-resistant to 80 minutes. It’s also tailored especially for more sensitive skin (like kids tend to have), and it doesn’t smell awful, so putting it on isn’t as much of a battle.
(If you’re looking to outfit a kid with other snorkel gear, read our guide on the best snorkel gear for kids.)
I also highly recommend picking up a rash guard, which is kind of a form-fitting, water-resistant shirt that you can wear in the water with you while snorkeling. It provides a couple of key benefits: one, it comes in handy with a little extra insulation when snorkeling in cooler waters, and two, it provides more sun protection.
I don’t get chilly too easily, so I don’t cash in on the first benefit as much (though my wife does), but sometimes I can be in the water snorkeling for over an hour at a time. And, when my back, neck and shoulders are all pointing up directly at the sun for all of that time, the more coverage on my body, the better (and, I can use less sunscreen this way).
I use the Volcom Men’s Solid Short Sleeve Rashguard (view on Amazon) because it protects my core while still giving me excellent freedom of movement. My wife likes the REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard (view on Amazon) since it has more insulation on the arms and hands. Both have worked extremely well for us in terms of keeping our skin protected and body a little warmer if needed.
Everything we’ve talked about so far here in the “recommended” category has been solely safety-related. But, fins, while also giving you a safety boost (something helping you swim is always a win), are one thing in this category that can really just help you snorkel a lot better.
If you haven’t used flippers or fins before, they may feel a little awkward at first. But once you get the hang of them, you’ll love them. They allow you to move further, faster and dive deeper more easily. Once you get the technique down, they can also help you minimize fatigue since you don’t have to move as much to go farther. It’s a beautiful combination.
Fins come in all shapes and sizes and can range in price anywhere from $20 to over $200. And, believe it or not, the technology and benefit that you get between a $20 set of fins and a $200 set is just as big as the price difference. A nice set of fins can make a huge difference for your in-water snorkeling ability.
If you’re willing to step up just past basic entry-level fins, you’ll get a pretty significant benefit for not much more money. In this slightly better category, my favorite fins for beginning snorkelers are the Mares Avanti Superchannel snorkel fins. They’re a really good shape and format for newer snorkelers, and the superchannel form does well to guide water away from the fin after you’ve propelled against it, which has a surprisingly impactful effect on your efficiency and overall energy.
These fins come in both an Avanti Superchannel full-foot version (Amazon), where you have a formed rubber foot pocket to step into, or an Avanti Superchannel open-heel version (Amazon) that has a heel strap. If the fins are for you alone, I recommend the full-foot version. It’s more comfortable, and you can use your bare foot. If you want to be able to share the fins with others, get the open-heel version (it’s adjustable), though you’ll want to pick up a neoprene boot to wear with it for comfort.
If saving money is your first priority, check out the Cressi Rondinella (view on Amazon). They’re a nice size (which gives you more ability to propel yourself in the water) without getting ridiculously big, and they give you solid thrust in the water for what you’re paying (a minimal $30).
Most snorkel fins will fit in regular checked baggage without much issue (though just barely), but if you’re limited to a carry-on and want fins to match, I think the SCUBAPRO GO Travel fins (Amazon) are about as good as you can get for beginner travel fins for as little money as possible. No travel-sized snorkel fin is going to give you the performance of a regular-sized set (keep that in mind when snorkeling and make sure to stick to more favorable conditions), but these do a great job at squeezing solid performance out of a a carry-on size.
Also, when it comes to flippers and fins, you’ll want them to be pretty tight on your foot. So, don’t be afraid to try something that’s a half size or full size smaller than your normal shoe size, assuming you can squeeze into it. If you can’t get your foot in there or it’s painful when you do, you’ve gone too small.
(If you want to learn more about fin technology and the right pair for different skill levels, check out The Best Snorkel Fins for Beginners, Advanced Snorkelers & Travelers.)
Snorkeling is a very accessible sport to people of all swimming abilities, but if you aren’t a super strong swimmer, some sort of flotation device is recommended to keep you safe.
The beautiful thing about snorkeling is that it’s totally possible to snorkel with a life jacket or something similar, and the impact on your experience will be minimal (with only diving beneath the surface not really being possible).
If you only need a little flotation boost, you can use something a simple as a pool noodle held under your armpits for a little extra buoyancy. If you need a little more buoyancy, specifically-made snorkel vests exist that work pretty much like a lighter-duty life jacket. Seaview’s Palawan Snorkel Vest (view on Amazon) works really well for this purpose.
At the top of the buoyancy game are full-on life jackets, which can be really handy for those still working on their swimming ability, and the O’Neill Superlite Men’s Life Vest (here on Amazon) has provided solid experiences for a lot of people, along with the matching O’Neill Superlite Women’s Life Vest (also on Amazon).
At the end of the day, though, if you’re still working on becoming a solid swimmer, it’s a good idea to stick to shallower water and work with a snorkel guide who can help you get started and learn safely. But, a snorkel vest or life jacket can help you take that first step.
(For more on excellent options for snorkel flotation, head over to our guide on the best snorkel vests, life vests, and other flotation for snorkeling for both adults and kids.)
The gear listed in this section isn’t a bare necessity like a mask or snorkel, or even necessarily a highly-recommended item for safety or performance. But, if you can pick up any of these items, they’ll substantially make your snorkeling experience better or just all-around more fun.
I personally can’t imagine snorkeling without a waterproof action camera. Buying one has been the difference between being able to relive our incredible adventures with whale sharks through slow-motion video, printing photos of underwater shipwrecks for the fireplace mantel, posting about our encounters with playful dolphins to our friends on Instagram, texting photos of curious sea turtles to our parents with trip updates, or… otherwise not.
It’s been my single best snorkeling purchase in terms of helping to make memories that literally can last a lifetime, and I would recommend one to anyone who’s able to pick one up.
GoPro mostly started the genre of the action camera, and there have since come a load of competitors trying to one-up each other. At the end of the day, what you’re most looking for is an action camera that’s solidly waterproof, is easy to operate (changing settings in the middle of the ocean is too difficult otherwise), and is one that ultimately just spits out killer photos and video.
I actually own and use multiple action cameras, but my favorite that I keep coming back to is the GoPro Hero11 Black (view on Amazon). At the end of the day, its waterproof casing is well battle-tested, I’m able to make a quick settings change in the middle of a dive without too much hassle, and it puts out the best photo and video out of the various action cameras I’ve tried. It just works, and that’s what I want when I’m capturing underwater moments that might be gone in an instant.
The Hero11 Black on Amazon usually goes for $449-499, which is actually pretty impressive for all that you’re able to do with it (professional underwater set-ups that do similar things run into the thousands without breaking a sweat). That’s awesome and totally worthwhile for GoPro reliability, incredible video stabilization and 8x slo-mo video. It’s worked fantastically for me.
If you’re not sure about spending that dough on a Hero11, though, walking back one version to the GoPro Hero10 Black (view on Amazon) will still get you a lot of the same features and all that is good about a GoPro for $399-449. Saving $50 is saving $50.
Then, the GoPro Hero9 (view on Amazon) is a very capable next-up at a lower price than the Hero11 or Hero10 Black. It includes many of the features of the Hero11 Black like a natively-waterproof design, slow-motion video and image stabilization. It also has a front-facing screen for selfies, which does come in handy. Everything on the camera works well and is totally worth the $299 price tag if the GoPro Hero11 Black (or the Hero10) doesn’t currently make sense for you. Having a good action camera is 1000% better than having no action camera at all.
I wouldn’t recommend going back any further than the Hero9, though, since a lot of new features that are hugely helpful for snorkeling (Horizon Lock, Hindsight, etc.) were new in the Hero9 and then further refined and improved in the Hero10 and Hero11.
(For more on your various options, check out our guide on the best waterproof underwater action cameras for snorkeling.)
Also, a couple of crucial tips regarding snorkeling with action cameras for you…
First, if you pick up an action camera, you absolutely need a floating hand grip. Videos shot on cameras attached directly to snorkel masks just look bad, and more importantly, if you fumble your camera and it’s not attached to something like a floating hand grip, it will sink to the bottom of the ocean and never be seen again.
I swear by the CamKix Waterproof Telescopic Floating Hand Grip (view on Amazon) because it can fully float with my GoPro attached, and the telescoping feature is really handy depending on how I want to use the camera. You can also keep a few things (money, wedding rings, etc.) inside the hand grip itself that you may not want to leave on a boat or a beach.
Next, it’s definitely worthwhile to pick up a beefy memory card (or even an extra one). There’s nothing worse then running out of space in the middle of a dive day and having to ration your filming (which has definitely happened to me). I can squeeze about a day’s worth of off-and-on snorkeling video at 2.7K (which is probably the lowest resolution that I would recommend shooting in) on a 64gb memory card, but sometimes just barely. If I want to shoot in 4K (which is awesome) or even 5K, I absolutely should be smart and tend more toward 256gb.
Also, the speed of the memory card is hugely important with an action camera. Different memory cards record photos and videos at different speeds, and if the speed is too slow, the memory card won’t be able to keep up with the video that the camera is sending it, which can cause problems with your footage. I use the SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-I Card (view on Amazon). It’s super affordable and it hasn’t ever lost footage for me.
(For more on using action cameras in the water, check out our walkthrough on how to use a GoPro for snorkeling as well as our full review on our current pick for the best action camera for snorkeling, the GoPro Hero11 Black.)
Once you’ve got all your best snorkel gear in-hand, you need somewhere to put it. A lot of awesome snorkel spots take a bit of hiking to get to, and trying to amble down a cliffside while carrying fins along with your mask and snorkel (and plenty of other stuff) doesn’t work all that great.
Normal backpacks will work in a pinch to stow your gear, but they’ll always ultimately end up getting soaked with sandy seawater. That isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but you will want to make sure to always wash your backpack so the salt doesn’t eat away at the material over time, and getting soaked on your back walking out from a spot isn’t ideal if you’ve just put on dry clothes.
To avoid those annoyances, I like to use a bag that’s meant for snorkel gear, and my favorites are the Stahlsac BVI (on Amazon) or the Stahlsac Panama (Amazon). Both have a similar format that waterproofs where the bag contacts your body while letting the gear dry out through helpfully-placed mesh on the front side. Both bags also squish down flat, so they’re really easy to travel with.
The BVI is cheaper and more suited to one or two people, while the Panama has more storage (for at least 3-4 people) and better construction. If you can afford it, the Panama is better overall, but if you want to save a few bucks, the BVI will absolutely get the job done.
A quality dry bag, which of course aims to keep your stuff dry inside it, can also be hugely helpful when snorkeling. You might be on a boat in choppy water with a cell phone, cash, or just a change of clothes for later that you don’t want to get wet. In a case like that, a dry bag is going to be far superior to something like a backpack or a snorkel gear bag.
You might also have items that you don’t want to leave on a beach, but don’t have anyone to stay and watch them for you. In this case, dry bags actually float when sealed properly, so you can actually tow them around with you while snorkeling if need be. This floating benefit would also save your stuff should it fall out of a boat or off a dock.
I really like the Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag Roll-Top Dry Compression Sack (view on Amazon). It’s dry, it floats, and it comes in a bunch of different sizes. Usually, for some beach odds and ends that you want to take with you into the water, the 10L size should work great. If you’re looking for a size to replace a backpack to take with you on excursions, take a look at the 20L and 30L sizes.
It’s definitely possible to rent a lot of your core snorkel gear like masks and snorkels — and even things like fins and life jackets — which might be a good way to go if you’re just looking to try out snorkeling for the first time. There are a few things to look out for, though. If you’d like more info on renting snorkel gear, read up on it over at How Much Does it Cost to Rent Snorkel Gear? Prices & Problems.
Also, if you’re taking a snorkel tour with a licensed guide, more than likely they’ll have some gear available for you to use as part of your trip cost. Chances are, though, that this is going to be very, very basic-level gear which may not give you the best snorkel gear experience. Rental gear from a bona fide dive shop is almost always a better option.
But, if you plan on snorkeling even just more than two or three times in the next couple of years, I would definitely recommend buying your own mask and snorkel. Being able to know what to expect from your gear, having the flexibility to snorkel any time and anywhere you want, and being able to pick up the best snorkel gear for your experience level will be hugely worthwhile in terms of consistently having a blast on the water.
The Deep Dive
One of my favorite things about snorkeling is that it’s relatively easy and affordable to get into the water and start having incredible experiences. With this guide, you can make sure to pick up the best snorkel gear for your experience level, and maybe a few extras that will help your memories stick with you for a lifetime. Happy snorkeling!
Check out the recommended gear from this guide:
- Best beginner snorkel mask: Cressi F1
- Best intermediate snorkel mask: SCUBAPRO Solo
- Best overall/advanced snorkel mask: Atomic Venom Frameless
- Best full-face snorkel mask: Tribord Subea Easybreath
- Best overall dry snorkel: Oceanic Ultra-Dry 2
- Best budget dry snorkel: Cressi Supernova Dry
- Best semi-dry snorkel: Atomic SV2
- Best traditional wet snorkel: Aqua Lung Impulse 3
- Best reef-safe sunscreen: Alba Botanica Sensitive SPF 50
- Best rash guard for men: Volcom Men’s Solid Short Sleeve Rashguard
- Best rash guard for women: REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard
- Best fins/flippers for beginners: Avanti Superchannel Full-Foot
- Best fins/flippers on a budget: Cressi Rondinella
- Best fins/flippers for beginner travel: ScubaPro GO Travel
- Best snorkel vest: Seaview Palawan Snorkel Vest
- Best overall action camera: GoPro Hero11 Black
- Best budget action camera: GoPro Hero10 Black
- Best action camera floating hand grip: CamKix Waterproof Telescopic Floating Hand Grip
- Best action camera memory card: SanDisk Extreme 256gb microSDXC UHS-I Card
- Best snorkel gear bag: Stahlsac Panama
- Best snorkel gear bag on a budget: Stahlsac BVI
- Best dry bag: Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag Roll-Top Dry Compression Sack
Also, we have plenty of other helpful snorkel gear guides with more details and info for other types of snorkelers below: