In this article I share my tips for buying a snorkel for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are five things you really need to consider, we will get onto them shortly. But first…
Many scuba lovers I know dive without a snorkel. Some divers feel it can get in the way and as they rarely use it, it’s not worth having. Do you prefer scuba diving with a snorkel or without?
Fans of diving with a snorkel say they find it useful. They also argue that if you are leading divers in any pursuit, whether fun diving or teaching, it’s important to set a good example and wear a snorkel.
As endorsed by PADI, you may need a snorkel on the surface. In choppy conditions, before you descend it will save you using precious air, and once you are back at the surface a snorkel can help you avoid massive gulps of salty water. If doing a shore dive you could have a long swim with no air left or you may have to wait to be picked up by your boat.
Finally, most divers are pretty keen on snorkeling too. So even if you don’t dive with a snorkel you will still want one in your kit bag. Especially as, a bit like scuba diving masks, holiday rental ones are often pretty snarky (snorkel speak for crap).
So let’s assume we’re taking our plastic tube with us. What’s the best snorkel for your diving and snorkeling adventures?
There are many types and styles of snorkels available with a surprising number of features, which may enhance your experience. Or, you might prefer to keep it really simple and just go for something well made without additional bells and whistles.
As with any scuba diving gear , it all comes down to personal preference. How many scuba dive trips you take, how you plan to use it and your budget.
The word “snorkel” comes from the German word “schnoerkel“. Which was a tube used by German submarine crews in WW2.
The subs used an electric battery when travelling underwater, which had to be recharged using diesel engines, which needed air to run. To avoid the hazard of surfacing to run the engines, the Germans used the schnoerkel to feed air from the surface into the engines.
If you are going to purchase a snorkel for scuba diving and snorkeling consider these tips.
The most important thing with a snorkel is that it is comfortable when in use. The mouthpiece should be the right size for your mouth and the snorkel should not feel like it is pulling excessively. The more comfortable mouthpieces are typically made of silicon, which is quite soft.
There is a bite piece that you bite down on to keep the snorkel in your mouth, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re hanging on for dear life. This could result in snorkel jaw (temporomandibular disorder) – that achy feeling you get, similar to when you’ve been trying to tackle an overdone steak.
If you will be doing a fair amount of snorkeling, one of the best tips for buying a snorkel is to buy one with a purge valve. This makes it easier and more efficient to clear a snorkel of water when you have dived beneath the surface. On the downside a purge valve will add bulk to your snorkel and is it that much easier than just blowing hard to clear the tube?
There are also snorkels on the market that proclaim themselves to be “dry” meaning they don’t allow water to come in through the top of the snorkel. This may appeal if you snorkel in choppy water or dive below the surface frequently. Some actually keep water out and others are just gimmicks, but either way a dry snorkel can come at the expense of having a mass sitting on top of the snorkel.
This can impact surface swimming and create drag/bulk when diving. Some snorkels have a very simple semi-dry system that consists of diagonally placed partitions at the top of the snorkel. Some users like this, whereas others have found this system restricts airflow and requires more effort to purge the snorkel.
A contoured or rigid snorkel is better for activities like free diving as the design helps you to effortlessly keep the mouthpiece in place. Flexible snorkels are more common amongst scuba divers as the design tends to keep the mouthpiece out of the way while using a regulator and you can fold them up and put them in your pocket if you need to.
One of the key tips for buying a snorkel for scuba diving and snorkeling is having a decent attachment to clip your snorkel to your mask. Cheap ones can frequently break or tend to get more tangled which could be really annoying on your scuba diving holiday.
Personally, I am a fan of keeping things simple. As with all scuba gear, if you have been using something that works and it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it or replace it with new fandangles! On the other hand, if extensive features make you feel safe and comfortable, then that’s what you should go for.
Finally, I think snorkel might be a good name for a dog. What do you think?
We hope you found these tips for buying a snorkel for scuba diving and snorkeling useful. If you wish to learn to dive then check out these scuba diving courses.