Snorkels: More Than Just a Tube and a Mouthpiece

The snorkel is probably one of the most under appreciated of the basic diving equipment, especially by seasoned divers. The purpose of the snorkel of course is to allow the diver to breath face down in the water without waisting air from the tank. Many divers will remember that snorkels are required during the open water certification, mostly for surface skills like the snorkel regulator exchange and skin diving skills. Beyond these many divers find little use for their snorkel, I have met quite a few divers that have abandoned their snorkel because of how annoying it can be, they also dive primarily off boats and do not see the value in snorkels.

First lets analyze the different styles of snorkels and put an optimal use for each style.

  1. J-Tube Snorkel: This is the most basic form of a snorkel it is usually a single piece of silicone or plastic with a silicone mouthpiece shaped like a J. These tend to be the least expensive option because they do not include a purge valve. This type of snorkel while functional for scuba diving is more ideal for snorkeling or free diving.
  2. The Purge Snorkel: This is usually the most common style for snorkels for diving they usually have a long tube made of some sort of plastic, connecting to a silicone corrugated section then a purge and mouthpiece. These are ideal for diving because the corrugated section allows the snorkel to be out of the divers face while it is not in use. Most if not all snorkels in the following categories will have these features with additional features added on.
  3. Semi Dry Snorkel: These are almost identical to the standard purge snorkel with the exception that they will have a splash guard on the top of the snorkel. The splash guard is a piece of plastic that will prevent water from coming directly into the snorkel if a wave splashes over the top. The semi-dry snorkels are not air tight they will fill with water just like a standard purge or j-tube snorkel. These are becoming more popular for diving, as more brands are phasing out the standard purge snorkels for semi-dry.
  4. Dry Snorkel: The dry snorkel like the semi dry has all of the same features as the purge snorkel with the exception of the dry top mechanism. This mechanism is usually some kind of bobber on a hinge that will seal the snorkel if it is submerged underwater preventing water from entering from the top of the snorkel. These snorkels are most ideal for people doing mostly snorkeling, this is because if a diver is using it and their mouth is not on the snorkel it will fill from the mouthpiece and function just like the purge and semi-dry snorkels. The dry snorkel is usually a moderate price increase compared to most other snorkels.
  5. Travel Snorkel: The travel snorkel is once again featuring many if not all of the same features of the purge snorkel with the added benefit of being made entirely out of silicone, or with additional silicone sections to be made flexible and foldable to be kept in a pocket for emergencies. These tend not to have any additional features like the dry or semi- dry tops but some will. If you are a diver that is not a fan of snorkels but understands they can be useful in certain situations this is the ideal snorkel.

Keep in mind that for the purpose of diving, snorkeling, or free diving any of these snorkels are functional, but there are situations were one of these may be more suitable for the situation than the others. personally i have separate snorkels for different activities like i have different mask and fins for different activities. I have a j-tube that I use for free diving and spearfishing, and a hybrid purge/semi-dry/travel snorkel for diving. And for those that may be wondering or reading this to figure out what snorkel is best, personally i would recommend the Riffe stable snorkel, it is a bit expensive but it is a great all around snorkel, good for free diving, scuba diving and snorkeling. I will be sure to do a review in the near future.

Simple silicone snorkel keeper
this is what you want, Never
loose a snorkel again.

The good news with snorkels is that for the most part between brands they are all about equal, each brand makes some of each style and i wouldn’t personally rank any brand of snorkel higher than any other. They are a pretty simple piece of equipment that is pretty hard to mess up. My only gripe about any snorkel on the market is the keeper, or the clip that attaches the snorkel to the mask. I have yet to find any with the exceptions of some j-tube snorkels, that I like or trust to keep my snorkel on the mask permanently. I understand that it is convenient to disconnect the snorkel from the mask and store the mask back in the box but at the risk of having to buy a new snorkel i would rather permanently or be it semi permanently attach the snorkel to the mask with a proper keeper. So do yourself the favor and when you buy a snorkel ditch the plastic keeper that is attached to the snorkel and replace it with a silicone keeper like this one and you will never loose your snorkel again.

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Diving Masks Too Many To Choose From

The Scuba diving mask is the most integral park of diving equipment and usually one of dive mask 5the first pieces of equipment a diver buys.  There are no shortage of mask to choose from with a variety of options, from skirt color, number of lenses, lens colors and strap styles.  Despite all of these variations the most important feature of any mask is fit and comfort.  The fit and comfort of a mask is a personal decision but these other options for mask style can help narrow down which masks to start with when choosing a mask.

Skirt Color:

The first and most obvious variations of a mask is the skirt colors.  All mask intended for diving use high quality silicone that is made to be durable, soft and long lasting.  With clear silicone mask they allow a lot of light into the mask providing a wide open feeling, this is a very common option for starting divers.  Some diver may notice that allowing the light into the mask may cause a visible reflection inside the mask which may be distracting.  Black or solid colored mask prevent the excess of light through the skirt of the mask, this can cause a feeling of tunnel vision which may be detrimental for those that are susceptible to claustrophobia.  Free divers, spear fishermen, and photographers tend to prefer solid colored or black silicone mask because they block this light and allow for the eyes to adjust to lower light conditions much quicker.

Number of Lenses:

The lens is a very integral part of the diving mask and provides the template for which the shape of the mask is formed.  The two most common mask lenses are either a single lens design, a dual lens design and a panoramic design.  All are effective and functional as a mask lens and provide their own positive and negative aspects.  The single lens design provides an unobstructed field of vision, allowing for a wide open feeling for the user, it also usually brings the frame of the mask lower on the bridge of the nose that for some people can cause uncomfortable contact that could become very uncomfortable.  The dual lens design generally will allow more nose space because of the separation of the lenses that can be more comfortable for some, this separation of the lenses can cause a obstruction or blind spot that can be noticeable for some divers.  The panoramic design provide peripheral windows on the side of the mask and can be paired with single and dual lens mask.  This style of mask increase the field of view for divers while also increasing the air volume inside the mask.  Some divers prefer this more because of the open  field of view.

Framed or Frameless:

Frameless mask are growing in popularity, these mask remove the plastic frame from the design and have the silicone wrapped directly around the lens.  This design is popular because it reduces the volume of the mask and potential for parts that can break.  The downside of the frameless mask is in instances of prescription lenses there are only the option to have lenses bonded into the mask.  Traditional framed mask in some styles have replaceable lenses that can be installed to accommodate standard vision correction.   Some of these mask designs can be either very high volume or low volume in design covering a very wide assortment of styles.

High or Low Volume:

In diving the volume or air space in a mask is something that has evolved since its inception where mask originally had a very high volume with large windows for a greater viewing space.   As technology has evolved the mask and the rise of popularity in free diving the low volume mask has increased in popularity.  Low volume mask require a lower amount of air and effort to clear the mask when flooded and equalize the airspace, which is very important when free diving, but not so much when diving.  Because divers have a supply of air it is ok to use more air to equalize the air space or clear the mask when flooded.  Both are suitable options for divers, but those that might be looking for a dual purpose ideal for free diving might look for a mask with a lower volume.

Lens Color:

Lens colors are options traditionally taken on by spear fishermen, using colored lenses to help the eyes adjust to low light conditions, when looking under ledges and into crevices.  The most common lens colors are clear, amber/yellow, and HD lenses.  Clear lenses are the most common and virtually all mask come with this standard option.  The amber/yellow lenses are found in spear fishing/ free diving low volume mask, these mask like yellow lenses for snow skiing help the eyes adjust to low light conditions, ideal for searching for fish in holes, crevices and under ledges.  the HD lens is a pigmented lens that is used to restore color lost with depth.  These lenses often have a mirrored appearance from the front and generally have a red or rose pigment to the lens itself.  Lens color is a less common option for most mask designs and generally are specific to higher quality mask designs.

Mask Straps:

The silicone mask strap is the most widely offered standard for diving mask, some select mask offer neoprene mask straps.  The silicone mask strap commonly offers more easily adjustable straps for quick and fine adjustments, while the neoprene mask although nicer for longer hair can be adjusted but not as easily or on the fly.  With this being said any mask can be outfitted with a neoprene strap either by replacing the entire mask strap or a cover that slides onto the mask strap.

Conclusion:

With many different considerations in choosing a mask it is important to note that the fit and comfort of the mask are the most important factors.  These additional options of silicone color, number of lenses, frameless/framed, high/low volume, lens color, and type of strap these are secondary considerations when choosing a mask, there are many mask out there and a mask to fit each face.