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    Shopping Guide for Best Snorkel Sets

    If you long to swim with the fishes – but you don’t want to deal with the expense and time commitment of learning to scuba dive – a good snorkel set will open up the underwater world to you for a fraction of the time and cash.

    Whether you dream of snorkeling through the clear waters of Hawaii, the rugged waters of the Atlantic, or even the placid waters of your swimming pool, you’ll need a properly fitted mask and snorkel to make the experience a joy instead of a watery discomfort. And that means choosing the best snorkel set for your needs.

    We’re here to help. At BestReviews, we believe that everyone should have access to helpful, accurate, and most importantly, unbiased information on the products that make life easier, happier, and more productive. That’s why we do our own research and write our own buying guides without accepting free products, manufacturer perks, or other incentives.

    So if you’re ready to hit the water, check out the five top snorkel sets in the matrix above. All are good choices that would serve you well. If you’d like to learn more about snorkel sets in general, including how to choose the best one and use it safely, read on. Up ahead: your window to the underwater world.

    Snorkeling is a lot more fun with equipment that fits properly. Check your masks and fins for fit before heading to the water. And don’t forget sunscreen; it’s nearly as important as your snorkeling set if you want to enjoy your day.

    What’s in a Snorkel Set?

    A snorkel set generally consists of a mask and snorkel. Some sets also include flippers.

    • The snorkel mask protects and seals your eyes and nose while you’re swimming.

    • The snorkel itself is a J-shaped tube with a fitted mouthpiece for breathing.

    • Flippers, also called fins, are shaped like elongated duck feet. They slip over the feet, allowing you to swim much faster and further, and with less exertion, than you would swim with bare feet.


    You’ll find snorkel sets in sizes for both children and adults. Many kids love spending hours peering into the ocean depths while paddling along its surface.

    Snorkeling Masks: How to Choose the Right One

    A good snorkeling mask makes all the difference between a day of fun and a day of frustration. A cheap or poorly fitted mask may leak, forcing you to surface frequently to empty it. The mask may also fog, preventing you from enjoying the underwater scenery. An ill-fitting mask is also likely to slip, pinch, or squeeze your face uncomfortably.

    A snorkeling mask is not the same thing as goggles or masks made for swimming or diving. Goggles aren’t designed to form-fit around your face and thus will leak under snorkeling conditions. A true snorkeling mask completely encloses your nose and fits securely around your eyes.

    Considerations

    Snorkeling Mask Windows

    The best snorkeling masks have a front window made of impact-resistant tempered glass, not plastic. Tempered glass is less likely to scratch than plastic – a big issue if the mask is for a child – and it won’t shatter into pieces if the mask breaks.

    • Classic snorkeling masks have a large, round window that covers the eyes and nose. These have fallen out of favor, as they don’t seal well.

    • One-lens snorkeling masks are the most popular style. They have one piece of glass stretching across the entire eye area and a soft compartment for the nose. These are the easiest masks to fit securely.

    • Two-lens snorkeling masks are similar to one-lens masks, but instead of an open design across the face, each eye has a separate lens. These are also called split masks. If you have a very wide bridge to your nose, you might find a split mask more comfortable than a one-lens style.

    • Three- and four-lens snorkeling masks have additional small lenses on the sides, giving you better peripheral vision. These masks tend to cost more than the other types.

    Fasten your mask strap so it’s high on your head, not directly over or pressing on your ears, which can become very uncomfortable during a lengthy swim.

    Considerations

    Snorkeling Mask Frames

    The frame of a snorkeling mask holds the lenses in place. A good mask has a strong, crack- and shatter-resistant polycarbonate or similar plastic frame, not one made of flimsy or inferior plastic.

    “Frameless” snorkeling masks have become a popular option; these masks don’t have a hard plastic frame at all. Instead, the skirt attaches directly to the lenses. Frameless masks cost more than regular masks.

    If you have long hair, pull it back before fastening your mask. Loose hair can get caught in the mask’s skirt and break the seal.

    Considerations

    Snorkeling Mask Skirts, or Seals

    When we talk about the “skirt” of a snorkeling mask, we’re referring to the rubbery portion that forms the seal around the face. There’s no question that silicone is today’s best option for the skirt. Cheap masks frequently have plastic skirts, and older masks typically have neoprene skirts. But silicone fits better, feels better, and lasts far longer than either of those materials. (The head strap, however, can be either silicone or neoprene.)

    Skirt color is a matter of preference. Black is common; it’s a particularly good choice if you plan to take pictures underwater because it reduces glare. However, some people find it a bit claustrophobic. Clear skirts let in more light and give better peripheral vision, making them more comfortable for some beginning snorkelers.

    Full-face snorkeling masks are a new entry on the ocean-fun scene. These masks have a snorkel built in, so you get an all-in-one design. If you enjoy occasional deep dives while snorkeling, however, these aren’t the right choice for you, as the mask will fill with water.

    Considerations

    Other Mask Considerations

    Once you’ve found a good mask that fits you well, there are a few other options to consider.

    • Non-fogging lenses are treated with a special coating that cuts down on the tendency to fog.

    • Low-volume masks fit close to your face, reducing the tendency to fog and making it easier to adjust to water pressure if you dive deep.

    • A purge valve is a small plastic flap at the bottom of the nose pocket. It allows you to purge the mask of water without breaking the seal. Simply blow out through your nose to release the water.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Never snorkel alone or at night, dawn, or dusk. Stay reasonably close to shore, and avoid murky water. Don’t touch or feed sea life. If the weather is bad or the waves are particularly large, stay out of the water.

    Choosing Your Snorkel

    Your snorkel allows you to breathe when your face is in the water. Normally, there’s a hook or clamp that fits over the strap of your mask to hold the snorkel in place while you swim or dive.

    There are three general styles of snorkel.

    • Basic snorkels are usually open, J-shaped plastic tubes. A basic snorkel is the least-expensive option.

    • Semi-dry snorkels have a valve at the top that helps keep water from splashing down the snorkel tube.

    • Dry-top snorkels have a valve that closes completely if you dive all the way underwater, making them a good choice for swimmers who like to occasionally explore further underwater – and don’t mind holding their breath while they do it.

    Features

    Snorkel Mouthpieces

    You’ll find a variety of snorkel mouthpiece materials, some more rigid than others. Silicone is a popular choice, as it’s soft enough for comfort, but some snorkelers prefer a more rigid material. The right mouthpiece fits comfortably in your mouth without stretching, pinching, or squeezing, yet it is large enough for comfortable breathing.

    The right snorkel mouthpiece fits comfortably in your mouth without you having to bite down or exert pressure. Your jaw should remain relaxed with the snorkel in place.

    Features

    Snorkel Tubes

    The right snorkel tube sits just about even with the top of your head when positioned comfortably in your mouth. Some snorkels come in wide widths for a little extra ease in breathing.

    Features

    Purge Valve

    Some snorkels have a purge valve at the bottom of the curve that makes it easy to release water without removing the snorkel from the mouth.

    Picking Your Fins

    Your snorkeling fins, or flippers, help you speed through the water easily and gracefully. Swimming fins are not the same as snorkeling fins. The former are a little bit shorter, which makes them easier to swim with, but the slightly longer length of snorkeling fins makes it easier to move through a current.

    There are two basic styles of snorkeling fins.

    • Full-pocket fins cover your entire foot, heel and all, like a shoe. This keeps them securely in place, but it means you might need to do a little bit of tugging to get them on and off. Full-pocket fins are the best choice for the average snorkeler.

    • Heel-strap fins just have a strap around the heel. These fins are easier to put on and take off, but they are likelier to flop or wiggle while you swim if they aren’t the right size. While some snorkel sets include heel-strap fins, they are actually a better choice for scuba diving, not snorkeling.


    The right flippers fit securely but not too tightly. You shouldn’t feel any discomfort, pinching, or rubbing on your heels, toes, or the sides of your feet, nor should they slip off too easily.

    Clean your snorkeling gear after every use with fresh water and mild liquid dish soap. Rinse thoroughly, and allow all the equipment to dry completely before storing it.

    FAQ

    Q. How do I know if I have found a snorkeling mask that truly fits?
    A.
    The right snorkeling mask fits tightly enough to seal out water, yet it is still comfortable around your eyes and nose. You can check the quality of the seal by holding the mask against your face, then removing your hands while inhaling slowly and gently. If the mask fits, it will stay in place securely. If you find that you need to fasten the straps very tightly to keep out water, your mask doesn’t fit correctly and will leak or be uncomfortable. The straps are meant to keep the mask in place, not to create a seal.

    Want to look better when exiting the water after snorkeling? Slip your fins off right before leaving the water; this will eliminate the “flipper waddle.”

    Q. Should I choose a snorkel with a rigid or a flex bend?
    A.
    You’ll find snorkels with a rigid curve at the base and snorkels with a bit of flex. Flex snorkels make it easier to adjust the angle of the snorkel to its attachment at the mask, but they can sometimes be a bit floppy while you swim. Neither is necessarily better; it’s just a matter of personal preference.

    Q. How much do snorkel sets cost?
    A.
    While you needn’t break your budget for a snorkel set, it’s wise to avoid the cheapest supermarket sets, which are little more than toys. Typically, any set – mask, snorkel, fins, and carrying bag – that costs less than $25 is likely to disappoint. For a quality set with desirable features, expect to spend between $30 and $40 if you only plan to snorkel occasionally and $60 or more if you plan on snorkeling frequently and need higher-end features.

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