Our packing list for snorkelers
We’re crazy about snorkelling but many places we snorkel are quite remote, and getting decent snorkel equipment is often not practical or even an option. The places that do rent out gear are always limited to a one size fits all approach, nothing ever fits like it should and hygiene is another topic entirely. Thats why we’ve complied a full packing list for snorkelers, to help make your trip a more enjoyable experience.
The most important item on your list should be a well fitted mask. There is nothing worse than a leaky one. Make triple sure to get one that fits your face like a second skin.
We learnt the importance of a well fitting snorkel mask the hard way. The first snorkelling trip we went on was to the Maldives. We bought expensive diving masks for this trip, but unfortunately didn’t test them out properly before we left. On our very first snorkel, my mask leaked. This was incredibly frustrating as the only other option was to borrow another ill fitting mask. So I had 2 weeks of snorkelling an amazing reef whilst having to clear my mask every 10 seconds.
What snorkel mask size
There is no one size fits all, everyone has a different shape face. For this very reason, we would not recommend buying a mask online without trying it on first. The best way to find a mask that fits is to try as many on as possible in your nearest sports/dive store. Ignore brand and style, just get whatever fits the best, within your budget.
What material is best for a mask
The skirt of the mask is the part that creates a seal on your face. Most masks are made from different types of silicone. However, cheap ones are often made from plastic – these are to be avoided at all costs. Skirts made from plastic don’t form a good seal on your face, are far less flexible and are nowhere near as durable.
Single vs Split lens mask
Single Lens Mask: These allow for unobstructed views. They also look better in our opinion. The only downside with these are sometimes they don’t give enough room for your nose bridge.
Dual Lens Mask: The dual lens sits closer to the face which will give a lower volume of air. These are our preference for freediving. We also found that it is cheaper and easier to get prescription lenses for these masks.
Full Face Mask with snorkel: Full face masks are relatively new to the market and becoming increasingly popular with new snorkelers. Full face masks combine a snorkel and a mask into one unit. Sounds great! We would suggest you avoid these though. As free diving becomes difficult due to the volume of air they contain, and the fact that you cannot pinch your nose like a traditional mask. They can also get hot and therefore prone to more fogging up.
I’ve had and tried on many masks, and for me the Scubapro Synergy 2 Twin Scuba Diving Mask has fit the best, given an excellent seal and has been the most comfortable thanks to the soft silicone it uses.
There are tons of snorkel options that come in different styles and sizes. For newbies we recommend getting one with a Dry Valve with an upper valve guard. They are more expensive but will help prevent you chocking on a mouthful of saltwater if you panic.
We like to keep things simple and go for a flexible roll up option which we find also helps with free diving. Our choice is the Scuba Choice Silicone Roll-up Nautilus Snorkel with Storage Container
Open Heel vs Full Foot fins
Second to the snorkel and mask, we recommend packing a pair of fins if you want to keep up with all those beautiful fish! Many of the best places to snorkel also have strong and unpredictable currents. Snorkelling without fins can be tough, and actually quite dangerous.
Open-heeled fins have pockets for your feet that are open at the back. They are normally always worn with socks or booties. They usually weigh and cost a little more than full foot fins. These are a great choice if you have to walk across rocks or dead coral to get to your snorkelling entry point. Kicking with open heel fins can be slightly more work than full foot fins simply because they are more rigid, and weigh more.
Full-footed fins have flexible closed back foot pockets, they weigh less and are less rigid than open-heel fins. These tend to be the more comfortable choice, but an exact fit is required, as they cannot be adjusted. Open-heel fins are great for snorkelling off soft sandy bottom beaches or boats.
We chose the highly rated Mares Avanti Quattros for all our snorkel trips, which are designed specifically for handling strong currents.
Mesh bags are really handy, when you need to trek or take a boat trip to your snorkelling site. They help to dry out your equipment, towls and clothes once your finished as well. Rather than taking multiple bags we opt for one huge mesh bag. The Mares Cruise Backpack Mesh Elite Bag, can fit everything for 2 snorkelers in. The padded shoulder straps are also a godsend on long hikes.
Reef Shoes or Booties
Reef shoes are not shoes to help you walk on the reef. The reef should never be walked on! Reef shoes instead help protect your feet from sharp rocks or sharp objects in the sand.
Broken coral at the shore and in the shallows can make walking barefoot tricky, especially during low tide when it’s not possible to swim to the drop off. We’ve watched many people struggle to get out to sea without reef shoes, and it looks painful!
Booties are normally used with open-heel fins but effectively do the same job as reef shoes. We recommend Mares Equator 2mm Dive Boots, they are thin enough to work inside a fin, yet the soles are thick enough to protect your feet when walking along the shore.
Rash guards will protect you from the suns harmful rays and are a necessity in tropical climates. They also protect you from coral scrapes and tiny stinging jelly fish. An extra layer will help keep you warm after a long time in the water.
We both have short and long sleeve versions, but find the longer sleeve gets more wear. It’s worth bringing a couple for your snorkelling trip, as you’ll probably be living in them. We use the Mares Long Sleeve Trilastic Rash Guard
If your going to be snorkelling for long periods then just like a rash guard, snorkel leggings will make you feel much more protected. These are probably more of a women’s essential, but we did see some men wearing them too.
If you wish to take out items such as a camera, phone, sun lotion, first aid kit etc then you are going to want a dry bag. Weather and sea conditions can be unpredictable forces of nature in the tropics. It often rains unexpectedly and boat journeys can get rough. If this happens, then your precious things are going to get wet. We use this Waterproof Dry Bag from Earth Pak.
Waterproof Phone Case
Ditto all of the above re a waterproof phone case. If you are out on a boat trip then there is a good chance you might catch a wave. There are tons of these on the market online, and are very inexpensive. We haven’t regretted using this waterproof case from YOSH. It comes with a neck strap and we have even taken it underwater with us whilst snorkelling.
You wouldn’t want to go to half way across the world to an amazing reef without a waterproof camera now would you? We met a guy once who did, and he practically begged to buy ours off of us.
For video we chose the GoPro Hero 5 Black in combination with the GoPro Super Suit and pink snorkel lens filter. The GoPro is great for shooting video, and is very compact so takes up minimal space in your bag.
For photos and macro we use the Sony Rx100 m3 and plan to test that out soon. Watch this space for a review soon!
It is very handy to take a small microfibre travel towel with you on snorkel day trips. Catching a cold or ear infection on the boat is a possibility, especially if your body or ears are still wet from snorkelling.
Microfibre towels are quick-drying and fold up small. We got our Microfiber towel on Amazon, from a brand called Rainleaf.
Now you’re all set
Now you have everything ready for an epic snorkelling trip, we would love to share some of our favourite destinations with you! Check out our recommended snorkelling spots in Komodo National Park, or read about our experience of snorkelling with Whale Sharks in Sogod Bay in the Philippines.
If you have any questions about our packing list for snorkelers, please feel free to give us a shout in the comments below! We love hearing from you.
Did you enjoy our packing list for snorkelers? If you found this helpful maybe you’d like to read our list of essential toiletries to take backpacking.