A big difference between snorkeling and scuba diving is that snorkeling is done in much shallower and warmer water. The snorkeler has to stay close enough to the surface to get air, while the scuba diver can remain underwater for as long as they have oxygen in their tank. A snorkeler, therefore, may not need a wetsuit or drysuit.
A snorkeler will need a snorkel, fins, a mask, and a snorkel vest. The gear can be sold individually or in package deals. A snorkel is a curved plastic tube that lets the swimmer breathe while swimming on the surface. There are two types of snorkels, dry snorkels and regular snorkels. Dry snorkels are designed to keep water out of the tube when the diver is submerged. Depending on the make, they will have some kind of mechanism, like a flap or valve, at the top of the snorkel to keep the water out.
Regular snorkels don’t have such mechanisms, so they do fill with water if the diver submerges. Some of them do come with mechanisms to make clearing the snorkel of water easier. Accessories for snorkels include replacement mouthpieces and snorkel keepers that attach the snorkel to the mask and thus keep the swimmer from losing it.
Fins increase a swimmer’s speed significantly. There are two types, those with straps holding the feet in place and those in which the “foot pocket” surrounds the whole foot, like a boot or shoe. Fins are designed to be hydrodynamic and to allow for efficient kicking. They come in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes and styles.
Snorkeling vests or jackets are designed to provide extra buoyancy, making swimming on the surface easier and allowing the snorkeler to look around their surroundings more. After all, people who go snorkeling to check out tropical fish don’t want to have to worry about keeping themselves afloat. Vests or jackets come in children’s and adult sizes, with the size being determined by the swimmer’s weight.
Like scuba masks, snorkeling masks range from basic to elaborate, and the price ranges accordingly. Masks can be frameless or framed. In a framed mask, all the parts — the lenses, strap, buckles, and skirt — are attached to a rigid frame. These masks can be dismantled to be cleaned or repaired or even fitted with prescription lenses. In a frameless mask, the skirt is molded around the other parts to join them all together. The mask is easy to stow away, but it can’t be repaired or fitted with prescription lenses.