1. How can I choose the right mask and snorkel set?
When it comes to choosing snorkelling equipment comfort and visibility are the two most important issues. Most divers snorkel in areas of clear water close to reefs and ledges. This provides plenty of wonderful underwater landscapes to look at so you will want to ensure you can see clearly. This is why it is important to get a mask you can see well out of which does not limit your peripheral vision. You will also need a good snorkel that you can use effectively. The mouthpiece should fit comfortably and you should be able to hold it in place easily (without feeling like you have to bite down hard).
2. What mask is best for snorkelling?
Masks protect your eyes from the water and allow you to see around you clearly. A mask will need to fit your face well to avoid any leaks. When you buy a mask for snorkelling you will need to try it on out of the water first to make sure it seals around your face properly without being too tight. Masks with clear side windows and large front lenses provide the best all round vision and are ideal for snorkelling.
3. Are tinted class masks any good for snorkelling?
Tinted masks will keep the sun out of your eyes when you are diving near the surface or swimming. However they will make it more difficult to see underwater especially in slightly cloudy conditions so are not really very suitable for snorkelling.
4. How can I test if a mask fits properly before I use it?
You can test a mask for leaks on dry land by simply holding it up to your face. Check that it fits snugly against your face without feeling too tight. Now slowly inhale through your nose. This should cause the pressure to secure the mask to your face. If you have to inhale forcibly to get the mask to stay on then the seal is not effective and the mask is not right for your face shape. You should try your mask on with the snorkel attached as your face will be a slightly different shape when you are using the snorkel.
5. How tight should I have the straps on my snorkelling mask?
It can be tempting to tighten up the straps on your mask to provide a better fit. However your mask should stay in place with pressure alone if it fits correctly and the strap should be just used be to prevent it from slipping when you are in the water. If you need to do the straps up very tightly then the mask is a bad fit. If you have the straps too tight it can give you a headache so make sure they fit your head closely but are not too tight.
6. How can I keep water out of my mask?
The pliable skirting around the edge of the mask is designed to create a seal that will prevent water from seeping in. However no mask is 100% waterproof so you can expect a little bit of water to enter the mask when you are snorkelling. You should make sure you buy the best fitting mask you can to keep the water out. Avoid lending your mask to anyone else as this can bend the skirting out of shape and it will no longer fit as well.
7. Do I need a purge valve on my snorkelling mask?
Purge valves make it easier to get the water out of your mask. They are not essential though as you can force water out of your mask using pressure. This may take a bit of practise but by breathing out when you are holding the bottom of the skirting away from your face you can force any water out of your mask. All snorkelers need to learn how to clear masks underwater as this will improve your experience and prevent you from having to empty your mask on the surface so much.
8. What snorkel is best for me?
Snorkels should fit comfortably into your mouth and not feel like they are pulling too much. You will need to bite down on the mouthpiece to hold it in place so you need a snorkel that fits well otherwise you will have to bite down hard. This can make your jaw and head ache after just a short while. Mouthpieces on snorkels are a personal choice and what may suit one diver may not suit another. Rotating mouthpieces can be more flexible and comfortable but some divers can find them difficult to use. You should try out different mouthpieces until you find the one that suits you best. A purge valve will make it easier for you to clear the snorkel when you want to take a breath and are ideal for beginners.
9. What are dry snorkels?
Dry snorkels contain a mechanism that helps to prevent water entering the barrel as you move around. With this design you will not have to worry about clearing the barrel when you want to take a breath. Dry snorkels are ideal for those divers who like to go right underwater when they are snorkelling. They can save energy and allow you to snorkel more efficiently providing an uninterrupted experience. These snorkels can be buoyant underwater though because they contain an air pocket and this can cause them to move around whilst you are diving down which can be distracting.
10. Are folding snorkels any good?
Folding snorkels provide a way to carry a snorkel around if you only need to use it now and again. You can keep it in the pocket of your BCD when not in use. You may need to wear a snorkel on the surface whilst you are waiting to descend on a dive. You will not want this in the way when you are under the water though and this is where a folding snorkel can come in useful.