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Snorkels, Select the Right One

Looking for the best snorkel? We could list them but we actually dont know what your needs are, so we hope this guide helps you decide what you are looking for and then you can tell us what the best snorkel is for you.

We have always been intrigued with the underwater world, its beauty grace and serenity has us finding ways to prolong our underwater viewing pleasure. Aside from the mask, the greatest piece of equipment created was the snorkel. It allows your face to be in the water for an almost unlimited amount of time by allowing you to breathe through a tube which extends above the water line. It sounds like a simple thing but believe it or not, it is Darwinian in its own evolution. The first person ever in the water, quite possibly could of been breathing through a hollow reed. What you might think seems like a simple piece of gear is actually governed by a complex set of rules and guidelines as to the form, function and use. 

The snorkel is basically composed of a tube (also called a barrel) and a mouthpiece. The tube end sticks out of the water while the mouthpiece goes in your mouth. With that said, one might think that all snorkels are alike. Such thinking would be contrary to actual fact, they are almost all different. Knowing these differences will help you decide which style is best suited for your needs.

There is a difference between a snorkel for an adult and for kids. Adults have a larger lung capacity than children and adults will have larger bored tube. Since the main function is to allow you to get fresh air on the inhalation and to exhale the bad air out, the size of the barrel is very important. A child can breathe using an adult snorkel and an adult can also breathe using a childs, but the problem is that they can not breathe efficiently. An adult using a childs snorkel is like drinking a soda using a coffee stirrer, as it takes longer to get a lungful of air. A child using a larger bore will find it very easy to breathe but their lung capacity is not capable of getting rid of enough of the exhalation. They are essentially rebreathing what they just exhaled which is not good. As far as design, form and function, a childs size will still follow all the rules and guidelines of an adult but on a smaller scale.

Certain features and benefits can be found among all three classes and found in rubber or silicone. They can come with or without a purge valve, the lower portion of the snorkel can be a fixed position or flexible tube design, the mouthpiece can be replaceable or fixed, upper portion can be straight or curved. It's enough to get your head spinning, but knowing these differences and similarities will help you to make an informed decision on what you want your gear to be able to do for you. We hope your find your best snorkel for you.

RUBBER VERSUS SILICONE:

Black rubber is traditionally less expensive than the more popular silicone. Silicone is more resistant to the elements such as ultra violet rays, and chlorine. Black rubber has a tendency to develop cracks as it ages from dry rot. Silicone is not subject to dry rot but exposure to air for a prolonged period of time will cause the clear silicone to take on a yellow tinge. The color change is cosmetic and does not affect the performance of the silicone. Those who don't like the yellowing still have an option as there is snorkels with black silicone. Photo A is a black silicone style.

PURGE VALVE:

The purge valve is a simplistic one way valve at the base of the snorkel which actually makes clearing, that is full of water almost effortless. (photo B, #4). When using a dry snorkel, like in Photo B, water can still enter the mouthpiece and go up through the tube while you are smiling and laughing.

FIXED VS FLEX HOSE:

The lower portion of the snorkel (photo B, #3) can be a fixed position hose or have a flexible portion that allows the tube to fall away from the mouth when not in use. The straight flexible drop away tubing also called straight tube has became more of the norm over the years. It drops away from your mouth when you are talking to your buddy, whereas with the fixed hose is curved and the mouthpiece will always be in front of your mouth when talking. 

It was not until recently that manufacturers started looking again at the avid snorkeler. Many wanted the mouthpiece to be more stationary so they began introducing 'pre-curved snorkels' with using a pre-curved silicone or a PVC (plastic) design. They kept the mouthpiece in a more fixed position than the drop away style but the look of the tube between the breathing barrel and the mouthpiece still used the corrugated appearance that is seen with the drop away styling. They had to differentiate these from the drop away styles by describing them as pre-curved.

To differentiate these from the drop away style in pictures, manufacturers showed them in their natural position. They showed the drop away styles in their natural relaxed position because this was the "norm" so to speak. This is why the snorkels with the flexible hose are shown "straight" like in Photo B.  If they weren't then people would begin confusing them with the pre-curved styling. (like in Photo A)

CURVED VS STRAIGHT TUBE:

Manufacturers have opted mostly to have the top portion of the curve which seems to be more ergonomic in design in that it is more streamlined and reduces the wobble that straight tubes can have when used.

REPLACEABLE MOUTHPIECE VS FIXED:

If you gnaw through a non-replaceable mouthpiece you have to buy a new snorkel as they are not replaceable. If you purchased a snorkel with a replaceable mouthpiece, your can easily replace it. (photo A, #2 shows a fixed non-replaceable mouthpiece and photo B, #2 is a replaceable mouthpiece.) 

BASIC or J-TUBE DESIGN:

You will not find a variety of J-tube snorkels or sometimes called, basic design on our website. I must admit the term J-tube did bring back memories for me. I have seen them in stores that carry the sealed clam package sets which are geared more for the impulse buyers in the big box stores. Many of the major manufacturers got away from this styling when they began bringing in semi-dry and dry snorkels.

Most of the J-tube designs can still be found with the least amount of features associated with them and is the most inexpensive with a simple design in both form and function. The only drawback is that the bore opening is defenseless with regard to keeping water out of it. This is especially true should you accidentally let the top fall below the waterline. This style is popular with the free-divers and those who want an inexpensive snorkel for the pool. The Oceanic Blast Snorkel, (photo A, #1 shows a simple basic style bore) is a popular design in this category.

SEMI-DRY STYLE:

The semi-dry is designed to make it harder for splashing water to find it's way into the bore opening. This is done using some sort of deflector that will divert the larger bulk water away from the bore opening. Some earlier designs actually had an adapter that could fit in an existing basic design. Because these adapters had to be nested into the bore, they had a tendency to restrict the orifice enough to make breathing more difficult. The semi-dry still fills with water when it is submerged below the waterline.

We do offer semi-dry style in our snorkeling packages and find that this is the less expensive over the dry snorkel and those that do not mind the taste of salt water, prefer the less expensive option.

TOTAL DRY DESIGN:

The Dry design had their beginnings long ago. Those that remember, had what looked like a ping pong ball in a birdcage perched at the top of the snorkel, already understand the concept of the total dry. When we would submerge, the ball would float up and close off the bore opening. That style disappeared long ago as it was found that if we went deep enough the pressure would compress the ball to the point of no return. The dry concept were thought to be a lost cause but due to the tenacity of some engineers they have re-emerged and better than ever. For more information, read Understanding Your Dry Snorkel.

The total dry is to close off the air flow should the snorkel fall below the water line while in use which is far better than gargling with saltwater. (photo B, #1 shows the latest gear design on the total dry.) The industry is constantly tweaking the design of the dry making it less clunky and extremely user friendly. Is this author of the best piece of equipment partial? You betcha, we think that the best style is the dry!