Since 2015 I have been a freelance writer and wildlife photographer, working out of some of the planet’s most spectacular wildlife and nature travel destinations–from the Amazon to Raja Ampat–diving, snorkelling, fieldherping, birding and photographing my way around the world.
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Just in case you clicked on this article thinking you were going to read about an actual snorkeling set, or anything to do with a face mask or scuba gear or tempered glass or a purge valve or semi dry snorkels (i.e., snorkeling equipment), apologies.
Check out my comprehensive snorkel mask and snorkel fins reviews below.
What I mean by snorkeling gear is the things you need or might want to make serious snorkeling more efficient/safter.
If you are an avid snorkeler, there are some things I think you should have with you at all times, both while you’re in the water and in your bag.
Again, I’m not talking about the equipment you need to snorkel–snorkeling fins, snorkel mask, snorkel–I’m talking about the accessories and gear that will ensure you have an enjoyable experience and keep you safe.
Want a list of 150 of the most unique nature and wildlife travel experiences?
If you would like to start reading in-depth breakdowns of each piece of gear and why I think it’s a worthy addition to any serious snorkelers kit, here they are.
- Shorts With Zipper Pockets
- Wetsuit Pants
- Waterproof Whistle
- Baby Shampoo
- Diving Belt
- Swim Buoy (Open Water Swimming Buoy) Dry Bag Hybrid
- Underwater Camera
- Dive Flashlight
- Reef Friendly(ish) Sunscreen
Best Snorkel Gear #1: Shorts With Zipper Pockets
For me, there are really only two options when I go out snorkeling: shorts with zipper pockets or wetsuit pants.
I’ll cover the latter below, but shorts with zipper pockets are a must-have feature in snorkeling trunks because they allow you to hit the water while being able to take important things like cash and keys with you.
I like the Difficort Mens Swim Trunks with Compression Liner and zipper pockets.3
These shorts with zipper pockets are my favourite because they’ve got a nice compression liner that stops chafing and, believe it or not, stops unwanted sea creatures like jellyfish from floating up into your nether regions.
I speak from experience, having a jellyfish inside your shorts is a special kind of panic.
I’m also a fan of these particular shorts because they go down to right above the knee and do a better job of hiding my hairy Randy Marsh legs.
Or, you might prefer:
If you are serious about snorkeling, one of the best pieces of snorkel gear you can invest in is a pair of wetsuit pants.
If I was going to choose between the two, a pair of wetsuit pants, for me, is superior to shorts with zipper pockets, but I get that a lot of people would rather not pack and have to put on and take off wetsuit pants.
If you’re snorkeling in warm water, you don’t really need anything thicker than 1mm wetsuit pants, in my opinion, although you could use 2-3mm (based on what you feel comfortable packing).
1mm wetsuit pants will keep your legs warm while also providing you with some protection against things like jellyfish and fire coral and they aren’t going to be that buoyant.
I like the Lemorecn 1.5mm Wetsuits Pants.
They only weigh 449g and they pack up small so you don’t have to sacrifice a lot of space for them.
Best Snorkel Gear #2: Rashguard
If you are beluga whale white like me, then you are going to want to pair the wetsuit pants or the shorts with zipper pockets with a rashguard top.
I used to try and snorkel bare-skinned, but after so many brushes with fire coral and jellyfish and so many sunburns on my pasty white skin, I decided I needed a rashguard.
My current rashguard is the Kanu Surf Men’s Long-Sleeve rashguard which I use along with the above wetsuit pants.
I really like this particular one because the material is fairly thick while still being very elastic, so it fits snug like a rashguard is supposed to and you can accidentally brush up against an anemone or some coral without getting stung.
It also has UPF 50+ sun protection so that you won’t burn your back out there, and the little collar is a nice bit of added neck protection.
It’s also something you can keep in the swim buoy in the event it clouds over and you’d rather take it off.
I’ve included a rashguard on my list instead of a wetsuit top to accompany my wetsuit pants because I try to travel light and I don’t want to pack an entire wetsuit.
Best Snorkel Gear #3: Waterproof Safety Whistle
This is one of the most important pieces of snorkel gear you can take with you, but most snorkelers don’t.
The fact of the matter is that a whistle can save your life.
When you’re a hundred metres from the beach, the wind is blowing and the waves are crashing on shore, it can be impossible for anyone to hear you.
I like the Scuba Choice Underwater Safety Whistle because it’s got a lanyard attached, so you can wear it around your neck tucked into your rashguard top if you want.
If you have shorts with zipper pockets, you can simply throw it in your short pockets when you head out, or if you have the dry bag/open water swimming buoy I touch on below, you can store it there.
Best Snorkel Gear #4: Baby Shampoo
Nothing detracts from a snorkeling experience quite like a foggy mask.
I’ve used several different de-foggers, including the specially made kinds that you get from dive shops and sports stores, and baby shampoo is still the best defogger I’ve ever used.
You can get a small bottle of J&J Baby Shampoo and it will last you a long time.
Simply apply a very thin film to the inside of your mask before heading out and once you get to your snorkeling destination, rinse it out in the water. Baby Shampoo is gentle enough that you don’t need to worry about polluting the environment if you are only using it in very small quantities.
The thin film of shampoo left on your mask will be completely transparent, but it will stop condensation from forming.
***Another great thing you can do to any new tempered glass (NOT PLASTIC) mask is the “lighter trick.” It’s a bit of a delicate operation, but essentially what you’re doing is burning off the silicone film leftover on the inside of the glass from the manufacturing process so that it doesn’t collect condensation.
You should start to see the burned silicone on the glass which you can easily wipe off with a piece of paper towel.
Best Snorkel Gear #5: Diving Belt
If you snorkel and like to dive down (to explore or to get shots of reef life), a diving belt and some weights are two of the best snorkel gear investments you can make.
If you opt to get the 1.5mm wetsuit pants I mentioned above, weights are even more necessary to counter the added buoyancy.
I like the Spearfishing Free Dive Heavy Duty Rubber Weight Belt from Scuba Choice because it’s inexpensive, durable and keeps weights in place.If you are considering weights, Scuba Choice also makes affordable vinyl-coated diving weights to go with the diving belt.
As a general rule, to determine how much weight to add to a belt, you want to take the thickness of your wetsuit (in this case, your wetsuit pants) and then add 2kg.
In the case of 1.5mm wetsuit pants, it would be 1.5+2kg = 3.5kg (or around 7.5 lbs) of weight. This is enough to help you descend easier while still being entirely manageable.
Best Snorkel Gear #6: Swim Buoy (Open Water Swimming Buoy) Dry Bag Hybrid
The T6 20L Swim Buoy Waterproof Dry Bag is among the best snorkel gear I’ve ever owned because it is an open water swimming buoy and dry bag all-in-one
Store your keys, money, sunglasses, a bottle of water, whistle, clothes and whatever else you don’t want to leave behind, signal to boaters that there is someone below, and always have something to rest on if you get a cramp.
I would wager anyone who has snorkeled long enough has had at least one close call with a boat.
When I was in Pulau We, Indonesia in 2019, a father on holiday with his two kids staying just a few doors down from me was tragically struck in the head and killed by a fibreglass fishing boat as he and his boys snorkeled.
It was a wake-up call for me because I had been quite cavalier up until that point. *the only issue with using an open water swim buoy is that the tether that’s included isn’t long enough to dive down with, so you would need to also pick up some floating boat line–preferrably with a carabiner you can attach to the swim buoy strap.
BE CAREFUL YOU AREN’T TANGLING THE LINE ON CORAL OR ROCKS WHILE YOU’RE SUBMERGED AND ALWAYS HAVE A GLANCE AT IT BEFORE ASCENDING AGAIN.
Best Snorkel Gear #7: Underwater Camera
Another reason to snorkel and travel with both shorts with zipper pockets and/or the above swim buoy is to store your camera.
If you have shorts with zipper pockets like the kind I’ve recommended above, then you can place your camera in there while you’re manoeuvring in the water and easily access it.
Or, you can stow the camera away in the open water swimming buoy-dry bag hybrid and retrieve it when you need it. If you haven’t incorporated photography into your snorkeling yet or if you are in the market for a new camera, check out my review of the best underwater camera for snorkeling. It takes great photos and the macro mode is fantastic.
Having something like the Olympus TG-6 to shoot videos and photos with adds a really beautiful and addictive dynamic to snorkeling.
I’ve also added the DJI Osmo Action 3 to my snorkeling arsenal.
I like it over the GoPro Hero 11 (it’s direct competitor) because it has a better depth rating (16m).
I used it recently to shoot this video in Pulau Weh, Indonesia.
The DJI Osmo Action 4 is also out and it comes with a bigger sensor for better dynamic range and low-light shooting as well as a more powerful motor.
I haven’t used it yet, but that will probably be my next upgrade.
Best Snorkel Gear #8: Vaseline
Vaseline acts as a seal between your face and your mask, and it is a game changer.
If you’re a girl, you don’t really need it, but if you’re a guy with facial hair (and definitely if you have a full-on beard), adding vaseline to your list of best snorkel gear to travel with will change your life.
Best Snorkel Gear #9: Diving Flashlight
Another addition to the list of best snorkel gear for any avid snorkeler should be a dive flashlight.
I’ve written a pretty comprehensive review of the best dive flashlights you can get right now. These are lights that are made by reputable companies like SEAC, ORCATORCH and BigBlue.
Best Snorkel Gear #10: Reef Friendly(ish) Sunscreen
If you snorkel without a rashguard or wetsuit bottoms, your neck, back and legs are going to get sunburned without you even noticing.
Some of my worst sunburns were those I got while lulled into a false sense of security by the cool water around me as the UV rays cooked me.
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to eco-friendly/reef-safe sunscreens (hence the “ish” qualifier).What we know is that some of the formerly common ingredients in big brand sunscreens (i.e., oxybenzone and octinoxate) are harmful and you can mitigate your negative effects on marine ecosystems by choosing a sunscreen like Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen that doesn’t use them.
I thought only scuba divers needed “gear”?
If you’re serious about your snorkeling experience, then there is some good snorkeling gear you should consider investing in (and avoiding).
Yes, of course, a good dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and nose pocket, and a good snorkel are requisite gear, and yes, quality full foot fins are an essential part of any good snorkel set.
But for anyone passionate about spending a ton of time in the water observing and perhaps even photographing marine life, your typical snorkel sets stop well short of the total gear you might want.
Some of the snorkeling equipment I’ve covered above are things you wear while snorkeling, some are things you apply to your equipment, while others are things you bring with you.
Why a full face snorkel mask is NOT good snorkel equipment
In short, because a full face snorkel mask is potentially dangerous and I would only ever recommend a traditional mask with a dry or semi dry snorkel/breathing tube.
Full face snorkel masks can cause hypoxia (suffocation due to a build-up of cabron dioxide within the mask chamber), and people have died.
I cringe when I see people (especially children) wearing them or when snorkeling tours have provided people with full face masks instead of traditional masks.
Many people buy a full face snorkel mask set because what they are ultimately after is a panoramic mask, but there are much better snorkel masks out there for that purpose that are far safer.
If you’re reading this and buying snorkel gear for the first time, please reconsider full face snorkel masks or snorkel gear set and get yourself (or your friends and family) a traditional tempered glass lens mask.
Make sure you have a snorkeling adventure rather than a snorkeling tragedy.
**If you’re buying a snorkeling set for a first time snorkeler or someone who is not very confident in the water, consider getting them a snorkel vest as well.
This is essentially a life jacket designed for snorkeling because it lets you float while keeping your face submerged.
Everything On My Best Snorkel Gear List is Easy to Pack and Travel With
As a digital nomad for the last 7+ years, I live out of a single bag and a small backpack, so I don’t have room for bulky stuff.
Everything on the above list is quite small.
The wetsuit pants are probably the bulkiest things to pack, but even they are only 1.5mm, so they aren’t going to be nearly as bulky as what most dive shops carry.
Even the swim buoy only weighs a pound, and it’s inflatable, so you can fold it up.
The vaseline, baby shampoo, sunscreen, flashlight, camera, diving belt, safety whistle, rashguard and shorts with zipper pockets are all easy to pack and nice pieces of snorkeling gear to have on you.
The 7.5lbs of weight I’m recommending for the diving belt is definitely something to think carefully about because it’s a not insignificant portion of your allotted checked bag allowance on most airlines.
Depending on what else you’re traveling with, it might be a bit complicated.
Serious Snorkelers Should Have Practical Gear
If you are serious about snorkeling and free diving–i.e., you want to use professional quality gear, get the most out of the experience and do it safely–then there are some things you should budget space for any time you travel to snorkel.
The above 10 items constitute my list of the best snorkel gear to travel with because they are affordable, easy to pack and really do bring the experience to a new level.
Being able to snorkel in peace, comfortably, with a crystal clear mask makes the experience so much more enjoyable.