This article on Snorkel Essentials explains why the snorkel is your most important piece of gear along with your mask. It is an amazing tool that allows you the privilege of keeping your face below the water surface while viewing the beautiful underwater world. Your snorkel should grant the ability to breathe easy while swimming or snorkeling or even taking a break at the water surface. A snorkel is a very personal item, considering you will be putting it in your mouth. Snorkels have many different features to consider. We’ll help explain these features to best guide you on your way for choosing one for yourself. The most important thing to know is that your snorkel allows you to view the underwater world without having to lift your face out of the water to breathe. Things can move fast underwater so you don’t want to miss anything.

Snorkel Features to look for:

  • Corrugated flexible tube
  • Purge valve for clearing water
  • Soft comfortable mouthpiece
  • Replaceable mouthpiece
  • Open top, semi-dry top, dry top
  • Lightweight and streamlined
  • Adjustable mask strap attachment

What’s the difference between an open top, semi-dry top, or dry top?

Semi-Dry Top

The semi-dry top is also known as a splash guard by some manufacturers. The function of a semi-dry top is to help prevent water from entering your snorkel through the top opening of your snorkel. This may be achieved with specially designed vents and covers that angle or direct the water away from entering through the snorkel opening. This style snorkel top will not keep water from getting into the snorkel when fully submerged. So, it must be cleared of water by firmly exhaling.

Dry Top

A dry top snorkel often has a dome built around the top of the snorkel. The domed area houses a floating valve and this is how it works; when water makes contact with the top of the snorkel it activates the floating valve, closing it off to seal out any potential of water entering the snorkel tube. This feature works well when encountered with splashing, rough water or even when diving below the surface. After the water subsides from around the top of the snorkel, you may resume normal easy breathing without the need for clearing unwanted water from your snorkel. Remember, this does not allow you to breathe underwater.

Open Top

The “classic”, the “J-style”, the “traditional”, are all names this style snorkel is known by. This snorkel top is typically found on basic tube style snorkels. These are usually entry level snorkels and often used as a backup snorkel. It is essentially a tube with a mouthpiece attached to one end. This open top style snorkel is usually found on snorkels that don’t offer a purge valve, making them the most difficult to keep water out. These snorkels may also be the most challenging to clear water from once the water has entered.

Types of Snorkel Tubes


Hard plastic tubes can nicely contour to your face and are easy to locate if you ever lose your grip on the mouthpiece. A hard tube is also great because it won’t squeeze or collapse under pressure if you dive down.


Polyurethane tubes can be extremely flexible and bendy, allowing you to fold them up to store in your pocket as a backup.

Flexible Joint

Flexible Joints also known as corrugated joints allow the snorkel to bend easily giving it more mobility when following your head movements. This feature is also helpful for when the snorkel is not in your mouth. The mouthpiece will naturally drop away from your face and not impair your vision.

Mouthpiece Options


Silicone material is preferred. Silicone is a durable, long lasting material. It is very soft and comfortable in your mouth which makes it is easy to grip down on with your teeth.


PVC is another soft material, but a little more rigid and not as long lasting or comfortable in your mouth.

Mouthpieces also come in different sizes, so test them out to make sure it’s the right fit for you. You want it to naturally sit in your mouth without too much strain or pressure on your jaw.

Some mouthpieces are removable, allowing you to replace them when they wear out. This doesn’t happen too often but is helpful if you have a tendency to chew on them.

Purge Valves

Purge valves are included on most snorkels these days. The purge valve is a one-way valve commonly found at the bottom end of the snorkel. The purge valve makes it easier for a snorkeler to clear out any water that may have entered the snorkel tube. With little effort, exhale and the water is easily forced out through the valve. This expends much less effort than having to blow the water out through the top of the snorkel.

Mask Strap Attachments

Single Piece Attachment

Typically, you will see a single piece attachment that the mask strap can easily slide into and be removed at any time.

2-Piece Attachement

This style has a quick-connect feature to it. 1 part will attach to your mask strap while the other remains attached to your snorkel.

Need Kids Size?

In general, not all of the options discussed above are available in smaller sizing for kids, but there are some very good kid’s combo sets out there that will have everything you need. There are masks that can accommodate a smaller size face as well as snorkels with shorter tubes and smaller mouthpieces. See this Youth Single-Window Combo Set for Kids offered by Reef Tourer with a 3-Year Warranty and many color options. It offers a semi-dry snorkel with a purge valve and a nice 1-window mask for the best viewing experience.

Cautions before use:

Is the drain valve firmly attached (for snorkels that include a drain valve)?

Make sure there is no dust or sand caught in the drain valve.

Check for damage to the mouthpiece.

Mask and snorkel must be attached properly to avoid from separating while snorkeling.

Is the snorkel size appropriate for the children?

If the water in the snorkel is not drained properly, you may accidentally drink the water while snorkeling.

Care and Maintenance:

Rinse your snorkel in fresh water after each use and let it air-dry in the shade.

Store in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. The sun, over time, can cause the plastic material to weaken and crack.

Check for any defects.

Biting down on the snorkel mouthpiece too hard may damage and break the mouthpiece in pieces.

The snorkel may not return to its original shape if the snorkel is bent too hard or stays in a bent shape for too long.