5 Types of Snorkels That You Should Know About

If you are interested in snorkeling, then you must understand the equipment that you will use. All snorkels are not created equally. To help you find the one that works best for you, we are going to tell you about the five different types.

There are five basic types of snorkels on the market today that all have their own advantages and disadvantages. They include:

  1. Classic “J” snorkels
  2. Flexible snorkels
  3. Semi-dry snorkels
  4. Dry snorkels
  5. Full-face snorkel masks

Today we’re going to discuss the details about each type. We will also go over some of the essential things to consider when you’re choosing the right tube. And at the end, we will recommend 12 of our favorite snorkels of the year.

The 5 Types of Snorkel Tubes

There are five main types of snorkels: classic, flexible, semi-dry, dry, and full-face. Some snorkels will overlap categories. There are flexible classic models and dry full-face snorkel masks, for example.

Let’s take a closer look at each snorkel.

1. Classic “J” Snorkel

The first type of snorkel is the classic or traditional snorkel. This one is often called a “J” snorkel or a J-tube because it is shaped like the letter J.

J snorkels are nothing fancy. There are no frills with these. They are typically just the tube and mouthpiece.

Free-divers and spearfishers love this type of snorkel because it allows them to reach maximum depths without much drag. You simply take one breath and then dive for the fish or explore the ocean. These are also popular with rental equipment.

When you go underwater with a classic snorkel, it is going to fill up with water. To clear it, you will blow out a big blast of air when you reach the surface.

J tubes are also popular with people who are swim training in the pool. They are fast in the water without much resistance, so people training for triathlons often use them.

Because the classic snorkel is so simple, it is ideal for beginners. It can be used for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. J snorkels are also the most affordable type. They typically cost significantly less than other types of snorkels.

Compared to most of the other models, the J tubes are quite rigid. That can make them uncomfortable for some people.

Pros

  • Cheaper than the other types of snorkels
  • Not too hard to use for beginners and kids
  • Easy to transport and store
  • Ideal for snorkeling, swimming, spearfishing, and scuba diving

Cons

  • The rigidity can make this type of snorkel uncomfortable, especially when used for long periods of time
  • Water easily gets into the tube, and it can enter from both ends
  • You have to blast air out of it to clear out the water
  • Beginners need a little training to learn how to use this type of snorkel
  • Can cause jaw fatigue when you wear it for long periods

2. Flexible Snorkel

Unlike the rigid classic snorkels, the flexible snorkels bend easily. This type of snorkel typically has a rigid portion and a flexible portion. Some of them are very simple and look just like the J tubes. Others include a one-way purge valve under the mouthpiece. This valve makes it easier to get water out of the tube.

Flexible snorkels can be used for snorkeling and scuba diving, just like the classic types. Spearfishers love this type of snorkel because it allows you to go deep underwater or into caves to catch the fish. They are usually made of soft silicone that will bend to get out of the way of underwater obstacles and then spring back into shape.

If you get a flexible snorkel with a purge valve, you simply exhale to clear the water out of the tube. If you don’t have the purge valve, then you will have to blast out the air just like you do with the J snorkels.

Like the classic snorkels, the flexible ones have nothing on the top of the tube to keep water out. That means when you submerge, it is going to fill with water.

One great thing about flexible snorkels is that they naturally move away from your face when you are underwater. That means that you will have a better view.

Pros

  • Considerably more flexible than J snorkels
  • Easily bends away from your face when you are not using it
  • Easily bends away from obstacles underwater
  • Some of them have purge valves to make it easier to clear the water out
  • Ideal for snorkeling, spearfishing, free-diving, and scuba diving
  • More comfortable to wear than rigid snorkels

Cons

  • When the tube bends, it can block your airway
  • Water easily enters the top of the snorkel

3. Semi-Dry Snorkel 

The next type of snorkel is the semi-dry model. Unlike the classic and flexible snorkels, the semi-dry type is designed to keep water out of the tube.

You can think of the semi-dry models as a combination of a classic and dry snorkel. Semi-dry snorkels work by using a splash guard at the top of the tube. These are great for snorkeling and swimming because they more or less keep the water out.

Now, if you go entirely underwater, the pipe will fill up with water. The semi-dry models are more for keeping splashes of water out. If you get hit with a big wave that goes over your snorkel, water will still get inside.

Many semi-dry snorkels also have one-way purge valves that let you easily flush out the water. They often have a flexible tube too.

Some semi-dry snorkels use a mechanical device on the splash guard to keep water out. The problem with these mechanisms is that they can easily jam up if sand gets inside.

Pros

  • The splash guards help to keep water out of the tube
  • Most of them have purge valves so you can easily blow the water out
  • Easy to use
  • Flexible
  • You can wear these for more extended periods without hurting your jaw

Cons

  • The splash guards don’t keep all of the water out
  • The splash guards that have moving parts can easily get jammed up if sand gets inside
  • More expensive than classic and flexible snorkels

4. Dry Snorkel

Dry snorkels are another type that you can use. Of all the types of snorkels that we’re discussing today, the dry models are the best at keeping water out of the tube.

Dry snorkels use a specialized valve mechanism on the top of the pipe that keeps it dry. This mechanism is called a float valve. When you go underwater, the float valve seals off the pipe so that no water can get in.

While dry snorkels do prevent water from entering when they’re submerged, they don’t seal out all water when the tube is above the water. Because of this, most dry snorkels also have splash guards.

Like the semi-dry snorkels, the dry models typically have purge valve systems below the mouthpiece in case water gets in. They also usually have flexible tubes, which makes them more comfortable to wear.

No snorkel can keep out 100 percent of the water every time that you use it. But dry snorkels do the best job at keeping most of the water out.

The most significant advantage of using a dry snorkel is that it allows you to both swim on the surface and occasionally dive deeper without having to clear the tube continually. This lets you conserve energy, and it keeps you more comfortable while you’re snorkeling.

Dry snorkels are used for swimming, snorkeling, spearfishing, free-diving, and scuba diving.

In some ways, dry snorkels are better than the other types. They are certainly better at keeping water out of the tube. But they have some shortcomings. For one thing, the float valve at the top of the tube can sometimes get blocked, especially if sand gets into it. Dry snorkels are also more buoyant, which means that they increase drag.

Pros

  • Keeps the water out of the tube when submerged
  • Doesn’t require constant clearing 
  • Lets you save energy when you’re diving
  • Comes with a purge valve to clear out any water that does get into the tube
  • Flexible
  • More comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Increases drag when you are underwater
  • More buoyant than the others
  • The float valve can get blocked on some models
  • More expensive than the others

5. Full-Face Snorkel Mask

The final type of snorkel is the full-face snorkel mask. This type is a bit of a hybrid. It combines the mask with a dry snorkel. There have been controversies about the safety of these. We give the pros and cons in our article on full-face mask safety.

With a full-face mask, you don’t have to worry about breathing through a mouthpiece. Instead, it lets you relax your jaw and breathe normally.

Of all the types that we’ve gone over today, the full-face mask snorkel is the easiest to use. You just put it on, make sure that the mask is sealed on your face, and breathe normally. This makes it perfect for beginners.

If you don’t like biting down on mouthpieces, you will like the full-face snorkel.

This type is good for swimming and snorkeling. But it is not meant for diving.

Pros

  • Super easy to use
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Doesn’t hurt your mouth or jaw

Cons

  • There is increased pressure on your face when you go underwater
  • You can’t access your nose to equalize
  • Not meant for diving
  • They can sometimes leak
  • More difficult to transport and store

Things to Consider with a Snorkel Tube

Here are some things that you should look at when you are searching for the best snorkel.

Shape

Classic J snorkels feature a circular rigid tube. This design works, but it can cause drag in the water when you’re swimming into a current. Because of this, some manufacturers make oval-shaped snorkels. 

The oval-shaped tubes don’t flap as much when you’re swimming. They reduce the drag profile. And they do this without compromising flow rates or snorkel bore. That means that the oval-shaped tubes can cut through the water more efficiently.

Another shape issue deals with the lower part of the snorkel that connects the mouthpiece to your mouth. Rigid tubes are designed for the average person, but that could mean that it sits at an awkward angle that is not too comfortable for some people.

The way you can fix this problem is to look for snorkels that have flexible corrugated silicone sections in the tube. These allow you to angle and position the snorkel so that it is more comfortable for you.

One last consideration is the length of the pipe. If the snorkel is too long, it makes it more difficult to get oxygen. Every time that you breathe in, you are inhaling some carbon dioxide or dead air that is left in the tube. The longer the snorkel, the more this is a problem. Longer tubes also make it harder to blow out excess water.

Material

You should also consider the material that the snorkel is made of. J snorkels are usually made of hard plastic. Others are made of more flexible rubber or silicone.

There are also various levels of flexibility with the silicone elbows. Some snorkels are made of very flexible silicone compounds. These allow the mouthpiece to fall away from your face when you take it out of your mouth. Others are less flexible and will keep the mouthpiece close by you. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference.

Valves

Modern-day snorkel valves are considerably more reliant and efficient than they used to be. The valves are a nice feature to have if you’re worried about water getting in the tube and disrupting your breathing.

Many of the best snorkels have a purging chamber and a one-way valve below the mouthpiece. This allows you to clear the water with a simple exhale.

Snorkels can also have a valve at the top of the tube that automatically closes when you go underwater. These float valves are found on dry snorkels. Both dry and semi-dry snorkels have splash guards too to deflect water away from the top of the tube.

Clip

A final thing to think about when you are looking for the best snorkel is the clip that connects to the mask. Cheaper snorkels typically have keeper loops that work by trapping the mask strap between them. These work fine, but they are not the easiest things to adjust while you’re snorkeling.

The next level up is a clip that lifts up and catches the mask strap underneath it. This type of clip can slide up and down on the tube so you can adjust it to the most comfortable position. They also make it easier to separate the mask and snorkel for cleaning or storage.

The best snorkels usually have a quick release clip. These are the easiest to adjust, and they offer horizontal, vertical, and rotational movement.

Everything you could possibly need to know about snorkels

The Top 12 Best Snorkel Tubes

We have included all five types of snorkels on our list this year, so that you can find the exact tube you prefer. We recommend all 12 of them. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Kraken Aquatics Dry Snorkel

The Kraken Aquatics snorkel is a dry snorkel that uses a floating ball system to keep the water out of the opening. The system works by closing the top opening when you go underwater. It then reopens once the snorkel gets back to the surface.

It also has a flexible corrugated silicone hose and a one-way purge valve. The valve allows you to clear water out of the snorkel even when you’re underwater.

You can easily connect and disconnect your mask from this snorkel using the quick-release clip. And you can move the clip up and down to a position that works best for your mask.

2. Aegend Dry Snorkel

Another snorkel that we recommend this year is the Aegend Dry Snorkel. This one has a quick-release clip to attach the tube to your mask that is adjustable up and down the snorkel. It also has a replaceable super soft silicone mouthpiece that remains comfortable even with prolonged use.

The Aegend snorkel has a longer oval-shaped tube that will allow you to take fuller breaths effortlessly and cut through the water with very little drag. It’s ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving, skin diving, and swimming.

Another thing that we like about the Aegend snorkel is that it has a dry top with a splash guard. When the tube is submerged, the top automatically closes so that it won’t allow any water in. The design of this one is even better than the ball valve types because it won’t get stuck or jammed up with sand.

3. Cressi Dry Snorkel

Next on our list of the best snorkels this year is the Cressi Dry Snorkel. Like the previous two snorkels, this one has a float mechanism that closes instantly when the tube is submerged. The bottom of the tube has a small reservoir that will collect water. The purge valve allows you to expel that water by simply blowing out.

You will get less drag with this one because it has an oval-shaped tube. The Cressi snorkel is also very flexible, thanks to the corrugated silicone tube. The mouthpiece is also made of soft hypoallergenic silicone. And you can remove it for cleaning or replacing.

The Cressi snorkel is made in Taiwan and designed in Italy. Cressi is a highly reputable company known for producing quality equipment for diving, snorkeling, and swimming since 1946.

4. Deep Sea O2 Full-Face Snorkel Mask

The Deep Sea O2 mask is designed with safety first. The company put an emphasis on airflow design to alleviate the concerns raised after investigation in snorkeling accidents in Hawaii in 2018. We reference that article earlier in this post.

Another great thing about it is that it has a new safety breathing system. The system features three separate air channels. So there is an air intake and two air outlets, one on each side. This design prevents the re-inhalation of CO2, so you know that you will be breathing in the fresh air every time. It also keeps the mask from fogging up.

On top of that, it has removable motion camera brackets so you can attach a camera to capture all of the underwater beauty.

5. Seabeast AF90 Full-Face Snorkel Mask

For those of you with a more rounded face shape, the Seabeast AF90 is a great alternative built with safety in mind, too. Both of these full-face masks are on our Snorkeling Recommended Gear page.

The top of the snorkel tube has a dry system that allows the valve to close when it is submerged automatically. This stops water from getting inside the pipe.

The Seabast snorkel also has an innovative breathing chamber that lets you get a streamlined airflow. That means that the lens won’t fog up. 

6. SEAC Classic Jet Snorkel

The SEAC Jet Snorkel is the first classic J-shaped snorkel on our list this year. This simple tube is ideal for snorkeling, swimming, free-diving, and deep spearfishing.

The SEAC snorkel is made of durable preformed corrugated polycarbonate. It is flexible and has excellent shape memory. That means that it goes back to the original shape after it bends.

There is also an easy to release clip to connect the tube to your mask. 

7. Kraken Aquatics Classic Snorkel

Another classic J-shaped snorkel on our list this year is the Kraken Aquatics snorkel. This simple design is flexible and durable.

One unique thing about this snorkel is that you can easily roll it up. This makes it great for traveling and storage. It is compact enough to be placed into a BCD pocket when you don’t need it. You can also collapse it, roll it up, and put it into the included storage container.

The Kraken Aquatics is fully silicone. It’s been designed to be flexible and to have as few failure points as possible. This tube provides a safer and more comfortable experience than most classic snorkels.

8. Cressi Semi-Dry Snorkel

Cressi gets a spot on our list this year with their Semi-Dry Snorkel. With this snorkel, you can breathe with confidence and focus all of your attention on the reef below. You don’t have to worry too much about water getting into the tube.

The valve at the top of the snorkel has a splash guard that helps to keep water out. The tube is made of corrugated silicone, and there is a purge valve below the mouthpiece that allows you to blow out any water.

9. BPS Ultra Comfort Dry Top Snorkel

The BPS Ultra Comfort Dry Top Snorkel is another one that we recommend this year. This snorkel is both a flexible model and a dry top. And it is available in several different color options.

It is ergonomically designed, so your jaw won’t get sore when you use it for extended periods. The BPS snorkel features an innovative dry top with a floating valve system. This system ensures that no water will get in. It also has a quick-release clip that you can use to attach or remove your mask.

The BPS snorkel includes a purge valve below the mouthpiece so you can effortlessly clear out any water that may get in with a quick exhale.

This BPS snorkel comes with either a carrying bag or a five-liter dry bag. It also comes with a 12-month guarantee. So if you have any problems, they will either refund your money or send you a replacement.

10. Deep Blue Gear Semi-Dry Maui 2 Snorkel

The Deep Blue Gear Maui 2 is a semi-dry snorkel. It’s also a flexible model with a composite flex tube designed for a proper ergonomic fit.

This snorkel isn’t entirely dry, but it does an excellent job of keeping the water out with the top guard that deflects splashes from the opening. To minimize jaw fatigue, it comes with a soft silicone mouthpiece that you can comfortably wear for hours.

For any water that gets in the tube, there is a purge valve for easy clearing. This snorkel also offers effortless breathing thanks to the large bore tube. You can get optimal positioning of the snorkel and your mask with the adjustable keeper.

11. Scuba Choice Ultra Flexible Snorkel

If you’re looking for a flexible snorkel, then you should check out the Scuba Choice Ultra Flexible Snorkel. This equipment is perfect for spearfishing, snorkeling, and free-diving. It doesn’t have a purge valve or anything fancy. But if you’re searching for an inexpensive, simple snorkel, then you will love this one.

The silicone tube is soft, and it easily folds for transporting and storage. Scuba Choice created and designed this snorkel using technology that is both innovative and patented.

The mouthpiece opening on this snorkel is two inches, and the inner width of the tube is one inch. That size will allow for easy breathing. This snorkel is a semi-dry. It comes with a splash guard on the top of the tube that will help to keep water out.

12. ZIONOR Classic Lap Swimming Snorkel

The last spot on our list of the best snorkels this year goes to the ZIONOR Classic Lap Swimming Snorkel. This one is a swim training model made for doing laps in the swimming pool.

The ZIONOR classic snorkel is nothing fancy, but it will help you in training. It provides a smooth airflow that delivers a healthy amount of oxygen while you are swimming. The company boasts that this snorkel will improve your speed by 30 percent.

If you are looking for a snorkel to increase your swim speed, then this one is the way to go. It features a sleek, hydrodynamic design that creates minimal water resistance.

Another cool thing about this classic snorkel is that it has a center mount design. That means that it won’t get in the way of any of your arm strokes. This will allow you to have smooth arm rotation, and it will help you to maintain proper body alignment to improve your stroke efficiency.

The Bottom Line

We recommend all 12 of the snorkels on our list this year. Finding the one that will work best for you is a matter of personal preference. The best thing you can do is try the different types out to see what feels most comfortable for you.

Happy snorkeling!


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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