Snorkel or No Snorkel When Scuba Diving?


To bring or not to bring a snorkel – have you batted this question back and forth in conversations with other divers? For such a small, lightweight, unassuming piece of equipment, conversations can get lively as divers on both sides espouse their opinions!

One camp believes snorkels are lifesavers and the other believes they are accidents waiting to happen.

Snorkels Have Been a Part of Diving Equipment for Decades

TusaHyperdryMAX snorkelBefore scuba gear became commonplace, snorkels were the main tool for diving, when we called it skin diving. By the way, in case you were wondering, skin diving got its name from the military — if service members needed to bring their snorkel gear, the acronym SKIN was posted to stand for “swim kit is needed.”

Some of us who have been around for a while may remember snorkels of decades past, which were basically straight plastic tubes attached to a u-shaped tube and a hard, unyielding mouthpiece! Fortunately, snorkels have evolved significantly, and now we have high-tech ones with purge chambers, swiveling adapters, dry top vents or gaskets and ergonomic mouthpiece like this one (right).

While no one would argue snorkels are perfect for, well, snorkeling, but are they necessary for diving?

Why You Might Want a Snorkel

  • Using a snorkel conserves your tank air during long surface swims.
  • If the water is choppy, it can prevent waves from splashing water into your mouth.
  • You can grab a snorkel faster than donning your dive gear if you need to go back in to assist a diver in distress on the surface.
  • If dolphins or other interesting critters decide to swim by, you can join them, especially if you’re waiting out a surface interval.
  • If you’re in a situation where you have to perform CPR in the water, snorkels make improvised, lifesaving face masks.

Why You Might Not Want a Snorkel

  • Snorkels drag in the water and can tug your mask off while swimming or if hit with a wave.
  • It can become entangled in your hair, kelp, caves or wrecks — minor nuisance to creating a dangerous situation.
  • You might inadvertently pop the snorkel into your mouth instead of your regulator while underwater, and suck in a mouthful of water.
  • If your snorkel catches on something, it can knock your mask off.
  • They are unnecessary, extra gear.

You Get to Decide

Oceanic Folding Pocket Snorkel

Oceanic Folding Pocket Snorkel

Fortunately, no one is going to force you to bring or leave your snorkel behind. It’s a personal choice.

You can also decide based on conditions — if you know you’ll have a long surface swim, you’ll need it. If you’re going into a kelp forest or caves where it can get snagged, leave it behind.

Many divers have chosen to bring snorkels that can be rolled up or collapsed and fit into a BC pocket. This is the best of both worlds – you can easily get to it if you need it, but it’s no longer a hindrance. Check out this Oceanic folding one (right).

Speaking of snorkels, need a new one? Check out our large online inventory, or swing by Scuba Toys at 1609 S Interstate 35E, Carrollton, TX 75006 and we’ll hook you up!

Do you use a snorkel or not when you dive? Let us know why you made the choice you made in the comments section below!

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Snorkel or No Snorkel When Scuba Diving?
Ask this question at post diving happy hour and you'll get a few responses! We explore the pros and cons of wearing a snorkel while scuba diving.

6 responses to “Snorkel or No Snorkel When Scuba Diving?”

  1. Mia Adducci says:

    I was certified back in the dark ages (mid-90s) and was instructed to wear a snorkel, so I always did. On a dive trip a few years ago in Roatan, the divemaster asked me why I was wearing a snorkel. This was the first time I’d heard that snorkels were no longer considered a must have! I like the idea of the pocket snorkel – totally solves all of the concerns.

  2. Carlos Sanchez says:

    I like to have easy access to a snorkel – nice to have when you’re puttering around the boat waiting for a chance at the ladder. I was the only diver still in the water in Saba, snorkeling around a bit until the ladder was free when a manta ray swam right under me – no one else got to see it! I always want my snorkel!

  3. Navyhmc says:

    If Mia is from the dark ages, I’m from the prehistoric days. I started in 1974… Outside of classes, I’ve always maintained the snorkel is optional – conditions warranted. I usually keep one in my kit, and then decide when it’s dive time.

  4. Felix says:

    No, the snorkel gets in the way and snags, in my opinion.

  5. Aukai says:

    I agree that it gets in the way and snags, but I’ve actually been on a couple of boats that required it.

  6. Laini R. says:

    It depends on the type of dive. I usually keep one in my bag, but it doesn’t come out often.

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