Good quality snorkelling gear will allow you to enjoy your time in the water in safety and comfort and last for years if you look after it. It can be a very cheap and enjoyable way to spend time exploring the oceans for years to come.
Avoid cheap bucket and spade or supermarket snorkelling gear as they are usually made with cheaper plastics which means they rarely seal correctly, causing leaking, discolour very fast and can leave rashes on your face as well as leave a nasty plastic taste in your mouth.
You only require a few basic pieces of equipment to get started: a mask, a snorkel and a pair of fins but there are some optional extras that can make snorkelling safer.
CHOOSING A MASK
It is possible to buy full face snorkel masks which cover your entire face and has the snorkel built in but these are only recommended for surface use as it is not possible to equalise whilst wearing one if you descend underwater. Equalising is explained below in the mask section. They also trap a large bubble of air over your face that wants to float so duck diving can be tricky.
A mask creates an air space in front of your eyes so your eyes can focus. Our eyes aren't made to focus underwater so we need an airspace in front of them to focus properly. Lenses in masks have to be flat otherwise they can act like magnifying lenses in the water that make it hard to see.
Masks also have a soft nose section which encloses the nose so that water doesn't go in but it also has a couple of other benefits when you go underwater. As you go under the water the deeper you go you will need to equalise your ears and the mask itself. As you descend underwater you will feel pressure on your ears similar to being in an aeroplane taking off which needs to relieved. To do this simply pinch your nose and gently blow against it, this will cause your ears to pop relieving the pressure. You will also need to blow a small amount of air into the mask as you descend to stop the mask pushing on your face too hard leaving your face marked. If you stay on the surface then you don't need to worry about equalising your ears or mask, it's only when you swim down.
Look for masks with a soft silicone skirt (the bit that sits on your face), silicone is a soft and hypoallergenic material used in all high quality masks. The softer the skirt the better if generally fits as the skirt can mould to your face better, around your cheekbones and temples. As a rule of thumb the more you pay the softer the skirt. As well as better skirts some masks have lenses with special coatings to improve colour perception and protect your eyes. Mirrored lenses can act like sunglasses and reduce glare on the surface and other lenses have reduced impurities so they're clearer.
If you are long or short sighted you can buy a prescription snorkel mask that has corrective lenses fitted to match your prescription so the underwater world can be as clear as dry land!
CHOOSING A SNORKEL
Snorkels are the tube which sits of the left hand side of your mask. The reason it's on the left is from scuba diving as your regulators come around the right hand side and confusing the two underwater would be bad! Our advice is if you are nervous or new get a good snorkel it makes a massive difference in keeping water out, look for one with a purge system at the minimum.
There are three types of snorkels; the basic snorkel which is a simple open ended tube with a mouthpiece on the end. These are best for people with better airway control and don't mind some water around their mouth. Purge snorkels have a one way valve at the bottom that pushes out any water trapped inside the snorkel. The trap is usually oversized so you can still breathe even if there is some water in the snorkel, just breathe out and it will push the water out. Dry Top snorkels have the valve at the bottom and a float at the top that actively blocks the top of the snorkel and stops water from getting in if a wave splashes over or if you swim under the water. Snorkels we recommend for snorkelling (any of our snorkels will be great but here are some of our favourite.
CHOOSING A PAIR OF SNORKELLING FINS
A pair of fins, we call them fins not flippers, allow you to propel yourself around in the water. Nervous snorkellers often feel more confident without fins at first which is fine where there are no currents and little distance to cover but most end up with a pair of fins. Most snorkellers in warm water will opt for full foot fins (those where you just slip your bare foot into), you can then decide between short reef fins which have a short blade which keeps the weight and size of the fins down for transporting or normal fins which offer better propulsion.
Adjustable heel straps make fitting much easier and allow for growing feet. All snorkelling fins are made to be worn barefoot but you can add some socks if you want to protect your feet from the sun or walking on rocks to get to the water. Most fins have a paddle blade which work a lot like an oar by forcing the water out of the way and making your footprint larger. Some fins have a split down the blade that we call a split fin, we're great at naming things, these work like a seals fins and reduce the effort you need to move through the water.
Hammocks have become serious hangout gear for the outdoors. Sightings of these colorful slings hovering between trees are becoming more and more common. For some, a hammock is the ultimate chill-out spot. For others, it takes sleeping under the stars to a whole new level. If you’re thinking about getting a hammock, we can help.
When choosing a hammock, consider the following factors: Size: The main difference here is single vs. double; most people choose a double for comfort, not necessarily because they plan to hang with a friend. End use: For backpacking, weight is the key consideration; for camping and hangout time, durability matters most. Accessories: You need a suspension system (straps) to set it up; other popular options include an underquilt for cold temps, a tarp for rain and a net for bugs. Hammock tents and sleep systems: Hammock tents usually include a hammock and all the accessories needed for sleeping overnight. You can also build your own system, starting with a hammock, and then adding accessories later to create your own backcountry or camping shelter.
Hammock Sizes and Specs One of the key decision factors when buying a hammock is whether you want a single or a double.. Here are tips for choosing between single and double hammocks: Single hammocks: Most singles have a data-data-data-data-width in the 4- to 5-foot range. Getting a single-wide saves weight (a plus for backpackers) over a double, with the tradeoff being that the single offers a less spacious lounging or sleeping experience. Singles’ weight limits range from 300 to 400 pounds, with ultralight capacities closer to 250 pounds. Double hammocks: Most models have a data-data-data-data-width in the 5- to 6-foot range. In addition to offering a more spacious lounging or sleeping experience than a single, a double gives you the option of two people sharing hammock time. Doubles have capacities from 400 to 500 pounds, with ultralight models closer to 350 pounds. Hammock length: Hammock lengths vary much less than data-data-data-data-widths, and, unless you’re extra tall, you won’t need to worry about this dimension. A rule of thumb for camping and lounging hammocks is to look for a hammock that’s at least 2 feet longer than your data-data-data-data-height, which turns out to be most hammocks for most people.
Hammock fabric: Another spec that can be useful, though not all models list it, is “denier.” Heavy-duty fabrics have higher denier numbers than ultralight fabrics. ENO hammocks, for example, use 70-denier fabrics in more robust models and 30-denier in lightweight models. The tradeoff for low weight is that rough use will wear out a low-denier fabric more quickly than the same type of fabric with a higher denier number.