What To Wear Snorkeling (How to Dress for Safety and Comfort)

guy snorkeling

When you go snorkeling, there are a couple of things you’ll definitely have on – a snorkel, which allows you to breathe underwater, and a snorkel mask, which allows you to see underwater.

Fins are also a very common snorkel accessory that helps propel you through the water and that most snorkelers choose to wear.

But those are just the basic components.

What else should you wear snorkeling? What makes a comfortable and sensible snorkeling ensemble?

If you’re about to go snorkeling for the first time and need a little help gearing up, here’s our recommended pieces for safety and comfort from head to toe.

Swim Cap for Snorkeling

Many people won’t need a swim cap to snorkel. If you’ve got plenty of hair and keep it tied back, you’ll get the same general effect – sun protection and hair management.

But a swim cap serves a few different purposes in the water.

  • If you’re bald or clean-shaven, a swim cap can keep the back of your head from getting sunburned.
  • If you have long hair that gets unruly, a swim cap keeps it from tangling and getting in your face.
  • A swim cap can also lock your body heat in if you’re snorkeling in cold waters.

If you choose to forgo a swim cap, how to keep your hair out of your face and prevent sunburn is something you’ll want to think about.

Some people opt for a backwards baseball cap or another head piece for these purposes. But a swim cap will give you the best fit with a snorkel mask.

Rash Guard/Wetsuit for Snorkeling

Like a swim cap, a wetsuit isn’t a necessity for snorkeling. Many popular snorkeling spots are in tropical locales where the water temperature is just right all year.

Taking a quick snorkel in a bikini or swim shorts isn’t unheard of or unsafe.

However, a wetsuit IS a necessity in cold water. If you’re going to snorkel in water below 70 degrees, you should wear a full wetsuit.

Water is a conductor that steals your body heat more rapidly than air. Getting too cold in the water can sap your energy more quickly, which leads to mistakes and potential danger.

A wetsuit is the simplest way of keeping warm.

A wetsuit also provides numerous advantages even in warm water. It:

  • protects you from sun exposure
  • makes you more buoyant
  • protects against stings from jellyfish and other marine life

Wetsuits range in thickness from very thin skin suits that are comfortable in warm water to thick suits that can keep you warm in waters below 40 degrees. The best wetsuit for your snorkeling excursion is entirely dependent upon what the water temperature will be.

Rash Guards

If a wetsuit is too much for you (you don’t want to get too warm while snorkeling either), a rash guard is the best alternative. It will still protect you from the sun and stings, while allowing the water to cool you.

Rash guards come in multiple sleeve lengths, from sleeveless to full, and a high-necked rash guard is ideal for snorkeling because it protects the neck from sunburn.

Rash guard bottoms are also available in a number of lengths from shorts to ankle-length.

Choosing which rash guards are right for you depends on how sensitive you are to the sun (if you burn easily, go for full coverage), how cold you get (if you’re always cold in water, again full coverage) or how hot you run (in which case shorts may be your best bet).

Fitted Clothing for Snorkeling

Along with being warming and UV resistant, wetsuits and rash guards have another essential thing in common – they fit snugly against the body.

One of the most common hazards for snorkelers is getting snagged under the water. You can easily prevent this by wearing well-fitted clothing.

So, even if you forgo the wetsuit and the rashguard, keep the clothing you do wear snug with no dangling pieces.

Snorkel Vest for Snorkeling

A snorkel vest is a personal flotation device, or PFD, that is expressly designed for floating. Other PFDs, like life jackets, are designed to keep the wearer’s head above water, which makes it pretty difficult to lie face down.

While some seasoned snorkelers hit the water vest-free, a PFD is always a good idea. Even the best snorkelers can get tired, snagged, inhale water, or experience a moment of panic.

A snorkeling PFD makes it easier to float, so it lessens the amount of energy you’ll need and it can save your life in a moment of danger.

Booties or Socks for Snorkeling

You don’t have to wear fins when you snorkel, but most people find that fins help them move more easily through the water.

Swim booties worn beneath fins can help produce a tighter fit and prevent chafing where fins fasten around the ankle.

Neoprene socks are a good alternative to booties.

The main difference between socks and booties is that booties have firmer, more protective bottoms. This can protect your feet if you’re walking on rocks or other hazardous surfaces, which make them ideal for snorkeling in rockier areas.

Swim socks are not as protective. They do, however, keep feet warm, protect feet from hot sand, and provide protection against chafing.

They are typically cooler than booties, which means if you get hot easily, even in the water, socks may be more comfortable for you.

A lot of people want to look good on the beach, but snorkeling isn’t the time for high fashion. Those cute tie-side bikinis can get hung up under the water and easily come undone. Board shorts can get hung up and impede your movement.

For safety’s sake, dress appropriately for snorkeling and leave the cute beachwear on the beach.

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