Wet vs Dry Snorkel : What’s The Difference & Which Is Better?

Wet vs Dry Snorkel

Ah, the joys of snorkeling – gliding through crystal-clear waters, admiring the vibrant marine life, and feeling like a mermaid or merman for a little while. But before you can dive into the underwater world, you need to equip yourself with the right gear, and one of the most important pieces is the snorkel. However, not all snorkels are created equal, and there’s a heated debate between two main types: wet vs dry snorkels.

On one hand, wet snorkels have been around for ages and are a classic choice for many snorkelers. They’re simple, affordable, and easy to use – just stick the tube in your mouth, and you’re good to go. But on the other hand, dry snorkels have emerged as a newer and fancier option, promising to keep water out of your snorkel and lungs, even if you dive underwater or get hit by a wave.

So, which one should you choose? Should you go with the tried-and-true wet snorkel or upgrade to the sleek and sophisticated dry snorkel? To help you make an informed decision, let’s dive deeper into the pros and cons of each type, and explore some interesting facts and examples along the way.

Are you ready to get wet and wild, or stay dry and dapper? Let’s explore the world of snorkels and find out!

The History of Snorkeling

The History of Snorkeling

How did the hobby begin? What were the snorkels like back then? The early beginnings of snorkeling can be traced back to 900 BC when Assyrian divers utilized makeshift oxygen tanks using animal skin. Although before that time there were already farmers using hollow reeds as breathing tubes when going underwater.

Today, snorkeling is not limited to the use of tubes and makeshift oxygen tanks. The advancements in snorkels will definitely amaze every snorkel enthusiast. From the addition of  float valve mechanisms to high-end valve technology air systems, the snorkel has made the hobby easier and more fun these days. 

The Basic Features of a Snorkel

The Basic Features of a Snorkel

What features should you look for when buying your first snorkel? Read on to know the features of a traditional snorkel.

BUT… If you are short on time…here is a quick summary:

FeatureWet SnorkelDry Snorkel
DesignSimple, with a J-shaped tube and a mouthpieceMore complex, with a valve system and a splash guard
Water EntryWater can enter the tube, requiring clearing by blowing outWater is prevented from entering the tube, reducing the need for clearing
AirflowCan be restricted by water or debris in the tubeAllows for continuous breathing without interruption
BuoyancyCan be negatively buoyant, pulling on the mask strapOften designed to be neutrally buoyant or positively buoyant
Price RangeGenerally less expensiveCan be more expensive due to additional features
DivingNot recommended for diving or submergingAllows for diving and submerging without water entering the tube

Float Valve

The float valve is the distinct part of a dry snorkel. Others refer to this as the dry valve. This can be found near the tip of the tube. The dry valve immediately seals once the snorkel is submerged to ensure that no water enters the tube. 

Splash Guard

A splash guard is another important part of a snorkel because it prevents water from entering the tube while at the surface. This is very helpful especially in the presence of other swimmers nearby. Their movement may cause waves splashing towards your direction. But splash guards will largely protect the tube from any water entering it. 


This serves as the main part of the snorkel and it is where air exchange occurs. Every snorkel has a flex tube, whether it’s a dry or semi-dry snorkel. 

Although these flex tubes are not mandatory, having them is very helpful as they allow snorkelers to make adjustments regarding the re-positioning of their mouthpiece to ensure comfort. 

A flex tube also allows the mouthpiece to easily dangle away from the snorkeler’s face soon after using it. However, some people get irritated by the use of a dangling mouthpiece while others also do not like the idea of having a mouthpiece right in front of their face. 

A flex tube is mandatory if you are looking to indulge in scuba diving. It prevents you from the hassle of having something getting in the way of your scuba regulator. 

Mask Clip

Almost all snorkels are designed to have a small clip which is used to attach the snorkel into the mask strap. Some snorkels have mask clips that possess a quick-release feature which allows the mask to be detached easily from the snorkel. It may also include a swivel attachment that is necessary for added mounting versatility. 

Flex Tube

This feature of the snorkel is often made of silicone. A flex tube has to provide comfortable fit. It should also be adjustable to ensure jaw fatigue will not be experienced. This part of snorkel easily falls away when it is no longer in use. 

One-way Purge Valve

When some amount of water happens to enter into the breathing tube, you will need the help of a one-way purge valve. This is where snorkelers would purge the water out of the tube. This act may require some skill and enough lung capacity since the water has to be shoved out on top of the snorkel.


Dry snorkels should have a silicone mouthpiece that’s soft and remains comfortable even after using it for hours. 

The Dry Snorkel

The Dry Snorkel

The dry snorkel is the most common type and is equipped with a mechanism at the tip which is useful for preventing water from getting inside the snorkel. This mechanism is helpful especially if you dip under the water as it keeps the air pathway sealed.  

The mechanism of dry snorkels also automatically opens once you surface above water. This mechanism is created according to the principle of Boyle’s law of Physics. 

The dry snorkel is best suited to people who are just planning to float around or see some fishes. The dry snorkel is also the type of snorkel that is perfect to use for doing quick dives.

Who should not use dry snorkels? Spear fishermen and free divers must not use dry snorkels because it is equipped with a mechanism that makes the snorkeler highly buoyant. If you are into free diving and spearfishing, using a dry snorkel will only increase your chances of floating rather than being weighed down.

Wet snorkels have been used for decades by millions of snorkelers worldwide. However, according to a study by the Divers Alert Network, 8% of snorkeling fatalities from 2003-2013 were due to snorkels filling with water and causing drowning. Dry snorkels aim to reduce this risk by preventing water entry.

How Dry Snorkels Work

How Dry Snorkels Work

Why are they called dry snorkels? This is because dry snorkels are designed to be able to block water from getting in the breathing tube thus the tube stays “dry” while the snorkeler swims underwater. 

Dry snorkels work thru a float valve. This valve seals the water out of the tube once the dry snorkel is underwater. But how is this possible? The top of the dry snorkel has a built-in float which is designed using a buoyant material, connected to a hinge mechanism. 

Once the dry snorkel is underwater, this built-in float will rise to shut the valve that sits on top of the tube. In turn, water will be blocked from getting into the tube. Therefore, one can still be able to breathe air out into the tube even when completely submerged. 

This float mechanism present in dry snorkels makes clearing carbon dioxide out of the lungs such a breeze. Once the person swims back to the surface, the float in the dry snorkel will automatically sink down so that the valve will be opened and the one wearing it can start breathing normally. 

The Wet Snorkel

The Wet Snorkel

In comparison the dry snorkel, the wet snorkel only has the basic parts i.e. the mouthpiece, the main tube and the clip that connects the dive mask and the snorkel. This type of snorkel usually has a high quality silicone mouthpiece that is connected to a J-shaped tube. 

Other types of snorkels also have a purge valve and a flexible tube, which is also referred to as “semi-dry” snorkel.

Is it okay to use a wet snorkel when free diving? The minimalist design of a wet snorkel makes it the favorite among spear fishers and free divers because it has a low volume and is less likely to cause them any drag. Wet snorkels help spear fishers and free divers to not have difficulty reaching maximum depths when exploring the aquatic treasures in just one breath of air. 

How Wet Snorkels Work

How Wet Snorkels Work

This type of snorkel simply functions by allowing the exchange of air between the water surface and the one that comes out from your mouth. 

Wet snorkels make some people unintentionally swallow ocean water. This makes them hate using the traditional J tube snorkels. 

Using a dry snorkel will offer more advantages than wet snorkels do for beginners. The dry snorkel offers more buoyancy than the other. This level of buoyancy causes drag which is not good for advanced snorkelers. But for those who do not yet possess enough skill and lung capacity to purge water out of the tube, a dry snorkel will certainly be a better option.

Other Equipment to Use When Snorkeling

Other Equipment to Use When Snorkeling

The Mask

The mask is usually made from hard plastic. It is designed with a frame which has specific contours around the individual’s eyes. It also has a skirt around it that seals the mask from water coming in. 

The mask is held in place with the help of a strap which is made of rubber band. This strap is adjustable so no matter where the mask is placed, that is , at the back of the head, in front or at the side, the mask remains comfortable to use. 

A high quality strap helps ensure a tight seal so that no water will get in the snorkeler’s face while the mask is worn underwater. A tightly sealed mask will prevent the mask lenses from becoming foggy which can spell discomfort in terms of vision. A high quality strap for seal will also prevent the sea water from reaching your eyes. 

The mask should also have a nose pocket which covers your nose. Why is it necessary to cover your nose? Because while snorkeling, you need to breathe through your mouth and not through your nose. However, wearing a mask with that nose pocket is not that easy to get used to. It may take some time for some people to become better used to it knowing the fact that humans are used to breathing in through the nose most of the time and not through the mouth. 

Snorkeling Fins

Should you be using a scuba diver’s fins? Yes, you may. But it would be best to use snorkeling fins especially if you’re still new to this activity.These fins have features that are more basic compared to one that is used by a scuba diver. This comes as no surprise considering the fact you snorkel on shallow water unlike scuba diving that needs the person to be submerged in very deep water.

These snorkeling fins are shorter which is important for enabling the person to make small yet flexible movements. Shorter fins also contribute to the maneuverability of the snorkeler especially when swimming near coral reefs. When fins are shorter, you are less likely to cause damage to corals.

These fins also come in different types. Some have full foot pocket. Others have open heel design. There are also snorkeling fins that feature heel straps which make donning and removing them so easy to do.

Snorkeling fins are generally not recommended for scuba activity because its features are very limited, making them inappropriate for swimming into very deep water with strong currents.

Helpful Tips for First-Time Snorkelers

Helpful Tips for First-Time Snorkelers

Check all your equipment first

Never make the mistake of going to the sea only to find that there’s damage in your snorkel. Check your equipment thoroughly. The same thing must be done if you will be renting your gears. See to it that the mask fits you perfectly otherwise you run the risk of having water in your mask.

Take it slow

Don’t get super excited about your snorkeling experience and become too aggressive about swimming with your snorkel. Exhaustion is a very common issue especially for first time snorkelers. Although snorkeling requires a lot of energy but you can avoid being exhausted. The key is to take it slow. Swim calmly and breathe slowly. Note that the snorkel does limit your ability to breathe which is one reason why you also get exhausted when starting aggressively.

Be aware of the sea conditions

If you are looking to snorkel the next day then might as well be aware of the conditions of the ocean where you plan to go to. Know about the possibility of surge and learn about waves and currents. You have to be knowledgeable abut ocean conditions. These things could be a matter of life and death.

Go only when the ocean is calm

This would often mean snorkeling in the morning. This is the time when the sea is at its calmest. There will be no huge waves and the sky would be so clear. Calm sea waters will make entering, swimming, and going out of the water much easier and safer.

Be equipped with safety essentials

Pack your snorkel vest, sun block lotion, wet suit, anti-fog spray and storage bag. The anti-fog spray would be very helpful and make sure to apply it on your mask before heading for a snorkel adventure. This spray prevents your mask from accumulating fog which could ruin your ability to clearly see the marine life .

A snorkel vest will help you become more visible to other people especially to boat traffic. Besides, this type of vest will also help you maintain your perfect position while swimming because it adds to your buoyancy. This vest is also designed to have safety features.

Know more about wet vs dry snorkel

Knowing the differences between these two will help you choose which one will suit you best. Remember that each type of snorkel will have a different set of features too. Besides, you can’t totally say that a dry snorkel is the best or the semi dry snorkel is worst unless you experience using it first-hand. It becomes so easy to identify the differences between these types of snorkels if you try using them all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are dry snorkels better?

Dry snorkels are better because you do not have to worry about clearing any water out of the tube. It is equipped with a float valve that blocks the water from getting in the tube. The float valve seals the tube as soon as the snorkel is submerged in the water and if you are a beginner then this float valve mechanism will definitely be highly beneficial to you. 

2. What is the difference between a wet and dry snorkel?

 A wet snorkel is not equipped with a float valve that seals when the tube is submerged in water. A classic wet snorkel has a very simple design. It only has a silicone mouthpiece and a J-shaped tube design. On the other hand, classic dry snorkels have the ability to prevent water from getting inside the tube because of its float valve. 

 3. What is the difference between dry and semi-dry snorkel?

 A dry snorkel is air-filled thereby causing the upward lift motion when you start to dive or get submerged in water. On the other hand, a semi-dry snorkel is water filled thus making it easier to dive. Keep in mind that a dry snorkel is best for snorkeling and not for diving. 

 4. Why are full face snorkel masks dangerous?

 Humans produce CO2 or carbon dioxide during the breathing process. When we are engaged in an activity that is physically demanding, our body will require more oxygen to ensure that all our muscles will continue to perform at an optimal level.

 But, when we become exhausted we start to engage in shallow breathing. The more we exhale, the more carbon dioxide is produced. Breathing in and out in an enclosed space, which happens when we use a full face snorkel mask, we won’t be able to exhale as deeply as we need to and this leads to our inability to push carbon dioxide out of our lungs.

 Unfortunately, a buildup of carbon dioxide in our lungs can be toxic.In turn, we run the risk of experiencing unconsciousness, dizziness or headache because our lungs were filled with more carbon dioxide than oxygen due to wearing full face snorkel masks.  

5.  What makes a good snorkel?

A good snorkel is one that is comfortable to wear in your mouth. Its tube must be long enough to protect you against wave rolls or swells. Most of all, it should be designed in a way that allows you to easily clear water out of it. When buying a snorkel, do not forget to ask about its safety features. Note that you will not only be snorkeling, but you will also be spending much time on sea water which could also be dangerous at times.

6. Is it possible to breathe underwater when using a wet snorkel?

Yes, it is. The snorkel has a tube which is pointing upward is also connected to your mouth. This tube sticks out of the water and this is where air comes in so that you can breathe.

The ocean is so vast and is home to millions of marine creatures. So, if you are looking to indulge in a snorkel activity rest assured that you will not run out of perfect destinations to enjoy your snorkel. But whatever aquatic activity you plan to engage in, remember that safety should always come first. The next thing to know – where is that perfect snorkel destination?

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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