The snorkel controversy seems to be never-ending. In our entry-level courses, most of us learned that you should wear a snorkel when scuba diving. Some of us stick to that rule, and some of carry one in our BCD pocket. But many more divers don’t wear a snorkel when scuba diving. If you open this debate to a table full of seasoned divers, prepare for some heated discussion. Here we’ll look at the pros and cons when it comes to the timeless question: should you wear a snorkel when scuba diving?
If you’re shore diving and have a long swim from your entry point, using a snorkel means you won’t waste air from the tank, and makes the swim far more comfortable.
When assessing conditions from the surface, perhaps before a boat dive, getting in the water with a mask and snorkel is the easiest way to check the current and/or the visibility.
If you must wait for a boat pickup, or swim to the boat when diving in rough conditions, a snorkel is useful. Without one, you could empty your tank just to stay comfortable at the surface. This is not great for the equipment, or your stress level.
In situations where you would have to tow a diver, whether a buddy or a student, a snorkel will also help during surface-swim positions. It might also help a stressed diver to breathe in choppy waters.
It is misleading to new divers. They often confuse their snorkel with the inflator when learning to use the equipment.
When learning how to dive, an attached snorkel can also make the mask-replacement skill considerably more difficult. The snorkel can get in the way or become entangled in the diver’s hair or the mask strap. It can even get tucked under the BCD shoulder strap.
A snorkel is inconvenient. It is difficult to grasp how no manufacturer has yet produced a snorkel clip that doesn’t get entangled in your hair. Many clips don’t hold the snorkel properly or break soon after purchase as well.
Snorkels create extra drag in the water. In a strong current, your mask can move. When entering the water from a boat, a snorkel also creates an extra drag, and can simply fall off if you don’t secure it properly.
A lot of divers will also argue that they never carry a snorkel simply because they never use one, never facing one of the situations mentioned above.
Although we never definitively solve the question of whether you should wear a snorkel when scuba diving, there are valid reasons for both arguments. Some manufacturers offer models that you can fold and store in your BCD pocket, like the Aqualung Nautilus travel snorkel, which is a good compromise when you want to carry a snorkel but not have it on your mask for the whole dive. The choice is ultimately personal; let us know on which side of this great debate you fall.