I love to snorkel but I live in Arizona. So for me, going snorkeling means packing everything up and heading off to some faraway land. The task of packing used to cause me a fair amount of stress, but now I think I pretty much have it down to a science. Here’s what I pack for a snorkeling trip.
Snorkel, Mask and Fins
If you’re not an avid snorkeler or if you prefer to pack lightly, you may choose to rent your basic snorkeling equipment when you reach your destination. Many snorkeling tour operators will also provide you with these items. (Their website usually tells you if this is the case.) But if you want to ensure that you have equipment that fits and is in good repair, I advise taking your own. You can get a decent set that includes all three pieces for about $70US. That sure beats getting stuck with a leaky mask or fins that don’t fit.
Biodegradable Sunscreen and High SPF Lip Balm
Sunscreen and lip protection are self-explanatory, but let’s take a minute to talk about reef and ocean health. The chemicals and oils in regular sunscreens pollute the water and can actually kill coral. Be a conscientious traveler and take time before your trip to find biodegradable sunscreen (it can be difficult to find). Some national aqua parks actually require it and will confiscate lotions that are not biodegradable.
Bulky beach towels are not practical to pack for a snorkeling trip. Chances are they’ll get soaked on the beach or boat and won’t be of any use anyway. For under $20 you can get an ultra-absorbent chamois swim towel that folds up as small as your fist.
Swimsuit, Cover-Up and Rashguard Shirt
You’ll obviously pack a swimsuit and some sort of cover up, but I also highly recommend investing in a good quality rashguard shirt with high SPF protection. When you snorkel, your upper back and shoulders are constantly out of the water. Even if you have a good tan or have slathered on a ton of sunscreen, you’re likely to burn in this area. Wearing a rashguard shirt virtually eliminates that risk.
If snorkeling in shallow water, fins may be prohibited due to possible coral damage. There may also be times when you have to walk a few yards into the water to board the snorkeling boat. So when you pack for a snorkeling trip don’t forget your water shoes.
If you’re going to be doing any shore access snorkeling you may want to consider getting a cheap mesh bag with long handles that you can wear like a backpack while you’re snorkeling. I use it for my water shoes, sunglasses and sunscreen so I’m not constantly worrying about them being stolen from the beach while I’m in the water.
This isn’t a must-take item, but if you don’t have one you’ll probably regret it. Like a lot of techy items prices have come down in recent years and they’re very affordable now.
Zippered Beach Bag and Waterproof Wallets
Taking a beach bag is obvious but the best ones will have a zipper to allow you to completely close the top. I’d also suggest getting a couple waterproof wallets for your cash, room key and credit cards. You can even put your watch or cell phone in them, but be sure you get a high quality product and know how to close it properly so it doesn’t leak.
Some snorkeling tour operators provide this … some don’t. I carry a small bottle of gel that I’ve had for years! If you don’t want to buy any you can make your own for nearly nothing. Just dilute liquid dish soap or baby shampoo half and half with water. You can also just use your spit, but for me, that technique doesn’t last long and I’m continually having to “reapply!”
Some areas prohibit the use of diving gloves because they tend to make snorkelers and divers be less conscientious about not touching the coral. But when they’re allowed, I wear them. I’ve had my fingers bitten by aggressive fish before and that’s not fun.
When I leave my hotel room for a snorkeling trip I leave my good sunglasses in the room safe and take a cheap pair of the drug store variety with me. Beach bags get thrown around or sat on all the time on a snorkeling boat so you don’t want to risk getting your good shades lost, stolen or broken.
Hat and Hair Ties
You’ll need a hat with a decent sized brim to protect you from the sun on the boat. I recommend one that ties under the chin so it doesn’t blow off in the wind. Then, regardless of being male or female, if your hair is long enough to put in a ponytail – do it. There’s nothing more annoying than hair floating around in front of your face interfering with your snorkeling view.
Large Water Bottle
Even if the tour operator says they provide water, I suggest taking your own large bottle. That way you’ll have plenty to rinse the salt out of your mouth after each snorkel in addition to keeping well hydrated.
Things You Could Pack for a Snorkeling Trip, but I Don’t
- Wide-Toothed Comb – For combing your wet hair when you’re finished snorkeling.
- Wet wipes – To clean the salt from your face and hands.
- Rain Jacket – To protect against (cold) ocean spray on your way to and from your snorkeling sites.