Is a Snorkel Necessary for Diving? Pros & Cons Explained


Generally, everyone has different opinions about something. It is only right to respect one another’s opinion, regardless of how wrong it might look. Diving, for instance, is an interesting activity in which thousands of people – young and old, participate every day. Amidst this specific set of people, some believe snorkels are important to diving; others don’t; others are indifferent.

Over the years, there has been a debate on whether snorkels are necessary or not. However, it may be impossible to pick a side because each side has its justifications/reasons. So, instead, what could be done is provide the pros and cons of snorkel in diving and allow people to choose what they think is right.

Why Do You Need a Snorkel for Scuba Diving?

Dive organizations like PADI, SSI SCUBA, etc., agree that snorkels are important for a safe diving experience. It is an important piece of gear to aid breathing underwater. Unfortunately, some other organizations or people see it as inconvenient since it is strapped to the face.

Knowing whether you need a snorkel or not is justifiable from the pros and cons explained below.

What are the Pros of Snorkels?

Below are the advantages of using snorkels underwater:

Comfortable Entry Point Swimming

Every diver takes a swim before getting to the entry point – a long or short swim from the shore. During that time, many divers use the air in the tank, which almost makes it quite limited in supply by the time they get to the entry point. However, divers can swim comfortably with a snorkel and save the gas in the tank until the point of entry.

Weather and Water Conditions Check

As much as you would love to enjoy the whole underwater experience, you need to be mindful of two consequential things – weather and water conditions. Unfortunately, these two factors are sometimes unpredictable. It may seem almost impossible to tell without taking a dive. Fortunately, you can view water condition from the surface with a snorkel and a mask in a boat.

This snorkel also comes effective if you want to read and check water current and visibility.

Diver Towing

Different things could go wrong with more than one diver underwater. Therefore, a diver must watch out for another diver while he does so for himself. If there were to be a situation when one diver is stressed out, the other diver is supposed to tow him back to the surface. A good way to do that is to provide a snorkel to get breathing under control until such a person is above the surface.

Surface Assistance

If you are at the surface, you can assist people underwater without necessarily putting on the complete diving gear. What you only need, however, is a snorkel. It is the easiest pick so that you can provide surface assistance to another diver experiencing problems underwater and getting such a person to safety.

Getting Through Rough Situations

Another state of emergency that a snorkel will be useful is when faced with a rough situation or turbulence. If you decide to stay at the surface or wait for a dive boat to come to your rescue, you may exhaust the gas in your tank; however, a snorkel is a good way to improvise. You can swim towards the boat or stay until the boat arrives with a snorkel strapped to your face.

Using the air in a tank is not always advisable in this situation because at that point, you are stressed, and you tend to inhale more.

What are the Cons of Snorkels?

If there are advantages, there should also be disadvantages.

Extra Weight

If there is something, you want to avoid before going underwater, adding extra weight to what you already have is. The underwater experience is about maintaining neutral buoyancy so that you don’t get into diving accidents – that means either adding or reducing weight depending on the situation. However, in a situation where you are already at maximum weight capacity, adding a snorkel can cause a little bit of drag in the water.

Quite Inconvenient

Not everyone is comfortable with having a piece of equipment over their face, especially when there is long hair. Maybe, some brands have improvised to ensure that your hair doesn’t come in the way; however, it doesn’t change the fact that it is inconvenient when strapped to your face.

Needs a Bit of Adjusting

Snorkel and mask go hand-in-hand; however, there could be issues as you go underwater. One of them is the snorkel shifting or causing wrinkles over your face, which could indirectly leave room for water to enter your lungs. If that happens, you would constantly need to adjust the mask downwards or sideways to prevent water entry.

The constant adjusting is a big disadvantage.

See here on how to fit a snorkel or scuba mask properly.

Not That Important

If you have to consider the top most important pieces of equipment and accessories in diving gear, a snorkel doesn’t come close to being one of them. It isn’t that it is not important but compared to other available options, it is only useful when divers REALLY need it. Unfortunately, most professional divers don’t even go with snorkels.

Quite Confusing

Beginners have a hard time using a snorkel because it puts them in an utter state of confusion. First, it is strapped over their face making it almost impossible to see or breathe properly. Secondly, newbies have issues with identifying inflators and snorkels – they take the function of one for the other. Lastly, the entanglement with hair is another confusing state amateur divers find themselves in.


Whether you want to use a snorkel or not depends on personal preference. This guide has only provided you with the advantages and disadvantages to facilitate your decision. Whatever you choose, you should always remember that safety is of the essence when diving, and prioritizing it makes you a better diver.