At one time the humble snorkel was just a very basic, plastic tube.
The concept of a snorkel is still very much the same now – It is still just a tube of plastic and silicone, used to breathe through while your face is submerged underwater.
But this once extremely rudimentary piece of snorkel gear has been redesigned many times now over the years.
You can be sure that if someone, somewhere finds a pain point with a piece of equipment, then that piece of equipment will be scrutinised and redeveloped for ways of improvement.
And that’s basically why we now have so many different snorkel designs on the market today.
Classic snorkels, semi dry snorkels and dry snorkels all have their own benefits and applications, and this is what we’re going to cover in the guide;
What is Dry Snorkel?
How does a dry snorkel differ from traditional and semi dry snorkels?
What are it’s advantages & disadvantages, and is a dry snorkel right for you?
What Is A Dry Snorkel?
Dry snorkels have a special kind of float mechanism located at the top of the tube.
If the snorkel becomes submerged underwater then the float valve will block the tube opening at the top of the snorkel.
This dry top prevents water from entering the snorkel, hence why they are referred to as ‘dry‘ snorkels.
Dry top snorkels are the only type of snorkel that are specifically designed to keep water out of the breathing tube.
How Does A Dry Snorkel Work?
The valve mechanism itself is actually very simple.
Dry top snorkels have a special float within the top of them. The float uses buoyancy to either open or close the top of the snorkel tube.
When you submerge the snorkel underwater the valve will float upwards thereby blocking the opening of the snorkel.
As long as the snorkel is submerged then the tubes opening will be blocked by the float valve, and water will be prevented from entering into the tube.
When you resurface the float valve will drop back down reopening the airway again, allowing you to breathe through the snorkel once more.
Dry Top Snorkel Key Features
There are several key features that are found within dry snorkels, which we’ll discuss these features and their benefits in some further detail below.
Float Valve/Dry Top
The main feature of a dry top snorkel is, you guessed it, the dry top!
We discussed above how a dry top snorkel works, and how the special float valve either blocks or opens the top of the tube.
The dry tops between different snorkels may sometimes appear different on the outside, but the mechanism inside of the snorkel is always going to work the same.
The splash guard is also located at the top of the snorkel, and sits over the dry top/opening of the snorkel tube.
Obviously the dry top valve will only prevent water from entering the snorkel when it is fully submerged.
Therefore, the purpose of the splash guard is to block splashes of water from entering into the snorkel tube whilst it is still above water.
Not all snorkels feature a flexible tube, but many of them do and it’s worthwhile knowing and understanding what kind of benefits this can provide.
A flexible tube snorkel will angle towards your mouth better than a snorkel which is just a rigid tube.
Because it angles towards your mouth better and it can be much more jaw friendly, as your are not having to clench the mouthpiece as tightly to hold it in place.
It also means that when you are not using the snorkel, the mouthpiece falls out of the way of your face and is less intrusive.
And finally, flexible tube snorkels can often be folded and stowed away much easier for travel, or for stowing away in the pocket of your BCD when scuba diving.
The purge valve is located at the base of the snorkel.
With a dry snorkel, a very minimal amount of water should only really ever get in.
If/when water does get into your snorkel then it will collect at the bottom of the snorkel in a small reservoir. (The reservoir sits below the mouthpiece, so you don’t get any water in your mouth!)
Any water that is collected here should be easily expelled via the purge valve.
The purge is a one way valve system.
The way it works is as you exhale, the purge valve at the bottom of the snorkel opens and any water that has collected in snorkel will be released back out again.
Dry Snorkel vs Semi Dry Snorkel vs Traditional Snorkel
There are three main kinds of snorkel, which we’ll discuss briefly below.
My guide to the best snorkels goes into considerable more detail on this topic though, along with recommendations for each.
Traditional (Wet) Snorkel
Your classic, or traditional snorkel is the most basic of the three kinds.
It is usually therefore the cheapest!
A classic snorkel has an open top that will allow water to enter the snorkel if you dive underwater, or if waves splash over you.
This type of snorkel is popular for freediving and spearfishing due to it’s light weight and the fact that it doesn’t trap air inside it when underwater, creating unwanted buoyancy.
Semi Dry Snorkel
Semi dry snorkels look not too dissimilar to dry ones.
Feature wise they will have a splash guard at the top of the snorkel to help block water from entering, but water can still enter the tube.
They will often also have flexible tubes and purge valves.
Semi dry snorkels are a little heavier than classic snorkels, but provide a very happy medium between a classic and a dry snorkel.
So long as you don’t mind having to clear water out of your snorkel from time to time, then classic or semi dry snorkels are fine options!
Pros & Cons Of Dry Snorkels
Dry snorkels may sound amazing, but they have their good bits and they also have their bad bits.
They’re not going to be suitable for everyone.
It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using a dry snorkel if you’re interested in buying one of your own, as it may not be suitable for your needs.
Advantages Of Dry Snorkels
Dry snorkels provide a ton of benefits to the user which overall can make ‘dry’ snorkeling much more enjoyable for some people.
Lets take a look at the many benefits of dry snorkels!
- You can avoid the unpleasantness of getting salt water in your mouth!
- You can snorkel uninterrupted as you won’t have to keep stopping to clear water out of it.
- Beginners sometimes struggle to clear water from their snorkel and find it simpler and more relaxing to just use a dry snorkel.
- Dry snorkels make it easier to get comfortable with snorkeling as you can focus purely on your swimming and your breathing.
- Dry snorkels can help you to conserve more energy as you are not having to forcefully exhale to clear water from them.
When it comes to snorkeling, then a dry snorkel is my personal snorkel of choice!
Disadvantages Of Dry Snorkels
- Dry snorkels trap air inside them when submerged, making them slightly buoyant
- Their added buoyancy underwater increases their drag through the water.
- Dry snorkels are a little heavier and bulkier then classic snorkels.
- They are not the best option for freediving or spearfishing (due to the above reasons)
- Dry snorkels tend to be more expensive then classic or semi dry snorkels
- Float valves can occasionally jam/fail (usually caused by sand lodged in the valve)
- Having more bells and whistles on a snorkel overall means there are more things which can break/fail/go wrong.
The Best Dry Snorkels
I have an entire article dedicated to the best dry snorkels on the market, and the various features to look for when buying a dry snorkel. So definitely check that out for some great options!
In short though, the below are what I would consider to be some of the best dry snorkels available on the market right now:
Depending on how you intend to use a dry snorkel will ultimately dictate whether one is the best choice for you or not.
But for pure, uninterrupted snorkeling fun then dry snorkels are a fantastic choice. They’re great for beginners but they’re also still a great choice for the advanced snorkeler too.
With a ton of advantages (which far outweigh any disadvantage!). You surely won’t be disappointed with one!