What’s in a Tube?: The Difference Between Dry and Wet Snorkels


Last Updated on June 28, 2023 by Snorkel Ken

A snorkel is a snorkel is a snorkel, right? First there were hollow reeds that served as the first snorkels tubes, and then there were tubes made out of other things, and finally there were dry top snorkels, and that is the end of that, right? Well, that is pretty much the story as it is written, but when you are looking for a good snorkel tube, you currently have three options available. Do you know the difference between them?

The Dry Snorkel

The dry snorkel is the most popular snorkel tube option available today. Most snorkel sets include one and most snorkelers pick them without really realizing the difference. A dry snorkel is simply a snorkel that has a mechanism at the tip that prevents water from entering the snorkel if you decide to dip under the water. The air pathway is sealed while underwater and then opened again as you surface using a mechanism that uses Boyle’s laws of physics.

If you just want to float around, look at some fish, and maybe take a few quick dives under the surface, the dry snorkel is great. You rarely need to worry about purging water out except in some instances where you get water from an errant wave slipping over your tube suddenly.

When is the dry top snorkel undesirable? Free divers and spear fisherman often pass on the dry top snorkel because the trapped air tends to make it buoyant. If you want to dive deeply underwater, you don’t want a buoyant snorkel weighing you down.

The Semi-Dry Snorkel

Like its name suggests, the semi-dry snorkel is a mix between the traditional snorkel and the dry snorkel. It keeps some water out, but it doesn’t keep all the water out.  At the top of a semi-dry snorkel, you will find an attachment with a number of slits at angles that direct water away from the opening. It is this design that actually makes it superior to the dry top snorkel at keeping out splashes and waves at the surface.

When submerged, the semi-dry snorkel lets water in. This is why it is usually the choice of scuba divers that want to conserve their air tanks on the surface, but don’t want the bulk or buoyancy of a dry top. However, if you aren’t a big fan of diving underwater, semi-dry snorkels are great for areas with choppy water.

The Traditional Snorkel

The traditional snorkel is… Well, it’s just a tube. It is a tube that is shaped like a ‘J’. It lets water in if you dive and it lets water in from waves even though you probably don’t want that. So why would anyone ever choose a traditional snorkel? Well, for free divers and spear fishermen, the lack of any attachments and buoyancy make them great for diving without any drag. This type of snorkel is great for diving to maximum depths while still being able to easily blast the seawater out when you surface. However, this type is typically a poor choice for vacationers.


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