dry snorkel

How Does A Dry Snorkel Work?

Snorkeling is a fantastic way to get up close and personal with the beauties found below the surface, but when you’re choosing your gear, you may be wondering: how does a dry snorkel work?

A dry snorkel keeps water from entering the snorkel tube using a floating valve which shuts the air pathway while a snorkeler is submerged. When the snorkeler comes back to the surface, the floating valve moves out of the way so that the snorkeler can breathe.

 Even with this information, it can be tricky to know whether a dry snorkel is the choice for you. Let’s dive deeper (pun intended!) into the main differences between a dry snorkel and other snorkels, as well as the advantages and disadvantages to choosing a dry snorkel.

What is the Difference Between a Dry Snorkel and Other Snorkels?

There are three main types of snorkels that are popular among divers and beginners alike.

  1. The Dry Snorkel
  2. The Semi-Dry Snorkel
  3. The Traditional Snorkel

Each of these snorkels operates in a unique way, and if you are considering learning how a dry snorkel works, it can be helpful to understand the other options, too. Let’s break down the differences between a dry snorkel and other snorkels one by one.

The Dry Snorkel

The dry snorkel provides snorkelers with an opportunity not only to float on the surface of the water, but to take quick, shallow dives without having to worry about removing or purging water from their snorkel. 

The reason a dry snorkel can allow this type of freedom is because it is equipped with a unique flotation valve which effectively keeps water from entering the snorkel tube, even after the snorkeler decides to take a quick dive. 

The Semi-Dry Snorkel

A semi-dry snorkel bridges the gap, functionally, between the traditional snorkel and the dry snorkel. It does this by keeping most water out of the air tube through the use of slats and angles in the makeup of the tube. These slats and angles keep water that may splash toward the tube from getting inside.

The main difference between a dry snorkel and a semi-dry snorkel is that while the dry snorkel keeps most, if not all, water out of the tube using a flotation valve, a semi-dry snorkel cannot protect the air tube if a diver decides to completely submerge.

While the angles and slats do a good job of preventing splashes of water, they cannot accomplish what the dry snorkel’s flotation valve does in keeping all water out.

The Traditional Snorkel

A traditional snorkel is sometimes called a J Tube Snorkel. It is a favorite among spearfishers as well as freedivers. This is because the traditional snorkel has the least amount of drag, or resistance when getting a breath of air. 

The main difference between a dry snorkel and a traditional snorkel is that while the dry snorkel has a slightly more complex valve to keep water out, the traditional snorkel is simply a tube without any obstructions. 

This means the diver is responsible for making sure the traditional snorkel stays clear so that they can breathe!

How to Operate A Dry Snorkel?

If you do decide to use a dry snorkel, you may benefit from a quick guide on how to operate it! Here is a step-by-step list:

  1. Place the dry snorkel mask over the eye area.
  2. Clip the mask clip located on the tube to your mask strap.
  3. Put the silicone mouthpiece in your mouth.
  4. As you float, breathe normally through the mouthpiece and tube.
  5. Before diving, inhale.
  6. After submerging, exhale slowly, but do not attempt to inhale. The flotation valve will float up and block any water from getting in. 
  7. When you need to inhale, simply rise enough for the top of the tube to breach the surface of the water. The flotation valve will lower, allowing you to breathe in and out until you submerge again.

Advantages of a Dry Snorkel

The most up-front advantage of a dry snorkel is that it keeps the air tube dry while a diver submerges themselves. This means you don’t have to worry about the time-consuming effort it takes to purge other snorkel models, like the traditional snorkel.

However, there are a few more advantages unique to the dry snorkel that are good to be aware of! Let’s look into these advantages in more detail.

Dry snorkels are great for beginners.

Learning how to purge water from other snorkels, or getting used to the mindfulness which less automatic snorkel models require, can take time. Beginners also tend to turn their head in a way that allows water to get in, which can be unsettling if you’re using a traditional snorkel!

With the dry snorkel, you don’t have to consider these things and beginners can just get a relaxing feel for the basics of snorkeling.

Dry snorkels have a flex tube.

Flex tubes are the mouthpiece portion of a dry snorkel. They are usually made of flexible silicone, and attached by a length of plastic to the mask so that not only do snorkelers avoid wearing out their jaw, but the mouthpiece falls away easily whenever snorkelers decide to take a break.

Disadvantages of a Dry Snorkel

Disadvantages of a Dry Snorkel

As useful as a dry snorkel is, there are still some disadvantages. Because snorkeling is a potentially risky pastime, it is a good idea to be aware of the disadvantages in a dry snorkel model. 

Dry snorkels are buoyant.

The greatest strength of a dry snorkel, keeping water out, can also become it’s weakness. This is because the flotation valve acts as a wall with prevents water from entering through the use of trapped air. 

Trapped air rises to the top of any body of water, so while executing a quick dive, snorkelers with a dry snorkel may find a slight pressure pulling them up from their air tube.

The buoyancy isn’t too bad if you’re just performing quick dives, but for spearfishers or more advanced divers who want to lower themselves further into the water, a dry snorkel won’t be useful. 

Dry snorkels keep most, but not all, water out.

As excellent as a dry snorkel is at keeping water out when compared to traditional snorkels, it is not perfect at this function. A beginner who turns their head slightly while floating is likely to be fine, as the flotation valve will still perform it’s duty in keeping water out.

However, if anything, like a startling fish or interesting bit of marine life, causes a snorkeler to whip their head around at great speeds, there is a chance that the flotation valve will allow a little water into the air tube.

Dry snorkels are more expensive than traditional snorkels.

A dry snorkel does include that one specific bit of equipment that makes it unique: the flotation valve. While it is what makes the dry snorkel special, it is also what makes it slightly more expensive than J Tube Snorkels. 

For example, dry tube snorkels usually have an average price of $25. On the other hand, a J Tube or traditional snorkel has an average price of $20.


A dry snorkel is the perfect piece of snorkeling equipment for beginners, or those who prefer to snorkel by relaxing or taking quick dives. The reason for this is found in how a dry snorkel works: the flotation valve in the air tube uses trapped air to defend against water when the diver is submerged. 

While a dry snorkel cannot handle very deep dives and it’s usefulness costs a little extra, it is still an excellent choice for a fun snorkeling trip!

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