To buy or not to buy – that is the question. When it comes to snorkeling gear, the only pieces of equipment that are essential are the mask and snorkel. It’s also highly recommended that you wear fins and some kind of flotation device, perhaps even a rash guard for protection from the sun’s UV rays. There’s actually a lot to consider when you think about it.
Is it worth it to rent or buy snorkeling gear? Renting is a legitimate option if you don’t snorkel frequently enough to justify outright purchasing the gear. That said, owning your own snorkel gear offers many more advantages than just convenience. It ensures the gear always fits, feels comfortable, performs to the standards you expect them to, is cleaned and maintained to your standards, and much more. Plus, if you snorkel often enough, then the cost of renting would eventually exceed the cost of buying, so you might as well just invest in your own gear.
In this article, we’ll go over the arguments for renting and buying snorkel gear and let you make a decision based on what’s more worth it for you. After all, there is no right or wrong answer; each person is in a different situation, and our goal is to help you make the most informed decision for your specific situation.
Reasons why you should rent snorkel gear
In this section, we will discuss the major arguments in favor of renting your snorkel gear. Even if only one or two of these points apply to you, that’s probably enough of a reason to rent. You can think of this section as the “cons of buying your own snorkeling gear” section.
You aren’t sure if you like snorkeling
Right off the bat, we have to admit, there is a third option in this buy/rent debate: you can rent first, and then buy your own snorkel gear later.
However, when you’re first starting out, it’s probably a good idea to rent first. After all, it’d be a shame if you purchased all of the snorkel gear upfront only to realize that you absolutely despise snorkeling.
Maybe you will find that the reason you don’t want to take up snorkeling has nothing to do with your ability to snorkel. Maybe you just find snorkeling to be incredibly boring, or you seem to feel nauseous every time, or you frequently get ear infections (swimmer’s ear) or blocked ears afterwards.
We don’t want to give you the impression that snorkeling exposes you to a whole host of problems, just that there is a slight possibility one or more of the above may apply to you. That’s why renting first is a solid idea – so you can figure this out early on without investing much money.
Everywhere you go, dive shops will let you rent a mask, snorkel, and fins. After all, those three pieces of equipment are also used by scuba divers, so there is plenty of reason for dive shops to have a huge stock available. You can also rent wetsuits, flotation devices, and other accessories. In other words, the availability of snorkel gear should not be an issue even if you’re renting.
Another advantage of renting is that you can take advantage of new gear. If the dive shop you’re in has the latest models, then you get to experience the latest in snorkel technology. You can also just try out a variety of gear. For example, if you typically use a traditional mask but want to try out a full face snorkel mask, then you can do a swap easily. You are always able to try out new gadgets and maybe you can buy your own in the future if you end up liking snorkeling, or maybe you won’t.
You don’t snorkel often enough
If you only vacation once a year and that is the only time that you will be snorkeling, then you might not want to buy your own equipment. Don’t get us wrong, it can still be worth it for the reasons listed in the “why you should buy your own gear” section, but renting seems like the more attractive option in this case.
Those of you who live in a landlocked state will probably have trouble justifying purchasing snorkel gear. On the other hand, if you live in California, Florida or Hawaii, basically any coastal state, then you will have way more opportunities to snorkel than someone who has to wait until their annual trip to the Bahamas or Koh Tao to snorkel.
With that said, if you already know that you absolutely love snorkeling, and that you are going to spend the vast majority of your time snorkeling on your yearly trips, then that alone might be worth justifying a purchase. If you only intend on snorkeling literally once a year, or maybe once in your lifetime just to scratch off a bucket list item, then stick to renting.
You are on a strict budget
This is a very boring but legitimate reason as to why one should rent. Sometimes you just don’t have enough disposable income to spend hundreds of dollars getting a full set of snorkel gear.
This is a really hard topic to give advice on, because emotions can play a big role in whether something is worth it or not. Again, maybe you absolutely love snorkeling and it’s your greatest passion. In that case, it might be worth it to buy instead of rent even if you’re strapped for cash.
Renting gives you the opportunity to snorkel without spending hundreds of dollars. In the meantime, you can budget to save up for the day when you can outright purchase your own gear. You don’t have to feel like the opportunity to snorkel is completely gone from your life, and that’s why renting is so convenient.
Some people might claim that snorkeling is cheap, especially when you compare it to the cost to go scuba diving or the cost of underwater photography equipment or many other hobbies (if you are a collector of literally anything, then you know what we are talking about).
However, when you factor in the cost of not only a mask and snorkel, but also the fins, flotation device, rash guard or snorkeling wetsuit, maybe even a dry bag, especially if you’re buying high quality ones, then suddenly you’re spending hundreds of dollars you can’t afford.
Cheap and expensive is also relative. People who have a higher income don’t even need to read the other points in this section;they have the disposable income to just buy it if they want because it’s the better option 99% of the time. For some people, renting is the only option because it’s just cheaper.
You have children that will outgrow the gear
If you have kids that want to go snorkeling, then we recommend you read our tips on how to go snorkeling with kids. Since there is no minimum age to go snorkeling, and some parents are less strict about letting their kids try a potentially dangerous activity, then an interesting dilemma arises.
Depending on how old your children are, and also how many you have, you might want to rent instead of buy snorkel gear for them since they may quickly outgrow it. A children’s full face mask that fits them today might not be suitable next year. If you have multiple kids, it might be worth buying because it can be a hand-me-down for the next child. However, snorkel gear needs to fit snug, and there is no guarantee a hand-me-down will fit comfortably.
So in the meantime, until they hit their growth spurt, you might want to stick to renting so that you aren’t someday stuck with a bunch of masks, snorkels, and fins that are simply too small.
Also, you might want to do some quick math to figure out if it’s worth it to buy vs. rent. Children are much more energetic and likely to spend all day in the water while on vacation. If you end up renting snorkel gear at 5 dollars a day per child and you spend a couple of weeks at the resort, then the costs add up. At that point, it might even be worth it to just purchase a snorkel set for your children.
You don’t want to take up space in your luggage
This is an issue that can affect some of us. Whether you are traveling by car or by plane to your snorkeling destination, logistics is always a concern. Do you have enough space in the trunk of your car? Do you have enough space in your luggage?
Depending on how long or short your snorkeling fins are, and how big your family is, this can occupy the most space. There’s also the question of who will be carrying all of this? Do you really want the extra weight and hassle of bringing your own snorkel gear with you? Renting your snorkel gear solves this problem completely.
Instead of stressing about which items you need to pack, why not make it easy and remove the burden of transporting snorkel gear when dive shops all over the world will rent them to you? This also removes the risk of losing snorkel gear or damaging it while traveling.
Furthermore, if you’re bringing a bunch of snorkel gear, it also means you are committing heavily to it. If you end up only snorkeling once or twice during your vacation, it will feel like such a waste of space to bring all this stuff with you.
There is also option 3 which is purchasing only the mask and snorkel, which are essential pieces of snorkel gear, and renting everything else like the fins and snorkel vest. Maybe get a foldable snorkel to save even more space.
You are on a trip where the snorkeling gear is provided
Lastly, if you are part of a snorkeling safari or some kind of guided snorkel tour, there might not be a need to bring your own snorkel gear. This depends on the particular operator you are with; some might still require you to bring at least your own mask and snorkel.
That said, many snorkel excursions you go on will provide masks, snorkels, fins, a life vest, whatever you need. Of course, if you already have your own, then you can just use your own. However, if the option to rent is available, then you don’t have to deal with any of the transportation woes outlined above.
It’s also nice to have the tour operator help you out if you’re a beginner. They will give you the lowdown on the snorkeling basics. Since we’re talking about gear, they can show you how to use a mask and snorkel; how to put them on, and even adjust them for you so it’s not too tight or loose. Since it’s their equipment that you’re using, they should know everything about it. They might not be able to provide the same expertise if you brought your own.
If a snorkel excursion is going to be the one and only time in your life that you are going to snorkel, then it’s not worth it to buy snorkel gear just for this one time event. Just borrow what they provide and you don’t have to invest or worry about losing your own gear.
Reasons why you should buy your own snorkel gear
In this section, we will be discussing the arguments for owning your own snorkel gear. Again, even if only one or two of these points apply, you might be better off outright purchasing your own gear over renting. You can also think of this section as the “cons of renting your snorkeling gear” section.
You snorkel often enough that renting is more expensive long-term
This point is easy to determine if you are willing to do some quick math. Honestly, you don’t even have to be precise; just ballpark it and you will know if it’s worth it or not. Let’s give a few scenarios to illustrate our point.
Let’s say you are vacationing for two weeks, and you plan on snorkeling literally every single day. Renting a full set of snorkel gear for two weeks could easily cost you $50-70 a week, maybe even more. If you’re going to be spending over $100 on rental fees, why not just buy your own set of snorkel gear? Clearly you love snorkeling enough to justify this purchase.
However, let’s say that you like snorkeling but aren’t obsessed with it. On your two week trip, maybe you only go snorkeling three or four times, so you don’t need to rent for as long. In this case, it’s probably not worth it to spend hundreds on your own gear if you plan on snorkeling so little. Then you don’t have to deal with the headache of transporting all of this gear.
We don’t know your exact situation and how often you will be snorkeling. However, by quickly searching up the rental costs of snorkel gear in the area you will be vacationing in, and doing a quick search on how much it costs to buy a full set of gear, you can determine what’s the most economical option.
You know what to expect from the gear
When you rent equipment, you don’t know what you’ll get. It’s not just about getting the right fit, though that is important. It’s also about how comfortable it feels, whether your snorkel gear has the features you want, and if you know how to properly use the equipment.
Let’s say the dive shop only has open top snorkels but you really want a dry or semi-dry snorkel. Or let’s say that you would prefer a full face mask but the dive shop only has a traditional mask and snorkel setup. If you are using something you’re not used to, then it can be very distracting and might even ruin your experience.
When you have your own gear, you have the peace of mind knowing that everything will be as you expect. You know the gear will fit, that it will be comfortable, that it has all of the features you want. You also know how to take advantage of these features, and there is no learning curve or fuss about how to use the equipment. Just don your gear and head into the water.
Even though we mentioned that renting your gear is a smart choice for first timers who don’t know if they want to fully commit to buying their own gear, the downside is that the rental equipment might make your first snorkeling experience awful. The mask might leak, water might enter the snorkel and cause you to swallow water, the mask lens can fog up heavily, you might have trouble staying afloat, and so on.
If you take the time to shop for your own gear, a dive shop employee can help you get the right fit and teach you how to use the snorkel equipment. You will have much better odds of getting better equipment if you go through the trouble of shopping on your own than to just use whatever is given to you each time you vacation.
You know the snorkel gear is high quality
This is hard to explain unless you already have some experience with snorkel gear. Sometimes rental gear just feels flimsy and cheap, like they were made out of cheap, brittle plastic. This can also cause the gear, particularly the mask and snorkel, to feel very uncomfortable. If your fins are low quality, it can be hard to propel yourself.
When you’re renting, you have little control over the quality of the gear you get. Let’s take the mask for example. Are the lenses made of tempered glass, or is it just a cheap plastic one? Is the skirt made of silicone, or some kind of alternative rubber? Do the straps keep the mask secured on your face, or does it dig painfully into your skin to be effective? Are the lenses scratched, obscuring your vision? These problems can greatly reduce your snorkeling experience.
This is particularly a problem when it comes to a snorkel. Maybe you were expecting to use a high quality dry snorkel, but instead you get an open top one or a snorkel where the float valve mechanism keeps getting stuck. A dry snorkel is useless if the float valve gets stuck in the closed position because you can’t get any air, which is panic-inducing.
If you have your own reliable, high quality equipment, you can ensure this is not going to happen. The peace of mind alone can greatly improve your snorkeling experience.
You require prescription lenses
Those of you who need glasses to see should know that snorkel masks aren’t designed to be worn with glasses. That is why prescription snorkel lenses exist; so you can replace the standard mask lenses with ones that will accommodate your vision. You can rent prescription snorkel masks, however there are several limitations to this.
For starters, what if they don’t have the exact prescription your eyes need? What if your left and right eye require different lenses? Maybe the dive shop doesn’t even offer prescription masks. The best option is to buy your own, otherwise you will not get a perfect match. The point of snorkeling is to be able to see the underwater world, right? If everything is boring, it defeats the purpose.
We have written an article on wearing contact lenses while snorkeling. In our opinion, this is the cheapest and most convenient option to solve the prescription mask problem, however not everyone agrees. Contacts can easily get washed out, and you don’t want to wear a dirty one or else you might get an infection. As long as you are wearing disposable ones and are extremely careful, we think it works just fine.
You have the budget
Not everyone has the same budget. We can argue all about the pros and cons of buying vs. renting, but at the end of the day, the biggest constraint is budget. If you have enough disposable cash, do you really need to read a several thousand word long article comparing in great detail why renting might be worth it? No, you don’t care; you can just buy because you want the best, and that’s fine.
Snorkel gear doesn’t cost a fortune, however getting high quality equipment is not cheap either. This is especially true if you require a prescription mask and don’t want to wear contact lenses.
Even if you aren’t well off but still want to buy, you can consider getting a “starter” snorkel set and use it for a few months. If you are satisfied with it, you can slowly upgrade and replace each piece of equipment as you save up. Patient buyers can perhaps wait for a discount or buy used gear. It still beats out renting where who knows how many dozens or hundreds of people have used it.
Ironically, the counterargument for this point is that if you can afford buying it, then you can also afford to rent the best and not have to deal with packing all this snorkel gear and carrying it around. However, you’ll still run into the problem of possibly not getting the right fit or the gear not feeling comfortable.
You can maintain it to your standards
One major concern when it comes to renting or buying used is hygiene. You have no idea what the previous wearer has done to the snorkel gear. You also have no idea how well it was cleaned by the dive shop. Obviously, cleanliness is important for your health and also your peace of mind.
Particularly with how much COVID has shined a light on sanitizing everything and avoiding contamination, you would be crazy not to do a good job of it nowadays. It has always been a good idea to be hygienic even before COVID. You don’t want to catch a cold or get infected because you used contaminated equipment, and there still might be a risk of contracting COVID.
If you are a stickler for cleanliness, then perhaps it would be better off if you were in charge of sanitizing your own equipment. After all, you will do a much better job than someone who has to clean hundreds a day. You can take your time, making sure to clean around all the nooks and crannies and hard-to-reach spots.
Now, we aren’t saying that all dive shops do a bad job of cleaning their rental gear. We don’t want a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. However, it’s good to be cautious regardless, on the off chance that someone unintentionally did a poor job cleaning. When you own your own gear, especially knowing how much money you spent on it, you can ensure you do the best job maintaining it.
You want extra features
Do you like shiny new features? We like shiny new features. Sometimes you are sold on the marketing for a product. Maybe it’s a gimmick, maybe not, but if it truly has a use that suits your needs, then you might want to purchase that product specifically so you can take advantage of its shiny new feature.
When renting, you cannot guarantee that the dive shop will have the latest models of everything. Maybe you specifically care for a special feature in a snorkel, so perhaps you can purchase just a snorkel and rent the rest.
For instance, when it comes to full face masks, some people complain that there is a risk of CO2 buildup. However, there are newer models that claim that the design of the mask has drastically increased its airflow, completely ridding it of this risk. Or maybe the design of the snorkel on the mask makes it much easier to draw and expel the air. It’s up to you whether you believe these claims, however if you do, then wouldn’t you want that mask specifically?
There are always innovations and new products on the market that solve a problem. Maybe the old one is functional, but a newer product just feels or looks so much better. Again, there is no guarantee that dive shops will have the latest and greatest, especially if what you want is highly specific. Thus, buying ensures you can have it with you on your vacation instead of crossing your fingers and hoping you can just rent it.
Do you need to own your own gear to go snorkeling? No! Renting is a widely available option because the mask, snorkel, and fins are also used by scuba divers. Tourism is a massive industry for many countries, and there are dive shops literally all over the world that would love to have your business whether you’re renting scuba or snorkeling equipment.
However, depending on your circumstance, it’s not always clear if you should rent or buy your snorkel gear. When renting, there’s a risk of the gear being cheap, damaged, unreliable, and possibly unhygienic. You cannot guarantee that it will fit you, that it will feel comfortable, or that it will have the features you want.
However, if you don’t snorkel often enough, then it’s hard to justify buying when you can just rent. Even if you really like to snorkel, there is also the practical problem of not being able to fit all of the snorkel gear in your luggage, or not wanting to carry all of this equipment. Whether the problem is one of logistics or economics, it’s up to you to decide if you want to rent or buy.
Buying ensures many benefits. You know what to expect each time. You know that it will fit you, that it will feel comfortable, have all of the features you want, and that it’s hygienic. Maybe you really hate how the mask keeps fogging up and leaks, so you found one that rarely fogs up or leaks. Maybe you hate how water keeps entering your snorkel, so you got yourself a nice dry snorkel with a smooth float valve.
Having the peace of mind of knowing your gear is reliable can greatly improve your snorkeling experience. Also, who says you can only rent or buy? For something as important as the mask and snorkel, maybe you do want to buy, but then you can rent the rest. Or maybe you can start off with a cheap starter kit, and slowly replace each piece as you save up money.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer because everybody’s situation is different. The problem could just be a matter of money, or the situation might be more nuanced than that. Hopefully you are much more informed now to make the right decision regarding buying vs. renting your snorkel gear.