What is a Dry Snorkel and How Does it Work?

Last Updated: December 12, 2023

What is the secret to a fulfilling snorkeling trip? A good snorkel, of course. Now, if you have been conducting research on this type of water gear, chances are that you have come across the name dry snorkel.

Basically, snorkels fall into three categories namely wet, semi-dry, and dry. Each one of them has its fair share of merits and demerits but my focus for today is on the dry snorkel variant.

So, what on earth is a dry snorkel? A dry snorkel is one that comes with a one-way valve or hinge mechanism meant to keep water from the breathing tube. Designed with beginners in mind, dry snorkels can help keep you comfortable even when the entire breathing tube is under water.

How Does a Dry Snorkel Work?

man with dry snorkel

The one-way valve or hinge mechanism is the main feature setting dry or dry-top snorkels apart from the other snorkel types. The idea behind dry snorkels is that should you completely submerge underwater either by design or accident, the one-way valve will automatically shut the breathing tube to prevent water from filling it up.

That way, you can keep exhaling without worrying too much about liters of water filling up your mouth.

But how exactly does the snorkel detect that you’re now under water so it can shut the tube? Well, the one-way valve or hinge mechanism uses buoyancy force to open and close.

This mechanism works in almost the same way toilet float valves do. That is, the valve opens as soon as the top end of the tube is safely above the water surface and shuts as the water level rises (as you submerge).

Something worth clarifying, however, is that much as they are called “dry snorkels” they are not always 100% dry. Some water still finds its way into the tube though in small quantities. This explains why a purge valve is always in place to help you blast out the water by exhaling forcefully.

As you can imagine, dry-top snorkels are built with beginners in mind. But even then, some experienced divers may still prefer to use them so they don’t have to worry about water constantly getting into their mouths as they swim.

Dry Snorkel Parts

Float Valve

This is the main point of dry snorkels. Also called a dry valve, it sits on top of the tube and seals to prevent water entering when the snorkel is submerged.

Splash Guard

Since the float valve seals only when the snorkel is submerged, dry snorkels also feature a splash guard on top of the tube to keep water out when on the surface. This can be caused by waves and splashes from your own movement or swimmers nearby.


The long part through which you can breathe.

Flex Tube

Most dry snorkels have a flexible material (usually silicone) at the bottom of the tube to provide a more adjustable and comfortable fit. This allows for the mouthpiece to come off when you’re not using it, so it doesn’t get in the way when you take a break.

Snorkel Clip

Most snorkels have a clip (also called a snorkel keeper) on the tube to secure it to the mask strap. Some models come with a quick-release clip, which means you can easily remove the mask from the snorkel, and a swivel bracket for more mounting options.


The top dry snorkels should have a soft silicone mouthpiece for a comfortable fit.


It is a small area below the mouthpiece where all the water that gets into the tube will stay.

One-way Purge Valve

This valve, that sits at the bottom of the snorkel, allows the user to easily drain the water that accidentally enters the tube. Without it, the water must be pushed out through the top of the tube, which requires extra lung strength and a bit of experience.

Dry Snorkel vs Semi-Dry vs Wet Snorkel Differences

Unless you’re a seasoned snorkeler, chances are that you’ll struggle to pick out the differences between these three types of snorkels. I mean, they all look almost exactly the same unless you have a really keen eye for detail. The truth, however, is that dry, semi-dry, and wet snorkels are quite different. Here are some of the key differences worth keeping in mind.

Design Differences

Dry snorkels come with all the bells and whistles you can expect from sophisticated snorkeling gear. In other words, their design is relatively complex and clearly demands more thought to come up with.

Some even come with tiny balls, others come with funny-looking top covers with hinges. Whatever their design, all dry snorkels are meant to achieve one objective which is to lock out water immediately after you sink deep enough to have the entire j-tube submerged.

Semi-dry snorkels are a lot simpler as they don’t have float valves. However, they do have all the other accessories that you’d expect from a dry snorkel – such as purge valve, splash guards.

Wet snorkels, on the other hand, are really simple in design. They are mostly made up of a simple j-shaped tube along with a mouthpiece.

Comfort Features

Because dry snorkels are designed for beginners, they also come with more comfort features than any other type. By comfort features, I am referring to things like float valves, flex tubing, purge valves, and splash guards among others.

Semi-dry valves have almost similar features only that they lack a float-valve mechanism while wet snorkels come with nothing but the j-tube, mask clip, and mouthpiece.

Size Difference

Dry snorkels tend to be wider and bulkier than other types and that is because they play host to a wide variety of features. That said, whether dry or wet, snorkels are pretty much of the same height for safety reasons.

It also goes without saying that dry-top snorkels also tend to weigh slightly more than their equivalent semi-dry and wet counterparts.


You can expect to cough out more cash when buying a dry snorkel as opposed to other type of snorkels. This stems from the fact that these snorkels take more man hours to build and also demand more attention to detail.

In most cases, the price of quality dry snorkels falls in the range of $25 to $80 while that of semi-dry ones falls in the range of $20 to $50.

Wet snorkels are always the cheapest of the three. Good quality wet snorkels mostly retail in the range of $7 to $15.

Pros and Cons of Using a Dry Snorkel

So, why should you consider putting your money in a dry snorkel as opposed to any other snorkel available out there? And are there scenarios where you’re better off avoiding dry snorkels altogether? Let me break down the pros and cons of dry-top snorkels for you.

  • Minimal quantities of water in the j-tube
  • All the comfort features beginners need to build confidence
  • Purge valve for easy clearing when necessary
  • Typically have flex tube design for a custom fit
  • Ideal for uninterrupted snorkeling
  • Easier to remain focused
  • Their unique design makes it easier to conserve energy as you snorkel
  • Unwanted buoyancy due to trapped air
  • Bulky design and extra features make them less streamlined
  • They cost slightly more than other snorkel types

What is the Best Dry Snorkel?

Although many different snorkel brands exist, it is important to note that you always get what you pay for. Some cheap knock-offs might seem like the ideal choice to settle for but they might not be sealed correctly. They might not even be able to survive long owing to the harshness of saltwater and summer heat.

In a nutshell, to get the best dry snorkel you’re better off insisting on quality, over and above everything else.

Talking about quality here is a round-up of some best-rated dry snorkels available out there.

1. Cressi Dry Snorkel (Supernova)

It’s easy to see why this Italian-designed dry snorkel ranks highly in multiple reviews. The Supernova comes with all the features you’d expect from a high-quality snorkel, yet doesn’t go for a crazy price.

Key Features

  • Wide elliptical bore shape for enhanced airflow capacity
  • Flexible yet durable corrugated tube made from silicone
  • An easy-to-swallow mouthpiece complete with durable silicone
  • Handy mask attachment feature with quick-release mechanism
  • Purge valve and reservoir for collecting any water that gets in


2. Kraken Aquatics Dry-Top Snorkel

Built by a company that prides itself in being a market leader in innovation, the Kraken Aquatics dry snorkel comes fully loaded with all the features you need to enjoy your snorkeling trips. Inside each j-tube is a floating valve mechanism that uses balls to close the tube when you’re under water. But is there more to expect from this affordably-priced snorkel?

Key Features

  • Ergonomic silicone mouthpiece with a comfortable fit for prolonged use
  • Flexible hose made from silicone
  • One-way purge valve for easy blowing out of water
  • Simple clip for holding your mask in place and allow for adjustments


3. Aegend Dry Snorkel

Aegend may not be a household brand but they sure have been producing good swimming gear since 2015. So, what’s so good about their dry snorkel?

Key Features

  • High-quality mouthpiece made from food-grade silicone
  • Large-diameter tube designed for near-effortless breathing
  • Unique dry top that prevents accidental water splashes
  • Handy purge valve just in case some water finds its way inside the tube


Tips For Using a Dry Snorkel

First things first, when it comes to snorkeling you want to make sure that you choose a mask that fits you perfectly. There shouldn’t be any loose edges around the seals or twists on the straps.

Above all, always wear your mask correctly. Avoid having it sit at the base of your head as this can cause the mask to move out of position as you swim.

You also want to make sure that the mouthpiece fits perfectly in place. If it is putting too much strain on your lips and jaw it probably isn’t the right match for you.

Other than those basic tips, here is what you need to always keep in mind before taking a dip with one of these.

  • The best way to snorkel is by keeping your head facing directly below and your chin tucked. Avoid keeping your head looking ahead.
  • Situational awareness is an important part of snorkeling. Always be prepared to deal with waves, and choppy waters and to occasionally get water in your mouth.
  • It is not uncommon for snorkels to jam. If that happens, stay calm, resurface, and inspect what might be the problem with the valve mechanism.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Dry Snorkel Better?

Thanks to the fact that it comes with a wide variety of features, a dry snorkel might be the better option for beginners and hobbyists. However, it might not be the best option for divers and anglers who might find its buoyancy a bit of a bother.

Can You Breathe Underwater With a Dry Snorkel?

No. It is not possible to breathe underwater with a dry snorkel. For that, you would need to invest in a dive tank or swim near the surface of the water.

How Long Can You Stay Underwater With a Dry Snorkel?

Since a dry snorkel doesn’t enable you to breathe under the water, it follows that the length of time you can last below the surface is as long as you can comfortably hold your breath. For most people that is well under 1 minute.

Are There Snorkels That Don’t Let Water In?

All kinds of snorkels do allow some water in. The only difference is that dry ones only let in small quantities that you can easily blast out. You can, however, expect semi-dry and wet ones to let in significantly larger water quantities.

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