Why Are Snorkels So Short? 5 Reasons Explained

Last Updated: December 12, 2023

When snorkeling, you need the right gear to enjoy a safe and rich experience. One of the must-have snorkeling items is (obviously) a snorkel.

Getting a snorkel of the right size is essential. You may wonder what is the appropriate size. Yes, snorkels are available in various sizes, ranging from small to large.

In general, though, snorkels are meant to be short (not exceeding 16 inches) to enable you to expel any water that might get inside there as you swim. If the snorkel is too long, exhaling might become extremely hard – and this would be a safety hazard.

Does Snorkel Size Matter?

short snorkel

Yes, the size of your snorkel is of utmost importance. Your breathing tube size will determine if you will have a great or miserable experience.

A too-short snorkel will limit your ability to get enough air supply. A long one may form carbon dioxide air pockets, and is also tricky to unclog if water leaks inside.

What is the Standard Length of a Snorkel?

The standard length of a snorkel ranges from 12 to 15 inches. Snorkeling experts recommend a maximum length of 16 inches.

Why Can’t Snorkels Be Longer?

Experienced snorkelers recommend short snorkels rather than long for the following reasons.

1. Dead air pockets

Breathing comprises inhaling oxygen as fresh air and expelling carbon dioxide as used air. The body sometimes does not use all the air you take in. The unused air becomes pockets of dead air that are obstacles to the respiratory system.

A long snorkeling pipe creates additional pockets of dead air. Your respiratory system has to work harder to breathe past the obstacles. The situation causes a carbon build up in your system.

2. Challenging to unclog

You may be tempted to dive deeper when you have a long snorkel since the breathing tube is adequate. If in the process of going deeper water gets into the snorkel, it may be difficult to clear it.

The snorkel may then fill with water and block your breathing completely. In an extreme situation, the experience may become a drowning fatality if you get stuck in the waters.

3. Difficult to breathe through

A long snorkel increases the difference of the air pressure on the water surface and in your lungs. The discrepancy hampers your ability to get fresh air from the atmosphere.

Breathing through a long snorkel is difficult since the tube feels as if it is blocked. You have to use more energy to get fresh air. Sometimes you may be forced to breathe again the used air.

4. Increased pressure

When snorkeling, you need equipment that will enhance your floatation ability. A long snorkeling pipe, however, increases the weight of your gear.

Though a long snorkel may allow you to go deeper, it may be with difficulties. You may experience an increase of air and water pressure the deeper you go.

5. Break mask seal 

A long breathing tube is likely to tangle on your mask straps and break the seals. The heavy weight of the pipe can also pull it off from the face mask.

Can You Snorkel with a Long Hose?

Though it may be tempting to use a long garden hose as an alternative to a snorkel, it is advisable not to do so. Unlike a long hose, a snorkel is designed carefully to help you breathe in the water.

It is impractical to use a long hose for the following reasons:

  • Safety: One crucial issue to consider when snorkeling is your safety. Snorkeling with a garden hose may be risky since it may be too heavy. You may have insurmountable air and water pressure from the extra weight.
  • Weight: A garden hose is made of heavier material that is uncomfortable for snorkeling. It is also longer than 16 inches, the required maximum length of a snorkel. The extra length will increase the weight of your gear and reduce your buoyancy.
  • Snagging: The long hose pipe may snag on sea kelp forests and debris such as fishing nets. Your adventure may turn fatal if you get stuck under the water in the tangled mess.
  • Portability: If you have to travel, it may be challenging to fold and pack the hose pipe. Carrying around the heavy gear would be another problem.

Are Longer Snorkels Better Than Short Snorkels?

No, a long snorkel is not better than a short snorkel. In reality, it is advisable to use a short snorkel.

A short snorkel has the following advantages over a long one:

  •  Breathing: You can breathe normally and comfortably through a short snorkel. The pressure in the lungs and on the water surface are almost equal. Also, the short breathing tube is unlikely to build up carbon dioxide and hamper your breathing.
  • Lightweight: The breathing tube is light, hence exerts little air or water pressure on you when under the water. You can explore without the inconvenience of pulling along a heavy snorkeling pipe.
  • Safety: You are safer using a short snorkel than a long tube that may snag on ocean debris or kelp forests. A short snorkel has a tube long enough to only reach the water surface without lurching on everything on its path.
  • Clogging: Using a short snorkel will eliminate the challenges of a dead air spaces or carbon buildup. You can easily breathe in and expel air. Any water leaks into the snorkel are likewise easy to clear.


In a nutshell, snorkels are meant to be short because of the limited capacity of the human lungs. If the tube is too long and water gets in, it would be virtually impossible to expel it, thereby exposing one to the risk of drowning.

Also, a long tube is likely to encourage a buildup of carbon dioxide making it difficult to breathe normally.

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