Dry Snorkels are not really new to the world of snorkeling. If you are old enough, you might remember a dry apparatus that, rather than being attached to the mask strap, it was integrated into the mask itself. It was the Nautilus Twin Snorkel Mask. The two snorkels protruded from the upper corners of the mask perpendicular to the viewing faceplate. The dry feature consisted of two birdcages like holders that housed ping pong balls. When submerged, the ping pong balls would float up to seal the air inlet portions of the breathing barrels. While this was good in theory, several factors came into play that made this a mask one to avoid rather than to use.
One of the factors was Boyle’s Law of Physics which refers to pressure and volume relationships of gasses. The ping pong ball is a shell with an internal air space. As external pressure (in this case, the pressure exerted by the weight of the water) is added to the shell, the gas on the inside would compress. If enough pressure were exerted, the ping pong ball would crush allowing water to enter, flooding the entire mask. Snorkels that were independent of the mask used the same dry style birdcage and ping pong ball design quickly fell into disfavor and the dry concept fell to the wayside for 20 plus years.
TODAYS DRY SNORKELS
The Total Dry design (picture to the left) resurfaced again in the 1990’s with heavy, clunky styles that eventually evolved into the sleek and efficient models that are seen today. Since their reintroduction, they have fast become the preferred snorkel of enthusiasts worldwide. The purpose of the “dry” design is to keep water from entering the breathing tube while the snorkel is in active use. This is achieved by the top of the snorkel itself. It works varying with each manufacturer but the principle is the same.
When the top of the snorkel goes below the waterline, the mechanism will seal the breathing tube to prevent water from entering. When the top of the snorkel returns above the waterline, it opens again allowing air to move freely. Some manufacturers use a float/pivot or a float/ball design but the principle is still the same.The mechanism will also have a plastic shroud around it which acts as a water deflector or splash guard. It is meant to keep water from entering (from spray or splashing) while the top of the tube is above the waterline and the snorkel is actively being used.
Having a dry snorkel does not mean that there will never, ever be water in your snorkel. If you were to take the mouthpiece out and allow it to go below the waterline, there is nothing to stop water entering through there. Fear not because manufacturers did take this into account by adding a one-way “purge” valve at the base of the snorkel which will allow you to expel the water. All it takes is one or two short, sharp exhalations and the water is out. Water may also enter if there is sand, grit or salt deposits in or around the dry mechanism area or the purge valve. A proper cleaning and rinsing of the snorkel usually enough to prevent that.
So, what are the advantages of a dry snorkel?
- No Water
Obviously, this is the biggest advantage of these types of snorkels. If they work properly you should not get that mouthful of water which inevitably happens with other types of snorkels.
- Saves Energy
These snorkels should allow the snorkeler to conserve some energy and swim more efficiently. The person won’t have to forcefully blow air out the tube or raise their head to clear out the snorkel. Ideally, it will be one uninterrupted swim.
What about the disadvantages of a dry snorkel?
- Possible Air Blockage
Some people have reported that sometimes the valve on the snorkel will close when it is not supposed to, making it difficult to get a breath. Of course, all you have to do is raise your head to get air but this pretty much defeats the purpose of this type snorkel.
- Buoyant Underwater
I have also read reviews from scuba divers who complain that the snorkel bangs them in the head underwater and “floats” around. Of course, this can and does, happen with any type of snorkel.
Many of these snorkels come with other bells and whistles, making it bulkier than the plain jane snorkels. This can cause more drag and may cause it to pull on your mask more than a streamlined snorkel.
Reading about people’s opinions and reviews of these types of snorkels online, there seem to be 2 themes that reoccur.
The first is “I absolutely love this snorkel” and the second -“I haven’t used it in a long time, want to buy it?”
I found more positive opinions of the snorkel when people were using them for pure snorkeling and not for scuba diving. This may be something to take into consideration if you are thinking of using this type of snorkel while diving.