Models Reviewed In This Article: Apollo Prestige, Sherwood Avid
There was a time when you'd be hard-pressed to find a geared-up scuba diver without a snorkel hanging from his or her mask. After all, you can save a lot of tank air kicking out to the dive site on the surface, and when you're out of air it's a lot easier returning to the boat or the beach when you have a snorkel to suck on. Still, a snorkel can be as much of a hassle as a help. Dangling from your mask strap, hanging up on gear, ruining your mask seal, smacking you in the face. Who needs the aggravation?
Of course, there are times when you'll be glad to have one with you. So rather than going totally without, how about equipping yourself with a stowable snorkel, one designed to be carried off the mask strap and out of the way, but that's easily deployable when you really need it. Here are two that fit the bill.
At first glance, the Prestige appears to be a traditional snorkel, but Apollo refers to it as the "original foldable" snorkel. Though not obvious that it's bendable, the snorkel does in fact fold into thirds and fits easily in a BC pocket. Out of curiosity, we stuffed the folded Prestige snorkel in a BC pocket for 24 hours to see if we could stress the tube material. But when removed, the flexible polyurethane tube immediately sprang back to its original shape.
In the water, the Prestige performs more like a traditional snorkel than the Avid. It comes with a purge valve, so clearing water from a free dive is relatively easy. There's also an exhaust cap at the top of the tube designed to assist in clearing. But if you're not convinced it's helping (we weren't) it's easy to remove.
The Prestige has a nifty clip that provides easy attachment and detachment from the mask. It both pivots and slides freely on the snorkel tube between a couple of molded tabs. This allows you to keep the snorkel out of your face when you're not using it, while limiting the amount of up and down travel. The mouthpiece also has a position adjustment to optimize comfort.
MATERIAL: Ultra-flexible polyurethane tube with silicone mouthpiece.
STRAP ATTACHMENT: Hinged clip with quick-release.
STOWED LENGTH: 7 inches.
CONTACT: Apollo Sports USA, (800) 231-0909.
Perfect Pocket Pal
The Avid is a bona fide foldable snorkel. The rigid plastic body is hinged, and a corrugated hose with silicone mouthpiece tucks up into the body for storage. The folded unit stows easily in a BC pocket. When you need it, simply unfold the body and snap it into position, pull down on the mouthpiece to extend the corrugated hose to the desired length, clip it onto your mask strap and you're ready to snorkel.
While an innovative design, the Avid has its limitations. Primarily, it doesn't have a purge, so clearing the snorkel can be difficult. We found that if we stayed on the surface, the Avid performed well and stayed relatively dry. But when we dipped down for some free diving, upon returning to the surface we couldn't clear the snorkel by blowing water out the top of the tube. Instead, we had to break the tube open, drain the water, then snap it back into position.
Bottom line: the Avid shouldn't be seen as a traditional snorkel. Rather, it's more of a "stand-in" snorkel used strictly for surface swims. Kind of like those mini-spare tires that come with new cars; they're great for getting you to the nearest gas station, but you really don't want to take them on a full-blown road trip. With the Avid, you can't enjoy the breathing versatility you get from a traditional snorkel, but then again, you can't put a traditional snorkel in your pocket.
MATERIAL: Plastic tube with telescoping corrugated hose and silicone mouthpiece.
STRAP ATTACHMENT: Belt clip style.
STOWED LENGTH: 6 inches.
CONTACT: Sherwood Scuba, (716) 283-2270.