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Snorkeling Clothes

Sunburn: Cover Your Back

The most hazardous element to snorkelers is the sun. In adverts we see snorkelers in skimpy bathing suits, but in "reality" you better cover up for better skin protection.

Even more than divers, snorkelers need full body protection to avoid jellyfish stings and the famous snorkeler's backside sunburn. Anything less is just silly.

Remember, your face may be submerged, but your back and parts of your legs are getting a full dose of ultraviolet rays. That warm tropical sun has far more burning power than most divers realise. Water and a light breeze can fool divers into baring more skin than they should. Too often, the result is a painful sunburn.

Sun Lotions

Most eight-hour waterproof sun blocks last less than 30 minutes when snorkeling in the ocean. That is why sunburn becomes a major problem not just for adults, but especially for children who wear off sun block very quickly. Rather that polluting the water with sun creams, wear full cover swim clothes with a fabric that has a 50+ UPF (UV Protection Factor).

Tight or Loose

Tight fitting swimsuits, like stingersuits, are easier to swim in. They streamline your shape so you can swim faster. On the other hand, many people don't like the tight fabric on their skin over a longer time.

Loose fitting anoraks and pants, sportswear, or your casual clothes like tee shirt, jeans and hoodie, will slow you down in the water but are more versatile. You can wear them around town all day and still look great in the water on the beach.

Make sure you pick clothes that feel good in the water and fit well both wet and dry. They should be soft and comfortable, because you may wear them all day on a snorkeling trip.

Try them first in your bath or a swimming pool. If possible, keep them on while they dry to see how fast and comfortable that goes.


A hood is essential to protect your head and ears from jellyfish or sunburn, as those parts get burned most often. Being attached to your swim top, it can't float away like a hat.

It should fit well and move with your head when you turn to the side. It must not obstruct your vision or slop around because it is too big. Keep it in place with the strap of your snorkel mask. Make sure your hair and hood stays out of your mask's face seal, or it will leak.

Hooded Swimsuits

Snorkeling is a great activity you can enjoy in a protective hooded swimsuit. You don't have to worry about getting too much sun on your back, because the fabric has a high UPF. You can take advantage of the scenery and not worry about getting sunburned or skin cancer.

A full length hooded swimsuit also keeps jellyfish, fire coral and other stinging hydroids from hurting you. Just make sure it does not float up in a way that it exposes your skin. The pants should have elastic around your ankles.

Your snorkeling suit is so comfy you may want to wear it all day. You can wear it in the pool or the sea. Just take a shower after your swim to rinse the salt water or chlorine out of your suit. Then let it dry on you, weather permitting.


If you don't like the feeling of skin tight Lycra or find it too revealing, try unlined rain wear. It is often soft and roomy, made from a quick drying fabric, and designed to get wet. If well fitted it gently floats around your body without getting in the way.

Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Longer shape anoraks or cagoules are better as they cover you even when they ride up a bit.

  2. Choose an anorak with a short zip or no zip. It has less bulk and often a useful front pocket for small bits.

  3. Your anorak and pants must be unlined or they fill up with air pockets which can be annoying when diving down.

  4. Choose rain pants that taper to a cuff at the arms and ankles. This will keep little critters from floating up inside.

  5. Wear a swimshirt underneath, tucked into your pants, just in case your anorak rides up or jellyfish tentacles drift inside it. A one piece overall is even better.

Jeans were the Original Diveskin

The original dive skins were tight jeans with a hooded pullover or neoprene jacket, known as a "Top and Levi's", used for swimming, free diving and SCUBA diving.

Wetsuit Alternative

At some dive locations, just suiting-up can be a chore. Here jeans, a T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt or dive top are all that you might need for a safe, fun dive. You don't need to change before or after diving, just hop in.

Many swimmers combine their jeans with dive fins, mask and snorkel for an incredibly practical and functional set of water wear at a fraction of the cost of a Lycra swimsuit. It offers minimal thermal protection but good cover against sun, abrasion, and stings.

Jeans and Negative Buoyancy

Some divers believe that jeans make excellent diving skins. They have a slight negative buoyancy, enabling a diver, either on scuba or free diving, to descend underwater more easily than with an all-neoprene diveskin, which is positively buoyant and requires lead weights to achieve the same result.

This is especially important in the ocean where salt water makes you more buoyant than in fresh water. The very same jeans that might feel 'heavy' to a beginner swimmer when they go into a pool, are the second skin to the experienced intrepid swimmer or diver in open water.

Jeans have the added benefit that they protect you from rough or sharp objects. The pockets are useful to keep your keys, and maybe small objects you may find underwater. Choose jeans that taper to narrow leg openings, to keep small critters out. Use rubber bands to close them off. A jeans jacket over a thin pullover completes this outfit.

Jeans can be purchased slim fit or tapered and some will shrink to fit. They can also be tucked into dive boots or cuffed to reduce drag underwater. The serge in the denim fabric of well fitting jeans acts like shark dendrites and funnels the water over the swimmer/diver's body allowing them to become hydrodynamic and swim faster underwater. With street clothes and a T-shirt or a neoprene dive top, you have the basics for a safe and fun dive.

Jeans for Thermal Protection

Levis 501, 505 and 512 Red Tab are the best styles from Levis Strauss for swimming and diving. In the water your jeans provide similar thermal protection as 1 mm neoprene.

However, jeans provide poor thermal characteristics out of the water on cold days. The wet cotton cools you down rather quickly, especially if there is any wind chill. Wet jeans stay wet and get cold in even moderate climates. The solution in cooler weather is to add a layer of lightweight nylon rainwear on top to prevent wind chill.

When worn with a 2-3 mm neoprene top, you can swim and dive in jeans quite comfortably in water 3-6°C cooler than you normally would. Jeans skins are effective in water above 18°C degrees. In water below 18°C, depending on the water athlete's tolerance to cold, a neoprene dive suit or skin should be worn to avoid hypothermia.

In warm weather and climates where a complete diveskin is needed underwater, but not at the warmer surface (which might cause over-heating), the neoprene jacket can be removed and you can swim with just your jeans and a T-shirt or lycra top. When broken-in properly and shrunk-to-fit, jeans are practical for many outdoor activities and aquatic sports in warm weather.

Casual Snorkeling Clothes

If you don't want to buy specialist snorkeling clothes, you can simply wear casual clothes when snorkeling, like jeans, a T-shirt and a long sleeve hooded pullover. They feel good in the water and provide good sunburn cover.

This outfit is more practical as you can also wear it when you don't go swimming and you don't need to change clothes before you go into the water. Use up your old clothes for swimming or snorkeling and save a fair bit of money.

When you go swimming or snorkeling in jeans and hoodies, remember that they will soak up more water than other swimming clothes. This makes them heavier when you come out of the water. They also take longer to dry which keeps you cool in hot climates.

Make sure you pick clothes that feel good and fit well both wet and dry. They should be soft and comfortable. Try them first in a pool or bath.

A hoodie provides good protection in the water from sunburn and other hazards. It is more comfortable than a neoprene jacket, but not as warm.

Wear a long (tall) T-shirt under the hoodie that you can tuck in. This avoids exposing bare skin to jellyfish if the hoodie rides up when you jump into the water.


Swimfins aren't really necessary for snorkeling, but they do help you to get down more quickly so that you can see more of the underwater world on a breath of air. Your main concern here is good fit when selecting fins. Nothing will raise a blister faster than ill-fitting fins. Socks may reduce chafing.

Scuba divers wear neoprene foam "booties" with their fins and this helps immensely. But because of the thickness of the booties, this may require a different foot size of fins. A larger fin area may allow you to swim somewhat faster but requires more "horsepower" to operate.

Comfy socks inside your fins or shoes avoid chafing. The thicker the fabric, the better they protect your feet.


Fins with a full heel provide better protection, as do watersport shoes or sandals. If you walk barefoot in shallow water near the reef, sharp corals or sea urchin spines can cause painful puncture wounds to the bottom of your feet which can lead to nasty infections.

Shoes designed for swimming and watersports have drain holes on the side. When you come out of the water, they empty quickly.

shoes for swimming

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