You might think, why should I wear clothes when snorkeling? Or why would I put on a shirt? In this article we talk you through the so called “Rash Guards”, special UV protective sportswear.
We first explain the pros and cons of rash guards. Available gear and helpful tips are listed further down below.
Advantages Of Rash Guards
We once covered drysuits and wetsuits in the past, however, make sure to understand this is a totally different type of clothing. Wetsuits are usually made of a 2-3 mm neoprene fabric in order to keep you warm. Rash guards on the other hand are often made of nylon and spandex.
One of the biggest advantages of rash guards is their UV protection. If you choose to wear a full body suit, you’ll only need to apply sunscreen on your face, hands and feet. Generally these clothes provide a sun protection factor of 50+. We share more information on how to avoid sunburns in our UV protection article.
Besides avoiding sun burns, think about the environment. Sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which sinks to the ocean floor and harms the marine life. Worldwide a whole lot of coral has disappeared over the past 50 years due to pollution. Therefore, if you wear a rash guard, you contribute to a healthier ocean. Here’s an article by National Geographic that explains things more in depth.
Depending on your snorkel location, and depending on the season, some water contains jellyfish. Even though lifeguards usually warn you by using a beach sign, there’s always a chance of meeting a few. Avoiding sting irritation or even pain can make your experience a whole lot better.
Besides jellyfish, think about other water insects like sea fleas for example. There are hundreds of different species that like to bite the human flesh once in a while. Every ocean has them, so why not come prepared?
Tip: If you’re anxious about tiny creatures, some people find help in wearing full face snorkel masks. Clicking the link will take you to our full review.
Lycra spandex is one of the options to go for. The advantage of lycra is it’s tear resistance. It’s stronger than most rubbers and allows for more stretching as well. Avoiding injuries is always a good thing. You can even combine a rash guard with protective water shoes if you wish.
Rocky oceans, especially combined with shallow water, could result in scratches or bigger wounds. Snorkeling close to the reefs can be amazing, but sudden currents can change your direction. Even though we should never touch any corals, hard coral can damage our skin if we don’t pay attention. Therefore, who knows wearing a full swimsuit will do the trick for you.
Some people prefer to snorkel with an Apple watch. If you own one that is waterproof, and if you want to take it with you, long sleeved rash guards could serve as a layer of protection.
Believe it or not, but soft spandex feels extremely comfortable to the skin. At least, for most of us. Feeling comfy in the water can help a few to get the best experience. We once wrote an article for people that are scared to snorkel. Feeling comfortable could definitely assist them on their first adventure.
The same goes for kids. In our giant guide for snorkeling with kids we already provide a whole lot of tips to help them out. A rash guard for children can make them feel relaxed and helps them to focus on the snorkeling part.
Most of these products allow you to choose a color. Bright neon colors can really stand out from the crowd and don’t have to look ugly at all. Bright yellow, hot pink, navy blue, the choices are endless. Combined with black they look pretty nice actually.
Appealing colors make it easy for you to keep an eye on your snorkel buddy, your partner or your kid. Especially if they are beginners this could make you all feel better. Lifeguards can also notice neon colors from a distance in case of emergency.
Disadvantages Of Rash Guards
Putting Them On
As obvious as it sounds, putting stretchy clothes on can be a hassle. Especially 1-piece bodysuits can take a moment to fit perfectly. You don’t want any folds or they might irritate you at some point.
It’s way easier to put on a shirt and leggings separately. Still, we ourselves prefer to wear them all-in-one. To us they feel more comfortable and the stretchy fabrics these days allow for a speedy change anyways.
Whilst the water will cool you down, in warm climates you can still sweat from all the excitement. Besides that, standing on the shore for whatever reason fully dressed isn’t exactly fun either. Who likes sweat odor in the end anyways?
Luckily a bunch of rash guards these days are able to absorb sweat. Throughout the day you don’t have to worry about odors too much. Once you’re back home or in your hotel room you simply rinse it and you’re done.
Once you get out of the water you might want to take these clothes off. However, we ourselves sometimes prefer to leave it on, especially if we’re just having a 15 minute break. Sometimes we even chill out on a reef and enjoy the view for a moment.
Wearing wet clothes can be annoying, especially on windy days. Using a towel can help partially, but doesn’t take away the water completely. Therefore, try to find a product that dries quickly. We’ll talk about available gear later on.
We guess that for most people this won’t be an issue. A rash guard can easily be stored in your suitcase or snorkeling backpack. However, if you’re like us, from time to time we travel only with hand luggage. Bringing snorkel gear, clothes, shoes, and all the other stuff that you need can quickly add up. Airports only allow certain sizes and weights when it comes to carry-on luggage. In other words, you might need to skip your favorite cocktail dress if you want to bring a snorkel suit.
Tip: If you plan to travel with only carry-on luggage, check out our article called “Can You Bring Snorkel Gear On A Plane?“.
Even though a decent guard won’t cost you a fortune, buying all snorkel gear at once can result in a good amount of money. If you’re on a budget, maybe you’re selecting which gear to buy first. Should you go for a suit at all? Do you need one for yourself or does the whole family want one as well?
Good quality bodysuits are on sale for about 30 dollars. We guess that’s more than enough when it comes to expenses. However, if you go for some of the famous brands you likely pay twice the amount. It all depends on what makes you feel good. If your kids grow, why buy the most expensive one for just a year or so? Things to take into consideration.
Choosing The Right Gear
Best Bang For Your Buck
In regards to all the criteria we mentioned in this article, this rash guard is a safe choice. It meets all the specifications and sells for around 30 bucks. It’s available for men and women and allows you to select your preferred color. Even full black if that’s what you prefer. There’s a size chart and a whole lot of reviews to go through if you wish. If you’re interested you can check it’s latest price at Amazon here.
Best Choice For Kids
Kids can grow rapidly, which means you might end up buying a new swimsuit every other year or so. If you prefer long sleeves and proper sun protection, here’s a product to consider. There are a lot of short sleeve rash guards as well, however, for snorkel kids it’s definitely worth it to go for maximum protection. This one in particular sells for around 20 bucks. If you’re interested, here’s a link to Amazon in order to read more and to discover similar items.
Taking It To The Next Level
In case you really want to go full throttle, let’s just take a moment to cover a few additional items.
If covering your head is important for one reason or the other, think about getting a suit that comes with an attached hood. You can also buy one separately in order to wear it occasionally. Some people prefer to cover the top and the back of their head, for example when they are bald. Catching a sunburn in open water can happen fast.
Some rash guards come with attached (semi) gloves, which means they cover your hand partially. Full snorkel gloves can be bought separately if you really need to. We’re not supposed to touch any corals anyways, so why would you need them? Some people enjoy gloves because they climb the reefs in between snorkeling. Others buy a pair that allows for more grip when holding gadgets like a GoPro or a selfie stick.
Tip: If you’re interested in underwater photography, feel free to read our guide about snorkeling with a GoPro.
Water shoes can come in handy when the ocean floor is rocky. Especially if the water entrance contains big stones or even sharp edges. Just remember that if you want to wear these shoes combined with snorkel fins, you must always opt for open-heel-fins. Playful kids that get lost in all the excitement are able to hurt themselves easily. Climbing rocks or cliffs can be fun, even for adults, so who knows these shoes are something to consider.
Tip: More necessary and luxury equipment can be found in our article about gifts for snorkelers.
Wearing a rash guard may seem like a “luxury item” to have, however, whenever we go on a snorkeling expedition they’re literally everywhere. There are a good amount of reasons to get one, not only for adults but just as well for kids.
If you only snorkel a few minutes per day whilst on a family holiday, we guess most people don’t bring one. Maybe if you or your child has a sensitive skin, sure, it will help definitely. But most of the time we don’t come across these swimsuits when we’re chilling on the beach.
The main reason to get one is it’s protection layer. UV light, stings or scratches can really have an impact on your snorkel excursion. Depending on where you are going and on how much snorkeling you’re planing to do, maybe this gear will help you out.
Last but not least, one final thing to be aware of: If your entire family prefers to wear a rash guard, not only transportation but also carrying your entire collection of snorkel gear to the beach can be a hassle. Of course, if you own one of those beach carts there won’t be an issue. But keep in mind that rash guards take up a decent amount of space.