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Clothing and Packing for a Tropical Paddling and Snorkeling Trip


Whether you're a novice kayaker, experienced paddleboarder or trying snorkeling for this first time, these tips are for you especially if you are planning on a paddling adventure in Belize or another tropical destination.

Clothing for Paddling & Snorkeling in the Tropics

Paddling and snorkeling in the tropics can be an experience of a lifetime but it’s critical to have the right gear.  

Protection from the sun is one of the main concerns when paddling in tropical climates. A wide-brimmed hat is essential.  We suggest Shelta Hats which design high-performance sun hats for athletes and adventurers.

A rash guard with built-in UV protection is a must bring on a tropical paddling and snorkeling trip. Rash guards are made with lightweight materials which also have excellent wicking properties. Avoid cotton when paddling in the tropics, as it takes a long time to dry and once the salt gets into the clothing it will actually draw in moisture from the humid air.

Kayak on Glover’s Reef, Belize
Preparing for a day of paddling on Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize

For snorkeling in the tropics, a lightweight wetsuit or a spandex/lycra dive suit will keep you from getting cold, especially when spending extended time in the water. Polypropylene or capilene long underwear works as well. This method also protects against sunburn and reduces the need for full body application of sunscreen in the water, as residues from sunscreens will harm corals.

When packing for your trip, make sure you bring a good biodegradable coral reef-friendly sun-block and pack light-coloured clothing.  

Natalie Preddie , a travel writer with the Toronto Star joined us on a Belize paddling adventure.  She embarked on the Paradise Islands paddling journey in the beautiful Southwater Caye Marine Reserve.

Find out in this video what items she found at MEC before heading out on her Belize paddling trip:

Check out our detailed Belize packing and planning lists for more great tips on what to bring on your next paddling adventure.

What to Pack for Snorkeling in the Tropics

Bringing your own snorkel, mask and fins is a must do if you planning on snorkeling in a tropical destination. Snorkeling equipment is not readily available in many destinations, such as Belize. Here are some great tips on how to shop for the perfectly fitting snorkel mask:

  • Check that there is a smooth seal around the mask.  Both rubber and silicone work well.  Check that the material is not cracked, brittle, or stiff - all signs of an old mask.
  • Press the mask to face and inhale through your nose.  Do not put the strap around your head but leave it off in front of the mask.  If the mask seals it will stay on your face even when you tilt your head down.  Check that no hair gets between the mask and your face to break the seal.
  • Make sure the front of the mask does not press against the bridge of your nose.  This will get worse the deeper you dive.  Vaseline around the edge of the mask helps for a better seal for men with beards or moustaches.
  • Make sure the snorkel fits comfortably in your mouth.  With fins, a snug fit is best.  Complete foot fins rather than those with a strap around the heel are preferred.  Leave enough room for socks if you wish.
  • Above all else, try the mask in water (pool, bathtub, etc.) before you arrive.  A good dive shop will gladly exchange an ill-fitting mask for one with a better fit.

Snorkeling Glovers Reef, Belize
A perfectly fitting snorkel mask will ensure you see the best of the underwater world

For more information check out this essential information for paddling and snorkeling in the topics.