A newly improved mask and a slick new fin might convince scuba diehards that snorkeling is a worthy pursuit in its own right.
With its teardrop-shaped lenses, the original Big Eyes helped shift mask design into a new gear, and the latest version OK, Evolution is even better. It boasts a dual density silicone skirt that provides a more-secure seal and gentler fit, as well as improved strap buckles that swivel in all directions. The Gamma snorkel uses a curved tube design with a flexible, pre-bent lower section that keeps the mouthpiece properly positioned. A simple guard helps deflect incoming water. Wrapping up the set is Cressi-Sub's new Palau open-heel snorkeling fin. Designed to be worn without boots, it uses an ergonomic foot pocket and adjustable heel strap to accommodate multiple shoe sizes.
It's hard not to be a big fan of the Big Eyes Evolution. The teardrop lenses still deliver the goods, especially when it comes to vertical field of view. The new buckles worked well, although they're a bit small and might be a challenge with thick gloves. The Gamma snorkel was adequate, but did not breathe as easily as some other models and could benefit from an upgraded mouthpiece. Its main asset is a compact, no-frills build. Last but not least, the Palau fins were the surprise performers.
We found the new open-heel, barefoot design shockingly comfortable, so much so that we want a beefier pair for scuba work. Surface performance was unmatched. The kick cycle was silky smooth and delivered plenty of propulsion. These are perhaps the best pure snorkeling fins we've seen in a long time.
MSRP $88 (M), $22 (S), $44 (F)