When it comes to full face snorkel masks it’s not a matter of “good” or “bad”. It’s more a matter of personal preferences and one’s expectations. We have tried a couple over the past years, and even though we don’t often wear one, they have their advantages.
This guide is meant to provide a better understanding of these masks, which ones to maybe consider, together with their pro’s and con’s. If you give it just a couple of minutes, you probably figure out if this is the kind of gear you need (or not).
Pro’s and Con’s
Let’s first take a look at the most important advantages before we cover their downsides and even risks.
The Benefits of Full Face Snorkel Masks
Let’s understand why some people prefer them in the first place. They are becoming more popular these days, with even beginner snorkelers choosing this type over the traditional “separate” snorkel. So why is that exactly?
Breathing Is More Natural
One benefit of this mask is that snorkelers can breathe through their nose, just like they normally would. Of course, they can also breathe through their mouth. This mask is more versatile, and snorkelers do not have to worry about accidentally inhaling water up their nose.
They Are More Comfortable
People find this mask to be more comfortable because they don’t have to hold a separate snorkel in their mouth. It can be tiring to bite down on the snorkel and hold it in place for long periods of time. Not always, but often, people snorkel for over an hour or so. This mask eases this burden and allows for more comfort.
They Increase Visibility
Often, the full face snorkel mask has a curved lens that allows snorkelers to enjoy a 180 degree view of all that is under the surface of the water. Because the frame extends behind the snorkeler’s line of vision, they have greater visibility and can therefore see more.
Lower Chance of Leaking
This type of mask seals around the entire face, which makes it less likely that any water will get inside. It is much easier to keep the seal around the flat parts of the face than when the mask goes around the nose and other more complex facial features. Smiling or talking can allow water to enter, especially when the seal is around the mouth or nose.
They Don’t Fog as Easily
These masks fog less easily than traditional masks. This is the result of a (dual) ventilation system that facilitates air circulating while the mask is on. Not every mask comes with this quality, so make sure you check that out before purchasing.
They Have a Built-in Dry Top Snorkel
The snorkel is built into the mask, and it has a dry top. This means that it keeps water out, even if the ocean is rough or the snorkeler decides to dive down a little further. In a way, that’s what most separate snorkels offer these days as well.
The Disadvantages of Full Face Snorkel Masks
Although the benefits are great and make snorkelers lean toward this product, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well.
They Are Quite Big
There is no way around the fact that they are bigger than traditional masks. They will take up more space in your bag, and it’s just a larger item. Some allow you to detach the snorkel, which makes it easier to pack. In the end it’s always a space consuming product. If you’re interested, feel free to also read our article about bringing snorkel gear on a plane.
It Is Easy to Scratch the Plastic Lens
This mask is bigger and so is the lens. It scratches easily if you’re not careful. The mask should always be carefully packed, and you should place it in a carrying case if you have one. Don’t leave it behind on a sandy or rocky surface, you never know what might happen. In the end it’s plastic.
It won’t be possible to freedive with this mask. If you try to dive too deep, the air in the mask will create a very strong pressure on your face. When you use a traditional mask, you are able to exhale through your nose to release the pressure, or clear by stopping your nose. That’s not possible with this mask. If you love to dive down to get closer to the marine life, this mask won’t do the trick.
Beginners Do Not Learn Basic Snorkeling Skills
One of the first things newbies learn, is how to breathe through the snorkel. When you use a full face mask, you don’t need to worry about that. You simply slide the mask on and breathe how you normally would. When users begin with this mask, they don’t learn the basic techniques of snorkeling.
Tip: In case you decide to get one, you might experience a little resistance whilst breathing. It depends on the mask and how good the airflow is. It’s best to try it first like in the bath tub for example.
Dangers of Full Face Snorkel Masks
Snorkelers have expressed fear of certain full face snorkel masks. The first danger is that there could be carbon dioxide (CO2) build-up in the mask. The mask is large and covers the entire face, and the snorkel has a flap to prevent water from coming in. There is concern that if people snorkel for too long, carbon dioxide will build up in the mask and cause snorkelers to become disoriented.
As a matter of fact, some manufacturers warn that if you exercise vigorously, you may not get enough oxygen, and you will need to breathe through your mouth.
There is a continuous debate about this topic. New and more advanced full face masks come with an increased airflow. It’s always wise to consider a product that has been tested by the manufacturer. We cover 2 of them later on in this article.
Whether or not you feel like getting one of these masks, some people find a whole lot of comfort in special situations.
People who are scared to snorkel are often struggling with the idea of breathing underwater. It goes against our natural behavior. By using this type of mask they are able to breathe the way they’re used to. Snorkeling can be overwhelming for some of us, so this could be a great solution.
Snorkeling with a beard or moustache can sometimes result in leakage when wearing a regular mask. Full face snorkel masks are not always a solution by default, but they can do the trick. Moustaches aren’t included in the seal. Beards on the other hand might still cause a problem, depending on their size and location. But who knows, this can work.
People With Dentures
Snorkeling with dentures can be tricky for some people, especially if their dentures are loose. Biting into a snorkel can either be uncomfortable or even painful. There is also the risk of losing your dentures when you take out the snorkel. If this happens in the ocean, who knows they come off. A mask that covers the entire face and that allows you to breathe normally might do the trick. And in case they fall out anyways, they should land in your mask (as long as it’s on).
People With Glasses
Even though there is no “perfect” solution to snorkel with glasses, there is one full face mask that allows you to do so. It’s designed by a company called “Ocean Reef”, however, you need to wear their glasses inside the mask. Still, it can be of help if you don’t feel like getting prescription masks or wearing contact lenses. Maybe not the biggest advantage of this type of gear, but still worth mentioning.
Personally we don’t use this type of mask regularly, but it provides an easy way for us to snorkel with a GoPro. Most of the newest versions should be waterproof, just make sure you check that out before you give it a try.
Anyways, some full face masks come with a GoPro mount on top. This means, wherever you’re looking, that’s about what you’re filming. When I go snorkeling with my daughter I usually hold my camera in my hand, or even better, on a pole. However, sometimes it’s fun to have both hands free. I also use it when I go snorkeling alone in calm water where there is a lot of marine life to explore. Stay steady and let the camera do it’s work. Once you see the footage, you will understand how to use it best.
When going on a snorkel excursion, like one of the boat trips most holiday destinations offer, it could also be fun to have a camera stuck to your head. Depending on the capacity of the memory stick, you could be filming a whole bunch of stuff. Just remember that if you join a group, many unexpected and funny things can happen. Just make sure you stay safe.
Integrated Walkie Talkie
Gadget fans might find this interesting. There is one full face snorkel mask that allows you to communicate with your snorkel buddies. The so called “Snorkie Talkie” is an add-on product for the Aria mask (by Ocean Reef).
We won’t spend too much time on explaining the product as we have already done so in the past. If you really want to know more, or if you really need one (guess it’s quite a bit of a luxury), feel free to read our full guide.
There are a couple of good reasons why someone could find help in this kind of gear. Think about people who snorkel but can’t swim, always good to mention everything is fine in order to boost their confidence. Or how about giving someone a warning sign when they snorkel in the rain, or someone who is just too afraid to snorkel. Staying in touch has it’s advantages, even though this still is pretty much a fun product.
Anyways, besides this being luxury most of the time, it’s only available for Aria full face masks. If you think about the right mask for yourself, and if you want to communicate, who knows we helped out a few of you. Or if it’s just one person, that would already be great!
Our Top 2 Product Reviews
Allright, if you made it this far, chances are you are still interested in a snorkel mask that covers the entire face. So which one should you get? If you take a look online there’s more than 500 of them to choose from.
We’re not here to say that some products are bad, we just want to tell you our top 2 when it comes to quality, airflow, and additional features.
The Aria Mask by Ocean Reef
Not only is this a very popular mask (with great reviews) amongst snorkelers, the Ocean Reef brand is a well established company and widely known for it’s high quality. That’s why we also added it to our list of gifts for snorkelers.
Let’s start with the most important thing. Ocean Reef has been testing their new masks in a laboratory they don’t own themselves. In other words, an independent company did that for them. After successful results, Ocean Reef patented their air circulation system that minimizes CO2 build-up.
If you are an experienced snorkeler, or if you even just enjoyed it a little bit, you might know how annoying fog can be. Sure, we can remove it or use a defogging spray, but it’s still disturbing. Because of the newest air circulation inside the mask, fogging is no more an issue.
Almost every full face mask allows for a 180 degree vision. However, Ocean Reef made sure your view is optimized as much as possible. Not just the plastic you look through, but also the black seal that attaches to your face avoids reflection as much as possible.
If gadgets is your thing, then probably this is your mask. Both a GoPro and a walkie talkie are possible to attach. The camera goes on top of the mask (just above your forehead), and the communication accessory attaches to the snorkel top (and your ear obviously).
If you want the newest Aria mask, remember they cost somewhere around 90 bucks. Not exactly cheap since you could get one for around 20 bucks as well. However, in our opinion, maximum airflow is the most important thing to keep in mind. Here is the Amazon link.
The walkie talkie will cost you 80 bucks, a quite expensive gadget. But well, we all have our own budget. Also keep in mind that you would need at least 2 of them, which makes it quite an investment. You can find it here at Amazon.
For the GoPro we would advise you to read our GoPro guide first. Don’t just buy one but make sure you only pay for what you need. Most of the time it’s not necessary to go for the newest one, unless you want to record extremely stable videos.
If you want to learn more on the Ocean Reef website, this link will take you there directly.
Wildhorn Outfitter Seaview
In a way this mask comes with the same qualities and CO2 tests. It’s the mask me and my wife sometimes use ourselves. Not because it is better than the Aria, we’re not saying that, but because of how comfortable it feels.
So, What’s Different With This Mask?
Detachable Snorkel: What we like is the fact that you can detach the snorkel very easily. Yes, the Aria mask offers that as well, but this mechanism works absolutely fine. It makes the mask more compact to fit in your luggage or snorkel backpack.
Comfortable: Even though everyone experiences comfort differently, we prefer the way this mask feels to the skin. The silicone seal is a little bigger in the chin area, which feels nice.
GoPro Mount: The mount is positioned on the side/back of the mask, which means it stays underwater whenever you tilt your head upward. We took some cool unexpected shots whilst floating vertically, just because the camera didn’t go above the water surface.
If you are curious about the mask, feel free to read more at Amazon here. We paid 80 bucks but it’s a pretty cool item. They ran tests themselves and also through a third party in order to check the airflow. We’re not the airflow expert, but it definitely breathes great. Still, just like their commercial states, never use it when you exercise heavily. But that should be obvious, right? In the end you’re still breathing inside a “box”.
You actually get to choose a colour, not that it matters that much in our opinion, but still. They have their own website if you’re interested, here is the link.
So How About Kids?
Well, even though most products come in kids sizes, we’re not a big fan. Like we mentioned in our giant guide for snorkeling with kids, it’s always best to stay safe. A kid breathes different than us, they don’t have the same lung capacity, so just avoid these masks.
It’s also best for a child to learn to breathe through a regular snorkel, just to practice. Once they get older they might want to snorkel close to the reefs or deeper underwater, and full face masks just aren’t best for that. Just like ourselves, it can be fun for certain purposes like filming or just floating around comfortably.
Sure, we believe this is a cool gadget to own for the occasional snorkeler. If you’re more advanced and you want to dive a little deeper, this won’t be of any help. It will only cause irritation due to the increased water pressure. Newbies sometimes ask what to wear for snorkeling, and if they should get a full face snorkel mask. Let’s hope this article answered all their questions!
There are a couple of people who will benefit greatly. We listed just a few of them, but there’s probably way more to take into consideration. If you’re scared to breathe through a snorkel, just make sure you give it a practice first. We’d say start in the bathtub, try a shallow swimming pool and then choose a calm ocean day.
Don’t overexercise even though the newest models allow for a better airflow. In the end you’re still breathing inside a “box” so to speak.
The CO2 build-up debate and risk is something to take very serious. Choose a product that has been tested by a third party in regards to this topic. Also, make sure to never snorkel alone. Always have at least one buddy with you to look after one another.
It is very important to make sure the mask fits you properly. Most of the safety concerns come from masks that are not fitted correctly. It might be a good idea to ask for help when you buy your first one. Furthermore, cleaning snorkel gear is of big importance to maintain that perfect fit in the long run.
These masks make it easier to snorkel. Because users don’t have to worry about breathing through their mouth (and holding the snorkel in it at the same time), it is easy to use. Their jaws do not become too tired. In addition, users can snorkel without learning the basics of snorkeling.
If possible, try to avoid them with kids. Let them learn how to use “normal” gear first. Once they grow up and become adults, they can decide for themselves.
If you want to capture videos or pictures with your GoPro camera, there are full face snorkel masks that come with a mount. It’s a fun way to share your latest adventures, like finding treasures with an underwater metal detector for example. If you’re good with computers, there are a lot of software types available to make a cool summary.
The two masks we listed above are both tested by a third party. However, times change, and so will this industry. Make sure to do your own research and take responsibility into your own hands. A tight seal and minimal fogging will make your adventure a whole lot better.
We wish you great luck with whatever decision you make. Just remember, you are responsible for you own actions and the risks you take.