Before you start: this was originally posted in 2021 when I did not like the full-face masks necessarily, but I had no reason to shun them completely. However, in 2022, we decided to ban full-face masks from our manta ray swim tours completely for safety reasons. Find more details on this page!
When you’re out in the ocean snorkeling, it is important to consider using the correct equipment, this includes which type of snorkeling mask you wear.
Below, I have listed some pros and cons of both masks, so you can make the best choice for your equipment.
Note: I have also recorded a video about this topic. If you would prefer to look & listen, click play below to watch the video. If you prefer reading, please read on!
Three Myths about Full Face Snorkeling Masks Debunked
Recently, there has been a trend in more people choosing to use a full face mask when snorkeling. I want to encourage people to go with a traditional mask over a full face mask – let’s dive in and tell you why.
Myth 1: The Full Face Mask is Better for Beginners –> False!
First and foremost, the full face mask is popular with beginners because it appears easy to use.
The mask covers the whole face and the air comes in and out through the pipe located at the top of the mask. Most people think that when wearing the mask, you can see out of the sides better than a traditional mask, but at what cost?
- Talking to each other is imperative when snorkeling. But as soon as the mask is on, communication becomes impossible. Either with a group or a single partner, it is fundamental to be able to communicate clearly so that everyone stays safe.
- Beginner snorkelers can be nervous on their first expedition and it is important that the guide can communicate with new guests effectively. Unfortunately, this becomes an impossibility as soon as the full face mask is used.
Myth 2: Full Face Mask: A ‘No-Fog’ Mask? –> False!
Secondly, one of the most frustrating issues for any snorkeler is a mask fogging up!
It is a myth that the full face mask is a ‘no fog’ mask. Both a full face and a traditional mask have some extent of fogging. However, there is a simple solution in defogging a traditional mask.
As many of you will be aware, it is difficult to fix a problem like fogging when you are out in the ocean. If you wear a traditional mask, you can easily defog it by letting a small amount of water in, swishing it around and you should be ready to go again. It’s not that easy with a full face mask, as you would have to take the full mask from your head. And removing your mask in the ocean is dangerous, as it keeps your eyes protected.
If your full-face snorkeling mask fogs up, quickly make your way back to the safety of shallow water or the shore so you can take it off.
Myth 3: A Cheaper Snorkeling Mask is Better? –> False!
Lastly, it is important to note that a full face mask is slightly cheaper to purchase than a traditional mask. But this will also compromise the quality and safety of the equipment.
If you are wearing your full face mask and your breath starts to become shallow, CO2 can build up and you could end up with a nasty headache or worse feeling extremely nauseated. That’s definitely a situation you want to avoid at all costs.
4 Key Features to Look Out For When Buying a Snorkeling Mask
I have created a checklist that could be useful if you are looking for a new mask. I would prefer you to choose a traditional mask, as they have a better fit and are overall much safer.
1. Make sure you get good equipment
Almost all rented masks will be of great quality. If you are looking to buy, do not purchase the cheapest mask. Your traditional mask is an investment in your safety and a good one may cost around $60 – $80. Be sure to take good care of your mask, always rinse with fresh water after use for lasting results.
2. Test that your mask fits your face
You will need to see if the mask has a good seal around your face. The best way to find out is to put the mask on your face without using the mask strap and by inhaling air through your nose, you should be able to create suction. A mask that stays on your face when you hold your breath, is a good fitting mask.
3. The mask strap must be in the right place
Your mask strap should rest on the crown of your head with a snug fit, not too tight or too loose.
A common mistake made (while the mask strap is too high or too low on the head) is pulling the mask strap tighter and tighter to avoid leakage. But if you make your mask too tight, it will add pressure to the inner seal, causing it to break and creating more leakage.
It’s the opposite of what you are trying to achieve (no leak!) so make sure the mask strap sits correctly.
4. No smiling when you snorkel
This one is hard to do when you look at beautiful reef fish because you automatically smile when you see them. When you smile with your mask on, smile lines or skin grooves appear around your nose and cheeks allowing water to leak into your mask. Making sure you are not smiling while wearing your mask will keep it suctioned onto your face and minimize any leakage.
Remember, don’t use the full face mask. Go for a traditional mask every time.
Know Exactly what Equipment to Use for Snorkeling
I wrote an article about the equipment you need to go snorkeling (it includes my recommendations for best masks to buy, in case you’re looking for one) – read it here.