Firstly, what is a full face snorkel mask, and why do people like them?
These masks cover the entire face, allowing snorkelers to breathe through their nose and mouth, and were first introduced in 2014 by Ocean Reef. They were designed to snorkel at the surface and allow for easy breathing by a company with over 25 years experience manufacturing quality full face scuba masks. Their intended use is to float at the surface and look down at marine life – not for any sort of swimming, freediving, use in currents or other strenuous exercise.
Unlike scuba equipment, which undergoes strict testing to be compliant to many standards, the majority of full face snorkel masks are not. Particularly anything that has an inexpensive price tag and is sold online. These are the masks that are used when people are hurt. These designs are being poorly copied in China and sold to international markets. To say the quality of many of these imports is poor, is an understatement.
Ocean Reef - Jon Wilkins
Ocean Reef USA’s Sport Division Manager
"Since 2014, there have been more than 1 million full face snorkeling masks, which have been designed and manufactured by Ocean Reef/Italy, sold into the world marketplace.
The design comes from more than 25 years of experience in the military, professional and recreational full face mask gas and scuba markets. These masks were designed to increase the enjoyment of snorkelers.
Ocean Reef’s masks are designed so that users breathe in fresh air, and eliminate spent air containing high CO2 content, safely and comfortably.
With reference to 'knock-off’ versions, we believe that those which have been produced without understanding of, or non-adherence to, the same safety designs as Ocean Reef’s, may be a cause of reported discomfort to users. In addition, some of those products could be dangerous because of those design flaws, primarily related to inadequately eliminating carbon dioxide build up."
Many will even claim to meet ANSI or EN standards – there are none for full face snorkel masks, while there are for scuba gear. Some scuba manufacturers do offer full face snorkel masks, and are more expensive because they are producing a mask that match scuba standards as closely as possible. They are conscious of the dangers in dead air spaces and CO2 buildup, and produce a safe product.
If full face mask doesn’t fit properly, and particularly if the orinasal pocket (the lower section that covers your mouth and nose) doesn’t form a good seal over your nose and mouth, you will exhale both CO2 and moisture back into the mask, and not expel it completely through the snorkel. Moisture will spoil your view by fogging and too much CO2 can be dangerous and even lead to a loss of consciousness.
Fogging in the orinasal pocket is not a problem at all, but it is when it occurs in other sections of the mask. Buying ANY mask should be done in-person with experts who can ensure that the mask fits you properly and makes a good seal.
Tri-City Scuba avoided selling these products for a while – the safety was just not there on the inexpensive masks. The product that we do offer is INFINITELY safer than the cheap knock-off product. Lower volumes, chambering (separate inhale and exhaust paths) combined with quality mask materials are the main differentiators. Obviously, there is a cost to producing a safe product, and that is why these masks are priced double or more than the inexpensive product you can purchase online or in retail stores.
Sometimes parents tell us that they don’t want to spend the money on a good mask. Their kids may lose or damage them on vacation.
As a parent, I REFUSE to skimp on something like this. I couldn’t imagine my child losing consciousness due to CO2 buildup in a cheap mask. How much does a good full face mask cost? Between $100.00 and $160.00.
Put it into perspective, what is the cost of a vacation? You pay for the trip, time off, the time traveling, purchasing clothing and other items to go away. Is paying an extra $50 - $75 for comfort and safety going to affect the overall cost of the trip?
Buy a mask that you and your family will enjoy, be comfortable wearing and most importantly – confident & safe using.