Mask and snorkel or “full face” mask, the centerpieces of your snorkeling equipment

Unlike many other water sports, snorkeling requires rather simple equipment: a diving mask and a snorkel (or a full face mask), as well as swimfins, are all you need to get into the water and explore the underwater world. However, several parameters must be taken into account in choosing the right mask, in order to have a gear that really fits your practice and to feel as comfortable as possible in the water.

Traditional or full-face snorkeling mask: make your choice!

Traditional snorkeling mask

The traditional snorkeling mask is a diving mask. It covers your eyes (so you can see underwater) and keeps water out of your nostrils. Since this mask is airtight, you will only breathe through your mouth, using a snorkel.

This traditional mask is the only one to allow snorkeling both on the surface and on immersion. Indeed, a flexible membrane on the nose makes it possible to perform the Valsalva maneuver (equalize the pressure of the ears).

When choosing your traditional mask, we recommend you to particularly focus on its field of vision. The distance between the glass and the eye is the main indicator: the shorter the distance, the wider the visibility.

Single-glass masks will offer you a large field of vision, but they come with a larger air volume than double-glass masks. If you like to immerse yourself more than 2-3m deep, you should go for masks with a small air volume, which avoids the pressure on your face. Last but not least, for safety reasons, choose a tempered glass mask.

Single vs double lens snorkeling masks
Double lens (left) vs single lens (right) snorkeling masks.

The skirt, which surrounds the glasses and seals your face, is also to be chosen with particular attention. Avoid plastic skirts and opt for a silicone skirt, a material that reduces allergies and irritation risk. Soft silicones have been developed, and offer optimized comfort for the skin contact. The skirt color is also fairly important. Transparent, it will let in a lot of light if the weather is dark. Black and opaque, it will protect you from too much light and reverberation, especially in tropical and sunny environments.

Clear or black skirt snorkeling mask
Clear skirt (left) vs black skirt (right) snorkeling mask.

Are you wearing prescription glasses?

Good to know: some traditional masks allow the installation of vision corrective glass.

Full face snorkeling mask

The full face mask is a “2 in 1” mask, which replaces both the traditional mask and the snorkel. Wearing a full face mask is considered more pleasant by many snorkelers because it covers the whole face and allows breathing naturally through the nose or mouth without having to “bite” into a snorkel.

For the time being, the full face snorkeling mask only allows surface snorkeling. Indeed, its current design does not give access to the nose area, and therefore, you will not be able to equalize the ear’s pressure. Our advice is simple then: avoid immersion with a full face mask because not only it will create an unpleasant sensation, but also the immersion without pressure equalization could seriously damage your eardrums. Moreover, the air volume of a full face mask being much greater than a traditional mask, it would create very uncomfortable pressure on your face (even at 1m deep).

Full face snorkeling masks
Most of main diving equipment manufacturers have now designed full face snorkeling masks.

The full-face mask generally offers very wide visibility. The air circulation in the mask should also help prevent fogging on the glass. These masks are certainly the most suitable for snorkeling beginners, or for those who are happy enough with exploring the underwater world only from the surface.

Are you discovering the snorkeling? Our beginner’s guide is here to help you make your choice!

Always be sure to choose a certified, quality full face mask that meets the latest standards. This is your guarantee that the CO2 residual level inside the skirt during inspiration remains well below the safety limits.

Good to know: some full-face masks have a built-in action cam mount.

Snorkeling Report’s choice

At Snorkeling Report, we only use classic masks, the main reason being that we like to skin dive below the surface to observe the underwater life up close and take photos (full face mask does not allow immersing below the water).

We tend to recommend black skirt masks (non-clear mask) in order to limit glare, which can be strong just below the surface of the water. This is the case in tropical environments, but also in more temperate latitudes, such as the Mediterranean in summer, for example.

All the models presented here are made from tempered glass (which is a safety warranty) and are equipped with a silicone skirt (not a plastic skirt), which allows for the reduction of friction and allergies.

Here, Guillaume wears a double-glass SEAC mask with a transparent silicone skirt in Ras Um Sid (Red Sea).

full-face-mask-kids

The new generation of full face masks for surface snorkeling

Lately, the full face masks have met unprecedented success on the beaches all over the world and have made the beauty of snorkeling accessible to everybody. Allowing natural breathing through nose and mouth, they offer excellent comfort and facilitate first time snorkeling for beginners. Nevertheless, you should know that full face masks are dedicated to the practice of surface snorkeling since they currently do not allow for pressure equalization in the ears when you dive.

We present here only the full face masks which comply with the latest quality and security standards, with a level of residual carbon dioxide inside the skirt during inhalation far below the safety thresholds.

A selection of snorkels specially designed for snorkeling

If you want to use a traditional snorkeling mask, you will also have to equip yourself with a snorkel. It will enable you to breathe while keeping your face in the water so that you can explore the underwater world non-stop!

The snorkel mouthpiece material (i.e the snorkel part that you keep between your teeth) is an important parameter to keep in mind when buying one. Prefer flexible silicone mouthpiece, more comfortable than hard ones, especially for long explorations. They also prevent gums or inside cheeks injuries.

All the snorkels presented here are equipped with a deflector (a kind of splash-proof protection) which prevents the unwanted ingress of water in case of small waves. Others also have a valve, which facilitates the expulsion of water found inside the snorkel after a dive. There are new innovative models, such as Powerbreather, emerging on the market. They prevent the unwanted water ingress and allow you to breathe a continuously renewed air, but they are especially recommended for “sports” type snorkeling.

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