One of the most important pieces of a snorkeling kit is the snorkel mask. It is crucial to determine that the mask you are buying is actually the right one. Otherwise, this can disrupt your snorkeling experience including clearly seeing marine life from underwater.
When choosing a snorkel mask, it is also important that you are able to see and recognize hand signals. Finally, you should still be able to see clearly and read gauges during snorkeling activities.
So what are snorkel masks exactly? These pieces of equipment are actually made from materials including rubber and plastic. These materials make a snorkeling mask perfect when using in shallow waters.
Snorkel masks can have single or double lenses. There are even masks that cover the face in full. Nowadays, full-face snorkel masks are becoming in vogue because of their uniquely curved lenses. This gives the masks an uninterrupted 180-degree view. By using this, you can also breathe through your mouth or nose. This is especially helpful for beginners or for those who are nervous to breathe underwater when snorkeling.
Snorkeling Mask: Key Features to Look for
A snorkeling mask has basic features. It includes a lens for visibility while underwater, a silicone skirt found around the lens to ensure air space is sealed, and straps to secure the mask onto your face and maintain a firm grip on the bridge of your nose. All snorkeling masks include a lens for viewing, straps to keep them in place, and a skirt aka mask seal around the lens to prevent water from entering. Choosing the right snorkeling mask will complete your entire snorkel gear and make for a safe and enjoyable dive. It’s important to note that people have varying face shapes so be sure to choose a mask that matches yours.
Some masks have purge valves but of course, this will depend on face shape. The purge valve works like a frameless mask only that it has a feature wherein water can be removed from it. The older mask versions include a single lens. However, plastic designs can irritate the face especially when its quality is not good enough. That is why masks with tempered glass lenses are a more popular choice.
Scuba diving is different from snorkeling. Take note that the snorkel gear is also different for each activity. It is important to check on a shop’s buying guide before making a purchase. Check if the mask has a flexible skirt. Mask skirts should have a rubberized portion that contacts your face. If the mask skirt does not seal properly, leakage is likely to happen. This can also result in fogging and can make you get tired from constantly adjusting. The following are good qualities of a mask skirt:
- Seals against your face without any water that is able to get in. If your mask skirt cannot do this, you will have to fix it constantly even when you are underwater.
- It should not require making adjustments that can compromise the inner part of the lens to moisture, air, or other elements that may cause it to fog up.
- The skirt must also be wide enough to provide a better seal.
- It should have silicone skirts instead of rubber. If not, then cracks will occur over time.
A good snorkel face mask should have a silicone strap to secure it onto your head. A mask strap also has an adjustable buckle system that you can easily use to get that perfect fit. Mask straps are made from different materials and all of these have benefits including:
- Silicone straps will last longer compared to rubber straps. A good quality mask is likely to have silicone rather than any other type of strap. Those that have silicone material are less prone to become cracked or brittle even after a long time.
- People with a lot of hair volume can choose thicker neoprene straps. This will make it less likely for hair entanglement to happen.
- Straps that are made from neoprene material also exist to go over rubber or silicone straps. This gives added comfort especially for those who let their hair loose when taking a dive.
You already know what lenses are and for sure you know that these can either be made from plastic or tempered glass. Whatever it is, lens masks should give a clear, field of view in a full face mask. You can ask a customer service staff when you are not sure which full face mask is equipped with a glass that has a clear field of vision when you are taking a trip in the world underwater. Check out volume masks with lenses that have:
- Great peripheral vision. Some lenses can make you dizzy especially when instead of giving you clearer field vision, it gives you a sense of tunnel vision.
- Field of vision-enhancing coatings. Better images can be seen using some lenses that are specifically designed to withstand a poor-lighted place in the underwater world. Some lenses in a full face mask have special tints that can filter light and reduce glare.
- Strong materials. Look for a mask with lenses that are made from tempered glass. This will lessen scratches and cracks compared to having plastic diving masks. If the lens is made from strong materials, if it indeed gets broken, it will break in chunky pieces to avoid dangerous sharp shards. Also, a lens that is made from sturdy materials can withstand changes in water pressure better. This gives snorkelers a better and safer dive experience.
There are lenses that do not cause fogging. They have special designs featuring anti-fog properties. Of course, lens-free masks ultimately cuts fogging. However, you cannot use these types of lenses for diving masks.
If you wear prescription lenses, you may need to opt for prescription snorkel mask that fits you and features corrective lenses to make your dive safer.
FAQ on Different Types of Snorkels
What is the best type of snorkel mask?
A snorkel mask comes in different types. However, here are three picks that you can choose from. These include classic snorkels, semi-dry snorkels, and dry snorkels. Let’s get to know these better and see if they qualify as snorkeling mask for snorkelers or a scuba diver.
The minimalist classic snorkel
A classic snorkel mask is the basic kind of mask. It has a silicone mouthpiece that is attached to a tube. The mask design is minimalistic yet its form is well designed. It also has a rotating mouthpiece that you can easily adjust. Semi-dry and dry snorkels often have these features but you can also find a low volume mask having tempered glass, purge valve with an adjustable tube.
What is a semi-dry snorkel?
These days, a low-volume mask means any type of mask that can sit comfortably on your face. An example of this is a semi-dry snorkel. It has a reliable splash guard and does not have any mechanical parts. The splash guards found at the top of the low-volume mask tube prevents water from getting into the opening of the snorkeling masks. However, this type of low-volume mask is prone to getting jammed. This is because bits of plastic, sand, and debris can render your splash guard ineffective. It can even block the air you breathe. Aside from a semi-dry snorkeling mask, you can also check out an aqua-lung micro mask for better field of vision and easier breathing.
A dry snorkel is a popular choice for beginners to complete their snorkeling gear. It is because of the special features found in these low-volume masks. Aside from tempered glasses, these low-volume masks have float valves found in the snorkel tube.
This is the one that seals the snorkel tube when a wave rolls over you. A float valve is also the one responsible for a snorkel tube to need no clearing after getting a splash of water or a wave coming over you.
Because of this feature, people who have difficulties in the clearing technique can benefit much when using these types of low-volume masks. A dry snorkel has an additional feature. This mask has a splash guard that can deal with water spray when it is in a place in the water that is not submerged.
How will you choose your mask in snorkeling?
When you have trouble with clearing snorkel when it is filled with water, the dry snorkel is the ideal choice for you. Even seasoned snorkelers choose the dry snorkel masks because it is easy and comfortable to use.
One of its downsides, however, is the occasional jamming of its float valve. Occasionally, even the best float valve can jam which some people find annoying and not worth the cost of a dry snorkel.
Additionally, when snorkeling in a place with difficult conditions, even a properly functioning snorkel can frequently get unsealed. Repeated interruptions to their breathing when snorkeling can be cumbersome to most snorkelers, but for others the comfort and ease of use of using dry snorkel outweighs this occasional inconvenience.
For scuba or freediving, the dry snorkel is not an ideal choice. When submerged, the dry snorkel seals the air inside them and they are more buoyant when use underwater compared to classic or semi-dry snorkels. This buoyancy adds extra drag when you swim and it can also tug the mask strap of your snorkel in awkward manner, which can result in the silicone skirt seal breaking and causing leaks in the mask.
If you are looking for an economical mask and are comfortable with tube clearing, you can opt for semi-dry or classic snorkels with tempered glass lenses or corrective lenses. This is because dry snorkels can be an expensive choice.
In terms of popularity and comfort, dry and semi-dry snorkels have an advantage over the classic mask. Like a diving mask, the more complex the features are, the more costly it can become.
For aesthetic reasons, the minimalist design a perfect fit for those who have a small face. Wearing fancy splash guards and float valves in long or heavy snorkels can make the jaw sore even if it means less water gets in the tube when snorkeling but it’s a different thing when scuba diving.
Other Snorkel Features to Consider
Flex tubes are used to give you the freedom to adjust the position of your mouthpiece to a comfortable fit. Most snorkels like the dry and semi-dry features have this flexible tube. Classic low-volume masks and even the Cressi F1, otherwise known as the frameless mask, has them, too.
When you are not using the mouthpiece, it will fall away from your face that some folks appreciate compared to when it just annoyingly dangles. This might not be necessary during scuba diving activities, however, having the flex tube is a must when snorkeling. Also, the mouthpiece should be out of the way when you use your regulator.
Classic snorkels have purge valves as well as most of the dry and semi-dry snorkels. Below the mouthpiece, there is a reservoir where excess water collects. Located at the bottom of this reservoir, there is a soft silicone valve that opens and clears the tube when you forcefully exhale.
This valve will direct the water out of the reservoir and all the excess water will not be forced to go past by the top of the tube. Clearing the tube is much easier this way.
Do you need a large tube diameter?
As a general rule, size does matter when it comes to snorkels. Bigger snorkels are ideal for large people and vice versa. Greater volume of air can be held by long and thick snorkels than snorkels that are shorter and skinnier.
The whole tube must be able to fully exchange the air of the snorkeler to be able to breathe properly. If you will use a bigger snorkel, the lung capacity might not match. Using a much bigger snorkel can result in the snorkeler inhaling at least some air that has been exhaled during each ventilation cycle. This can result in having more carbon dioxide than oxygen in your system.
When this happens, problems may arise and you may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, being confused and fatigue. Remember to take long breaths when you snorkel to decrease the risk of encountering these problems.
Snorkeling is a fascinating way to explore the wonders of the ocean. This is a great way to check on the fish and the corals without resorting to scuba diving. Having to choose snorkel masks set can be confusing because there are so many types out there.
Try starting with the classic snorkel set and gradually discover other types that work best for you. The important thing to consider is your comfort when wearing one so that you can enjoy the experience of exploring the ocean.
How do I know what size snorkel mask?
Now that you have learned how to choose the right low-volume masks, let’s proceed to our fitting guide. In order to have a great snorkeling experience, having a correctly fitting mask is important. Choosing the right snorkel masks that fit your face perfectly is necessary to ensure a leak-free and airtight seal on your face.
If you choose the wrong size, it would either be too tight or uncomfortable to use. Before buying or renting a snorkel mask, you have to test it to find perfect fitted masks. You need to see if the mask can form an airtight seal on your face without the discomfort of wearing it. Otherwise, you will end up buying a mask that is either loose or too tight.
Step 1: Determining face dimensions
Keep in mind that each of us have unique facial features. When you take a good look in the mirror, try to check if you have narrow or wide face. Are your eyes closed or wide apart? Are your eyes big, round or small? Is your nose bigger or smaller? Try to notice if there is much space under your nose above your lip. This will help you determine what type of swim goggles is best for you.
Keep these dimensions in mind when going to a store to select a mask design. Since there are many mask sizes available for big or wide and narrow or small faces, small or big head, you should try it on to check which one works best for you. For men, make sure you shave well prior to going for a mask fitting. Having a mustache or stubble cannot guarantee a good seal of the mask on your face
If there are no stores available in your area to try on masks, you can choose shipping options when buying. You can also search the internet for different mask recommendations. Scuba divers and snorkelers guide page are widely available online where you can find these mask recommendations that have been tested on different face shapes.
When choosing a mask, look at its design, field of view, mask straps, glass, and lenses. Check for materials used in its glass and lenses. This will give you a quick idea if the mask design is sturdy and would not cause any problem to your eyes when doing a snorkeling trip. Make sure that when you are wearing glasses, you pick a mask that has corrective lenses. These corrective lenses will help your vision along with the masks silicone skirt.
A buying guide will always be available in your local store to help you with which one is perfect for your full-face snorkel mask needs. Choosing quality will always be a wise decision than simply picking a mask which you think has cool features and would look good on you without considering what this low-volume, snorkeling mask with silicone skirt does.
Step 2: Basic fitting according to face shape
There are so many good quality masks available that feature high silicone percentage in the skirt or the part that seals your face resulting in perfect low-volume, snug-fit masks. Pick the mask which you think follows your face shape rather than one that is only flashy. This is a good idea to remember when visiting a shopping site.
Facing a mirror, try the mask on without putting the strap on your head by pulling away from the straps over the top of the mask. Check where the skirt foot lies. Make sure it is not too narrow or too close on the sides of your eyes.
The skirt should lay flat on your face, and not too close to your eyes for a better fit. You should also see to it that the mask skirt is not too wide on your face. It should also not be too close to the top and sides of your hairline.
Check how the nose pocket feels on your nose. This is important because when you are snorkeling, the pressure of the water will press the mask on your face a bit and your nose will be receiving these hard points. The hard glass frames rest on your nose bridge that is why nose pockets must be considered before taking a dive. Always ask if your nose hurts when pressed by lens masks or is it a perfect fit.
With this in mind, check how the mask feels on your nose upon trying it. Does your nose have plenty of room? The nose packets should not be pulling up against the underside of your nose. Notice if you have a wide area or less width between your nose and upper lip. There are masks made for these dive features. Pick one that suits your facial shape.
Step 3: Perform the Suction Test
If you have already performed the basic fitting for your lens masks, this time put it on while gently pressing it on your face. Inhale a small amount of air through your nose to suction the mask, then remove your hands.
Remember that this step does not require you to strap the mask on your head. A good fitting mask should be able to anchor to your face without needing to keep inhaling.
Test if you can move around with the mask not falling off your face. Do some facial movements like flexing your facial muscles. Do they break the seal off? Try smiling. That will often result to the seal breaking off your skin even with a good-fitting mask.
Step 4: Put the mask fully on
A well-fitting mask should be able to stay on your face with just a little suction. This time, try on the mask with the strap on. You should check if it has an airtight feel and just a little strap pressure before going for a dive.
Do not rest the strap on your ears, as it would be painful. Rather, let it sit at the back of your head. Make sure to adjust the straps to get a good fit to prevent having big red marks as well as check the nose pocket after using.
With your mask fully on, you should check if you can pinch your nose to clear your ears when you are underwater.
Step 5: Try to snorkel in
Although most people do not want to try a snorkel in their mouth, trying it in your mouth can change the shape of your face and break the seal of some masks. If this is the case, better look for another mask. If the dive shop on sale has a pool, you may be able to test it further before buying it.
Step 6: Get the right fit
If you have found a perfectly fitted mask, then buy it. The ultimate test on mask however is when you try it in the water. It may or may not work so you need to do the process all over again.
Remember that full face snorkel mask can be different when it comes to fitting. Try it in the shop to check if it fits perfectly. If buying online, you can follow manufacturer guides and suggestions and can even choose shipping options. Online shopping offers shipping returns so it should not be a problem if the low-volume mask you bought is not the perfect fit as you can easily have it returned.