Full face snorkel masks and how they work.
Full face snorkels first started making an appearance around 2015. Even so, they are still a relatively unknown to many snorkelers.
If you're an avid snorkeler, or a parent thinking of buying these for your kids for the first time, you may have some questions. Hopefully we have the answers below.
Whether you're buying for yourself or for family, I hope this article covers any questions you may have.
If, after reading through the information you don't find the answer to a question you have or something that concerns you, please send an email or leave your question in the Comments section below, and I'll make sure we can update you, and this article.
Frequently asked questions
A full face snorkel mask covers your entire face. It allows snorkelers to breathe using both their nose and mouth which is a much more natural way of breathing for most people.
The mask has two separate sections; one section is for vision, and the other for breathing. There is a tube attached to the top of the mask. Inside the tube is a plastic float that stops water from entering when the mask is submerged. This is also known as a 'Dry Top Snorkel' system.
Full face snorkels were an innovation between Tribord and Ocean Reef and these appeared at the DEMA convention (Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) for the first time in 2014.
Ocean Reef also make full face Scuba masks.
Unlike traditional snorkels, you don't need to 'purge' or clear your snorkel of water when resurfacing. These have a Dry Top system, so a plastic ball moves to close the tube when submerged. This stops water from entering the tube.
As soon as you resurface, the ball lowers and the tube is open to breathe air through again.
Just like a traditional snorkel and tube, you can't breathe underwater with these. You need to take a breath and hold it while underwater.
Children often take to these so much quicker than traditional masks and snorkels because they are able to breath naturally using both their nose and mouth. Also, there's no gagging on a snorkel mouth piece that's too large for them.
When selecting snorkel masks for kids, make sure you go with brands that have XS or S sizing. These brands should also have a good returns/exchange policy in case the size isn't quite right.
Full face snorkel masks have two distinct sections. They have an upper section for viewing, and a lower section that covers your mouth and nose. Only the breathing part should fog up. The upper viewing section should stay clear of any fog.
With most full face snorkel masks, you can swim to around 9 feet (or 3 metres). Any deeper and it becomes really uncomfortable. This depth is more than enough for most snorkelers.
If you want to dive deeper, then there are equalizing masks available.
If you've flown in a plane, you know the feeling as it starts to descend and you find that you need to 'pop' your ears. It's the same thing when diving in water.
Scuba divers use an equalizing technique as they go deeper, to balance the pressure between the surface and the depth they are diving to.
The original full face snorkel masks didn't give you this option but there are masks available now that allow you to equalize, and therefore dive deeper.
Whether it’s a traditional mask or a full face snorkel mask, water will get in if there’s any hair between the skirt of the mask and your face. This includes a long fringe.
Moustaches are completely enclosed within the mask, so are not a problem at all.
Beards create tiny spaces that will cause water to enter the mask. Trimming your beard will help, but not stop a slow leak of water into the mask.
Just be aware that if you have a larger than normal face or nose, you may find the bridge of your nose will rub against the snorkel mask.
Some full face snorkel masks have an accessory that is a frame that can be inserted and removed which allows the use of standard optical lenses inside the snorkel mask.
These are only frames and optical lenses are not included. It's like buying glasses without the lens.
These need to be specifically tailored to you and something you need to organize with your optometrist.
Good quality full face snorkel masks have a one-way air circulation system that eliminates fogging and keeps the fresh air coming in separate from the CO2 exhaled.
That's the short version of this answer. If you want more detail on how safe full face snorkel masks are, please click through and read this article below.
Full face snorkel masks are not banned in Hawaii. Unfortunately, however, there are a number of tour operators that will not let you bring and use your full face snorkel masks on their tour.
We have compiled a list of Hawaii tour operators and their stance on this. Our list is clear and divided into 3 categories although it doesn't include all operators as many didn't reply to our enquiry.
The list comprises of:
Those tour operators who have no problem whatsoever with you bringing your full face snorkel mask;
Those that are okay with it, but also kind of not; and
Those that flatly refuse to let you snorkel with a full face mask.
We are adding to and updating this list all the time, so please let us know your experiences.
Snorkeling Takes Effort
Sometimes we forget that snorkeling is an activity that takes some effort, especially when swimming in the ocean with tides and currents.
Before you enter the water, you need to adjust your breathing. Put the mask on, and adjust the straps. Make sure it is comfortable, then slowly lower your face into the water. Take a couple of breaths to get the feel for it. Once you're comfortable with your breathing, you can enter the water, and away you go.
These are not for everyone.
Full face snorkel masks aren't for everyone, just like a traditional mask and snorkel isn't for everyone. And that's okay.
There's a multitude of reasons why these work for some people and not for others. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference.
My personal experience
My son has autism and couldn't stand water running down his face but he loved swimming. It was (and still is) his happy place. He never adjusted to a mouth snorkel tube, and so before I bought him a full face mask, he would only ever wear goggles. The full face mask kept the water away from his eyes and nose, so he spent hours just floating around on top of our pool.
About The Author
Sharon McKenzie loves spending time in and on the water. She is a keen snorkeler and stand up paddle boarder, and being lucky enough to live in the tropics, can do this for most of the year. Read read more about Sharon on our About Us page.