Full Face Diving Mask
Full-face dive masks are looking to be the next big thing in diving.
Should you make the switch?
Here's the Pros and cons of scuba diving with a full face mask.
Previously only the domain of scientific and commercial divers, a small but growing number of recreational divers are making the switch to full-face diving masks.
Accordingly, a number of producers of full-face diving masks have started making “entry level” products, cheaper masks aimed at the recreational diver rather than the commercial one. There are number of advantages to these, but also some drawbacks, and even some concerns.
What is a full-face mask?
A full-face mask is, as the name suggest, a dive mask that covers the entire face.
Rather than having a dive mask covering your eyes and nose, and a regulator in your mouth, you combine the two. By integrating the regulator into the mask, the diver doesn’t have to hold on to the regulator in the mouth, and it frees up the mouth for talking. This can be done with a special underwater radio intercom system.
The pros of a full-face scuba mask
You can talk
Probably the main reason for a lot of those who switch.
By integrated underwater intercom systems, you can talk to your dive buddy, the surface boat, and anyone else who is on the same channel. A huge advantage to divers doing search and recovery, or any other activity that requires better underwater communication than standard hand signals can manage.
More securely attached
Instead of just a single strap holding the mask in place, the full-face mask has several independent straps that need to be placed around your head, making a mask loss much less likely.
Less risk of losing regulator
Because the regulator is integrated, there’s less risk that a diver will lose the regulator by accident during a dive. And for people with some form of dental or jaw problem, it eliminates the need to hold on to the mouthpiece.
Larger field of vision
The best full-face dive masks allow for almost 180 degree vision, more than any traditional dive mask.
The cons and concerns of a full-face mask
Harder to clear
A full-face mask is less likely to flood, but it does happen. And when it does, it is that much harder to clear, due to the larger volume. And the fact that breathing may not be possible as long as it is flooded, depending on how much water is in the mask.
Harder to put on correctly
The several straps involved means that putting it on is trickier than with a traditional mask, and if not placed properly, it may flood or fall off.
A dropped mask becomes critical
Drop a traditional dive mask, and you can typically take your time searching for it and putting it back on. Or simply pull a reserve out of a pocket.
Drop a full-face mask, and you lose both your mask and regulator, so suddenly you need to move that much quicker.
The regulator hose will thankfully tether the mask to you, so finding it should be fairly quick.
I’ve dived with a few full-face mask enthusiasts who had managed to forget some of the basic hand signals, because they were used to being able to talk to their dive buddies.
But when they found themselves diving with divers who weren’t using a full-face mask, or when the intercom system in their full-face mask wasn’t working, they were struggling to communicate.
The same could be said for basic dive skills such as mask clearing of traditional mask or regulator recovery techniques. This could become necessary if using a traditional mask for whatever reason.
Cost and weight
Full-face masks are expensive, with prices ranging from $600 to $1,600 for a mask. And they are of course quite a bit heavier for dive travel than a traditional mask. And for maximum benefit and safety, and additional course in using your new full-face mask should be considered, typically a cost of $500 or so.
This is more of a concern than a problem, and definitely a matter of taste. But while I see, and have experienced, the advantage of talking to your buddies and dive boat while doing a complex dive, such as a search for a wreck.
I still like the serenity and peacefulness of diving. No one can talk to me underwater, and I quite like that. A full-face mask would to some extent take that away, and personally, I wouldn’t like that.
Would you use a Full-Face mask?
It’s really a matter of preferences, if you want to go full-face dive mask, or traditional regulator and mask. Have you tried or are you using a full-face dive mask? Share your experiences in the comments below. We would love to hear other divers experiences.