Full Face Diving Mask

Full Face Diving Mask

Scubapro Full face diving mask

Scubapro Full Face 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.

Why use a full face dive mask

Malcolm McMullen

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.

Full face scuba diving mask

Ocan Reef Neptune Space

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.

Skills deterioration

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.

Surfaceing scuba diver in Full face mask

Photo credit: Marion Doss - www.flickr.com/people/ooocha/

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.

Chatter underwater

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.

Full Face Diving Mask
4.64 (92.8%) 25 votes

About The Author

Thomas Grønfeldt Senger

Thomas is a Naui Instructor and has been diving in Australia, France, Egypt, Sweden, Indonesia, Iceland, and numerous other locations around the world.

30 Comments

  1. Rickey Keyser

    I’ve been diving using a full face for some two years now, and it’s a complete game changer. Once you go full face you never go back.

    If you go with the communication system make sure to get wireless, the wires doesn’t work well with diving on a reef or wreck.
    I wouldn’t say I started chattering more with this system, I make clear communication, without misunderstandings, and we don’t talk just to talk. Some divers might do so, but I haven’t experienced it yet.
    Rick

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Rick,

      nice to get some pros for the full face mask. Are there no down sides to full face vs regular mask? It would be nice with another side to this point as well!

      \\Torben – DIVE.in

    • Oliver Fineran

      Totally agree with your comments Rickey. I swapped to full face a year ago and can imagine ever going back.

      Pros / Cons for me are:

      1. I feel more relaxed breathing. Obviously, you can have your mouth open or closed, or breath through your nose.
      2. I’m using Oceanreef and i find the visibility compared to my old mask is vast.
      3. Never used the comms, as my wife fell pregnant the week after we brought them. Hopefully, get to try it out soon.
      4. I have filled mine with water in training, which is very hard! (the plenum is equalized every time you breath), you literally have to take it off to flood it. When flooded the purge button will empty the unit in seconds.
      5. Carry a spare mask for emergencies.
      6. My mask has never fogged (UAE and Oman Waters).
      7. Setting up the mask for first use is challenging. Adjusting the equalizing systems is takes a while till your happy.
      8. Worth getting the surface breather valve.
      9. More bulk to transport.
      10. Once back in the boat, i feel a lot more comfortable after the dive.
      11. i have a quick release on my mask. Easier to handle and store.
      12. Some report a little more gas usage. I don’t find this.

      Oliver

  2. Nicolai Loenne

    Nice review of full face masks Thomas :-)

    As I see it, the biggest drawback in my book about these masks, is the lack of peace and quiet. As you say, that’s one of the nicer parts of a dive and I would hate to lose that.

    Reply
    • Jack

      So don’t get a comm system. Problem solved.

  3. Dawie

    I use a ffm and love every second of it. Did a 4 hour dive a week ago and did not once think clear mask defog mask ajust mask. Take reg out wiggel jaw get comfy. No for 4 hours i just dived. Do the training do the skills often and dont say it will never happen to me. And you will enjoy every second of the dive. As for comms you dont like ot then dont take it dive with the mask not the comms.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Dawie,
      That is a pretty good recommendation: a 4 hour dive with no discomfort.
      And yes if you don’t like it don’t go, it’s just hard to know if you like it before you go.

  4. Sarah Boness

    Whether with the comms system or without Full Face Masks are indeed the way forward. With the greater field of vision they provide over conventional masks they are perfect for all types of diving. Diving with Ocean Reef FFM without the comms as like some of you have said I don’t want to chat but they are a good idea for using in open water with students so Instructors can communicate with other Instructors & Dive Masters as well as with the surface cover.
    Clearing a FFM is easy & hassle free in less time then it takes to clear my old mask.
    Yes a spare mask is advisable as a back up but with the correct training by an approved training centre a bail out becomes second nature as with all emergency procedures that we are taught to deal with throughout our diving lives.
    Great benefit for cold water divers FFM keeps your face nice & warm compared to conventional masks.
    Try before you buy with a Discover FFM session & decide for yourself if it’s the way you want to dive in the future!

    Reply
  5. Andre

    I have been diving FF for over 10 years and your so-called concerns are nothing compared to the benefits.
    Your main reason for diving FF Mask – You can talk??? Huh?? C’mon what about Safety, Better Vision, Natural Breathing, No Leaks and no fogging??
    Underwater Comms is just an additional benefit that is brilliant for safety and actually helps you to see more as you can be quickly informed of activity that you would have missed by looking in the wrong direction…

    I really think your Cons of FF Mask diving are made up theoretical reasons and not from practical diving experience..
    ..Harder to clear??? uhh – you get so little water in it you hardly ever have to clear the mask and when you do for some weird reason get water in the mask you simply push the purge button – easy..Masks like the Ocean Reef have a drain/exhaust at the bottom so it clears it self.
    …Harder to put on??? uhh – it gets easier the more you do it – how many times do you want to put it on and take it off during a dive? If it’s on – it’s on – it is not going anywhere unlike a normal mask that can get kicked off or brushed of by another diver..
    ..Dropping a Mask???? What kind of a reason is that? Please explain the context for the con? How on earth do you drop a FF Mask when it can’t even be kicked off your face by another diver whilst diving – ??
    ..Skills deterioration?? Huh?? c’mon – this is another dumb reason, not all FF mask divers have comms and you do not only dive with divers using FF Masks so this is another weird made-up con to have some words on a page..Basic skills deterioration ?? Signals , reg retrieval ??? Regulator / octo retrieval is one skill which is part of ffm diving and if your kit is properly configured you know exactly where your octo is.
    I really think this article does not give accurate and informative information about FF Mask diving…..cheers.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Andre,

      Thanks for your side of full face mask diving. It’s wonderful to get another side of it, and as I can read you are a big fan of FF mask. I’ve never tried them, so can’t set my self up as an expert, but the concerns you can’t take away from a diver, and they can never be made up. And as Thomas mentions in the article, he has tried diving with FF divers that has forgotten basic signals, not saying that this is standard, but it is a concern.

      I can see your point with the mask not falling off, when it’s strapped more securely. Do you train no mask/mask off procedures regularly? Here my concern would be if it normally doesn’t happen it’s not a skill you are good at if it should happen.

      I rally think there’s a bright future for the FF mask, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the trend goes.

      By the way: Is it possible to dive with full beard? How is the leak on that?

      Thanks for sharing your side of the full face diving!

  6. Andre

    Hi Torben

    I believe that one should always get back to basics and any diver should practice FF mask removals and replacement. If one does not use a bailout block for switching gas mask removal will be necessary to place the octo. One tip I can give is that you should always wet your face before using a FF mask as cold water can be quite a shock on a dry warm face!

    Concerning diving with full beards – no problem – normal masks do not seal if you have an mustache etc and this is not a problem with FF masks – I have friends diving with full beards with no leakage – the wide face skirt seals very well. (Just be careful of getting hair caught in bottom buckles when removing :-) )

    Cheers

    Andre
    Cape Town

    Reply
  7. David Pearce

    I got my wife and myself full face masks. It takes a little getting used to initially, but once you do, it is worth it. For me, two big benefits stand out: I can breath through my nose (no jaw fatigue) and I can use my multi-focal lenses in the mask! No more hassles with contacts! Field of vision is great too, but other, less expensive masks offer that too.

    Putting it on and having to carry it around with you is a drag, and if it is not fitting properly, equalizing is tricky. It is also very expensive compared to other masks. We do not have the comms unit so chatter is not an issue.

    Reply
  8. Gregorio Coye Beeks

    Thanks for the update on the fullface mask Torben, some day would like to get one,

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Gregorio, we’re glad you liked the article, and hope you’ll return for more great updates.

  9. diverkim

    Really informative article with lots of good comments. The first thing I thought of with oral communication underwater is enhanced safety, and I think that is a biggie. If the ffm becomes more reasonable in price, I’m sure I’ll get one.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Diverkim, thanks we’re glad you liked it. It’s true that communication, and especially communication surrounding safety issues, can be enhanced with talking communication. I’m quite sure that the prices are lowering with time, and as it becomes more mainstream

  10. Noel Ong

    As curious as other divers I bought a (not so expensive) FF. I just have a jaw problem that time so, for me to make up with a scheduled dive , I bought one. I guess all that I’ve heard in these comments are true, Its fun, new experience breathing underwater on your nose, securely holds to your face, etc. , but the thing here is, if you really want to use these gears, first you have to really practice and practice to make perfect dive. Lesson learned, I’ve dove with a ff for the first time, and have to go to the surface in 15 min. because of improper use. I have to take off the mask and start to breath in my dive buddies’ spare ascending with out a mask and completely no air. hahahah what a first time experience. I found out that the mask aint properly fit in my face . the hood and some strands of hair made water flood the mask and before I knew it had lstt a lot of air.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Noel,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Are you still using the ff mask?

      I guess it’s something that goes for all aspects of diving. If you’re not trained properly then things can go wrong. It’s good that you knew your backup procedures and were able to ascend safely.

  11. Martin de Weger

    I’ve been diving with a FFM for a few years now. I do like the fact it is silent under water. Most masks don’t come with a com set as a standard. Even when you use a com set, you can use it for urgent matters although the same can be said about cellphones…

    Reply
  12. Seal

    . It has some excellent points but I disagree with some of the cons the author presented. He states; That it is harder to clear. With the Ocean Reef mask all you have to do is look down and hit the purge and it clears itself. Harder to put on. This is a case of being properly trained in the use of the mask. The Ocean Reef mask with the six strap placement is easy to put on and adjust and fast to get off in an emergency. Dropped Mask Here again the Ocean Reef mask with the six straps makes it more secure than other full face masks so there is very little chance of have a dropped mask. Chatter Underwater The mask can be used without a comm. system and if you do like to listen to anyone else you can always leave the battery out. The group I dive with or pretty conservative using them but realize that it nice to have them when needed. I do notice that there is more chatter when it is new to a diver but seems to subside with use.

    Reply
  13. Seal

    I have been diving the full face mask for work and teaching for about 15 years and I am an instructor trainer in the FFM.

    Reply
  14. Gregorio Coye Beeks

    Thanks for the info. we have used this fullface mask which is a wanderfull piece of equipment for diving,and I personilly would communicate to all divers that it is good and safe.

    Reply
  15. Jeffrey Bohemier

    Wow…reading the negatives make me think that the writer is afraid of improvements in dive gear. I have no doubt there were negatives when switching from horse collars to BCD’s too. The first BCD’s road up horribly. But regardless, they still offered better lift and overall, were safer. I see the same with using a full face mask. Its far less likely to get kicked off your face, is actually easier to clear, eliminates jaw fatigue, and yes, you now have the ability to communicate with others. This can become crucial if you find yourself in trouble and your buddy happens to be elsewhere instead of watching you. Now you can simply call out for help and tell your buddy where you are, the problem, etc… I don’t have a full face mask. BUT…I’m getting ready to purchase one. I’m just not sure what the differences are between the Ocean Reef Predator or G mask.

    Reply
  16. Martin de Weger

    The G mask is the entry level mask with a plastic frame while the Predator is a more professional mask with a stainless steel frame and parts on the regulator. If I’m correct the g-divers series has a warranty period of 1 or 3 years. The predator (and other non- G-divers serie masks) has a lifetime warranty(but my info is a few years old).

    Reply
  17. Jeffrey Bohemier

    Thanks for the information. The sales brochure doesn’t really describe the materials they’re made of, but I found a comment by another diver that had the G mask and upgraded to the Predator. He stated that the difference was night and day, that the Predator was a far better mask. Of course, its more than twice the price as well. However, it should last for years and years. My new Predator mask is on order and should come in sometime this coming week. Next purchase…a new drysuit. I’m looking at the Fusion Bullet with the upgraded silicone seals, as the Waterproof D1 hybrid doesn’t come in my size.

    Reply
  18. Aaron Kelly

    I used a FFM to propose to my girlfriend. Worked great, and I love everything about using a FFM except the price. We rented the ones we used. Eventually we’d like to buy a pair, but with comms they are quite costly. So far, we’re still using regular gear for our normal diving. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l2kH8uBeiI

    Reply
  19. PsyDoc

    Wonder if people with the experience of diving regularly with FFMs have an answer to this: Do Ocean Reef masks use increase gas consumption as compared to a normal regulator.

    I have spoken to Ocean Reef and they say their masks don’t increase gas consumption. They however state the consumption is only increased if (1) The diver hyperventilates due to the anxiety of using new mask (2) The communication is used (3) The diver breathes both with nose and mouth.

    Other experts state no matter how good the mask is, the gas consumption will be higher than normal regulator, because of mild hypercapnia resulting from the mixing of the gas and CO2 within sub mask (the mask with in the main mask which sits on the nose and mouth)

    Any thoughts?

    Reply
  20. Sharon Swanson

    Although this is an interesting article (thanks Torben), it’s the really great feedback in the comments that I find the most interesting.

    After purchasing a couple of ff snorkel masks for our young boys for Christmas, my husband (who’s been scuba diving since the late 80s) tried on one of their ff masks. He was immediately impressed, so we’re now looking at full face diving masks for ourselves. I have problems with jaw fatigue so anything to reduce the pain afterwards would be awesome, and would consider well worth the extra money spent. These already sound like a winner.

    I appreciate the comments addressing the safety aspects that were raised in the article, and we’ll be looking to hire some initially and get the extra training. Thanks everyone!

    Reply
  21. Tim

    Apart from all the pros and cons mentioned I have found that the biggest benefit for me has been reduced blocked ears because I can breathe normally using my nose as well as my mouth. Using a convential mask I would quite often have problems when surfacing and my ears suddenly blocking in the surface layers or when dive depth has varied throughout the dive, this doesn’t happen with the FFM. It’s probably a form of reverse block as I never have problems with clearing ears and it usually happens in the top 2 metres or so and when breaking the surface. I used to have to clear a ton of gunk from my nose at the surface, now I don’t need to anymore.

    Reply
  22. Colin Langston

    Folks, I am an ex military diver (1980s) with little experience of modern sports dive equipment. These days I am a part time inventor and have devised a system to convert spoken words to written text which are presented on a small waterproof LED display. I have not yet tested it in earnest underwater but would appreciate the opinion of experienced divers on whether this would be a useful comms solution – or not?

    Reply

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