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If you’ve been to beach recently you may have seen the new craze for snorkeling. It’s the full face snorkel and mask and people really seem to like it.
The mask has been around for about 5 years so it’s not new per se, but it’s the first snorkeling mask modification in decades. One look online and you’ll see a bunch of options made for your snorkeling adventure.
Traditional masks commonly use 2 pieces: one mask that covers the eyes and nose and one snorkel with a mouthpiece. While adequate, traditional masks have a learning curve and take some getting used to.
People who are new to snorkeling might feel more comfortable in a full face mask for a number of reasons.
In this article we’ll look at the traditional face mask vs. the full face mask and share the pros and cons of each.
Traditional Snorkel and Mask
The term “traditional” really depends on how far you go back. To most people, traditional masks are what most divers and snorkelers use today.
But we can actually go back 1000 years to find evidence of divers using hollow reeds to breathe underwater and Persians making eye goggles from tortoise shells.
More recently in 1920, Maurice Fernez designed a more modern pair of waterproof goggles. Based on that invention, the iterative process of making goggles and masks has resulted in leakproof, fog proof, and ocean resistant models that we use today.
If used properly, snorkeling masks work great. They can be found in small, medium, and large sizes and some models are made specifically for narrow or large faces.
Traditional snorkel masks are also versatile. In addition to snorkeling, they can be used for free diving and scuba diving. Low profile versions can also be used for swimming, although goggles work best.
Full Face Snorkel and Mask
The French are known for diving innovation. I’m sure you’ve heard of Jacque Cousteau, right? The French spend a lot of time in the beautiful Mediterranean Ocean so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the full face mask was developed by a French watersports company (Tribord).
The mask is called the “Easybreath” (check Outer Limits on Amazon) and it was brought to the public in 2014 with a smaller sized version appearing in 2015. The design caught attention right away.
It looked like a cross between a gas mask and something worn in space.
The big question was did it work and how so?
There were some interesting advantages to using this mask. There was no mouthpiece. The mask and snorkel were combined into 1 piece.
The mask allowed the user to breathe out of the nose and mouth. It also provided a fog-free design and wider range of sight.
Since the Easybreath came on the market it has sold quickly and has become popular with casual snorkelers. It is yet to catch on with more season snorkelers because it’s used is somewhat limited and not a cross-over product for diving or scuba.
There has also been a number of knock-offs, most of which work well too. If you’re looking for the original product, it’s called the Easybreath.
Pros Of The Full Face Snorkel and Mask
- Combines 2 pieces into 1
- Hygienic – no mouthpiece
- Ability to breath out of the mouth and nose
- Wide viewing ability (180 degrees)
- Specialty item for snorkeling (not multipurpose)
- Often GoPro and camera compatible
Cons Of The Full Face Snorkel Mask
- Large seal (more difficult than a smaller mask)
- Harder to transition to regular breathing above water
- Short dives underwater (not good for free diving)
- Might provide a false sense of security (easy to breathe)
- Tourist gimmick (your call)
- More difficult to manage in rough water
- Potential for more water emergencies
Pros Of The Traditional Mask and Snorkel
- Adaptable (snorkeling, diving, scuba)
- Good for rough waters
- Easy to transition off snorkel above water
- Smaller seal against the face
- More size options (narrow, big, kids, round)
- Better brand names
Cons Of The Traditional Mask and Snorkel
- Times more time to learn
- Mask can fog
- Multiple pieces (2)
- Narrow range of vision (compared to full mask)
- Mouthpiece can be unhygienic if not cleaned
Why I Prefer A Traditional Snorkel and Mask
If I was going on a beach vacation and used my snorkeling mask infrequently, I’d probably go with the Easybreath. The full face snorkel and mask is a novelty and something new to try.
Not only that, but it also provides a unique perspective for viewing marine life. The mask provides a widescreen shot while snorkeling. Also like that many full face masks (not all) provide GoPro and camera compatible options to capture photos underwater (for a tourist this is great).
What I don’t like about the Easybreath is its lack of versatility and a larger seal around the face. I like to dive with my mask while I’m snorkeling. I also swim on occasion in the ocean and need a mask that keeps a strong seal.
I’m also concerned about the safety with full face masks. In addition to all the positive news about them, the masks have also gained some attention because of an increase in snorkeler emergencies, particularly in Hawaii.
I believe they are easier to use than traditional snorkels but I’d certain practice in a pool or calm waters before entering the ocean (note: on their website, the Easybreath is recommended for kids over the age of 10).
Traditional masks have come a long way in appearance and functionality. Most of the top brands, like Atomic, AquaLung, and U.S. Divers, offer low profile masks that provide a nice view of the ocean.
These masks are high quality and can be used for diving and scuba too. I purchased a snorkeling mask that was narrow to fit my face and I don’t believe that’s an option with the full face snorkel masks.
Each time I relax above the water I remove my snorkel but keep my mask on. It’s easier to speak with other people and breathe normally – this is a luxury you don’t have with a full face snorkel mask because you have to remove the mask to talk and breathe normally.
For these reasons, I have to stick with a traditional snorkel mask.
So there you have it, a full face snorkel and mask vs. a traditional snorkel and mask. Snorkeling, diving, and scuba masks have come a long way but in recent decades their engineering has become excellent.
Given that the full face snorkel and mask is new, it will likely improve over time. One day it may overtake traditional options.
If you’re going on a beach vacation and only snorkel occasionally, then the full face option might be perfect. It will give you a panoramic view of the ocean while you cruise on the surface of the water.
If you’re a more seasoned snorkeler, I recommend you stick with the traditional options. They are more versatile and once you’re accustomed to it, it comes as second nature. I have a high-quality mask that I purchased years ago and I love it. There’s no reason for me to change!
In recent years I’ve been interested in comparing the two types of snorkeling mask. Let me know if this article helped you and leave a comment if you have more reasons one mask is better than the other.