I, Nicole, finally tried out a full face snorkel mask. Took me a while, huh? Galen was not game to try one since you cannot freedive in it; and he does a lot of freediving.
This review comes from both personal experience snorkeling in this type of mask and from thorough research on the subject. I will cover what brands are best and the pros and cons of them so you can decide if you should get one.
The first of this type of mask was the Tribord Easybreath, released in 2014. Now there are many other brands. You would think that the pricing would be an indicator of quality, but that is not necessarily the case. The prices are all over the place for these types of masks.
Many of the options for these masks are inferior Chinese made knock-offs of the original Easybreath. They have leaking issues and the dry snorkel often fails, cutting off breathing or flooding the mask. Most offer fewer size options too.
We recommend you stick with the original Tribord Easybreath Mask, provided it fits you well. There are 4 sizes, including a child's, and 3 colors to choose from. I tried this brand of mask.
If that does not work for you, our second choice would be either the Head (Mares) Sea VU Dry or the Ocean Reef Aria.
These two masks are essentially the same. But they are not knock-offs
of the Easybreath, they are a slightly different design. They are made
in Italy and come in 2 sizes.
The SeaFin by Shark Gear is slightly different from the Easybreath, so it is not a direct knock-off. It comes in 2 sizes and 5 colors. 2 of the colors offer a GoPro mount at forehead level, and though it may sound like a nice option, read below for why it is pretty dumb.
Our last mention is the Seaview 180° by Wildhorn Outfitters, which also has the GoPro mount. We do not recommend this full face snorkel mask. The lens is rounded and distorts what you see ruining your depth perception. There are a few copies of this mask with the rounded lens you should avoid as well.
Check out this list of the pros and cons of these masks to help you decide if you want to try one.
For beginners a full face snorkel mask can really be a boon. There is no learning curve or getting comfortable breathing through your mouth. You simply put it on and breathe normally.
Even if you are not a beginner, these masks are great if you have issues with sore jaws or mouth from holding onto the snorkel.
For men with mustaches, these masks give you the option to not have to shave it off. With a beard, there will be some leakage though.
Through a system of air flow, these masks are not prone to fogging. Though as with any mask, you do need to keep it clean. But do not use toothpaste like we recommend to prevent mask fogging on regular masks, as the lens is plastic and will be scratched. Tribord's site recommends "washing up liquid", which we believe means dish soap.
All of these masks and many of the reviews remark on the large
unobstructed 180° view that they have. When I used one I did not feel
that way. I felt like the frame of the mask was obstructing my view.
But, I am used to a mask that sits quite close to my eyes.
A dry snorkel is built into all of the full face snorkel masks we have seen. This means that if a wave comes over you or you submerge the snorkel, it will stop the water from coming in. We recommend these for general snorkeling, so this is a good feature.
Most notably, you cannot dive down with these full face masks on. You have no way to equalize the pressure in your ears that increases as you dive down. Equalizing requires you to hold your nose and blow air into your ears. There is no access to your nose in this type of mask, as there is in a normal mask. The large volume of air in the mask creates a strong pressure on your face as you dive down that cannot be relieved as it can with a normal mask and breathing out slightly through your nose. So, if you like to freedive down to get a closer look at the reef and creatures, do not purchase one of these masks.
Something that was noticeable and uncomfortable for me was that the full face snorkel mask was very hot. The hot feeling was partly caused by all of my warm breath being in the mask with me. It was really uncomfortable. I read other reviews stating similar experiences, even going as far as to recommend that they are only usable in cool water.
I found it very difficult to get a full fresh breath of air while wearing the mask too. These masks are not designed to be used for exercise, but casual snorkeling. They warn that you will not be able to get enough oxygen if you wear one while exercising intensely enough to need to breathe through your mouth. I was not exercising excessively but definitely was not getting enough oxygen. It seemed to me that some of the problem was that my old air was not leaving the mask. Other reviewers reported difficulty breathing as well.
Another downside to a full face snorkel mask is that you cannot install prescription lenses.
The lens is made of plastic and is integrated. So, if you wear
prescription glasses, you will need to get some contacts to be able to
use this type of mask. You cannot wear glasses with the mask as the
frame will interfere with the seal of the mask to your face.
One more disadvantage to the plastic lens is that it is easily scratched and that will mar your view. So, you must be very careful about how you pack, travel and care for your mask. You should not let it get sandy at all.
Speaking of packing, a full face snorkel mask is a large bulky thing and will prove more challenging to pack for travel. You need to make sure that you do not pack your mask in a soft bag as the plastic will be easily broken in luggage transport.
You would think that it is easy to talk to your snorkel partner with one of these on, compared to having to take the snorkel out of your mouth. But in my experience people could not hear me well with it on. So, imagine having to remove your entire mask to talk to someone and then putting it back on each time.
Finally, a number of full face snorkel masks come with a GoPro mount
just above the lens. While this sounds like a marvelous idea, it is
pretty useless in real life. You can see in the pictures on this page
that the top of the mask where the camera is mounted is out of the
water, or nearly so. This means that your camera is taking pictures or videos above the water, not under it.
Even if you tilt the camera down so that it is in the water, it will be
looking at the ocean floor, probably not what you want for your video.
If you are absolutely set on using this option, you can buy an extension that will put the camera basically in front of your mask lens like the photos in this Amazon review. With this option you will likely get some decent video, but your view from inside your mask will be reduced.
If you decide to get one, we would love to read your reviews of the different brands. Please share them here. If you have a review about the Tribord Easybreath, leave it on the page at the link below.
A Compact Snorkeling Camera