These days, more and more people are snorkeling. The many full-face snorkel masks on the market have certainly contributed to this increase. Millions of them are used worldwide – very good ones, but unfortunately also products of lesser quality as our tests showed in 2017 and 2018. What’s the situation now, in 2019? The DuikeninBeeld team went snorkeling.
The major advantage of a full-face snorkel mask or snorkel mask for short is that it covers your entire face, allowing you to breathe the way you are used to doing at the surface – through your nose and your mouth – unlike a traditional snorkel set which consists of a dive mask and snorkel. Other advantages are that the snorkel mask – provided it’s a good mask and fits properly – doesn’t fog up, gives you a large field of vision and the snorkel comes with a “dry top” that prevents water from leaking into the mask via the snorkel.
Only on the surface
A snorkel mask is, as the name suggests, intended for snorkeling. You can enjoy the underwater world while floating or swimming calmly on the surface. The snorkel mask is explicitly not intended for use while scuba diving, or even when making a surface dive while snorkeling to explore the bottom. The reason is that you can’t touch your nose or equalize the pressure in your ears to match the ambient pressure (“clearing”).
The approach to the test was a simple one. To start with, we studied the mechanism for attaching (and detaching) the snorkel above the water, the ease of putting the mask on, the quality and length of the straps, wearing comfort, breathing comfort, how well the dry top works, field of vision above water and whether or not the mask fogs up, of course. We also tested it underwater of course. This part of the test focused on wearing comfort, fogging, breathing comfort, leaking, safety and of course field of vision. After all, you want to be able to see clearly and remain relaxed underwater without being distracted by all the features of the mask itself.
The test was conducted by a team consisting of divers and snorkelers who have studied the snorkel mask phenomenon and the background of the product in depth.
During the test, the team exclusively examined performance – the value-for-money factor was not included in the testers’ evaluation.
Important – fit and moisture
Something a lot of people don’t realize is that if the snorkeling mask doesn’t fit properly, particularly if the orinasal pocket doesn’t form a good seal over your nose and mouth, you will be exhaling both CO2 and moisture out into the entire mask, and not expelling it directly via the snorkel. Condensation spoils your view (fogging) and too much CO2 can be dangerous and even lead to a loss of consciousness.
This is why we paid special attention to the fogging of the masks during our tests. This is a good indication whether or not the snorkel mask is working properly. If the orinasal pocket fogs up this isn’t a problem since this is where all the moist exhaled air is expelled from. It is however a problem if this happens in other areas of the snorkel mask since it ends up getting “trapped” there.
A mask with a good fit is also very determinative when it comes to preventing fogging, so a good seal is crucial.
The test results
Why don’t we start with a positive observation? The quality of the masks tested was generally higher than that seen in last year’s tests. This incidentally does not mean that they all performed well this time, but there was definitely an improvement! Another noticeable development was that two “new models (from Cressi and Mares)” are made differently from the other masks we tested this year and in prior years.
It’s also important to know that we didn’t test all of the snorkel masks that are available in the Netherlands and Belgium. There are a couple reasons we didn’t do this: new snorkel masks are being launched all the time, the same mask may be sold by several brands under a different name, and snorkel masks are sometimes included in a company’s range for such a short period (and even on a one-time basis such as in supermarket promotions for example) that they were already excluded from the range before we could complete the test.
If you have your eye on a snorkel mask that we didn’t test, ask for advice. Good advice is essential for those considering buying one of these products.
You will also find snorkel masks in the list that we had already tested last year and that are still available this year in an unchanged form, according to the manufacturer. We did not re-test these products.
Despite the fact that snorkel masks can really look alike on the outside, they can differ greatly in terms of their functionality.
Snorkelers with a beard need to pay more attention to the fit than other wearers. The snorkel mask really must form a close fit to the entire face, otherwise it will fill up with water that enters via the beard. Shaving is definitely an option!
There are accessories available for many snorkel masks such as a Go-Pro mount. These are even a standard feature with some of the masks we tested, much like spare parts such as membranes or O-rings come standard with some snorkel masks. These days, you can even talk to each other or those at the surface: Ocean Reef offers the SnorkieTalkie for its masks.
The testing team produced a report for each snorkel mask they tested. Click the name of the snorkel mask of your choice in the overview below to read what the snorkelers thought.
Testing team’s recommendations
According to the testing team, the following masks (in random order) come very highly recommended: SeaTurtle, Seac Unica (2019), Atlantis, Ocean Reef Aria Classic, Ocean Reef Aria QR, Ocean Reef Uno and Subea Easybreath. These masks are closely followed by the Atlantis Triton, Cressi Duke and Mares Sea Vu Dry: these score very well. What we noticed this time was that there was a clear increase in the number of snorkel masks that did well in the test compared with previous years.
If you have had a good experience with a particular snorkel mask, please leave a response for us at the bottom of this article and tell us why you are so happy with the product. It would be really helpful for new users!
Foto’s: René Weterings