Is it summer yet? How ’bout now? Now?
You know what it’s like. Once you’ve been bitten by the scuba bug, summer can never come round too soon. And of course, you’ve got your scuba gear ready to go, the moment summer hits.
But have you seen the latest thing?
Full face masks are here! Till recently, they were the kind of thing you’d only see in sci-fi movies, unless you were a commercial or scientific diver. Now they’re a legitimate scubacessory.
You know you want one of those! Sure, diving accessories are already expensive. You want to spend money on a full face mask now?
But firstly, well, yeah, you know you kind of do.
And secondly, that magic moment’s arrived where professional equipment has been translated for the mass civilian market. That means the prices – while still large enough to give your lifestyle a firm glancing blow - are coming down.
Down to a level where they’re dangling in front of you, tempting you.
The full face Tribord Easybreath snorkel mask led the way a few years ago, and now, lots of manufacturers have cottoned on to the idea that if they produce full face masks at a reasonable price, the market is there for them.
So – just because diving has a fair number of gradations and specific terms, what are we actually talking about when we say ‘full face masks’?
Most recreational dive and snorkel masks just cover your nose and eyes. That means you breathe through a separate regular – the chunky piece of equipment you put in your mouth.
With full face masks, there’s no separate regulator. It’s built into the mask itself.
Bye bye, jaw fatigue. Hello, Chatty McChatterson, because now you can actually talk while you dive, communicating through an underwater comms system.
It really is an astonishing change the first time you use a full face mask. And it makes you realise why full face masks are such a staple of sci-fi – and actual science.
Dialogue! Communication of data, direction, intention. It’s a whole new world.
And now it’s open to more of us than ever before.
Best Full Face Scuba Masks
Given that the new wave of full face masks are hitting the market, let’s take a look at some of the best of them.
We’ll see what they get right and where more work would help to deliver a better experience for you. And above all, we’ll see which full face masks are best for different types and levels of scuba diver.
OUR TOP PICK
This is the advanced version of Ocean Reef’s Space Extender integrated full face diving mask. It’s a mask that delivers everything an experienced adventurer could possibly want.
First of all, it’s fully customizable. That means you can create the design that’s best for your preferred type of diving.
You want an optical corrective lens? This mask can do that.
Want a surface air valve? No problem.
Want to fit an underwater comms system? There’s the ability to add that too.
In many ways, this brings the Space Extender close to professional dive quality, within a commercially viable price range. It also has more than usual space around the nose and mouth – the preferred design for colder waters. Unsurprisingly then, the Space Extender is certified for cold water dives.
Let’s talk regulators for a second. The Space Extender comes with a second-stage integrated regulator, which gives you air only when you breathe. You can also control exactly how much air is released, which can be useful in tight spots.
The Space Extender is the full face mask you’d buy a lover if you wanted to propose to them. It’s full of promise of years of future diving, clear vision and a world of underwater wonder. It’s also a pocket-punching high-end mask at a high-end price.
Damned if it isn’t worth every dime, though.
Most divers will know Scubapro gear. The company’s ethos is to make fuss-free gear that’s as accessible as possible. Its first full face mask underlines that principle. In fact, when you see it, you could almost pick it out of a line-up as the Scubapro mask.
Scubapro has tried to reduce the weight of its mask. That means no giant space-domes here, but a cleverly constructed mask that does everything necessary, without feeling too enclosed.
The lighter weight is a great relief, making the mask very comfortable to wear. For those who’ve been diving a long time, there’s a special touch here – a separate compartment for your mouth and nose.
That means while it functions as a full face mask, it has some of the sense memories of traditional regulator-breathing.
The Scubapro mask has adjustable, quick release stainless steel buckles with positive locking. That can help fight the claustrophobic feeling of some more fully enclosed masks.
Of all the masks on our list, the Scubapro is probably the most like a step-up investment. While it works like a full face mask, it has enough of the aquapunk vibe, with buckles and a separate nose and mouth area.
It combines the advantages of the new, like verbal communication, with the comfortingly free feeling of the old, traditional mask. It’s a very comfortable mask to wear, and will certainly find fans among divers who aren’t quite ready to go full-on sci-fi yet.
OTS was one of the first companies to start making full face masks.
If you want the full-on sci-fi look, you can’t really do better than the OTS Guardian. Slip this on and you could be exploring inner space, outer space, you name it.
For the Star Trek fans, this mask is also available in a whole raft of colors, so you can entirely buy into the idea of color as rank, should you feel like it! Just try not to be a redmask.
But let’s get serious for a minute. How does it work as a mask, rather than as expensive cosplay?
The visor’s very low profile, which means an astonishing degree of visibility. That’s a big plus of this mask – you go underwater to see all the wonders and secrets it holds. The OTS Guardian lets you see them in a kind of scuba diving widescreen.
Another handy element in the OTS Guardian mask is the ABV valve. That lets you preserve your air supply whenever you’re on the surface, so you can make every underwater breath count.
OTS has six decades of experience building scuba diving gear, and there’s a level of thought and professionalism in the Guardian that sings of all that time making life easier for divers.
The company’s thought through the design here, using a double seal. What does that mean in practice? It means whether you have a large or small face, you should be able to wear the mask comfortably.
Also, when the water temperature drops, you should be able to easily regulate your breathing to the new environmental challenge.
When you buy the mask, it comes with a model-specific mask bag, with drain holes and a top vent. That helps dry out the mask quickly between dives.
It’s not an absolutely perfect mask - some divers have issues with the equalizing tab. But overall, it’s a fantastically comfortable mask to wear, with a handful of well thought-out special features to improve your undersea life.
We’ve already seen some pretty cool-looking full face masks. This half-pilot, half-cyborg look from Ocean Reef though is right up there in the running for the “Coolest Mask” award.
But does it work well as a mask?
Oh yes. Yes, it really, truly does.
The second-stage regulator comes with a 3.5”, 3/8” threaded low-pressure hose. It also brings some patents to the party, with its bellows-style design face skirt.
Above all, the fit on this mask is glorious – part retro, part futuristic, thanks to the use of moulded silicone rubber and a large sealing and spring profile.
If the OTS Guardian gave you scuba widescreen, the Ocean Reef Space G gives you 4K HD, with its fog-proof visor and a visible light transfer level of 92%.
It’s enough to make you get your eyes checked more regularly.
You’ve got full control over your airflow in this mask too, so you can make sure you’re getting enough air, and that you can make the most use of that air when you’re under the water.
Yes, it’s a touch more on the expensive side, but we pretty much left fiscal responsibility at the door when it came to full face masks. You don’t buy any one of these because they’ll repay your financial investment. You buy them because they’ll make your life better when you’re scuba diving. For that enhancement of life, you pay the price.
That said, there’s a value-quibble with this mask, because it turns out you have to pay for the surface valve and the rapid disconnect separately.
While you’re adding on to this mask and hanging the cost because you only live once though, it’s worth pointing out it also has an optional visor light. You can have that fitted when you buy, or added on afterward, but if you’re going to spend a little extra on an excellent full face mask, why not go all the way? Why not make your life as much better as it can possibly be?
Yes, it’s another Ocean Reef.
Because they make darned good full face masks, that’s why.
The Neptune Space Predator is an upgrade on the standard Neptune full face mask. It’s a mask used by plenty of professionals, so while you might be paying slightly more for it, it comes with the seal of professional approval.
Naturally, to make professionals wear it, it has to have something that puts it above and beyond some other masks on the market. In the case of the Neptune Space Predator, those things include exceptional lightness and comfort.
How do you get exceptional lightness and comfort? We’re glad you asked.
Use anodized anticorodal material in your regulator cover for a start, using durable, lightweight aluminum. That’ll give you at least the beginnings of a lightweight mask. Add some stainless steel buckles and a stainless steel frame, and you can build the mask to be as lightweight as possible.
Of course, getting a mask that’s good enough for professionals means you’re going to be paying nearly professional prices.
But for the quality of mask you get here, it’s worth sucking it up and going for it if you can. If you can’t, it’s worth getting one of the cheaper masks on our list for now and working your way up to this one when you can.
Pros and Cons of Full Face Scuba Masks
If you’re thinking about getting a full face diving mask, there are one or two things you should consider before pressing the ‘buy’ button.
Bottom line, full face masks aren’t for everyone, but they can enhance the experience of diving for anyone who can get used to them.
Feel claustrophobic in a traditional mask? Suffer the hell that is jaw fatigue? Or just not keen on holding something in your mouth for the whole length of a dive?
Full face masks can give you a brilliant new vista of underwater opportunity.
In fact, it’s so different there’s a whole separate PADI course for full face mask diving – an experience which of course opens up to you once you have your mask.
Pros of Buying a Full Face Scuba Mask
It’s Good To Talk
This is one of the main reasons people cite when they go for a full face mask. The removal of the regulator from inside your mouth means you have access to an underwater comms system.
So whether it’s witty banter, a sub-aqua “I love you” or detailed information about the amazing thing you just found, full face masks give you the freedom to talk.
Hand signals are extremely useful – they’ve had to be, they’ve been what was available to most people. But suddenly regaining the ability to talk normally to people while you’re underwater? That can be priceless to many divers.
Widescreen Scuba Diving
Most full face masks deliver almost 180 degrees of visibility. That’s like switching from regular to widescreen, with the ocean opening up to you in a whole new panorama.
You’d Have To Work Hard To Lose Your Regulator
Losing a traditional regulator may not be a regular occurrence in your life. But with a standard face mask, it’s a potential risk every time you go under.
With a full face mask, you’d have to work much harder, possibly with tools, to lose your regulator, because it’s built in. Also of course if you have jaw or dental issues, the built-in regulator can be a huge help to you, saving you pain, stress and possibly expensive orthodontic work.
They’re A Much More Secure Fit
Full face masks are held on by several straps, rather than just the one that’s customary with traditional scuba masks. That, and the fact they need to be fitted tightly to the head or they become entirely pointless, means you get a more secure fit with a full face mask.
Cons Of Buying A Full Face Scuba Mask
They’re Harder To Put On
You remember those multiple straps?
Yeah. More fuss. More hassle. And of course if you don’t fasten them tight enough, you could pretty much watch the water flood in around your face.
They’re More Difficult to Clear
While full face masks don’t flood anywhere near as often as traditional masks, the nature of their complex straps means that when it does happen, they’re more difficult to clear. Also, because the visible scale of a full face mask is bigger, there’s the likelihood that you’ll have to clear a lot more water when it happens.
Which is a hassle, but it’s made more than that by the fact that with the built-in regulator, you may not be able to breathe while the mask is flooded.
So…there’s a thought to wake you up in the middle of the night.
Don’t Drop Your Mask
With a traditional mask, if you’re on a dive and you drop it, it’s probably not a huge, immediate, life-or-death deal. You have a regulator and a tank, and plenty of people even carry a spare mask in case of sub-aqua klutziness.
You manage to drop a full face mask? You’re in big trouble, immediately. Because of course it incorporates your regulator. Which is how you get the sweet, sweet oxygen you need to breathe.
So, don’t drop it. Not once. Not twice. Not ever.
The upside of course is that the interconnectedness of a full face mask means it should be a lot more difficult to drop, because the regulator hose should connect you to the mask.
The Deterioration Of Skills
Most divers have learned to use basic skills, including hand signals. Switching to full face masks makes hand signals unnecessary. At least, it does until the comms system fails.
It’s worth asking what happens if divers learn hand signals but then never have to use them except in emergency circumstances.
Do you remember how to do long division? Or hot to calculate the circumference of a circle? You were probably taught those things once. But if you don’t have to use the skills on a regular basis, they can fade rapidly.
The chances of needing to know how to calculate the circumference of a circle in a life-or-death situation feel fairly remote. But with hand signals, you might suddenly need them, and be too accustomed to speaking underwater to remember them.
Heavy Weight, High Price
We’ve mentioned a few times that – at least at the moment – full face masks are an investment. They cost a lot of money, and unless you’re a professional diver, you’re not going to recoup that money by using them.
How much does your diving experience need to be better? Is the move to a full face mask worth it for you? And let’s not forget that however their weight is lightened compared to how it started out, full face masks are still heavier than traditional masks. Do you want to carry that much weight around with you when you dive?
Frequently Asked Questions
Overall, for many divers, full face masks are a great enhancement of their diving experience.
If you ever need fast, effective, accurate communication while out diving, being able to just talk is priceless.
For anyone who wants to go diving with their friends or partners and share the experience in real time, they’re also invaluable. Getting to hear your friend’s “Wow” in the moment will brighten your heart, your day and your life.
Let’s see if we can answer any remaining questions, to give you all the information you need to make a choice on full face masks.
Are Full Face Scuba Masks Safe?
Safer, yes. Full face snorkel models, no, but full face scuba masks, yes. They’re designed to be used at depth. That said, every piece of equipment is only considered as safe as the person using it. So take an appropriate course in using full face masks properly before you jump in the water with one.
How Does A Full Face Scuba Mask Work?
Traditional scuba and snorkelling masks just cover your nose and eyes. That means you have to insert a regulator in your mouth so you can breathe.
Full face masks have regulators built in, so you don’t need to hold one in your mouth for the duration of your dive.
What Is The Best Full Face Diving Mask?
The one you like the best.
More seriously, there are full face masks with a range of special features on our list. There’s no objective ‘best’ full face diving mask. That said, of course we’ve made our choice for what we consider the best on the market, and we’ve given the reasons behind our choice.
But our pick might not be your pick. You may decide you prefer the look, the feel and the function of another model. That’s fine – that means you’ve found the best full face diving mask for you.
If you have, we hope it brings you years of diving pleasure, wonder, and appreciation of the underwater world.