Like any other market, the scuba diving market is always changing and evolving. New equipment is coming out as well as traditional pieces are being updated and revived. Manufacturers are always looking for new ways to enhance your diving experience while improving safety and enjoyment.
Purge valves are one of the most controversial pieces of scuba diving equipment out there. Everyone seems to have a conflicting opinion, and you’ll have to come to your own decision about whether you want to use one or not.
You might have heard of the controversy surrounding purge masks, but not what they actually are. If you’re looking to learn more about this mask before settling on your own opinion, you’ve come to the right place.
Today we’ll be looking at what a purge mask is, why they’re so controversial among the community, and whether or not you should use one.
The humble purge mask
A purge mask is a type of diving mask that features a purge valve within it. The purge valve uses a one-way system to allow water out of the mark without giving it the opportunity to enter the mask.
While you’re diving, it can be annoying when you get water within your mask - not to mention dangerous. You have to resurface to empty the mask before heading back down, which can disrupt your diving time and impair your vision underwater.
So, the idea of a purge mask is a good one. You won’t need to resurface as the water will remove itself from your mask. Instead of lifting the mask away from your face to remove the water, all you need to do is exhale with your nose through the valve.
The water will then be removed. This saves you time and keeps you from getting annoyed by having to continually resurface.
Why so many people dislike the purge mask
The premise of the purge mask sounds ideal, so why do so many people have an issue with it? Let’s start off by saying that not everyone has an issue with this mask and plenty of divers use them without any issues.
However, there is also a community of people who believe that purge masks are only safe for snorkeling and not scuba diving. But what has caused this difference in opinion that is splitting the diving community in half?
The reason for this is that there are both benefits and drawbacks to the purge mask. While some believe that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, others believe the exact opposite.
Benefits and drawbacks of a purge mask
Let’s take a look at these benefits and drawbacks of purge masks so that you can form your own opinion with the knowledge that we currently possess.
- Purge masks can make diving easier and more enjoyable
Scuba diving is difficult, even for experienced divers. You have a lot to do and remember while underwater, and it can get quite complicated when you’re too busy emptying your mask to remember everything else.
Scuba diving gear is supposed to make your time underwater easier so that you can enjoy the sights. The purge valve is exactly the same and allows you to remain underwater instead of having to resurface every few minutes.
- You can wear contact lenses underwater
Not everyone is graced with perfect vision, and when you’re forced to remove your contact lenses or glasses before diving, it can become quite obsolete when you cannot see anything.
Wearing contact lenses with a traditional mask can cause water to touch the contacts and cause them to change shape, which can be very uncomfortable and even damage your eye. So, many contact lens wearers use a purge mask to prevent these dangers from occurring.
- Use your hands for taking pictures rather than continuously emptying your mask
When diving, you might want to use your hands for taking videos and images rather than having to empty your mask of water. When wearing a purge mask you can keep your hands on your expensive equipment instead of letting it go to remove water from your traditional mask.
- Allows people with facial hair to wear a scuba diving mask
Traditional masks can be difficult to wear when you have facial hair as they will leave a gap between your face and the mask. Here is where water will easily get in and disturb your diving experience.
With a purge mask; however, you can remove this water as easily as it is coming in by exhaling through your nose. So, even if the fit of your purge mask isn’t the best, you can still remove the water without having to resurface. This is much easier to use for people with facial hair than a traditional mask.
- There is a risk of malfunction
As with any piece of equipment, there is always a small risk of something malfunctioning. The purge valve is found underneath the nose pocket of a purge mask. There is a small risk that this valve could malfunction while you’re diving, either allowing water to enter the mask through the valve or stopping water from being removed.
If water were to enter the mask through this valve, it would enter straight up your nose and shock you, potentially worrying you and leaving you in a compromised position. All you would need to do is resurface and remove the mask, but it can be scary when you’re in this position.
Many divers choose to carry a spare mask in case this does happen. The divers who believe purge masks are dangerous mention that the purge valve is just another part of the mask that can malfunction. They believe that the fewer parts a mask has the better as there is less chance of it malfunctioning.
- You’ll need to clean the valve
Unlike traditional masks, you need to make sure that you’re cleaning your purge valve regularly to avoid debris getting stuck within it. If sand gets stuck within the valve, it might allow water to get into the mask rather than out of the mask. As this is what the mask is supposed to avoid, this can leave your mask obsolete and potentially dangerous. However, all you need to do is ensure that you’re constantly cleaning your valve and you should be fine.
- Changes in equalization
Purge masks make it difficult for you to hold your nose through the plastic during changes in equalization. This might make the experience a little more difficult for you if you depend heavily on pinching your nose. Some divers don’t need to pinch their noses; however, so it all depends on how you handle equalization changes.
Should you avoid the purge mask?
Now that you know the benefits and drawbacks of the purge mask, you can make your own decision on whether you want to use one or not. Ultimately, the decision is yours and will often come down to what you need out of your diving mask.
If you’re a contact lens wearer or have facial hair, you might prefer to use a purge mask for convenience. However, if you don’t need the purge valve for one of these reasons and prefer the simplicity of limited components, you might want to stick to your traditional mask.
A happy medium could be to take both a purge mask and a traditional mask out with you. Start with the purge mask, and if you don’t get along with it, find a malfunction, or worry too much that it is going to malfunction, you can swap to the traditional mask.
Overall, there is a reason why so many people opt for purge masks. If they were clearly dangerous, they wouldn’t be popular or available to rent and buy. So don’t worry too much about the risk of malfunction. Make your own decision and always be careful when diving, no matter what mask you’re wearing.