We have heard about full face snorkel masks for a while now, and since we were heading back to the BVI we were anxious to give them a try ourselves.
Christa did some research online and we used reviews found on Amazon to try and make a good choice for our upcoming charter. At theskateboarder.net and beachbaby.net you can read some 3rd party reviews.
I wanted a longer snorkel and a camera mount so I went with the Octobermoon Second Generation mask. For Christa we just wanted to find one that fit (since she has a small face) and something that would match her existing snorkel gear, so we went with the Tribord Easybreath. At first we order the XS for her, as that is the size of things that tends to fit her, but it was actually too small so we returned it and got an S that fit. Amazon Prime is great for this as most items arrive in approx 2 days and there are no hassle returns. This was great as we were inside 2 weeks for our trip when we decided to order them.
This is what came with my Octobermoon Second Generation mask. The mask, click-on snorkel, case bag, mesh bag and a GoPro-like attaching screw that is not in the picture.
As far as fit and general wearing goes, it is very easy to put on and comfortable when you’re wearing it. The straps fit around your head and adjust at their bottom mounting points. They are easy to reach and lengthen/shorten while you’re in the water. This kind of full face mask is kind of a mask inside a mask, as there is a seal that goes around the outside of your face, and then another seal that goes around your nose and mouth. This is one of the purported befits of such a design, but it was where I was experiencing some trouble.
Where my finger is in the second photo is wear I was getting a bad seal. This caused each exhale to fog the right side of the mask, and then each inhale to partially clear it. An odd sensation while snorkeling. This happened on my first 2 tries, so after that I used some dish soap as you would on any other mask. Even though the lack of a perfect seal was still there, I didn’t have anymore fogging.
This is the camera mount on the top of the face mask. It is designed for GoPro and compatible hardware. I myself was using an SJCAM SJ5000 that we first saw being review by Nikki and Jason Wynn on their great website Gone With The Wynns. The rust you can see in the pictures was starting after only the second time in the water. That’s a little quicker that I would expect. After a couple tries, I managed to find the right angle to set the camera, but because of where the mount is located, in my natural snorkel position it kept coming out of the water as you can see in this video. After a couple of attempts I switched to my selfie stick.
The other unfortunate thing with my mask was the attachment point for the snorkel refused to click securely over it’s tab. There seemed to be a good seal with the o-ring so it never came off in the water, but I always had that in the back of my mind. The snorkel is also the most convenient place to handle the mask, so it slipped out and got knocked around a bit because of this. I could probably heat the plastic and bend it back into the shape it should be, but I haven’t tried yet. Some reviewers have criticized that these masks make you feel like you are not getting enough air. I did not ever experience this, but I was never really straining myself physically while wearing it.
Christa, on the other hand had no real issues and really enjoyed her Tribord Easybreath mask. It came with everything you see in the picture below. She occasionally had some minor water ingress as her hairline is so far forward, but it never really bothered her. One of the unexpected benefits of her mask was that the bright orange snorkel, while shorter than mine was very easy to spot with a quick scan when you pop your head up to try and spot your snorkel buddy.
NOVATEK CAMERAOverall we are split on the full face snorkel mask thing. Christa loves hers and will likely stick with it going forward. If I ignore the issues that I had with my mask, which are likely all easy fixes if I go with Tribord or another maker, I still will go back to my tradition mask and snorkel setup for a few reasons:
- To me the visibility was actually not that much better than a traditional mask. My peripheral was distorted by the shape of the mask forcing me to move my head as you normally would.
- While you could talk through the mask if you shouted, both our natural responses were to remove the mask to speak, breaking any seal you may have had and risking a bad one when you put it back on. On a traditional setup you just take the snorkel out of your mouth and don’t break your mask seal.
- While there is a clever plastic ball that slides up and down in the snorkel keeping the water out, if you dive, there is no way to valsalva or equalize your ears.
*While writing this I did a quick check online to see if there was in fact a way to valsalva while wearing these, and came across Tribord’s own FAQ page listing the limitations of their mask (or any other full face):
The Easybreath® was designed for surface snorkelling, which represents 90% of the practice. It is not possible to free dive for several reasons:
1) The dry top system does not work in a horizontal position when duck diving.
2) The volume of air contained in the Easybreath® is much greater than that contained in a traditional mask; from 1m deep, the pressure of the mask on the face becomes very uncomfortable.
3) When you free dive, you need to equalize the pressure afterwards, i.e. hold your nose and blow through it gently as if you are blowing your nose in order to balance the pressure of the ears so as not to pierce your eardrums. With the Easybreath® it is impossible to equalize because you cannot get at your nose.
It seems we came up the with same conclusions on our own. If you like to paddle around on the surface these are great and you should try them. If you will dive occasionally (which I do, but Christa doesn’t) then you need to stick with a conventional setup.