Full face mask 101: Pros and cons

A full face mask is a scuba goggles combined with an integrated regulator. As the name suggests, this equipment covers the entire face of the diver; protecting the eyes, nose and mouth from the water. The influx of full face masks on the market is encouraging a lot of diving enthusiasts to try something less traditional. Although this gear is not an entirely new concept, it is worth checking out.

Advantages

Diving with full face mask
Source: Youtube

You might be wondering, what makes some divers favor the FFM over the normal mask? Let’s go over the advantages to understand why.

Upgraded view – The full face mask generally offers a wider perspective than the traditional one.  With the benefit of a 180-degree view, you can enjoy a larger scope of vision and appreciate the marine environment more during your dive. The FFM also eliminates the conventional skirts that obstruct peripheral vision in traditional masks. This way, it’s easier to keep tabs of your dive buddy or group.

Ease and comfort – It has a built-in mouthpiece that allows you to breathe naturally underwater. With a second stage regulator linked directly into the goggles, you don’t have to keep the regulator mouthpiece between your teeth.  Thus, making breathing easier and more comfortable. You can say goodbye to jaw fatigue since there is no need to maintain an oral grip. This is also good news for individuals who wear dentures who might find it difficult to bite on the regulator mouthpiece.

Secured fit – The mask fits snuggly on your face which decreases the probability of accidentally getting knocked off, especially while diving in confined places like underwater caves, tunnels and wrecks. No water is bound to get in so leaks will not be a concern.

Less fogging problems – The integrated second stage lets incoming fresh air enter the FFM along the interior lens which helps prevent fogging.  So, you don’t have to apply anti-fog solution before the dive, even during cold weather.

Better communication – Some full face masks have integrated microphones which make it possible to talk to fellow divers using the same gear.  You can avoid the possibility of misinterpreting hand signals by talking directly to your dive instructor, buddy and other divers. This wireless communication feature is the reason why it has been utilized by professional divers for years.  

In the Hollywood film, “47 Meters Down,” two novice divers were shown using equipment with integrated microphones.  When they encountered an underwater emergency, they were able to communicate with one another throughout their ordeal.  They were able to notify the captain of the boat from the surface about their status. The character played by actress Mandy Moore wouldn’t have survived without that kind of communication.

Added protection from elements –  You might not be aware but the ultraviolet rays of the sun can break through the water. Wearing a full face gear can limit and filter sun exposure while diving and getting out of the water. Thus, lessening the chances of getting sunburned. Furthermore, it can protect your face from the cold water and reduce chances of hypothermia.

Disadvantages

Now that you know the advantages of using the full face mask, it also pays to know what the disadvantages are.

Harder to put on – The multiple straps can make it tricky to put on and fasten especially for new users, unlike standard goggles that require little effort. If not worn properly, there is a risk of it flooding or falling off.

Divers who are not accustomed to this kind of equipment are advised to get instructions from certified divers with experience in using FFM. There are also specialty courses that give divers thorough instructions on how to put it on prior to the dive and how to remove and replace it underwater.

Dropping it can be critical – Although a properly worn FFM is less likely to get dislodged, it may still happen. Dropping your mask means losing both your goggles and regulator which puts you in a dangerous position. It is best to carry a spare conventional mask for emergencies like this.

More expensive – This gear is generally more expensive than the standard half goggles. However, a mask with a built-in second stage regulator is comparable to a good quality standard equipment.

Deterioration of learned skills – There is a tendency for divers who get used to this gear with a communication system to forget the essentials of hand signals learned during the Basic Scuba Diving Course.  Although wireless communication is an advantage, it is not advisable to be dependent on it. If for some reason, the intercom system becomes choppy/inaudible or fails altogether, you can still rely on hand signals to send messages to your buddy and vice versa.  Besides, chances are not everyone in your diving group has the same equipment. Make it a point to refresh your memory about basic hand signals to avoid overlooking primary hand alerts from your instructor or fellow divers.

Choosing between the traditional and full face mask

Traditional mask preferred in courses
source: Scubadiving.com

Although the full face mask is becoming more popular, diving centers still use traditional ones for scuba diving courses.  Why? First of all, not all dive centers have this kind of gear. Furthermore, the traditional equipment is safe, time-tested, and has been proven in different water conditions. You have to learn how to use dependable and trusted conventional diving equipment to earn your dive certification.

You’ve learned the prime advantages of the FFM but keep in mind that there are many styles and models available in the market that may have other features. To know if this gear is something worth considering, it’s important to go through the disadvantages as well. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t just focus on the pros but also take time to carefully weigh the cons. The choice to use one over a traditional equipment is a matter of personal preferences. The best way to choose is to try both and compare them.

If you’re interested to know how it feels to go underwater using this gear, you can enroll in the Discovery Diving with Full Face Mask to enjoy an unobstructed view of the stunning underwater world of Dubai.

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