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When it comes to snorkeling gear, you don't need much to start exploring the world beneath the sea, but a reliable mask is essential to making the most of your experience.
There are two varieties of masks, full-face masks that combine the snorkel and mask into one, and the traditional mask, which is part of a snorkel set. Each comes with its own pros, cons, and selections. So, how do you choose?
Do you snorkel often or is it your first time? Do you like to travel light or does that not matter? Do you enjoy diving down deep or prefer skimming the surface? Answering these questions will help you define which equipment is best for you: the best mask, the best snorkel, the best fins, the best swimwear, and the best underwater camera gear.
Probably the most important part of your equipment, you don't want to skimp on the mask you chose.
The best masks are the ones that are most comfortable, portable, and allow for the widest field of vision, making it possible to take in all nature has to offer and take the best underwater photos, but to each their own when it comes to deciding which mask is best for you.
Let's dive in...
When it comes down to it, the type of experience you're after is the main factor that will decide which type of mask you should use.
If you're a beginner or simply looking for a relaxing time skimming the surface of calm waters, a full-face snorkel mask might be the better choice for you. . If you want a more active experience with the chance to dive a little deeper and interact with ocean life, go for a traditional snorkel mask set!
The best part about a traditional snorkel set is that it's portable and small, and you can take it and use it anywhere. If you want to dive a little deeper and get up close and personal with all the ocean has to offer, traditional snorkel sets might be for you. Whether you're headed out to the deep Pacific at Kealakekua Bay, the caves in Jamaica, or simply exploring the shallow Miami reefs, traditional sets are always a sure bet.
Perfect for ocean swimming, freediving, and more adventuring, the traditional is compact, lightweight, and easy to carry on excursions. It's also easy to equalize in-ear pressure underwater and remove as needed.
While a traditional snorkel mask set allows you greater freedom in the water, you will need to learn how to breathe through a tube and mouthpiece, which can be difficult for beginners.
Because holding a bite valve in your mouth for extended periods can be tough, especially for people with braces, dentures, or other appliances, this might not be the best choice for you. Peripheral vision is also limited to the size and design of the particular mask. Some are better than others.
It's important for beginners to be comfortable while breathing and the full-face snorkel mask is a new design that combines mask and snorkel into one easy-to-use experience. When choosing a full-face mask, it's important to look for one with ample airflow and a flat lens design for maximum visibility.
One of the best features of a full-face mask is that its unique design eliminates the need for a mouthpiece. Comfortable, simple, and perfect for beginners, there's no need to learn how to breathe differently. With a well-made full-face mask you can breathe naturally through your nose or mouth. Another bonus is the expansive panoramic views, about 20% larger than traditional snorkel masks.
Since it's not easy to remove your mask while swimming, the use of the full-face mask becomes limited to snorkeling near the surface of the ocean like off the coastline of Catalina Island.
Full-face snorkel masks are a great and comfortable way to snorkel, but keep in mind that some older or cheaper models can actually be dangerous, so it's best to stick to one of the newer, highly rated models.
Dive further with our 6 best full-face snorkeling masks, why, when and where you want to use one.