Full face snorkeling masks like the Ocean Reef Aria are becoming more and more popular as people start to understand the benefits they have over the traditional mask and snorkel. The problem that arises from this is that as new types of products grow in popularity, manufacturers of cheap and usually inferior versions start to surface at significantly cheaper (and therefore more attractive) prices.
"It's only a snorkeling mask" we hear you say. "How can that be an problem?" you ask. "Surely these manufacturers are just able to make it at a lower cost and make less profit in order to sell it cheaper right?" If only it were that simple.
Ocean Reef have been researching and developing full face scuba diving masks for years so they fully understand the problems that face this type of product and the two biggest issues are sealing and air circulations.
Unlike a traditional mask where salty water is only going to sting yours eyes, the seal on a full face mask is absolutely crucial. Water entering a full face mask isn't just going to be a bit of an irritation for your eyes it could potentially interfere with your breathing as well. Without a soft and consistent sealing surface and a good set of adjustable straps the mask will never be able to achieve a satisfactory seal that keeps your air in and the water out.
The other big problem that factor into full face masks is carbon dioxide poisoning. It may seem a bit extreme but it's true. A traditional snorkel, regardless of it's complexity is essentially just a tube. You suck clean air in and purge carbon dioxide loaded air out. Simple.
A full face mask on the other hand has a much larger air volume of an irregular shape that could lead to pockets of stagnant and stale air building up. If the air isn't properly circulated the carbon dioxide level can build up in the mask and then in your blood which leads to carbon dioxide poisoning.
So, how does all this relate to cheaper copies of full face masks? It all comes down to the cost of research, development and testing. Ocean Reef, for instance, has taken considerable time and effort to develop a product that is safe to use. They will have gone through many design prototypes tested on sensitive machines with different internal compartment configurations to ensure that everything about the product meets every conceivable safety rule or guideline.
Can the same be said for the knock-off version that had a few cosmetic changes to make it look different, perhaps a few modifications to the structure and key components to make it quicker and easier to manufacturer. Will they have put their version through the same rigorous tests?
The age old rule of "You get what you pay for" definitely applies here.
We certainly hope you understand the potential risks mentioned above but at the end of the day the lure of a cheaper version can be too great. Or perhaps you decide to try a cheaper version and plan on getting a proper one if you like it.
Regardless of whether you opt for a cheap alternative or go for one of the full face masks that we trust and sell here we want to give you a few tips to help keep you safe whilst out enjoying your snorkelling trip.
Practice putting the mask on and taking it of again to make sure you are confident about taking it off easily and quickly. Full face mask straps are designed to keep the seal snug against the skin so are a bit more thorough than a standard mask.
Keep in the back of your mind what the early symptoms of Carbon Dioxide are. If your or your snorkelling buddy start to have difficulty breathing, hyperventilate, become dizzy or start to feel sleepy then you need to stop and immediately take your mask off, regardless of whether you are swimming around the beach or in deep water. Stop and remove the mask.
Snorkelling with a full face mask is different to a traditional mask and snorkel. Have a little bimble around in the shallows first to get the feel of it. When you are happy with how the mask fits and feels then you can head off into deeper water to explore.
If you haven't snorkelled before then you'll want to have a read of a Snorkeling Tips for Beginners to help you make the most of an amazing experience.