Snorkeling Tips: What Type of Mask to Get? Full-Faced or Traditional?

Let’s get straight to the point of this post, shall we? A snorkeling mask is the single most important piece of your snorkeling gear. It’s literally a window you wear on your head, a piece of equipment that’s as essential to snorkeling as a bicycle is to mountain biking. So, now you might be pondering what type of snorkeling mask to get?

We’re here to answer that question for you. In this post, we’ll tackle the ins and outs of snorkeling masks. We’ll discuss the differences between traditional and full-faced masks and outline why it’s so important to have a proper snorkeling mask.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The Essential Importance of a Snorkeling Mask

Snorkeling is virtually impossible without a proper snorkeling mask. It allows you to see under water while also letting your exhale through your nose. This makes it possible to equalize the air pressure in your ears and the water pressure by squeezing your nostrils.

This is why any snorkeling mask should fit properly. A good mask fits snuggly around your head and face, leaving absolutely no gaps. They need to be 100% water tight and waterproof. Any mask that’s too wide or tall for your face will not fit properly, which will certainly result in a water-filled mask once you’re out snorkeling.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

What Type of Snorkeling Mask to Get

There are a number of different snorkeling masks on the market nowadays, but they can generally be divided into two main groups—the traditional masks and full-faced masks.

Traditional Snorkeling Masks

These are the snorkeling masks that we all know, the ones that you’ll always find at companies renting out snorkeling and scuba diving gear. The traditional snorkeling mask consists of a lens or window that can be made up of one to four different lenses, a head strap, a nose pocket, a purge valve and the skirt, which seals the mask and is usually either plastic or silicone.

It is important to try out these masks in the store before purchasing or renting them. Make absolutely sure that they’re completely sealed when you wear them. You can check whether or not it seals properly by putting it on your face and breathing in through your nose. If the mask stays on your face, without eventually any more air flowing in, it’s sealed.

This type of mask is super-easy to use, very straightforward and typically lightweight. The only challenge first-time snorkelers may experience is figuring out how to breathe under water through a snorkel, which comes separately and is attached to the snorkel. Besides that, this is probably your go-to snorkeling mask.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Full-Faced Snorkeling Masks

A completely different type of snorkeling mask is the full-faced one. As opposed to the traditional masks, which keep the actual mask and snorkel separate, the full-faced masks combine them into one single unit. There are several advantages to this particular type, as well as a number of cons.

First, a full-faced snorkeling mask makes it extremely easy for beginning snorkelers to breathe. No more sore jaws or mouths from holding onto the snorkel, no problems whatsoever with actually breathing under water. All these masks also have a so-called dry snorkel, which means that whenever the snorkel is submerged or hit by a wave, it prevents water from flowing in. Additionally, the large windows offer an exceptional 180-degree view.

Now, on the other hand, the biggest disadvantage of a full-faced snorkeling mask is that it’s impossible to dive with it. This is because there’s no way for you to equalize the air pressure under water by squeezing your nose and blowing air into your ears. People have also complained about these masks getting pretty hot. You do, after all, breathe into the entire mask. This can also make it hard to get a full fresh breath of air. These masks are, therefore, only suitable for casual snorkeling, not for intensively exercise.


Ultimate the decision about what type of snorkeling mask to get is dependent on your personal preferences and needs. Full-faced snorkeling masks are ideal for beginners, as they make breathing a piece of cake. Experienced and more adventurous snorkelers, however, shouldn’t use them for two reasons. One, you can’t dive with them; and two, during vigorous exercise and fast swimming, the mask won’t allow enough oxygen to flow in, out and around.

The traditional snorkeling masks are probably the best choice. They’re straightforward and most people are already familiar with them. Learning how to breathe through a snorkel is really the only challenge you may come across. That is, however, something that simple practice can easily solve. It’s also critical to ensure that the mask fits well. If you cover those bases, though, you’ll be all set for some free and unlimited underwater fun in places like California, Florida, or Hawaii.

Bram Reusen

Author: Bram Reusen


Bram Reusen is fluent in both English & Dutch, and his writings include news articles, equipment manuals, and more.

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