The 7 Best Snorkel Face Masks
6. Super Snorkel Tubeless
- separate breathing chamber
- more hygienic than a mouthpiece
- large bubble lens
|Brand||The Super Snorkel|
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
5. H2O Ninja GoPro Edition
- vibrant color options
- built-in safety valves expel water
- can be difficult to get tight seal
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
4. SeeReef Anti-Fog
- new extra long breathing tube
- backed by satisfaction guarantee
- includes ear plugs and spare seals
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
3. WildHorn Outfitters Seaview 180°
- comes in youth sizes
- shatterproof plastic material
- stays secure even in rough water
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
2. Tribord Easybreath
- 180-degree field of view
- bright orange tip for visibility
- available in multiple sizes
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
1. Ocean Reef Aria
- distributes pressure around the face
- extra wide air tube
- great for swimming workouts
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
A Brief History Of Snorkeling
For as long as man has lived near the ocean, he's wondered what's going on under there. The simple snorkel has provided us with the opportunity to take a peek at the undersea world — and it's been around a lot longer than you may realize.
The first known snorkelers were sponge farmers off the Greek island of Crete in 3000 B.C.E. They would use hollowed-out reeds to store air, and then they'd dive to the depths of the Mediterranean to pluck sponges from the reefs. Meanwhile, a couple millennia later, Assyrians began using animal skins to trap oxygen in order to prolong their dives so that they could explore their coasts and evade enemies when things got hairy in battle.
The next big advancement in dive technology came courtesy of Alexander the Great. He pioneered the use of the diving bell, which is a huge chamber lowered into the water that traps air inside. Divers can explore at their leisure, then return to the bell for a gulp of air as needed.
Leonardo da Vinci sketched out an idea that closely resembled the modern snorkel in 1500 C.E., and in fact designed an entire scuba suit, including the first mask. However, snorkeling wouldn't really take off until the 20th century, as the invention of waterproof swim goggles in 1930 by Frenchman Guy Gilpatric allowed people to enjoy improved vision while submerged. This led to a rise in underwater tourism in tropical areas, as well as increased attention from the military.
The U.S. Navy commissioned special soldiers known as frogmen during WW II, and their role was to carry out special missions against the Japanese in the Pacific theater. As a result, more time and money were poured into research and development, improving both the safety and effectiveness of snorkels and masks.
Today, snorkeling is primarily a leisure activity, enjoyed by tourists and sport fishermen. Modern gear uses high-quality rubber and glass, allowing snorkelers to enjoy a crystal-clear view of the underwater world around them.
How To Choose A Snorkel Face Mask
If you're looking for a sure-fire way to ruin your vacation, buying the wrong snorkeling gear will do it, as nothing will spoil your dive faster than having to adjust your gear every few seconds.
That's why the most important thing to look for is proper fit. If it's not sealed air-tight on your face, it's worthless and you should not buy it. Shopping online for a mask is still a good idea, as you can find more options and better deals, but don't pack your mask without trying it on first, and if it doesn't fit, send it back immediately.
Don't put up with any air leakage. Even if it's just a slow leak, it will cause water to flood the mask, and you'll have to keep treading water to empty it, and when you put it back on, it will fog up. Seriously — this is not something to compromise on, even a little bit.
Make sure it fits the contours of your face, as well. When trying it on, press it to your face and hold your breath; if it seals without you needing to hold it on, it's a winner. Not only will this prevent leakage, but it will also ensure that you don't have to cinch the strap down too tight, making it more comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. The skirt (the material that touches your skin) is another important factor to consider here. Generally speaking, the more material touching your face, the tighter the seal.
There are quite a few options to choose from when picking out a mask. A low-fog lens, for example, will help keep your vision clear, and certain masks have special lenses that sharpen your eyesight. Check your peripheral vision while you're at it — more is certainly better in this case. When comparing materials, choose silicone over rubber. Rubber will crack over time, requiring replacement, while silicone should last you for many years.
Above all, make sure your mask has plenty of room for your eyes to bulge cartoonishly out of your head in case you see a shark.
Other Tips For Enjoying Your Snorkeling Experience
If you're going snorkeling for the first time, it pays to study beforehand. Many tour companies do little to prepare you for your experience, choosing instead to just hand you your gear and turn you loose, so doing some research can make your experience much more enjoyable.
I've already covered the importance of getting gear that fits, but if you can, practice with it before you go out in the open sea. Find a shallow beach or pool somewhere and make sure that you know how to use everything, there are no leaks, and that you're comfortable and relaxed.
Learn how to read ocean conditions before you set out, as well. It's important to find a calm, interesting area for your first time out, so being able to spot a current is essential. The last thing you want is to find yourself taken out further than you're comfortable going, but you may also be able to let the current carry you, reducing the amount of energy you expend and allowing you to simply enjoy the scenery.
Finally, practice proper sea etiquette. Don't touch anything; most marine life, like coral, doesn't appreciate being interfered with, and oh yeah — some things down there can kill you. Don't try to pet or feed any fish or turtles you come across, and give everything some space. Remember, you're in their home, so try not to be an obnoxious houseguest. Make sure your sunscreen is biodegradable as well, as many sunblocks contain chemicals that kill reefs.
Most importantly, though, remember to have fun. Oh, and if you see Nemo down there, tell him his dad is looking for him.