It seems like new full face snorkel masks are released everyday, some expensive, some really cheap. Sometimes we hear frightening news that some masks actually put you in danger while snorkeling due to the CO2 build up inside the mask. How does this work and how can you check if your mask is safe to use?
How Full Face Snorkelmasks are intended to be used
A snorkel mask is designed for recreational use. Just floating on the surface and comfortably looking down onto the fishies. What it’s not designed for is extensive open water swimming, freediving or swim practice. Just like with a normal snorkel and mask soon enough you will feel like you can’t catch your breath. This is due to the CO2 build up in the mask or snorkel while you exhaust yourself.
Dead Space?! CO2 Build UP!
When we breath in and out we humans produce CO2. When we do an activity which exerts us, our body needs more oxygen to keep your muscles working and therefore our breathing becomes faster. At the same time we breath shallower which leads to our problem. Exhaled air contains more CO2 than the air we inhale. If we do this in a closed of space like a snorkel mask or a snorkel we won’t exhale deeply enough to push all the bad air out. Its like breathing in a closed of bag and the CO2 keeps on building until it becomes very toxic and we become unconscious.
The Good News
This all sounds pretty bad. Luckily the designers of snorkel masks have taken this into account. Therefore every mask has a breathing part and a looking part. The breathing part is locate near the mouth en looks a lot like a oxygen mask. This part seals the mouth and nose off from the rest of the mask. On the top of the ‘oxygen mask’ are little valves which are designed to only let in fresh air and don’t let any bad air escape to the looking part of the mask. The bad air is forced to the lower part of the ‘oxygen mask’ and flows to and out of the snorkel on the sides of the mask.
Separating the good masks from the bad
In some cheap and ill made masks the mechanisme as described above doesn’t work. It could be that the valves are faulty and don’t work or the ‘oxygen mask’ has a bad fit and bad air leaks down the sides of the mask. Checking if you bought a good snorkel mask is easy. First check if the breathing part fits neatly over your nose and as close to your face as possible. When you put on the mask and breath in it only the breathing part should fog up. The looking part should stay clear of any fog.
Important to remember
- A snorkel mask is for relaxed snorkeling only and not made for freediving or extensive open water swimming.
- Make sure the mask has the correct fit and that the breathing part fits neatly over your mouth and nose.
- Always try on the mask and breath in it on land, only the breathing part should fog up
- Always test a snorkel mask for the first time with a snorkeling buddy
So you don’t want to buy a Full Face Snorkel Mask anymore? Check out our top 3 full face snorkel mask alternatives