The best full-face snorkel masks can really provide incredible and unique experiences in the water. The unmatched field of view they provide through the huge face dome along with the integrated dry snorkel valve to keep water out of your mask are meant to provide a leisurely snorkel experience for beginners and experts alike.
Overall, the full-face snorkel mask concept is great: let snorkelers see more, increase safety, and ultimately allow more people to get in the water and experience the wonder of the ocean.
There have been some important questions about full-face snorkel masks that have started to be asked in recent years, though. Namely, surrounding safety.
Questions about safety are hugely important to ask about anything snorkeling-related. Even if — like in this case — their answers aren’t yet super clear.
And, since the answers aren’t yet super clear, it’s crucial to make sure that you understand how full-face snorkel masks work and also learn about how to choose the best full-face snorkel masks in terms of quality and safety.
So, let’s talk about some of these safety questions and also look at the best full-face snorkel masks in response.
Full-face snorkel masks have two key differences compared to a traditional snorkel set-up.
First the mask itself covers your entire face with a clear dome instead of only the area around your eyes and nose. This clear dome seals around the outside of your face to keep water out, and it allows you to have a wider field of vision since the viewable area of the mask is much larger.
Next, a snorkel is actually integrated into the top of the mask itself instead of a separate snorkel tube needing to be paired alongside a traditional snorkel mask. This integrated dry snorkel contains a special one-way float valve which closes when it comes in contact with water to keep that water out, but then opens when there’s no water present to allow you to breathe in and out normally.
It’s all a great idea and has some really interesting potential benefits, especially for beginning snorkelers who may not yet be comfortable with a more traditional snorkel set-up, in theory.
But, within the last few years, a general increase in snorkeling-related deaths have led some to wonder if full-face snorkel masks are to blame. Although numbers are still very small, some people who have died while snorkeling happened to be wearing full-face snorkel masks at the time (e.g., 4 of 10 in Hawaii in 2018 [source]).
Reports of harm from snorkeling are rare relative to the huge number of people who snorkel safely every day, and studies have concluded that snorkeling can generally be considered a safe activity [source]. But, any increase in safety issues should certainly be looked into.
Hawaii, et. al., has taken the lead on trying to determine whether or not full-face snorkel masks are safe or not by running tests and collecting data, though tests have not been fully conclusive. Still, some in the Hawaii state house have been concerned enough to recommend banning full-face snorkel masks state-wide.
So, what’s the answer?
Are full-face snorkel masks safe? While reports of problems and even drownings while using full-face snorkel masks do exist alongside reports of incidents with traditional snorkel masks, the Hawaii Department of Health has stated that “there is currently not enough information to prove a direct association to increased risk” regarding full-face snorkel masks. [Source]
In other words: we just don’t know for sure yet whether full-face snorkel masks are dangerous or safe. That’s kind of a strange place to be with snorkel equipment.
There are various theories out there. It could just be a statistical anomaly and not related to anything. Or, full-face snorkel masks might attract more beginning snorkelers to the water who might be more prone to problems. Maybe full-face masks appeal more to older snorkelers who might already have more health issues (part of the theory by some officials in the UK in one case).
But, one theory that is often a general consensus among most of the enthusiasts and manufacturers considering the issue is that the popularity of full-face snorkel masks has attracted many cheap knock-off versions that may have faulty valves which are not letting enough CO2 escape your mask when you breathe out. If true, that would definitely cause some problems.
And, if true, that would make it supremely important to choose a full-face snorkel mask from a well-regarded manufacturer with a positive safety record if you’re interested in a mask like this, and not just the cheapest full-face mask you can find.
My own experience with full-face snorkel masks has been a positive one. I’ve never had any sort of issues with mine, and previously enjoyed using it from time to time when I was more interested in a leisurely surface snorkel. I do use one of our best full-face snorkel mask recommendations (listed below) from a good manufacturer with a solid safety record, I tend not to use it in advanced situations, and I’m typically younger and in better health that many people who have health issues while snorkeling. Your experience with full-face snorkel masks may or may not be the same as mine and you should of course exercise your own caution, but take my experience as a data point in the greater conversation.
(Also, there is a lot more to learn about whether or not full-face snorkel masks are dangerous, so check out our article, Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks Safe? 5 Big Truths & Lies.)
Now, let’s look at a couple of the best full-face snorkel masks which are often regarded highly in terms of safety and quality.
If you’re set on a full-face snorkel mask, there are two masks in particular that rise to the top in my opinion. When factoring in personal experience, reviews and feedback I’ve received from other snorkelers, I think these are the two best full-face snorkel masks.
The Tribord Subea Easybreath (which can be ordered on Amazon) is actually the full-face snorkel mask I’ve used most over the years, and I’ve personally had positive experiences with it.
In addition to being one of the more stylish full-face snorkel masks (you’re going to look a little bit like a spaceman or spacewoman with this type of mask anyway, so you might as well look sleeker) with its nice soft, curved edges, it’s also guaranteed to be fog-free because of how its breathing chambers are set up. I can attest to that being pretty well true, as the times I had any fog in my mask were few and far between.
You also have some options in terms of colors and sizing, which is definitely welcome since many full-face snorkel masks are much less generous in this department.
Among available sizes, you have XS, S-M, M-L and L-XL to choose from. XS would be geared toward kids, S-M and M-L usually work for most women, and M-L and L-XL are intended for most men. I would say shoot for something that is about as tight on your face as you can get (without it being uncomfortable) because a tight seal around your face is key for these masks to work well.
Tribord also offers colors in blue, atoll (a light blue/turquoise color), and pink, so you have some extra flexibility in your look.
Also, if you order a Tribord Subea Easybreath through Amazon, they allow free returns on these masks. So, you can order a couple of different sizes or colors to try them on and return whatever doesn’t work for you.
The Head by Mares Seaview (also easily ordered on Amazon) full-face snorkel mask is another model that is generally considered to get high marks in terms of safety and quality, and comes from Head, a very well-known sporting goods manufacturer.
Head has also been one of the manufacturers wading into the fray surrounding the safety of full-face snorkel masks. They’ve called out the cheaper knock-off masks, stating that the success of their Seaview mask “has spawned a number of low-cost copycat masks … whose expertise, design and manufacturing experience are unknown” [source]. Head’s concern about these low-cost masks has been welcome.
The manufacturer also says that the Seaview “was put through rigorous testing protocols … including the measurement of potential CO2 build-up” [source]. It’s definitely nice to know that Head is on top of this and invested in making sure theirs is one of the best full-face snorkel masks for safety.
The Head by Mares Seaview mask looks very similar to the Tribord Subea Easybreath (and works very similarly as well). It also comes in a handful of sizes (XS, S/M and L/XL) along with different colors (blue, grey and pink), so you can stylize to your heart’s content.
Also, similarly to the Tribord’s mask, picking up the Head by Mares Seaview on Amazon will also give you free returns, which is really helpful for picking the right sizing and style.
The Deep Dive
The best full-face snorkel masks have the potential to change snorkeling for a lot of people. And, in many ways, they already have.
But, since questions have been asked about their safety, it’s hugely important to stay educated on the topic. Ultimately, the jury’s still out on whether someone can officially say that full-face snorkel masks are safe or not — and things may yet change — but one of the leading indicators of issues appears to be cheaper, low-quality masks whose snorkel valves do not work well, and/or pre-existing health conditions.
So, it’s crucial to check with your doctor about snorkeling with a full-face snorkel mask if you have any health concerns before then choosing a full-face snorkel mask which comes from a reputable snorkel manufacturer with a solid safety record. Our two picks for the best full-face snorkel masks based on personal experience, reviews and feedback from other snorkelers are the Tribord Subea Easybreath (Amazon) and the Head by Mares Seaview (Amazon).
As always, exercise caution when choosing any snorkel gear, and be sure to make your own decisions that are best for you so you can stay safe and have a blast out there!
Learn more about full-face snorkel masks:
- Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks Safe? 5 Big Truths & Lies
- Full-Face vs. Traditional Snorkel Mask: Which is Best? 6 Important Differences
And, check out our guides on buying the best masks, snorkels and other snorkel gear:
- What Snorkel Gear Should I Buy? The Full Guide to Getting Started Affordably
- How Much Do Snorkel Masks Cost? 6 Helpful Price & Gear Guides with Examples
- The 3 Best Snorkel Masks for All Levels: Beginners, Intermediates & Advanced
- The Best Dry Top Snorkel This Year: A Clear Winner
- The Best Underwater Action Cameras for Snorkeling: GoPro & More
- The Best Kids Snorkel Set: 3 Top Options for Value & Security