Full Face Diving Masks For Underwater Communication

Full Face Diving Masks For Underwater Communication

Have you ever been diving and wanted to get someone’s attention? Using a rattler can be effective depending on how close you are but it can be a hassle. Maybe you’re following your dive partner and you want to say “hey the reef is to our right and we’re swimming against the current and burning air. Let’s head right and drift along the reef”. Or maybe you’ve spotted a massive moray eel or a shark and you want the other divers to come take a look. Doing this underwater is difficult because . . . well. . you can’t talk underwater . . . or can you?

Allow me to introduce the full face dive mask. Until recently these masks were used mainly for non-recreational diving like tech diving, commercial diving and research and film crews wishing to capture audio from the diver during filming. Now companies like Ocean Reef, ScubaPro and OTS offer high quality full face masks that at a more affordable price (relatively) to the recreational dive market.

Full face mask design

If you haven’t used a full face mask it may seem a bit complicated if you’re looking at pictures on the internet. Full face masks incorporate either an open space internal layout or two subdivided compartments for both the mouth and upper face. Both internal layouts allow for breathing in and out through the nose and allowing the diver to communicate with fellow divers or a surface vessel.

Full face masks use a multi-strap system to secure to the divers head whereas the half face mask is normally a one or two strap system. The multi-strap (typically four to five straps) system does a great job of keeping the mask on the divers head so worry about the mask dislodging it normally a non-issue. This also has other advantages in situations where a diver loses consciousness.  

How do I equalize my pressure when descending?

Equalizing a full face mask is dependent on the mask design and there are two mask style type dependent methods you’ll see. Most full face mask designs have a hard plastic cover around the mouth and nose to house the re-breather and don’t allow the diver access to pinch the nose for pressurizing. To accommodate for this, these designs incorporate a nose plug system. This design closes the via two plugs on the interior of the mask. The Ocean Reef Neptune Space Predator (pictured below) is one of the higher rated FFM’s using this system. Ocean reef also provides a short instructional video on equalizing below that helps to visualize the process.

The second mask style allows the diver to grip the nose to equalize. This mask style uses rubber to separate the eye shield and mouth / re-breather component. If you’re buying a mask because you like the idea of nose breathing then this mask style probably isn’t for you. The ScubaPro Full-Face Mask is one of the more popular full face masks that uses this design.

Clearing a full face mask

With a half face mask you can keep re-breather in your mouth and clear your mask using the exhale technique (remember dive certification? J). The proposition of clearing a full face mask seems a little more daunting due to the fact that air supply is attached to the mask. Accomplishing this means that you’re going to loosen the strap system while holding your breath and either closing your eyes or doing it while opening your eyes underwater.

Here is the good news. It’s not as hard as it seems and the chances you will need to do this are probably slim to none. You should, however, practice and master in shallow water just in case you run into a situation that requires you to clear water from you’re mask.

The tutorial from Ocean Reef below illustrates multiple mask clearing methods as well as some other cool features about their full face mask products.

How much does a full face mask cost?

Prices for recreational full face diving masks range between $500 and $2000. OTS and Poseidon are quality brands will typically price on the higher end of that spectrum ($1500-$1800 approximately). Ocean reef, Scubapro and Interspiro full face masks will get you below $1000 and are very popular among the recreational dive community. Always do your research before purchasing a FFM and if possible try on different models at your local dive shop. See below for some links to the more popular full face masks on the market.

OTS Gaurdian

Poseidon Atmosphere

Ocean Reef Neptune Space G

Scuba Pro Full Face Mask

Full Face Mask Benefits

  • Full face masks can be equipped with COM’s so If you are interested in adding the ability to communicate with your fellow divers or the dive boat topside a FFM might be worth purchasing
  • Gripping the regulator mouthpiece during a dive can cause jaw fatigue and get progressively uncomfortable during a dive. FFM’s eliminate the need for a mouth piece.
  • A full face dive mask has less chance of getting dislodged from your head. This lessens the chances of losing your regulator
  • Full face masks normally provide the diver with a larger field of vision and increased periphery
  • Many brands offer additional bells and whistles such as built in visor lights and go pro attachments

Full Face Mask Downsides

  • Although a full face mask secures to your face extremely well if it does end up off your face should be prepared to grab your secondary regulator as your primary will go with the mask.
  • A training course might seem like a hassle to diver eager to start using a new FFM however it is highly recommended as using a FFM present different challenges that divers who have only used a half face mask are used too.
  • A full face mask can end up being your most expensive piece of equipment. On the spectrum of cost when it comes to recreational dive gear a high end half face mask can run you a couple hundred bucks.