If there ever was a question that has stood the test of time in the scuba diving world, it is whether or not you should wear a snorkeling mask when snorkel scuba diving.
Granted, technical divers will agree that snorkeling masks are not for this activity. However, when it comes to recreational diving, there seems to be no direct answer. Not even the debate on whether to wear a wetsuit or a drysuit can quite compete.
One thing is certain and that is there are some pros and cons associated with diving with a snorkeling mask.
So, do I need a snorkel mask when scuba diving? Let’s find out.
Do I need a snorkel mask when scuba diving?
Yes, you may need a snorkel when scuba diving. snorkel divers who plan to spend more time near the surface will find the snorkel quite useful. It helps conserve the air inside the scuba tanks.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that the amount of air that you breathe in at the surface is significantly less than that which you breathe at much greater depths.
Because of this, some believe that not much air is saved by using a snorkel. However, if you plan on swimming on the surface for longer than 5 minutes then you can save a lot of air which you will later use during the dive.
Secondly, when you are on the surface, the snorkel mask allows you to keep your eyes open to what is underneath you in case there is anything that you need to watch out for.
However, there is a major disadvantage to using a snorkeling mask when on the surface. When you are swimming towards the boat and the engines are running, a snorkeling mask may cause you to inhale the exhaust.
Often snorkel divers will prefer switching to their dive regulators in such a case until they get on the boat.
When the tanks run out of the air
The buddy system when snorkel scuba diving is important. It ensures that everyone is safe by keeping an eye out for each other. But what would happen if one of you suddenly drained your air tank and rose to the surface without the other diver realizing this?
Snorkel masks can really help. You can search for your dive buddy when on the surface and give them signals that you are up there and that you are safe.
Without it, it would be hard to connect with your dive buddy in such a situation.
But there is a problem. Swimming while facing downwards into the water is not the most efficient way when you consider that you have the full weight of the scuba gear package on your back. In fact, divers are taught the best way to swim with the scuba gear while on the surface is on your back. This, however, makes it difficult to use the snorkel.
Reasons against not using a snorkel
Some people will prefer not to use a snorkel when scuba diving. One of the main reasons why is because when diving in a strong current, the force of the water may cause it to wobble and turn opening up spaces where water can rush in especially when wearing a full-face snorkel mask. When diving, this is something that you generally want to avoid.
Another reason why it may not be a very good idea to wear a snorkel mask is the fact that it will hang on the side of your head. This means that it can get caught up in structures or even fishing lines and reels when you are underwater. Think of wreck diving with structures all around you.
In fact, during training, dive students are taught to avoid using snorkeling masks for just this reason. However, you could argue that the snorkeling mask is not the only thing dangling. There are the tubes on the scuba regulator and other parts of the dive gear.
Snorkel divers don’t seem to have any problems with these. They are simply used to wearing them and have an understanding of where everything is when they are maneuvering underwater. The same can be said when wearing dive masks. Practice will ensure you don’t get caught up by the snorkel mask when diving.
Thirdly, you might feel like wearing a snorkel while having all the other diving gear is distracting and uncomfortable. Do not be surprised when you are exchanging air with your dive buddy and you happen to put the snorkel in your mouth and taking in a lot of water.
Still, you could also argue that it is a matter of practice and getting used to it. You should be able to tell where everything else is and how to handle different situations. If you are taking underwater images, this will include your diving camera as well.
Using a hybrid
While some of the arguments put forth as to why you can wear or not wear a snorkel mask when snorkel scuba diving are understandable, what both schools of thought seem to agree on is the use of collapsible snorkel masks.
You will not worry about them getting in the way as you are not wearing them on your side of the head during the dive. However, the mask will be there when you need to use it on the surface.
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One thing is true and that is a snorkel mask can be very beneficial when swimming at the surface and when you are trying to conserve the air in your tank.
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- Reasons against not using a snorkel, scubaguru.com