Whether you are buying your first snorkeling mask or a replacement, one of the decisions that you might be faced with is whether you might like a mask with a purge valve or not. A purge valve is a one-way valve that allows the snorkeler to clear the snorkeling mask of any water that may have come in without having to take the snorkel mask off. The purge valve in the mask is not new to the snorkeling and scuba diving industry. They have been used in various mask styles for over 40 years.
Fit is important in a snorkeling mask but even the best fitting mask may at one time or another end up with a little water getting on the inside. This can be caused by improper strap placement, the mask strap being too tight or too loose and hair breaking the seal or even just from smiling. Whatever the reason, the result is the same. There is water in your mask and you don’t want it to be there. Taking the snorkeling mask off to dump the water though the most common solution isn’t always the best way to get rid of it. Ideally, for a mask without a purge, you would place the palm of one hand on the upper frame of the faceplate exerting some pressure and exhale through your nose while tilting your head back.
Masks with a purge valve are cleared in a slightly different manner. Holding the mask firmly in place you exhale through the nose with the head tilted forward. In both instances of clearing the mask, the air from your exhalation rises to the top of the mask and since you are not allowing that air to escape, it has to push the water out of its way to find the easiest area to exit. Most masks with purge valve these days, have the valve located in the nose pocket of the mask skirting. This placement is probably the most ideal as, when you are snorkeling, this would be the lowest point of the mask.
Purge valve masks do require a bit more care than masks without purge valves. It is important to keep the purge valve clean and free of sand and grit, which can interfere with the purge valve’s proper function. Also, as disgusting as it may be, we often end up having more than just air coming out of our noses when we exhale. Rather than dwell on that particular aspect, let’s just say that rinsing your mask and using a soft bristled toothbrush will help to keep purge valves functioning well.
The size and shape of one’s nose may have some bearing on your decision between a mask with a purge and a mask without a purge. Many of the purge valves used do take up some of the space available in the nose pocket which some noses need. If the mask is used for skin or scuba diving, some purge valves can interfere with the ability to equalize ears using the Valsalva maneuver or may require slight modifications on how to equalize.
Those with mustaches usually experience water in their mask no matter what. Masks with purge valves would be more of a benefit in those instances as the purge valve would be used more often without having to keep tilting the head back. There are many other features and benefits that the various masks offer besides purge valves. For tips on selecting the right mask for you, go to our Snorkeling Guides as well as our Snorkeling Videos which are designed to make you a more informed shopper.
What do we, at Snorkeling Online snorkel with? We vote thumbs down for a snorkeling purge mask. It is not worth the trouble and it can easily break in which you would have to purchase/replace the mask.
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