We see more and more scuba divers using freediving masks for scuba diving instead of a scuba mask. If you are like me and dive both ways, you wonder if your freediving mask is good for scuba diving.
The short answer is no. Scuba masks are much better for scuba diving and can also be used for recreational freediving whereas freediving masks are made specifically for freediving.
But… yes, of course, you can scuba dive with your freediving mask, so let’s understand why I don’t recommend it.
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The main difference between scuba diving and freediving
When deciding which mask is best for you, it is essential to first define the main difference between the 2 activities.
Of course, we both know that scuba diving involves breathing underwater whereas freediving is about holding your breath. But in choosing your mask, you have to realize that there are 2 major factors that will affect your choice of diving mask.
Time spent underwater
The time spent underwater plays a major role in choosing your mask.
When you scuba dive, you will spend on average 45 minutes straight underwater whereas when freediving you will be limited by your breath-hold which will be 1 to 2 minutes on average. That means that when scuba diving, your mask will play an essential role. Whereas, when freediving, the main idea is to reduce the amount of air you will spend when going down.
A scuba diving mask offers a much greater field of vision that will ensure you make the most of those 45 minutes and enjoy the beautiful underwater scenery that you came down to explore. On the other side, the freediving mask’s reduced visibility takes away that whole experience.
Descent and ascent
As a scuba diver, the speed of descent and ascent is much slower with a body position that is mainly horizontal compared to the straight vertical position when freediving.
The focus of the freediving mask is to ensure that your descent requires the least air possible as your lungs are your only source of air.
The descent as a scuba diver is much less of a focal point and represents a tiny fraction of your whole dive experience. Thus the fact that your diving mask’s priority is not to focus on that aspect.
Low volume vs high volume mask
You will hear a lot about the fact that low-volume masks are better for equalizing and thus are better for scuba diving. But when looking at a mask for scuba diving, this is much less of a concern.
As mentioned above, the freediving mask focuses on low volume in order to reduce the amount of air used in the descent. It is true that, in the same instance, it will allow a scuba diver to equalize much easier on the descent. But the main difference here is that the descent represents a tiny fragment of the dive.
A scuba diver has many options when it comes to equalizing on the descent. You can reduce the speed at which you go down, move up the water column, and hold a better body position for your needs.
The reason why a scuba mask has a relatively higher volume than the freediving mask is that its emphasis is on the actual time spent underwater. A higher volume mask allows for a greater field of vision which is essential to our dive experience.
An important point for me as someone wearing contact lenses when diving, is the fact that a higher volume mask allows for a certain amount of water in your mask. I personally fill in my scuba mask with a bit of water when diving in order to clean my lens whenever I want or need it. A low volume freediving mask has no space inside so any water going in will go straight into your eyes.
A lot of scuba masks now come with a much lower volume than what they used to. So picking a lower volume one if you are having trouble equalizing isn’t a problem with the masks below.
Buy Cressi Z1 White
Buy Cressi Z1 Black
Buy Cressi Z1 Blue
Mirrored mask for scuba diving
Another trend that is commonly seen nowadays is the use of mirrored lens that comes with freediving masks when scuba diving.
I must admit, it looks as cool as hell! But it is a no-go for scuba diving!
As William Shakespeare famously said, ‘the eyes are the windows to your soul’. That definitively holds true in scuba diving. Wearing mirrored lens will not allow anyone to see your soul, neither your dive buddy nor your divemaster. And that is seriously important to detect things like panic or narcosis.
Mirrored masks find their usefulness only for spearfishing as fish will not perceive which way they are looking.
The diving mask frame and skirt
A freediving mask has a frame and skirt that brings the lens much closer to your eyes for reduced volume. That can bring up a few issues when you are scuba diving, and especially if you are a beginner scuba diver.
Ease of clearing
The fact that a freediving mask is closer and tighter all around your face makes it much harder it clear if water gets in. Not to say that freediving masks compared to scuba masks are much harder to fit especially if you have an ‘unusual face shape.
Water getting into your mask and having to constantly clear it with when using a freediving mask can really be hell and not something I wish for anyone to experience.
Remember what I said about freediving masks being made for saving air? It’s definitely not made with clearing out water when diving.
Claustrophobia and anxiety
Another important factor to take into account is that a freediving mask will increase your chances of claustrophobia and anxiety if you are prone to it.
The build of a freediving mask really restricts your field of view compared to a scuba mask. This can make you feel locked in and bring in a feeling of panic.
If you are an experienced diver, whichever mask you choose does not make any difference. But for a new scuba diver, using a freediving mask is a complete no-go for me.
Scuba diving is to enjoy the world underwater as long as you can. Do not sacrifice that for ease of equalizing. Find a way to sort out your equalization problems by talking to your divemaster.
Now that we are clear on that subject, check out How to choose the best scuba diving mask for you.