Diving Masks with Purge Valve – Are they any good?
Diving masks with purge valves aren’t the most popular addition to the scuba mask market, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of reasons to think about trying them out yourself. If you’re considering purchasing a new mask, but aren’t sure whether to go for the purge valve, here’s everything you need to know about this device.
First of all, what is it, and how does it work?
The purge valve on a mask serves to clear out trapped water without having to lift the mask off of your face to drain it. It does this through a one-way valve at the bottom of the nose pocket that will expel air when you exhale. Of course, in theory, masks that are fit appropriately shouldn’t have this problem at all, but as many divers will tell you, masks often do leak, usually because of normal wear and tear.
What are the advantages of a mask with a purge valve?
As with most of the fancy gadgets on the market, the purge valve mask was designed to make diving experience less complicated. Not only does this design prevent you from the hassle of clearing out your mask, but it also frees up your hands for more important things, like photography or videography.
The purge valve mask also offers solutions for problems that come up for particular divers. People with moustaches, for instance, sometimes have trouble with their masks fitting properly, making leakages constant and irritating. Divers with contact lenses also may enjoy avoiding the need to clear the mask, a task which often leads to irritation or displacement of the contact lens.
Overall, the divers who use masks with a purge valve feel that it’s just one less thing they have to do underwater, freeing them up for a more focused and enjoyable dive.
What are some drawbacks?
Of course, you may be asking yourself why this style of mask isn’t more popular. Well, there are a few explanations.
First of all, cleanliness. Every extra piece that is attached to your diving equipment means another thing to keep clean and free of debris. And one of the issues that can come up with purge valve masks is sand getting lodged in the vent. When this happens, you’re at risk of the very leakage problem that the purge valve was designed to prevent.
Another problem that comes up with this design has to do with equalization. Because, while many divers will pinch their nose to aid in equalizing, this isn’t easily done with the purge valve mask. This isn’t a very commonly cited reason for opting for the non-purge valve model, but it is something to keep in mind when you’re making your purchase.
Finally, malfunctions. Because the purge valve is added to the silicon nose pocket, there is a slight risk for it to break or pop out. Of course, you can carry a backup mask with you, but most divers would just rather not worry about a mask that can break. Also, if your mask happens to break when you’re in a more remote region, it might be difficult to get a replacement vent.
So how can you decide?
Both designs seem to have something of a cult following. Those who have used purge valves tend to love them and miss the hassle-free design when they switch to non-purge valve masks. Those who have never used purge valve masks think of the technology as frivolous and potentially dangerous because of the risks of breaking.
And because the prices are so comparable, it’s difficult to know which one to buy. Like with any piece of diving equipment, it’s inevitably going to come down to your preference. If you are confident in the durability of your purge valve, you’ll probably enjoy the ease of not having to clear mask. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who would rather minimize all risk, the traditional style might be more for you.