What is a Purge Mask?
When scuba divers are on the hunt for a scuba mask, they have to choose from a range of brands, styles and basic features. Since the right mask is pivotal to keep the water out of your nose, keep your vision clear and make you feel comfortable in the water, this is a very important decision.
Nowadays, apart from looking at basic features, such as safety, comfort, visibility and fit, divers have started to look at the purge feature of the mask. But is a purge mask the best mask to use when scuba diving?
How Does a Purge Scuba Mask Work?
Purge scuba masks basically have a one-way valve that allows water to exit the mask, but not come in. This purge valve enables you to get rid of any water that may have accidentally entered the mask by simply exhaling through your nose.
While this makes cleaning your mask easier, it does add another element that could malfunction underwater. Even something as small as a grain of sand, etc., can possibly get stuck in the purge valve and water may start creeping into your mask the moment you get in the water.
What to Do if Your Purge Mask Leaks
If any grit gets stuck in your mask, it will cause leakages by obstructing the seal of the purge valve. The main way to avoid this is to clean your mask properly after every dive. Clean everything, from the lens to the purge valve with soap and water. You can use a soft rag or your fingers to do this. Clean the mask until there is no residue and grime left in any of the small corners.
Purge vs. No Purge Mask
Now that we know what the purge mask does, let’s see what would happen if you didn’t have one:
Without the purge valve, in order to clear out any water from your mask, you will need to press the upper part of your mask against your forehead, tilt your head upwards (very slightly) and exhale sharply until the water escapes.
Do You Need a Purge Mask?
A purge valve is not a crucial element of your scuba mask. Divers like the fact that the purge valve makes removing water from the mask very easy, but ideally, if your mask is a good fit, it shouldn’t leak at all.
That being said, in certain cases, such as for divers who have mustaches, some water does creep in and the purge valve makes getting rid of it easier. You don’t have to go to the trouble of tilting your head and exhaling forcefully while you’re underwater.
Is a Purge Valve Useful when Snorkeling?
The best way to find out just how useful a purge mask is, is by looking at its advantages and disadvantages:
Pros of the Purge Mask
- Makes diving easier since you don’t have to put in an effort to remove water from your mask. It also makes you more comfortable underwater since it’s one less thing for you to do.
- You can continue your dive uninterrupted since you don’t have to stop, press the mask with your hand and then exhale (as you would with a traditional mask). This is particularly useful for divers who are photographing or recording their dive.
- It makes contact-lens users feel more at ease since the usual method of clearing out water can irritate their eyes.
- It keeps your mask water-free, even if you have facial hair (such as mustache) without you having to tighten your mask to the point of discomfort.
Cons of the Purge Mask
- The purge valve may get clogged or malfunction underwater. It is recommended to have a spare valve with you when you dive, but many divers don’t like the idea of having to deal with spares underwater.
- Pinching your nose underwater helps equalize the pressure. Pinching your nose with a purge valve present is difficult. This may be a deal-breaker for some divers.
- Cleaning the valve and removing any residue after every dive can be tiresome (and if you don’t clean it, it might malfunction mid-dive).
Is it Really Useful?
Purge masks work for some divers and not for others. The best way to find out if it’s useful for you is to try it out (you can borrow it from a diving buddy who has one) on a short dive. If the valve really does make your dive convenient, then the purge scuba mask might be the better option for you.
Can You Add a Purge Valve to Your Scuba Mask?
Certain scuba masks are designed to accommodate purge valves so even if you don’t want to invest in a brand new purge mask, you can fit a purge valve onto your regular mask. Check the specifications of your mask and seek help from a dive store to help you find the right valve for your mask.
The purge valve is installed in your mask as follows:
A hole is pierced in the nosepiece of the mask and the silicone surrounding the valve is stretched out. This is a one-way valve and all you need to do is press the mask against your face and gently breathe to get rid of the water.
Although purge masks have some disadvantages, in the end, it boils down to whether the comfort and ease it provides you with overcome those cons. If you like having your hands free and not having to worry about removing any water that suddenly gets in your mask, then a purge mask is obviously the best option. Some divers opt to attach the purge valve on their traditional mask to get the best of both worlds.
Whichever mask you choose, just remember that choosing a reputable manufacturer and a model that has been tried and tested is important. Apart from that, clean your mask regularly and properly and it won’t bother you when you dive.