Confused about the difference between scuba and snorkel masks? Maybe you have a snorkel mask and you’re wondering if you can use it to scuba dive, or you’re keen to start exploring the underwater but not sure where to start. Here at Ninja Shark we’ve had a lot of questions from people who are wondering if snorkel masks and scuba masks are the same things, so we wrote this article to help clarify the difference between the two.

Are scuba and snorkel masks the same?

It’s easy to confuse the two pieces of equipment when you’re a beginner, and we don’t blame you! They both look similar and you often see them floating around beautiful tropical beaches… but actually, snorkel and scuba masks are definitely not the same thing. While they might appear to be similar, “diving” a little closer will show there’s a lot that makes them different!

1. They’re designed differently

It all starts with design, and scuba and snorkel masks are designed to perform two very different tasks. While scuba diving and snorkelling both involve floating around underwater looking at beautiful scenery, they are actually very different activities.

When you’re snorkelling, your body usually stays floating above the surface of the water. Only your face is submerged below water, and a snorkel is designed to help you breathe while you’re gliding along the edge. You can enjoy little dives here and there, but generally, snorkelling is all about enjoying the wonders from a bird’s eye view at the water’s surface.

On the other hand, scuba diving involves completely submerging your entire body underwater and going deep below the water’s surface. For this reason, scuba masks require a different design that is less buoyant than snorkel masks. Basically, they need to allow the least amount of air to be trapped inside the mask so that there’s nothing pulling you upwards while underwater.

With snorkel masks, buoyancy doesn’t factor in so much in the design as you’ll be floating along the water’s surface anyway. That said – you can still dive underwater while snorkelling! And some snorkel masks now feature an advanced design that is less buoyant and allows you to dive well below the water’s surface to get a closer look at all the sea life. (Check out our Pinch Your Nose & Equalise! Mask)

2. They are built differently

So we know now that scuba diving involves diving deep below the surface of the water while snorkelling is more about shallow swimming near the water’s edge. That means that there are higher risks involved with scuba diving, where people can often be floating around 100 metres below the water’s surface!

Because of that reason, scuba masks need to be built with the highest quality materials to ensure the safety of divers. They are subjected to extremely strict and rigorous testing, and need to be strong, sturdy, and durable as they are face a lot more water pressure than snorkel masks. To guarantee the safety of divers, scuba masks need to handle being deep underwater.

That’s not to say that snorkel masks aren’t safe or made to last, though. A good snorkel mask will be designed to last a lifetime – if it’s doing what it’s meant to do. Take your snorkel mask 100 metres below water and it might be a different story!

3. They use different materials

Because scuba masks are designed to go deep underwater and handle a tonne of pressure, they need different materials than snorkel masks. Think of the material difference between the two as being like a light sweater versus a heavy snow jacket. One needs to withstand heavy blizzards and rainfall, while another needs a light material to keep away breeze. Both can be made from high-quality materials, they just have different needs.

Scuba diving masks need to withstand under pressure and not crack or break – or they’ll put the divers’ life at risk. Windows of scuba diving masks will usually be made from tempered glass rather than acrylic or plastic, as with most snorkelling masks. Tempered glass is stronger than acrylic, and when it breaks, its shards have no sharp edges, reducing risk to divers. With snorkel masks you don’t have to worry about using strong materials like tempered glass, as there’s no risk of goggles shattering under pressure. Easy!

Another difference between snorkel and scuba masks is skirt and frame materials. It’s absolutely essential for scuba masks to be made from a safe, durable, and high-quality silicone that can create a watertight seal around their face. This ensures that no water will gush in while they’re deep underwater and pose a threat.

Most of your average snorkel masks will go for rubber or traditional silicones, making them less durable and more prone to crack and dry out – which is OK when snorkelling (except annoying), but life-threatening when scuba diving. At Ninja Shark, we use a medical grade silicone on our masks so that you can enjoy your snorkel mask for longer.

4. Scuba masks are more expensive

If you hadn’t already guessed it by now, scuba diving is a much more complex and taxing activity than scuba diving. It requires going deep below the water’s surface and withstanding enormous amounts of pressure, and scuba masks need to be sturdy, strong, and durable to protect the life of the diver. So naturally, scuba diving masks will be much more expensive than snorkel masks.

The need for rigorous testing, quality materials, and guaranteeing the safety of the diver makes them extremely pricy for someone who’s just looking to explore the sea nearby. Snorkel masks, on the other hand, are available at a range of price points. You can find extremely cheap masks (although likely bad quality), as well as more expensive and advanced snorkel masks.

The difference between scuba and snorkel masks

By now, you would have learned the big world of difference between scuba and snorkelling masks. To sum it all up, here’s the difference between the two:

Design

– Scuba masks and snorkel masks feature different designs and are created for different purposes. Scuba masks need to be less buoyant and allow less air inside, while with snorkel masks buoyancy isn’t an issue in design;

Build

– Scuba and snorkel masks are built differently. Scuba masks need to withstand huge amounts of pressure and guarantee the safety of divers, while snorkel masks don’t need such sturdy builds, Material – Scuba masks and snorkel masks are made from different materials. Scuba masks need stronger, durable materials that keep water out of the mask and handle high amounts of pressure. Snorkel masks range in material quality & type,

Pricing

– Scuba masks are more expensive than snorkel masks. The need for a stronger, sturdier design, rigorous testing, and high-quality materials make it a pricier but longer lasting investment.

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