In my decade-long diving career, I’ve tested my fair share of dive gear to separate the gimmicks from the game-changers. One piece of equipment that often gets categorized as an unnecessary frill is the dive mask with a purge valve.
But are these masks just a fad? Or do they serve a legitimate purpose for divers?
I took a deep dive (pun intended) into the features and benefits of purge valve masks to find out if they live up to the hype or are all splash and no substance.
Here’s the bottom-line up front:
Dive masks with purge valves offer tangible benefits beyond marketing fluff and effectively solve common issues like mask fogging and clearing.
So strap on your BCD and let’s get diving into the details. The water’s a balmy 85 degrees down here!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a Purge Valve and How Does It Work?
- 2 The 3 Main Benefits of Dive Masks With Purge Valves
- 3 Potential Downsides of Purge Valve Masks
- 4 Are Dive Masks With Purge Valves Worth Buying?
- 5 Are You Convinced to Make the Switch?
What Is a Purge Valve and How Does It Work?
A purge valve (also called an exhaust valve) is a one-way release mechanism installed near the nose pocket of a dive mask. It’s typically a small plastic valve that opens with minimal exhalation pressure.
The purge valve acts as a portal to let exhaled breath exit the mask while keeping water out.
Purge valves are common on snorkel masks, but increasingly present on scuba diving masks too.
Without a purge valve, a mask only has a flex skirt at the edges to allow air exchange. This means breathing out needs to squeeze through the seal back into the water.
With a mask purge valve, exhaled air vents out the valve rather than pushing back under the mask seal. This makes breathing easier and prevents mask squeeze.
The 3 Main Benefits of Dive Masks With Purge Valves
So why might you want a dive mask equipped with a purge? Here are the top advantages:
1. Prevents Mask Fogging
Mask fogging happens when warm moist air from exhaling condenses on the interior lens surface. This leaves you peeping through an opaque porthole.
Not ideal when you want to admire the underwater sights!
Fogging occurs because the exhaled air has nowhere to easily escape the mask. A purge valve provides the perfect pressure-release exit vent. By letting each breath out circulate out of the mask, it keeps the interior air dry and fog-free.
2. Makes Mask Clearing Easier
But it can be tricky for new divers to get the hang of the blast-air-through-the-nose technique.
Purge valves make mask clearing a breeze. Just gently exhale through the nose and the valve will let the air flow out, pushing any water with it.
The valves are designed to open with minimal exhalation force, so mask clearing requires very little effort. Just a gentle breath out does the trick.
For struggling mask clearers, a purge system can be a more comfortable and reliable method. And less strain means less barotrauma risk too.
3. Reduces Problems With Mask Squeeze
Descending underwater creates pressure that can squeeze the flexible mask skirt tight to the face. This mask squeeze can cause discomfort, marks, and even transient blurry vision.
A purge valve prevents squeeze build-up by continuously venting exhalation pressure. This keeps the mask seal in balance.
Less mask squeeze means more diving comfort. So purge valves can enhance the overall mask-wearing experience, especially when going deep.
Potential Downsides of Purge Valve Masks
Of course, nothing is perfect when it comes to dive gear innovations. Purge valve masks also come with some limitations and drawbacks to consider:
- More potential leak points – Though the valves only allow one-way airflow out, they can still potentially leak water in if defective or damaged. More components mean more things that can fail.
- Adjusting to exhalation resistance – The valves have a spring-like resistance when you exhale, which can feel unusual at first. It takes some divers time to adjust to the exhale pressure sensation.
- Valve noise – Some divers dislike the sound of the valve clicking open and closed as you breathe. The springs make a light fluttering noise. Not a dealbreaker but something to note.
- Extra maintenance – Purge valves can collect grit and marine growth, so they need soaking and cleaning to keep functioning well. Just one more piece of kit to sanitize post-dive.
- Potentially shorter lifespan – The extra valve piece adds a potential weak point for wear and tear over time. Valves may degrade faster than a simple mask skirt.
So while purge valves solve some common scuba problems, they aren’t a flawless feature. As with any gear choice, there are always trade-offs to weigh up.
Are Dive Masks With Purge Valves Worth Buying?
At the end of the day, is a diving mask with a purge valve worth the investment?
For most recreational divers, the answer is yes – the benefits outweigh the downsides.
The key advantages of fog elimination, easier clearing, and reduced squeeze make purge valves well worth it for the average diver.
The ideal candidate for a purge mask is someone prone to the following:
- Fogging up masks in warmer water
- Having difficulty mastering mask clearing
- Experiencing annoying mask squeeze on descent
A purge system effectively alleviates all these issues to make diving more pleasurable.
Some technical and cave divers prefer masks without valves because they cannot afford to have any potential leak points at those insane depths and overhead environments. But for open-water recreational diving, purge valves provide more positives than negatives for most.
The valves do work – it’s not just marketing hype.
Consider a mask with a purge as a long-term investment to make your future dives more comfortable and carefree. Your eyes will thank you!
Do Purge Valve Masks Have to Cost More?
You might assume these fancier masks with valves cost significantly more. But the price difference is shrinking as the technology becomes more widespread.
While high-end models still range from $80 to $200+, there are now quality mid-range options between $50 and $70.
With competition growing, the prices are becoming more reasonable. So divers don’t have to break the bank to reap the benefits.
Are You Convinced to Make the Switch?
So there you have it – the complete low-down on whether purge valve dive masks live up to their claims or not.
The verdict is clear: This innovation is more function than fad.
Purge valves provide tangible benefits that enhance the mask-wearing experience for most divers. If you’re susceptible to fogging or squeeze, they are a worthwhile upgrade.
While not flawless, the pros outweigh the cons for recreational diving purposes.
Still, have reservations or questions before taking the plunge? Drop a comment below and I’m happy to chat more!
Safe diving with your new mask, and watch out for that Moray sneaking up on your left…