I’ve always had the impression that full faced masks where far more trouble than they were worth. Over the years I’ve had the chance to fiddle around with them in the pool as well as a few dives when I lived in the Keys, and it always seemed their advantages and novelty was easily countered by the fact that they were uncomfortable, made it difficult to clear your ears and seemed to leak constantly no matter how well they fit topside. And while they offered a fantastic field of view, having such a large airspace strapped to the front of your head seemed to offer various buoyancy challenges as well. It always seemed to me that if you were doing the type of diving that required one, it was an extremely useful piece of gear to have, but just wasn’t the best choice for a recreational diver.
My impressions were changed when I came across the Ocean Reef Neptune Space mask. At first glance I noticed how much lighter it seemed than the old masks I’d tried. Ocean Reef uses Crystal Silicone in the construction of the skirt making it soft and light weight not to mention very pliable so as to give the user a very comfortable seal around their face. Inspecting it closer I noticed that the head harness is connected to the face shield itself allowing the pressure from adjusting the mask to be spread around the entire unit in order to help maintain a tight yet comfortable seal.
Putting it on, one of the first things I noticed was the surface air valve came pre-installed in the unit I was looking at. It is placed in a very common sense spot and with a quick twist I was breathing outside air! This, in this case was important, as the mask wasn’t hooked up to an air source, being in the showroom and all. The equalization plugs were not quite set to match up with my nostrils correctly and I started to wonder if this was going to be an issue. Upon removing the mask, I was happy to see that the equalization system has a tri-dimensional adjustment allowing for an easy adapting to my nose. It took a few minutes to get used to having the little plugs blocking my nostrils but after a bit of practice I didn’t give it a second thought.
When I hooked the system up to my first stage, and took it for a couple dives, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the lower part of the seal on the mask slips just under your chin and helps keep the mask secured in place. No more grasping the mask and readjusting it in order to keep it from riding up on your head. The second stage performed very comfortably, delivering air effortlessly and allowed me to breath through either my nose or my mouth. The air circulates inside the mask in a manor that keeps the face shield free from fogging and with exhaust valves located on the sides of the mask; you can set them to have your bubbles go pretty much where you want them. I’m very pleased I wandered across the Neptune Space mask. I’m looking forward to adding the Quick Disconnect hose and fitting to the system to make it easier to store and care for my mask between dives.