|No, this isn't from a Dräger product catalog. But it could be.|
I have no idea why I'm looking as if I'm from an 007 Thunderball movie.
(In Lake Murner, BY/D)
This is my highly subjective report with first-hand experience gained when starting diving with a Dräger Panorama Nova Dive full face mask. My old blog post still holds true, I even enjoy diving my Dräger more and moire after almost a hundred dives.
Why Diving a Full Face Mask?
Diving with a full face mask was intrigueing me since my young days. But before I could try to realize this old dream I had to master SCUBA diving at least half-way. Especially diving in cold water. And only after cold water diving and mastering a dry suit was, well, home and dry, I could finally start to realize my old dream.
Next, it was getting a little bit involved: albeit there are so many clever diving experts, these can only explain to you why not to dive with a full face mask. Unfortunately, there are not that much divers experienced in diving with full face masks, at least here in the German speaking countries. So I had to ask around quite a lot, miss some more unqualified explanations, and investigate here and there. Not really a satisfying situation.
In the end, I decided to go for the Dräger Panorama Nova Dive full face mask after some research. For me, important aspects driving my decision were:
- easy pressure equalization using the special Dräger nose clips,
- easy and quick mask harness release even in case of emergency thanks to the dead easy Dräger quick relase handles,
- quick release P connectors allowing me to easily switch gas supply, and
- popular Apeks regulators not only for the first stage, but also for the second stage.
Unfortunately, they didn't had that Dive Vader (PAYDI) specialty that day, so I had to come up with it myself only later.
How is Diving the Dräger PND Full Face Mask?
Simply put: awesome. Okay, that's a highly subjective classification, especially as this is the first full face mask I ever dove. The field of view is pleasant. Mask buoyancy is uncomplicated. Quickly removing the Dräger PND is really dead-easy, fast, and well proven, thanks to the handles opening four head straps simultaneously.
These mask properties help me ignoring some minor idosynchrasies of the Dräger, such as the missing automatic anti-fogging. But then, divers using the Kirby Morgan EXO-BR mask keep with that already for quite some time, so can I.
First, a small spray bottle with a simple anti-fogging soap is kind of mandatory equipment for me. Please don't use some high tech product, such as nano particle-based anti-fogging sprays. Remember that even as you breathe through the so-called «oronasal pocket» (that is, the inner mask covering your mouth and nose), gas is still circulating to some minor extend within the complete mask body. And nano particles don't go well with your lungs ... or rather, the go much too well. For me, a simple soap-based spray works smoothly.
When the environmental situation permits, I'm donning my full face mask already before putting on my dry gloves. The rationale is that this way I can check using my fingers that the full face mask is properly sealing against the hood. If somethings isn't quite right, then I can easily correct. In addition, the visor is protected as the mask is already in place and does not dangle. Moreover, I have my hands free. And finally, I'm avoiding getting water on the inner of the visor, washing away the anti-fog soap film. Unless I forget to plug in my second stage when checking mask tightness ... but that is another story.
From My Experience: Well, appearing on site dressed in this getup will make a lot of divers stare at you as if you were Dive Vader. Despite this I found this order of gearing up best with the full face mask already in place before entering the water. Not for the show, but for more easy handling of this equipment.The second stage stays unplugged, clicked away on the harness or hold in one hand. The main connector of the Dräger PND is perfect for breathing ambient air. Sometimes, when the audience demands it, a quick regulator check may be in place still on-site (that's kind of «Dive Vader» show, oh well). Otherwise I usually check normal operation of full face mask and second stage, as well as tightness, briefly when in shallow water. Take a few breaths to make sure the equipment works well.
ATTENTION! After plugging in your second stage, always cross-check that the regulator is properly locked in place: try to pull it out and if it doesn't come out, it is locked as desired. Make sure that you are doing this cross-check every time you plug in a regulator and drill it, so it becomes part of yourself.After the dive I also usually keep on the full face mask if enviromental conditions permits. For me, it's easier to remove the mask only together with the other equipment. Especially in cold weather my face stays snuggly warm as there is no cold draft. Of course, I unplug the second stage when leaving the water. Removing the Dräger PND is easy even with thick gloves, thanks to the handy handles.
And Don't Forget: The «Lord Vader» Aspect
You won't exactly go completely unnoticed wearing a full face mask. Of course, switching or unplugging your reg nonchalantly can cause some stir. Of course, you can do that anywhere under water. But the impression lasts better when doing this just next to the fresh OWD group doing their check dive. Or while watching an instructor training. Okay, you need to be ready to plug in your octopus into the gaping mouth of a starring OWD when you are doing the show. Probably there is a group from the Sauerkraut that is still hating me for doing this next to them.
Switching between half and full face masks forth and back is also a good show ... but unfortunately the Dräger then fogs like hell afterwards. So you better run the show only at the end of your dive, otherwise the fun will be with your audience instead.
Also really funny is watching their astonished faces when other divers want to help you removing your seemingly incredible difficult mask after a dive. Popping off the Dräger nonchalantly by simply grabbing the quick release handles even with thick gloves and smiling broadly with a «thanks, no need to help» will typically cause a big «oohh»!
- what is different when diving a full face mask?
- mask typology: my incomplete overview on full face masks.
- go for safety-aware drills when diving full face masks:
- my safety-aware drill concept,
- gory details about drill rounds and exercises,
- not only for the fun: my drill videos ... so that's how it's looking when I'm gonna making a fool of myself. ;)
- yes, suitable hoods for diving with a full face mask are worth a topic of its own.
- go for better safety: my Dräger PND full face mask (and double reg) configuration.
- ...and finally some rants about unfunded cut&dried opinions when it comes to full face masks.
PS: Many thanks to Jörg Lucinski for the shots. Jörg did his shot in Lake Murner (BY/D) and on site of Happurger Baggersee (BY/D). I don't understand how he does this, but the composition of his shot in terms of frame, light and background could come directly from a Dräger product catalog.