|This is not the sanitary department.|
|Faceplate/visor||molded visor, flat front|
|Mask frame/ |
|Respiration||nose and mouth|
|Head harness/ |
|Quick removal||lower straps only|
|Pressure equalization||nose pads|
|Purging||separate exhaust+purge valve|
|2nd stage||fixed, Ocean Reef 2nd stage|
|Redundancy||hose quick connector or additional backup 2nd stage (SAV port), shutoff?|
|1st stage||Ocean Reef or suitable for particular 2nd stage|
The Ocean Reef marketing is very actively targeting both ambitious SCUBA divers as well as fresh beginners. The company clearly sees SCUBA divers as their potential customers and not as annoyances, like other companies seem to do.
Ocean Reef offers full face mask specialties in cooperation with PADI and SSI for certifying full face diving. I really appreciate that Ocean Reef directly offers learning manuals and teaching videos right on their web site for everyone. The company surely understands the value of this offering in driving new customers towards its products and to bind them.
Visor and Mask Body
|Ocean Reef front view|
Maybe you want to ask yourself why none of the other full face mask designers went for a fully transparent mask body. It surely wasn't for patent reasons. When diving, I expect a maximum of safety from my equipment. I don't want a product designer to sacrifice function for form. Getting reflections into my eyes and not being able to clearly see under water is definitely a bad idea. Transparent curved bodies are a perfect thing to guide light, for instance, we have these optic fibres. A transparent mask body does guide light too.
Interestingly, a test report of the Ocean Reef full face mask («Ocean Reef im »Maskentest«» in tauchen 9/11, pp. 102) nails down this issue in general. But it then avoids to write anything in the direction of the Ocean Reef mask, neither good nor bad. The test only mentions that the mask viewing is top when the water is clear and the viewing conditions are also clear. The reporter avoids any statement about how the mask performs in the difficult conditions that are typical for our non-tropical regions.
But there are more design specialties with this mask. Compared to the other full face masks from our incomplete list, the Ocean Reef mask features a prominently placed 2nd stage in a very high position (somewhere around the upper lip and nose). In consequence, the reg gets more into the diver's view compared to, say, the Scubapro, Dräger, or Guardian and Interspiro. The latter even manage to get the regs almost completely out of sight below the visor.
The scratch protector delivered with the mask must not be worn under water (see the manual). It is just for transportation and must be removed before any dive. While this seem to be a nice feature, it is cheap stuff. Other manufacturers give away real bags or boxes. For instance, if you buy the Dräger Panorama Full Face Mask set including reg(s), you also get a rigid transportation box. Not this scratch protector gimmick.
When it comes to respiration, Ocean Reef's full face mask uses the well-known and proven inner mask design. So you can easily breathe through either nose or mouth as you like.
Again, we find a very special construction no other mask designer does. Ocean Reef surely has a patent on this ... and this is probably a really good thing, as we will find out step by step.
Ocean reef has designed the gas flow through its mask such that the 2nd stage is solely used for inhaling. Exhaling is done through a separate exhaling and purging valve. What looks like a brilliant idea to avoid freezing comes with a heavy safety penalty instead. Due to this design inhale and exhale valve need to be placed away: inhale at your nose, exhale at your chin. This geometric distance translates into quite an amount of pressure difference when under water. Not of any concern when you are in a heads-up position.
But if you get heads down (buoyancy problem, whatever else), then this pressure difference causes a free flow. You then need to adjust the exhale valve in order to limit or stop this free flow. Ocean Reef documents this situation in its manuals. Albeit heads down position is not considered normal diving you surely don't want to fiddly with your mask while in distress and trouble and trying to get into safe position back again. In addition, the free flow may actually cause freezing. You need to judge for yourself what this design feature is worth to you and what you consider to be a safe mask design.
Head Harness and Quick Removal
It is best if you simply test the Ocean Reef design for yourself. They put two (use to be small balls) grips at the ends of the lower straps in order to improve grip. Using these grips you loosen the lower straps and pull the mask away from your face. From what I heard, not everyone can then quickly remove the mask as the grips seems to be difficult to grab in some situations. But try for yourself.
|Ocean Reef back view|
Of course, there are better ways to do pressure equalization. Dräger shows how easy this process really can be without having to press or shuffle your mask around your face: nose clips that are operated from the outside using levers. Works great even with thick gloves.
However, the Ocean Reef full face mask excels when it comes to automatic defogging. As fresh, dry gas is inhaled, it first gets guided across the inner of the visor. Afterwards, it enters the inner mask for breathing. Exhale gas directly leaves the mask through a separate and adjustable exhale valve. This design can cause free flow, as Ocean Reef documents.
The separated exhale valve also acts as a purge valve. This makes purging water from the mask easy, as the purge valve normally is the lowest point of the mask. Simply exhale or optionally use the air shower to expel water from the mask.
1st and 2nd Stages
When it comes to the first and second stages, only the combination of Ocean Reefs own stages is certified. The second stage has to be from Ocean Reef anyway, as it is tightly integrated with the mask. You should find out first which diving shops are able to service these rarely spotted stages and what the price for servicing will be. You should be very clear that these stages are non-standard, so ordinary dive shops won't be able to service them. Compare this with, say, Dräger, where you use Apeks/Aqualung standard regulators, so servicing is no issue.
In the end, with Ocean Reef, what you may have saved on the mask you will have to pay for service. This is no problem to specialized dive shops themselves as they may service their masks themselves. But it will be a problem for you.
Ocean Reef offers two variants for gas supply redundancy, with different quality of availability. One way is to fix an additional backup 2nd stage to your mask, replacing the SAV surface air valve. However, be careful in adding a shutoff device otherwise you may end up with a dangerous free flow through the primary and backup regs you cannot stop anymore. Another way is to use a release connector that can be used under water, however:
- if there is a malfunction in your primary 2nd stage you won't be able to cut it off, so you have to remove your mask. And yes, this can be done much better, see Dräger Panorama Nova Dive.
- connecting the hose under water will always inject some water into your 2nd stage. You need to service your 2nd stage afterwards in any case.
My opinion: on this backdrop I personally would never dive with someone else's mask configuration having a quick connector that can be operated under water. With my own mask I know what I did and am responsibly for myself. But with another mask I never know what was done to it and whether it was serviced properly after each incident, training or real problem. There is a reason why Aqualung delivers to special ops a quick connector that cannot be opened under pressure.
Surface ValveOptionally available (SAV).
Back to the full face mask overview.