Hey Scuba Divers, chances are, if you’re reading this that you’re in the market for a new scuba mask. But, there are absolutely hundreds out there and you want to make sure that you get the right mask for you. In my opinion your mask is probably the most personal and important piece of equipment because it’s the thing that’s literally stuck to your face and if you pick the right mask, will follow you on all of your diving adventures
Price isn’t everything
Masks with bigger price tags aren’t necessarily better. You can certainly go on a dive with the cheapest mask you can find and you should be able to see. That being said, the quality of materials, skirt geometry, field of view and other features of the mask are going to improve the more you spend. But price isn’t everything. You can buy the most expensive mask out there, if it doesn’t fit you properly, you’re going to hate it.
Set yourself a rough budget and spend some time shopping around. Don’t worry too much about looks and styles, focus more on features and fit. What you look like underwater isn’t that important. Nobody’s winning any beauty contests underwater. So, find a mask that fits you properly and suits your diving style, those are more important than what you look like.
Use a mouthpiece
The best way to find a proper fit of a new dive mask is to see if it sticks to your face with the good ol’ sniff test. You don’t need the mask strap for this, because you’re only trying to test if the mask skirt is sealing effectively around your face so that water doesn’t get in during the dive. Brush any hair from your forehead, pop the scuba mask to your face and gently inhale through your nose. You shouldn’t get very far, there’s not much air space in the nose pocket. But the mask should stick to your face with minimal effort.
A better way to do this is if you have a mouthpiece or even a snorkel to pop in your mouth while sniffing. Because the mask may fit when your mouth is closed but, as soon as you pop your regulator in, the shape of your top lip is going to change and the mask might now leak. When you’re testing the fit of a mask, do it with a mouthpiece in your mouth to ensure a good fit.
Scuba Mask Size
Mask skirts today are pretty darn good and some of the good ones are verging on universal. If you’re shopping around for a mask and the skirt has a name or the description talks about some kind of skirt technology. Then the manufacturer has spent a lot of time and resources to get an effective face seal for a range of face sizes and shapes. You want a soft silicone skirt that can mold around your contours but, strong enough to maintain shape underwater.
That being said, some dive masks come in different shapes and sizes today. If you have a smaller face shape you can find smaller versions of masks that are called small or medium or something to that effect. The same with larger faces. Some masks are dedicated to larger or smaller face shapes and some manufacturers also make masks that are a better fit for an Asian face. So, if you are struggling to find a mask that fits, or you often find that rental masks leak for you, then do a search for a mask that may be better designed to fit your specific face shape.
No. of Lenses
Single lens masks typically give you a nice open front view and give you plenty of space over the top of your nose. Twin masks are typically stronger because the frame in the middle helps prevent a big single piece of glass twist or bend.
Three lens masks, typically have one front lens with two side windows to expand your field of view. Four lens masks, have twin front lenses and two side windows. One thing to avoid is any lens with a curve. Flat lenses are perfect. But when you add a curve it magnifies in the water and distorts what you see.
If you need corrective lenses to see clearly then you have a few options for a diving mask, and I could probably do an entire video just on that. The very best option is to find a company near you that cuts custom lenses. This is the most expensive option but, you can normally choose any mask, send it to them with your prescription and they will cut and fit a lens, specifically to your prescription in your chosen mask.
If you’re prescription isn’t too complicated, then you can choose certain models where you can swap out the glass lenses with off the shelf replacements. The lens options only typically correct the Spherical reading of your prescription and they go up in point five powers. You can also find lens frames that can fit inside larger masks that can hold similar corrective lenses. There are also stick on lenses if you just need a little help reading your gauges in the lower third of your mask.
Go to your LDS
The best way to see and feel a range of masks and compare them together is to visit your local dive store. The thing to remember is that you are going to have a wider choice online as, your dive centre may not have everything in stock in every colour there and then, but, they might be able to get it in for you.
It can be hard to compare masks online because everybody takes pictures of masks slightly differently and it’s hard to gauge size sometimes. So it can be nice to find a local dealer that stocks the mask that you’re interested in so that you can try it on before you buy and see the actual shade of colour that you’re choosing.
Prepare your new mask
New masks fog up easily. It normally comes down to remnants of release agents from the manufacturing process creating a light film inside the glass that allows moisture to condense even if you spit or defog your mask. There are various methods for preparing your mask but, the important thing is not to rush it and not to damage your mask.
If your mask has a lens treatment, then you can very easily damage that fancy coating with some mask preparations. If you’ve invested in a mask with some kind of UV treatment then contact the manufacturer for their recommended preparation treatment. Chances are it may even be mentioned in the manual, you know that little piece of paper that just takes up space inside the box.
You typically have two choices when it comes to mask skirts, they’re either clear or coloured. Clear skirts are nice, bright and ‘airy’. They sort of expand your field of view to see things either side of you. You won’t be able to see things perfectly but, you’ll be able to see if your buddy passes by or if you’re about to bump into something. They do discolour over time, especially if you leave them in the sun, and if you don’t clean them properly then mould can grow and make them look a bit nasty.
Black skirts, you don’t get that problem, the mould is probably still there but you just don’t notice it. They don’t tend to discolour but, some divers do find them a little claustrophobic, while others prefer them because it focuses their attention.
Today you have a bunch of choices when it comes to glass. The very cheapest masks have plastic lenses which aren’t great for diving. Most masks will have tempered glass lenses which are perfectly fine and good all-rounders. Fancier masks will have optical glass, or just purer glass with fewer impurities. Then we get lens treatments.
The most common one is UV, most UV treatments cut out certain wavelengths of the light spectrum to protect your eyes from harmful HEV rays a bit like sunglasses, good for if you dive in the tropics. Others cut out some green wavelengths for diving in green waters. Some have actual rose tinted lenses to put a bit of red back into what you’re seeing but, at shallower depths everything is pink. Lens treatments are not essential but, they are nice
All masks let you change the mask strap but some masks let you fit some nice new elastic fabric straps. Most masks will have a buckle like this with a cylinder that you normally wrap the silicone strap around and this is what the new fabric straps hook onto to replace the standard sticky ratchet strap with an elastic fabric strap.
Some masks however have a proprietary buckle design that allow you to quickly and easily replace the strap. But, only with a replacement that has that specific design. That’s great if that’s what you want. But tricky if you need an emergency replacement or something a little different. So, take a look at the buckle design and add that to your decision.