Are you thinking about to buy your very first mask or just need a new one? Your equipment should fit well for your safety and comfort. If you would like to know how to choose the right mask, read our mini guide!
Why is it important to choose the right mask?
Have you every snorkeled with rented equipment? If yes, you may probably know that there are many different type of masks and not every is comfortable. They are different in forms, in sizes and also each people have an unique face shape. A mask which fits perfectly to your friend could be totally uncomfortable for you, so it is better to have your own one.
You mask is your window to the underwater world, it is needed to create an airspace in front of your eyes, so it is one of the most important piece of your gear, it must be equalized, defogged and fit properly.
A good, quality mask have tempered glass lenses (plastic lenses may scratch, wrap easily and are not durable) silicone straps and skirts (this is the part of the mask that seals to the face). This silicon and skirt also should have high quality – they must be flexible and seal well to the face. Cheap, bad quality products are harder and could cause uncomfortable pressure underwater. The softer and more flexible the silicon, the better the mask will seal to the face.
Technically there is no difference between snorkeling, diving and freediving masks, although there are some key things to look out for a mask including internal volume and lens angle. The volume is the confined air space created when the mask is sealed against the face. Internal volume (profile of the mask) is more important for divers and freedivers, but less important for snorkelers. A very low internal volume is crucial for freedivers and generally speaking most people find a low volume mask the most comfortable. The lens angle determines the field of vision, consider it when you choose the right mask.
Mask market – wide selection
Let’s see now how many different types are available and how to choose the right mask
Two window mask: these type of masks has two separate glass held together by a frame. These masks may bring the lenses close to the face and help reduce the internal volume, which makes easier to clear and to equalize. If you try a two window mask, make sure that the frame does not press the bridge of your nose.
One window mask: many snorkeler and diver say they have a wider field of vision while wearing one window mask – these masks has no frame running between the eyes.
Side window mask: with the extra glass on the sides of the mask these type of snorkeling masks allow additional light and increase the field of vision although these masks have a larger internal volume because hold more air.
Low volume/freediving mask: there is little space between the face and the mask glass. They hold little air and require less to equlaize and clear.
Wide field mask: teardrop-shaped or elongated lenses are designed to increse the field of vision. It helps to spot animals easier without turning the head.
Purge valve mask: there are masks on the market with a built-in valve wich is a one-way valve in the nose of the mask to facilitate clearing water from the mask. These masks are designed for divers, are unnecessary for snorkeling. (These masks eliminates the need for the divers to look up when clearing the mask but make more difficult to pinch the nose and equalize. If the valve goes wrong the whole mask will flood.)
Full face snorkel mask: nowadays these type of masks are more and more popular. The full face mask cover the whole face and let you to breathe naturally through your mouth and nose. We have a detailed post about full face masks, read it for more info!
If you wear contact lenses or glasses, do not worry! There is a wide selection of mask which can accomodate corrective lenses. Some diveshops can order the mask with customized lenses directly from the manufacturer or sometimes you can change the lenses by yourself.
What other features should you consider if you want to choose the right mask?
If you are an adult but have small face, search “Small Fit” mask! Some manufacturer offer adult masks in XS size so you do not need to choose from the Kids Department. The silicon color is also important, there are masks made of clear silicone and also of black silicon. In the past years there are more and more colorful masks on the market, you may have full white or even a pink mask. The best field od vision you can have in clear silicon masks. Try different colors and determine your preference!
You should also check the strap and the strap attachment. The strap also made from silicon and must be flexible but durable. The strap can be tightened or loosened using a bucking system. Different masks have different attachments, the best is if these part is easy to replace (if it breaks you do not need to buy a new mask only the bucking system) Before using your mask get to know your mask’s bucking system so you can tighten or loosen the strap easily in the water. For better comfort, upgrade your starp with neoprene mask strap cover and it won’t pull or tangle your hair!
Choose the right mask techniques
If you find your perfect mask you will almost forget you have it on while snorkeling.
If your mask fits well, it will stick to your face without you having to hold it or without the strap is on your head – try on your mask, hold your breath, gently place the mask up against your face and press slightly. If you let go of the mask with your hands, a well-fitting one should suck onto your face. Always check that the mask is comfortable on your nose!
The better the mask seals the face the less likely you will have leaks when moving your head underwater. Do not overtight the strap, the seal should come from the skirt not from the strap! When put on the strap, only tighen it to keep the mask from shifting on your face when you move your head. By trying your mask, check that your hair is not under the skirt otherwise it will not seal well! Before entering the water the best is if you wet your hair and slick it back out of your face, or use a a 3in1 headscarf and you hair will not disturb you!
The most common problem by sorkelers is the the fogging. There are some tips how can you avoid it:
- aviod taking your mask off while snorkeling. If you have a well fitting mask which seals to your face, you will not need to take off. The general rule is, put your mask on and leave! Every time you pull you mask awy from your face, air enters the mask and moisture will condense on the lens.
- an other important thing is to keep breathing through your nose to the minium – some nasal exhalation is ok for repressurize the mask, but do not do it regularly.
- if you still have fogging problems, use mask defogger or try a very simple but effective trick: smear the lens inside with a normal toothpaste (which contains no grains because they can cause scratches) and leave it on the lense for a few hours. After a few hours clean the lense and use your mask normally, this is the method what most divers and snorkellers apply to avoid fogging.
As you see there are only a few features you should note and you will able to choose the right mask. We hope our little guide was helpful , you will find your perfect mask and you will spend long enjoyable hours in the water!