Every diver needs a good dive mask, choosing the right one for you can be a problem
Every diver needs a good dive mask, choosing the right one for you can be a problem if you don’t know what you are doing. Many people go for something that looks good but does a poor job, you’ll have seen them on guided dives – they won’t have seen you because their mask will have been fogged, full of water or not corrected for their vision.
As I discuss masks, I’ll use the following terms. As you shop around you may find that some people use different terms particularly on the internet.
The most important thing with all dive masks is that they fit well and are comfortable. It’s worth learning to adjust the strap so that you can do so easily, particularly slacken it, a lot of leaks are caused by overtightened masks.
(picture courtesy of Leisurepro).
Here are some do’s and don’ts learned from bitter and expensive experience.
Do purchase your mask at a dive store. Aside from the variety of masks in there, dive store personnel are the most appropriate and capable people to help you choose the best mask for you. They know their products and will only stock good quality masks that will provide years of service if looked after. They will look after their stock so you know that it will have been handled correctly. They will also make sure that their demo stock masks are all wiped down properly after each try on.
Do decide as to what mask style you want for yourself. Masks come in different colours, shapes and designs. Some have large one-piece lenses that might reduce that closed in feeling. However, never compromise comfort for style.
Do check the material that the dive mask is made of. Generally, masks nowadays have silicone rubber skirts that are either translucent or black. The skirt needs to be supple enough to form around the contours of your face, but for some of us, hard enough to smooth out the wrinkles!
Do look for features that are fit and suited for SCUBA diving – not just snorkelling. For safety purposes, the mask glass should be made of tempered glass. Beware of cheap internet goods! For equalizing, it should have nose pockets which will allow you to pinch your nose to clear your ears, without being too big or too small.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, ask the dealer which masks can have corrective lenses fitted. I’d been diving for a year before I’d sorted this out you will miss so much if you don’t and it’s not expensive.
Do always choose the mask that fits your face. Here are some basic steps on how to fit a mask:
Carefully position and place the mask against your face, don’t use the strap at this stage, so keep it up or away from your face.
Inhale gently through your nose, you’re not a vacuum cleaner – don’t try too hard.
Now remove your hand but be ready to catch.
Does the mask feel like its going to fall off your face or do you need to hold the mask on? If so it’s a poor fit and will leak!
Does the mask stick to your face without the help of your hand? If so it’s a good fit!
As much as possible, keep the mask on your face for a minute or two make sure it’s comfortable. You can bring your snorkel so you can try if the mask will leak when you use a snorkel or regulator.
You may also want to bring your diving gloves (if you dive with them) to check whether you can easily pinch your nose through the nose pocket even with the gloves on your hand.
Exhale through your nose to release the seal and you can now remove the mask.
Now try again with the strap, how does the strap lie on your head? Does the mask ride up? This is important I once used a mask that cut into the top of my ears, it made wearing glasses painful for days after.
Check for marks on your face. If you had a red line around your face, then the seal was too tight and the mask is not for you.
Continue fitting other masks until you find the right one for you.
Do take your time a good retailer will not rush you. This is why you need to think carefully about the type of mask you want before you go. It will reduce the choices to a manageable number. Sometimes a second visit may be needed.
Do buy some mask defogger before you leave the shop, it’s better than spit – honest. Freedom film is also available which is a really good add on option.
Don’t go to a retailer and then buy online – I found this out to my cost, masks come in different sizes. I went to Egypt having done this and the thing leaked like mad I tried everything including Vaseline to sort the problem and ended up hiring a mask. The online people refused a refund because the mask had been used – they didn’t know about mask sizing either!
Don’t choose a mask with a plastic skirt as it can sometimes cause rashes and allergies! A good dive store won’t sell them.
Don’t choose a mask made of plastic and standard glass. Both materials are known to leak, crack, break and are dangerous or hazardous if accidentally broken. Don’t buy online - if it’s cheap there’s a reason.
Now you have bought your mask it needs to be conditioned ready for use, the lenses have a coating on them that must be removed, your retailer will advise you about this.
Make sure before you dive that you have got all the coating off otherwise you will never be able to stop the mask fogging.
Remember masks may look the same, diving with comfortable and good quality dive masks ensures a much better diving experience!
Remember mask clearing is one of the basic skills you learn in your dive training. This skill is particularly important in case you got your mask fogged, flooded or knocked. Practice, practice, and practice again. However, constantly clearing due to leaking, a foggy mask will totally ruin your diving.
The bottom line is to simply choose the perfectly fitting mask that will never leak during your dive. And always remember that even if you have the rest of your SCUBA diving gear in good condition, you won’t be able to enjoy your diving without a diving mask. After all, the underwater scenery is exactly the reason why you are diving.
Here's the disclaimer bit.
Firstly, I’m not a dive professional – far from it – I also have nothing to gain from writing and publishing this article I am not paid in any way for them. Secondly, as far as I know all the information is correct, but things change – please ensure what you buy is suitable for you and complies with any standards required. Thirdly, the author cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions.