How to buy a scuba diving mask
Whether you’re a newly certified open water scuba diver, it’s been a while since your last dive, or you’re just looking to make some gear upgrades, choosing the right scuba mask is a make-or-break decision as to whether you enjoy your dives or not.
Much like a DSMB, a scuba mask is one of the first 5 pieces of dive gear you should buy as a new diver. It’s a very personal piece of equipment because everyone’s face is different. And there is nothing more irritating than a constantly leaking mask. This is also why it’s so important to buy your own mask, for two key reasons:
- Having a mask that fits perfectly means that there is a lower chance that you are going to get leakage, which will give you more confidence and an overall better dive experience.
- You don’t want a mask that somebody else has been sneezing into! Stay away from rentals.
Factors to consider
When you get to the dive shop, there are seven key considerations when choosing your scuba mask.
#1 Does the mask fit your face?
This is easily the most important consideration, but how do you know if it fits? And how do you fit a mask?
- Ignore the strap. Instead, You want to make sure the silicone skirt fits around your face. Hold it up to your face, position the nose cap, and breathe in lightly through your nose. If you can’t feel any air getting in from the side, it’s a good fit.
- Once in this position, make sure your mask is not touching your nose or applying any pressure to your eyebrows or sinuses. This can cause headaches when you go diving and the pressure increases.
- Check to see if there is enough silicone all the way around the sides and under the nose on the lip part. If you don’t have enough silicone in these areas, the mask can leak.
#2 What kind of lenses should you choose?
The main decision when picking what lense you want for your mask is: do you want a mask with a single lense or two separate lenses?
- A single lense allows more light to come through it.
- Two lenses sit closer to the eye, which gives you more peripheral vision.
The more money you spend on a mask, the better quality glass you are going to get. This means that there are less impurities and the colors that you see underwater will be truer.
Tempered glass is a must
In any case, choose a mask with tempered glass. It should be marked as such, and means that more silicate has been added to the glass blend. If the frame breaks, tempered glass won’t shatter into shards- which you definitely don’t want happening close to your eyes.
Other kinds of lenses include:
- Mirrored coating (which makes you look like maverick from top gun when you surface)
- Colored tint, such as yellow or purple. These change the colors as you see them underwater.
- UV filters. Offers the eye protection that you would get with sunglasses.
- All of these are optional extras that come down to personal preference.
#3 What is mask volume?
This depends on the type of scuba diving you are going to be doing. Volume is the size of the air bubble that is trapped between the lens, the skirt, and your face. When a mask has a normal volume, the lens is going to be a little further away from your face than it would be with a low volume mask.
The bigger the air bubble, the more there is to clear if the mask does leak. As you dive deeper and pressure increases, the need to equalize the air also increases.
Low profile masks
Low profile masks are molded to sit very close to the face, making the bubble of air trapped inside the mask much smaller. Free divers tend to prefer low volume masks because the only air they have to equalize the mask space with is already in their lungs.
#4 To frame, or not to frame?
The frame is the plastic part that holds the lens to the skirt and acts as a clamp. A lot of modern masks have these. However, the trouble is that they’re made with a lot more components, which creates more failure points to the mask as a whole.
On a frameless mask, the body is only made of two components: the silicon skirt and the tempered glass lens. The silicon is actually molded around the lens. If you don’t have a frame there are less failure points.
#5 What skirt color should I choose?
You’ve got two choices of color when it comes to the skirt of a scuba mask, clear and dark, non-transparent.
- A clear skirt allows light to come in from the side. Some people say that this gives more of a “wide open” feeling that alleviates claustrophobia
- A dark, non-transparent silicone skirt cuts out peripheral light, which allows you to focus more on what you are directly looking at. Many underwater photographers and videographers prefer a dark skirt mask.
Regardless of skirt color, you want to choose one that is soft and supple. The more money you spend on a mask, the higher the grade of silicone will be. Most of the producers of masks have their own proprietary blend.
If a scuba mask has a double skirt, the part that is in contact with your face is wider, which gives you a better overall fit.
#6 Does the type of strap matter?
The two main types of mask straps are made of silicone or nylon velcro. However, silicone is always the better choice. Nylon and velcro straps expand when wet, meaning once you’re in the water, your mask can loosen. This doesn’t happen with silicone straps.
If you are worried about hair tangles, you can buy a neoprene strap cover which will cover the silicone without expanding like Nylon would.
#7 Beware of “gadgetry”
What is Gadgetry? Basically any feature of a mask that adds to the price, but not to the quality. Some examples include:
- Side lenses that you can’t actually see out of. They let more light in, but this only creates a glare inside the mask. They also add failure points along the edge.
- Hinged buckles. They add a level of comfort, but ultimately add another failure point. These buckles are not necessary and often add 10 to 20 dollars to the overall price of the mask.
Unnecessary features like these are not only expensive, but only add to the probability of a mask breaking.
Simple, high quality masks are the way to go. Making an investment in this piece of scuba gear will not only help you enjoy your dives more, but give you greater peace of mind. Click here for three quick techniques to help you prep your new mask.