There are so many different masks for scuba diving that you can choose it can become a minefield when deciding between them. So how do you choose?
There are many important factors in the mask that you choose, let’s have a look at them in turn.
This could be the most important factor in a mask. Does it fit well? The easiest way to check that the mask fits is to hold it on your face and then inhale. If it sticks then it fits. Though this doesn’t mean that it fits perfectly and you may have to try several different masks before you find one that fits the shape of your face/head. Masks normally come in two sizes – regular or midi fit. I take a regular fitting mask; my best lfriend uses a midi-fit mask. Luckily there are many different masks to choose from so if your LDS rents out masks, give them a try and see how you like them. You might just find one you like.
The skirt helps to keep the water out by creating a seal against your face. Choose a mask with high-grade silicon as that will be more comfortable. The colour option with the skirt is either clear or black. I have a clear mask and I quite like it because it allows me to see shapes in my peripheral vision. Tec-divers normally have black silicon, so that they are not distracted by lights from the side or behind.
This refers to the air space between your mask and your face. Ideally you want a low volume mask, this means that you require only a small amount of air to be added to equalise the airspace. It also means that it is easier to clear if the mask becomes flooded.
Frame or Frameless
A mask with a frame is usually bigger and has several different colours, see my mask above. It also possible to dismantle and replace parts, such as lenses. Frameless masks are usually moulded with one piece of silicon and because they don’t have a frame they can be folded flat meaning that they can easily fit in a pocket.
Masks have the possibility of having one lens, two lenses or multiple lenses. It really comes down to your preference of the number of lenses that your mask has, however if you require prescription lenses make sure that you choose a mask that can have the lenses replaced easily.
Most masks come with a silicon strap. This can be difficult to put on over a head of hair, so by a neoprene strap cover for it and it will make your life SO much easier. Also check the buckles on the side of the mask. I have quick release buckles and this makes it easy to adjust the mask underwater. Over time you will realise that you don’t need to have the strap super tight and that its real purpose is just to hold it in place while the pressure from the water keeps it there.
This is always going to be an issue with a new mask. I have found that leaving a good thick layer of toothpaste on the mask for at least 24 hours eliminates the main source of fogging. However, I know that for some people they have to resort to using a lighter to burn off the coating that manufacturers put on. With time masks fog less and less. Mine barely fogs now even if I forget to use the defog.
So try different masks and see what you like. Go to your LDS and see what they have to offer. They might let you try before you buy or ask your dive buddies if you can try theirs.