Unmasking the Keys to Mask Shopping
The scuba mask is probably the most ubiquitous piece of dive gear. Almost anyone who has been in the water has at some point donned a face mask. One might think that this is the easiest piece of gear to buy, but that would be a grave misapprehension.
The right dive mask can make or break your dive. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time constantly fiddling with your mask on what would otherwise have been a brilliant dive. The right mask allows you to fully enjoy your dive without missing any of the beautiful underwater surroundings in which you are fortunate enough to find yourself.
Fit is the most important factor to consider when shopping for a face mask. No two faces are alike and you will need to try on several masks in order to find one with the perfect fit for you! You want to find a mask that feels comfortable against your face, does not bite against your skin, rub uncomfortably, or press in against your nose pocket.
Field of View
The purpose of a face mask when diving is to allow you to see as much as you can, so a mask that will optimize your field of view is desirable. You will need to try your mask on your face to determine your field of vision both horizontally and vertically. Some divers are particular about maximizing their vertical depth of field in particular so that it becomes easy to quickly view air gauges and depth indicators. Diving with a wrist-mounted computer could change this as a priority.
High Volume/Low Volume
Volume refers to the amount of air between your face and the mask. It is an important factor to consider because lower-volume masks are easier to clear while higher volume masks may ease the feeling of claustrophobia. I recommend selecting a mask with the lowest volume with which you are comfortable. It creates less drag and tends to offer a wider view because it sits closer to your face.
Dive masks come with multiple lens options. Single-lens masks tend to have greater volume and offer an uninterrupted field of vision. These lenses are great for novice divers.
More experienced divers may prefer the lower volume of dual lenses. In addition to their ease of clearing and comfortable fit, they are easily adapted with correctional lenses for divers who have sight issues.
The mask skirt is the silicone skirt that wraps against your face holding the face mask in place. It is a significant element of a well-fitted face mask. The best face masks have silicone mask skirts that fit snuggly to the face forming an airtight seal.
Don’t buy a face mask with a plastic skirt. While they are cheaper, you will regret it at depth. Dive manufacturers like SCUBAPRO, have state-of-the-art technology in their mask skirts. They feature different density silicone so that support is provided where necessary without compromising the ability to seal with the utmost comfort.
Mask skirts come in a variety of colors from black to vibrant to clear. The choice you make will depend on the type of diving you do as well as your personality.
The benefit of a clear mask skirt is that it lets in maximum light, which can be good in low visibility situations and for divers who have a tendency to feel claustrophobic in their gear. The downside can be experienced in clear-water tropical dives where the white sands can reflect more light and perhaps make you uncomfortable.
The benefit of a black mask skirt is that it blocks sidelight, thus cutting down on reflective light and this could be good for bright light situations. It is for this reason that underwater photographers generally prefer black face skirts.
For divers who want to look as put together as they can, both men and women can choose face masks with coordinated color details that match the rest of your gear and fins. While this little vanity seems self-indulgent, it can be helpful for keeping an eye on your dive buddy and can serve as an extra layer of reassurance for parents to quickly identify their young diver.
You Bought It, Look After It!
Look after your gear and it will look after you. That means taking the time after your dive to carefully rinse and clean your mask with fresh water. Let is dry, but don’t leave it sitting in direct sun. Keep it stored in its dive box between use. Bugs love silicone and you do not want them feasting on your gear!
Fit! Fit! Dive!
Ultimately, each diver has to bear in mind that the purpose of his or her dive mask is to improve the dive experience. That means that no matter what dive mask you choose, you have to make sure that the fit is perfect. With that right, everything else is secondary.