Choosing your Perfect Dive Mask
Your dive mask is probably the cheapest piece of kit you will buy but if you get it wrong will possibly ruin your diving experience. The diving mask basically creates an air pocket to allow your eyes to focus underwater. However unlike swimming goggles, the diving mask will incorporate a nose pocket to enclose your nose allowing you to equalize the airspace and clear water from your mask.
When first looking at masks the key things to look for is a lens that is made from tempered glass and the skirt is silicone. Tempered glass is far more resistant to breakage and would shatter (like a car windshield) rather than splinter if broken. With most masks it is very simple to spot tempered glass simply by looking at the corner of the lens where you will find a T or tempered engraved into the lens. Silicone skirts offer the most comfort and create the best seals. There are other skirts available like PVC etc. which are generally found on the cheaper masks or kid’s masks. The main problems with this cheaper material is they are generally much harder so don’t offer the same comfort when worn and will warp over time. This is generally fine on kid’s masks as they will grow out of them quickly and give you a cheaper option until they are big enough to buy an adult mask. However for your primary dive/snorkeling mask silicone offers superior comfort and will last for years to come.
Now you know the basic features to look for, the next thing to do is to find a mask that fits you correctly. At this point you want to ignore things like price, colour, additional features or recommendations from other divers. Everyone’s face is different and each mask fits slightly differently so the best way to find your mask is to try them on. When sizing up a mask don’t just simply offer the mask up to your face and inhale through your nose. The first thing you want to do is make sure the skirt is a good fit for your face. Diving masks generally have 2 skirts, the main outer skirt and a secondary internal skirt. This double skirt system gives the skirt maximum contact to your face giving a superior seal.
The first step is to offer the mask up to your face and without forcing it onto your face the outer skirt should make contact all the way around your face. If there are any large gaps between the skirt and your face then move onto the next mask. If you’re happy with the fit of the outer skirt then you now need to check the inner skirt. This should simply fit around your eyes. If the inner skirt cuts over the corner of your eyes then it’s slightly too narrow and move onto the next mask. Once you’re happy with the fit of the skirt offer the mask up to your face ensuring it is free from hair and gently inhale through your nose. As you inhale you should feel the mask being pulled onto your face and should remain in place as you let go with your hands. If you feel air rushing into the mask then it is a poor fit and move onto the next mask. If you have facial hair then this can be difficult to get a perfect fit. You can help the mask seal by applying Vaseline or similar product to your moustache but the best cure is to dust off your razor and trim your moustache.
Once you have tried a few masks on and found several that fit, now is the time to look at things like price, colour and features. The first feature to look at is the lens, which generally come as either single lens or twin lens. Single lens offer a nice large field of vision with no interruption over the nose. Twin lens also offer good vision but also offer the ability to change the lens’s to optical lenses on some models, perfect for divers who wear glasses.
Some masks also have Side windows which give you maximum peripheral vision, ensuring nothing can sneak past you during your dive. However the addition of these side windows generally increases the volume of the mask meaning you need a bit more effort to clear the mask and the mask will create more drag in the water unlike some of the more low volume masks. However after a couple of dives in the mask you probably won’t even notice the difference.
The next thing to look at is Framed or frameless. Framed masks will have a tough plastic Frame which holds the glass and skirt in place. This means the mask can generally be pulled apart for cleaning or broken components can be replaced easily. The presence of the frame also means you have a much wider choice of colours to choose from. The down side to the framed mask is they are generally larger than their frameless counterparts.
Frameless mask means the skirt is molded directly to the glass lens. This produces a very slim line, low profile mask, meaning they are very low volume and create minimal drag in the water. The main downside to frameless masks is as they are an “all in one” mask, if you break anything on the mask you will have to replace the whole mask.
The skirt of the mask is generally available in clear or black silicone. Clear silicone allows maximum light into the mask and gives you a more “open” feel to the mask. You can’t see clearly through the silicone but you can still see blurred movement out of the corner of your eye helping you keep track of your buddy or fish. A black silicone skirt gives you a more focused view, cancelling out all peripheral distractions all together allowing you to focus 100% on what’s in-front of you.
Straps and buckles help hold the mask to your face so should be the next thing you look at. The strap should be silicone which gives good flexibility allowing for a more comfortable fit. Or if you have long hair a nice upgrade is a neoprene mask strap cover to prevent your hair getting entangled in the strap. The buckles should be easy to adjust with one hand, allowing you to simply loosen or tighten the strap around your head.
The final thing to consider is the colour. Most masks are available in a vast array of colours so you should have no problem finding your favorite colour or ensuring your mask co-ordinates perfectly with the rest of your equipment.
Once you have picked your perfect mask you will need to prepare it before your first dive. All masks come from the factory with a film of silicone and debris on the lens from manufacture. If you don’t remove this film before use your mask will continuously fog up on you no matter how much spit or anti fog solution you use, this is a simple process which only takes a few minutes. You can perform this with an off the shelf product like Mcnett Sea Buff or you can simply use whitening toothpaste from your bathroom. Simply spread the sea buff or toothpaste all over the inside of your mask and using your thumbs give the inside of your mask a good clean until you get that squeaky clean noise. Once you’re happy the lenses are clean all over then simply wash off the cleaning solution and your mask is good to go. All you need to do now before each dive is apply some Mcnett sea drops or simply use good old spit. Rub the sea drops all over the inside of your mask lens, rinse in water then position the mask on your face for fog free diving.