They say the golden rule in choosing a mask is to find one that makes you look cool, however important this may be it’s far more important to find one that fits correctly and is comfortable. Buying a mask is very personal, a mask that fits one person may not fit another. Here are a few hints and tips of what to look for when buying a mask.
First and foremost it’s important to make sure that the glass used for the mask is tempered, nowadays it’s unlikely that manufacturers will be using standard glass due to health and safety regulations but it is always important to check.
Black skirt or clear skirt?
This is sometimes overlooked but this question is important; if you aren’t a fan of tunnel vision or you don’t like feeling closed in, then a clear skirt would be more beneficial as a clear skirt lets in more light. If instead you are in need of focusing on a certain subject matter, for example if you are a photographer, then a black skirted mask would be far better suited to you.
You may notice that the majority of dive professionals and regular divers have black skirted masks, this is because regular use of clear skirted masks can discolour slightly over time and show up dirt more easily.
It’s also important to make sure that the skirt is made of silicone not plastic, which some of the cheaper masks, especially snorkeling masks, are made from as silicone is more durable and will have a better seal against the skin.
Single lenses, Twin lenses or Tri-View Lenses?
Single lenses are great as they let a lot of light in but are unable to hold prescription lenses should you need them, whereas twin lenses are able to change the lenses to prescription if necessary. Twin lenses also have a bridge over the nose which you need to make sure doesn’t press down on your face as this can cause discomfort, especially with the added surrounding water pressure at depth. There are also Tri-View options which include cornered windows around the face. These don’t have much benefit when it comes to seeing more but they do allow more light to enter.
More and more masks are becoming gender friendly; for example Aqualung have designed a whole range of dive equipment for women, including masks like the Linea Twilight below, which has been designed with special buckles to prevent catching long hair. So if this is an issue you have had in the past that you would like to change, then this type of mask may suit you.
You don’t even need to touch the water to check to see if a mask fits you correctly, all you need to do is flip the strap over the front of the lenses so it is out of the way, make sure all hair is out of the face (even one strand of hair could break the seal so make sure it’s all pushed back), tilt your head up to the sky and place it gently on your face with your face still in the upward facing position. Once placed, check where the skirt is on your face, is it in your hairline? If so, it may be slightly too large for your face and could leak. If not in your hairline GREAT! The next thing we need to check is for gaps, if there is someone with you ask them to have a look, especially if you are in a shop, the shop assistant will be able to help you with this, or if not ask a friend if they can see any obvious gaps. If there are no obvious gaps, take a breath in through your nose and feel if the mask fits on your face comfortably. If the mask remains suctioned to your face, this indicates there you have a tight seal! GREAT!
If you are still unsure, why not try the mask on with a regulator or snorkel in your mouth to see if the seal is still good or ask your local dive centre for more information. Ultimately your mask is what’s going to allow you to visually experience every dive site, so it’s important to find the right one for you.