What to Look For When Buying a New Scuba Diving Mask
While it’s true that all masks look quite similar, it isn’t true that they’re all created equal. Not only that, but one person’s perfectly fitting mask may be another person’s mask disaster. Before you make a purchase, consider the following:
As a general rule, scuba diving masks are crafted from similar materials. These include windows made from tempered glass and a skirt made from soft silicone. Masks that are designed primarily for snorkeling or swimming may have windows made of plastic. Note that these are not suitable for scuba diving and should be avoided. All of the masks on our list feature tempered glass windows.
Scuba diving masks also feature a double silicone seal around the top of the mask where it sits on your face. Down the bottom, the mask will have only one seal. This is to allow divers to easily clear water from the mask when needed.
Scuba diving masks usually feature two adjustment points on either side of the mask. This is so that divers can quickly and easily tighten or loosen the mask. Look for adjustment points which are simple and user-friendly. Too many moving parts mean that the adjustment feature is more prone to failure.
The main mask strap should be sturdy and reliable. Most scuba diving masks have two straps which run parallel to each other at the back of the diver’s head. Some people like to cover the mask strap with a soft neoprene cover to make it more comfortable.
Pro Tip: You mask doesn’t need to be too tight. Many new divers mistakenly believe that an over-tightened mask won’t leak. This is not true can actually lead to the opposite happening.
Remember that the mask creates an artificial air space, as you decent, this is subject to pressure. This pressure does a very good job of keeping the mask in place, even after you equalize the mask’s air space.
Remember to keep the mask strap at the mid-point on the back of your head. Your strap should not be touching your ears. Everyone has a “scuba bump” where the mask strap should sit. Ask an instructor or guide for help with mask positioning if you’re not sure.
Hate clearing your mask? You’re not the only diver who feels that way and you certainly won’t be the last. While you’re getting to grips with this essential skill, a low-volume mask may help. Because there’s less available air space inside these masks, there’s less available room for water—this should mean the mask is easier to clear.
One downside to low-volume masks is that they sit very close to the diver’s face. For some, this is a great thing, but for other divers, it can be uncomfortable.
The primary benefit of low-volume masks is that they offer a wider field of vision because the windows are closer to the diver’s eyes.
One Window or Two?
Scuba masks either come with one window or two. We’ve come a long way since the oval fishbowl masks of the 70s—although, we’re pleased that fishbowls are making a fun retro comeback! Today’s masks offer a superior field of vision because of the shape and placement of the windows.
The number of windows or lenses you choose is really up to personal preference and there’s no set rule for which is best. But if you’re looking for a “frameless mask” you’ll find that these are one-window designs.
Framed Vs Frameless Scuba Masks?
“Frameless” is somewhat of a misnomer because even a frameless mask has a frame of sorts, it’s just not as visible or prominent. In a frameless design, the skirt is part of the front of the mask and the window is molded into the silicon.
Manufacturers of frameless masks say that this design offers a better field of view and that these masks are more lightweight.
Black or Clear Silicone Mask Skirt?
Most masks have either a black or clear silicone skirt. The exception to this is the spate of brightly colored silicone that has hit the scuba mask market in recent years.
There’s really not a huge difference between black and clear silicone in terms of vision, so, for most recreational divers, choosing between black and clear silicone is an aesthetic choice.
We would say that clear silicone is prone to discoloration after a few years though. It will also stain when it comes into contact with neoprene, bad news for lazy divers like me who throw their mask into the dive box right on top of a wetsuit.
Black silicone is the preferred choice for many divers—whether this is because they’re living out a masked superhero fantasy or it really does contribute to less reflective disturbances isn’t quite clear!
Masks For Narrow Faces
A lot of people with narrow faces find that regular scuba masks don’t fit them very well. The good news is that loads of options exist for smaller and/or slimmer faces. Some manufacturers even make mini versions, such as Oceanic’s popular Shadow masks, which comes in a regular and a mini size.
As you go through our list, note that we give you a heads-up when a scuba diving mask is a good choice for narrow faces.
Best Scuba Diving Mask for Kids
For small faces, a purpose-built kid’s scuba mask is a must. Unless your children are teenagers, a regular mask will not fit very well. Scuba masks for kids should feature a soft, comfy silicone skirt be low-volume so they are easy to clear.
We like the Tilos Cyclops and the Cressi Marea. The Marea comes in a bunch of fun colors, too.
Do Fog-Free Scuba Diving Masks Exist?
Sorry, the bad news is that no matter how much manufacturers might tell us a given mask is “fog-free” or “fog-resistant,” it rarely is.
New masks must be scrubbed out or treated properly before use. You need to remove the film that covers the inside of the glass. Some divers swear by toothpaste, others pass their brand new mask to a dive instructor who will, more often than not, burn the film away using a lighter.
As a proponent of the second method, I would say this is an excellent place to start. However, don’t try this on masks with plastic lenses and don’t let the glass get too hot.
We think the potato trick (rubbing a cut potato on the lens) might be an urban scuba myth!
Prescription Scuba Diving Masks
Hate contact lenses but love diving? Then a prescription mask is just what you need. These masks allow divers who need optical corrective lenses to enjoy the underwater world no matter how myopic they might be!
We go into the topic of corrective scuba masks in more detail, and give you the lowdown on the best of the best, here.
What About Full Face Masks?
Full face masks are exploding into the recreational and technical diving scene. Once the reserve of commercial divers, navy seals, police dive units and the like, more and more people are starting to go full face.
The primary benefit to a full face mask is communication. Divers can communicate with each other, and with a surface support person, while they are underwater. Read more about Full Face Scuba Maks.