Though it provides a way to view the underwater world, a scuba diving mask is more than just a window. Without a dive mask your eyes can’t focus in the water. The space that a mask gives you lets your eyes focus the light normally and POOF, you can see!
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to a mask. Unfortunately, that means choosing a mask is not as simple as it may seem. Like any piece of scuba gear it takes some thought and research to pick the right scuba mask for you.
Types of Scuba Diving Masks
Single Lens Mask
The descendant of the oval frogman mask we all remember from old movies, modern single lens/pane scuba masks have almost nothing in common with their vintage counterparts. For one thing they don’t make you look like some big goggle eyed Cyclops.
Modern masks have silicon skirts to help fit better, as well a low profile design to bring the pane closer to the face and provide a wider range of vision. Because the pane is all one piece this type of mask this style can not be outfitted as a prescription scuba mask. That being said, some divers have gotten creative and taken the arms off of an old pair of glasses and glued them inside their single lens dive mask. It does’t look the best, but at least they can see!
Twin Lens Mask / Double Pane Mask
This is probably the most common type of mask around. This scuba diving mask has a very low profile providing a wider range of vision than the single pane mask. The low profile also makes it easier to equalize at depth, as well as reduce mask ‘squeeze’. If you wear glasses, many double pane masks can be outfitted with prescription lenses at an additional cost. Some divers do complain about the mask sitting between the eyes, but most see past that and after a bit, don’t even notice that it’s there.
Full Face Mask
These masks are used mostly by commercial divers, although there are models made for recreational use. A benefit of this style of mask is that it can be outfitted with underwater communication so you can actually talk with your dive buddy or a surface team. Some divers feel that because these masks are so comfortable to breath, you may actually end up going though more air than usual.
Things to Consider When Buying a Scuba Diving Mask
A mask is an essential piece of equipment for any diver or snorkeler. Some masks will offer a better fit than others so the most important thing is to try the on. The main variable in this sizing is the head size and face shape, as this is so individual to every person it’s challenging to purchase a mask online. The best way to check the seal on a mask is to place the mask over your face as you lean your head back (pretend you have a bloody nose and you’re trying to stop it from running). Have someone check to make sure the skirt of the mask makes contact with your skin all the way around your face. If there are gaps, your mask will leak no matter what you do to the strap, or where you position it on your head. A common misconception is that you need only breathe in through your nose with the mask held up to your face. Nearly all masks will seal when you do this which will provide a false seal. Therefore, the “breath in through your nose” method is not recommended.
Look in the mirror, does the inner skirt circle your face without crossing over your eyebrows or eye creases? Do you like the way it looks (if you think you look foolish you won’t wear it so looks are important)! Put the mask on all the way. If you use a snorkel, attach one and see if it still fits comfortably. Pinch your nose. Is it easy to reach through the skirt and can you equalize easily?Skirt ColourYou can choose a clear or opaque silicon skirt. An opaque skirt is good for a diver who does underwater photography or video. The opaque skirt helps to focus on the subject and avoid distractions. A clear skirt lets light enter from the sides and helps with peripheral vision.
Some scuba masks have panes on the side and bottom to give a wider range of vision. The light can sometime act ‘funny’ with these masks and can be distracting. These types of masks are definitely a matter of preference and something you should try before you buy.
A built in purge valve can make it easier to clear your dive mask if it floods (these make are especially popular with men who have a thick beautiful mustache). A downside is that it could fail at depth leaving you in the position of cutting your dive short. Keep in mind that, just because you can breathe out your nose with this type of mask, doing so can cause it to fog up due to the warm air leaving your nose.
Consider the type of diving you do and the conditions under which you dive, then make a check list of the features you are looking for in a mask. If at all possible dive the different styles to see which you prefer.
Leaking Mask? Loosen The Strap! If you get kitted out with a mask that fits you properly, this should be a non-issue going forward. However, if you find yourself borrowing a mask or loaning your favorite mask to a loved one who is new to the sport, you may encounter some minor fit issues.Many divers and snorkelers alike think that the first thing to do if their mask is leaking is to crank down on the mask straps as hard as they can stand. This is often the OPPOSITE of what you should do! If your mask is leaking, try loosening the strap, not tightening it. All mask straps, regardless of the type, are there just to keep the mask in the correct position and stop it being dislodged from your face, not to make the seal. The thin feather edge of the silicone mask skirt is what makes the watertight seal with the face. If the strap is too tight, the skirt and that feather seal will become warped and misshapen which can cause the mask to leak. If the mask is leaking slightly, tightening the strap even more will usually make the leak worse.
Kona Honu Divers has a “try it before you buy it” program that allows you to test out any mask they carry for a small rental fee. Their talented crew will help fit you with the proper mask. When you return the rental mask, if you end up purchasing that mask, the cost of the rental fee will be subtracted from the retail price! Come check us out the next time you’re in Kona!