As with any piece of scuba kit, a mask is an important investment. And when you’re going to invest in a piece of equipment, it’s a considered purchase.
And…. not all dive masks were made equal. Most divers feel it is often the case with dive gear that you get what you pay for. But regardless of budget, you’ll want the best you can get for your money.
Here’s our scuba dive mask buying guide that we hope will help you to choose the right mask at the right price. We’ve answered some of the common questions and have offered up some advice to those looking to buy scuba diving masks.
What’s what on a dive mask?
Just so as not to confuse you with jargon in this buying guide if you’re a relative newbie, here’s a quick graphic outlining the various parts of the mask:
What’s the difference between a dive mask and a snorkelling mask?
While more dive masks are suitable for snorkelling, not all snorkelling masks are suitable for scuba diving.
A scuba diving mask must have strong tempered glass lenses that are suitable for the high pressure conditions scuba diving presents. While snorkelers are only ever at the surface, divers will find themselves in high pressure environments and masks intended only for snorkelling are unlikely to be able to withstand those environments.
Scuba divers also need diving masks that have a skirt surrounding the diver’s nose. This is because the airspace within the mask will need to equalise as the diver descends.
So, in short, you should go for a scuba diving mask and not a snorkelling mask and you should select one that has tempered glass lenses.
Single, Dual or Tri Lens?
There are 3 types of tempered glass lens in diving masks:
- Single lens dive masks: A single lens dive mask is one that does not have a solid nose bridge dividing the main lens. That means, in turn, that when you are looking left and right, your binocular vision is entirely unaffected. Single lens scuba masks are also particularly good if you’re likely to spend a lot of time looking at things very close up when on dives.
- Dual lens dive masks: A dual lens dive mask does have a solid divide at the bridge of the nose, meaning the front of the mask effectively has 2 lenses rather than just one. These masks are typically the better option for those considering putting a prescription lens into their mask. Some manufacturers actually offer “drop in,” prescription lenses that really aren’t much more costly than the standard mask lenses. One of the other benefits of a dual lens dive mask is that the lenses are typically closer to the diver’s face. This can have the effect of increasing a diver’s field of view.
- Tri lens dive masks: A tri or quad lens dive mask is one that has side windows. These masks allow divers to see what’s to the side of them nice and easily. Another effect of a tri lens mask or quad lens mask is that they give divers a feeling of more airiness. With more light making its way into the mask, this can reduce the feeling of being “closed in,” for scuba divers who struggle with claustrophobia. However, the effect of having side windows and this increased peripheral vision is that, when you are underwater, it can create blind spots and vision can become a little distorted. While some scuba divers consider this a reasonably small price to pay, others simply prefer not to contend with it.
Here’s a simple graphic outlining the lens types:
Mask Fit and Feel
A mask should fit comfortably. Tests you should make include the following:
- Placing the mask against your face wthout the strap over your head. In doing this, you are looking to make sure that none of the skirt gets bent of creased on contact with your face and that it feels comfortable.
- While you have the mask to your face (without the strap over your head) breathe in through your nose. The mask should stick to your face. You now have the opportunity to listen for air entering the dive mask as well. If air can get in and out at this point, then it means water will be able to get in when you’re diving. You should repeat this exercise while simulating a regulator in your mouth so you can be sure that the shape of your mouth when using a regulator will not impact the mask’s ability to keep water out.
- Put the strap over your head and simply check the feel. Does the mask feel comfortable? Once the strap is adjusted for your head size, do you still feel ok? Are there any spots that are uncomfortably tight? Check for these things first. Mild discomforts in air can be enhanced significantly when underwater so you have to be sure the mask is a comfortable fit.
- Trying to equalise while wearing the mask. In much the same way you would equalise you ears any time (by pinching your nose and blowing out) you should do this with the mask in place pinching over the nose pocket to ensure it’s still comfortable to do so
- Do a manual check of the airspace between your face and the mask. Typically, the mask should sit as close to your face as possible. You should check particularly at the sides of the dive mask where the mask meets the head strap
- You should check the field of vision and ensure it’s comfortable for you. We talked a bit about field of vision in the secion about lens types above, but once you have a mask (or are considering one) try it on, look from left to right and up and down and check you are comfortable with your viewing field.
High volume vs low volume dive masks
Another matter of personal preference for scuba divers is the volume of the mask. High volume masks offer, typically, an airier feel, let in more light and often offer a wider field of vision.
Some divers like this! Others don’t. High volume masks are often harder to clear than low volume masks.
Scuba Diving Mask Buying Guide
These are core considerations when buying a dive mask. Each diver will also have considerations about the outer materials and even the look of a mask.
For a selection of dive masks that span a whole host of budgets and brands, we recommend checking out Simply Scuba.
Happy mask shopping, divers!