A mask is perhaps the single most important piece of diving equipment!
Buying your own mask will probably be the first diving equipment purchase you make and one of the most important, which will lead to many enjoyable diving experiences. There is nothing worse than having a poor fitting mask that leaks or causes discomfort during a dive.
It can be quite daunting when you purchase your first mask as there are so many different styles, sizes and shapes to suit different faces for you to select from. The best advice is to ignore colour, style and price tags initially. Try several masks on to see how they fit and from there you can find the perfect fit for you. Then you can compare what is affordable, and what looks cool!
Hopefully this guide will help you….
Pick a mask and lean your head back and look at the ceiling, place the mask lightly on your face without breathing in or using the strap, making sure that your hair is completely out of the way.
It’s important not to put the strap on because if you immediately start by breathing in with the strap on any mask can appear to fit.
Make sure the mask is not too big for your face or the seal covers your hairline. Also check that the skirt sits properly under your nose.
Now feel around the sides for any gaps tracing your fingers lightly around the edges, to see how the silicone fits the contours of your face.
You don’t want to have any gaps and if the mask is too big or too small it will leak.
You may need to try on several different masks to find the right fit, but that’s alright as choosing a mask is all about trial and error.
Once you have found a mask that has no gaps and seals nicely around your face it’s time for the next step.
Face forward again and breathe in, still not using the strap. Then get a friend, or use a mirror to look at the inner seal, if this sits nicely around your eyebrows then it is a good fit.
The inner seal is there to prevent any little leakages you may have from going into your eyes.
If all is good so far, move to step 3. If it’s not then you’ll need to go back to the start!
Now you can put the mask on properly using the strap and position it so it is comfortable. Remember a mask should fit your face without the need to tighten the strap too much. If you have to tighten it a lot to fit and feel comfortable, it’s time to try the next one.
Check for points around your face where there is potential for pressure, for example, the bridge of your nose and between the eyes.
Another important thing to remember is the nose pocket. I don’t have this problem because my nose is massive! But you need to be able to equalize, so even if a mask seems perfect but you cannot grab your nose, it’s time to try on another.
One other thing to remember is, even if you think you have found the perfect mask the first time around, I would definitely recommend trying a few different ones.
The first may feel good, but the next may be amazing, or you may just have been lucky and managed to find your perfect mask on the first go.
However, it is always good to have a short list of a few masks that fit you and then you can afford to be a little picky when it comes to your preferred style and colour.
Although price shouldn’t be an issue, when choosing your perfect mask, there are some factors to think about other than the fit. The quality of silicone is one of these factors, as cheaper silicone is stiffer and after a lot of exposure to sea and pool water can become brittle and break.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy a cheaper mask but just be aware of the quality, provided that you look after your mask properly, it should last you years.
There are 3 main styles of lenses in mask and I’ll take you through the basics, and the pros and cons of each shape. Remember it’s all about personal preference, and no one style is better than another.
Tear Drop Shaped Lenses
This mask gives you good all around vision, with particular focus on what is below. Because the lenses sit low on your face you can see all that lies ahead and beneath you.
Square Shaped Lenses
These tend to be a little wider so you get more of a peripheral vision with these. Some even come with windows on the sides to increase the field of vision even more.
There is less volume inside the mask, so they are a little easier to clear than the tear drop lens. But as these don’t sit so low there is a little less vision when you are looking down.
These masks have one big screen and generally sit quite close to the face, therefore creating less volume. A lot of people like these, as they have nothing in between the eyes, so there are no interruptions in vision.
These are just the very basics; there are many different shapes and sizes of masks and some that incorporate qualities from all 3 of the shapes previously mentioned. That is why it is so important to try on a few different types to find your personal favourite.
Once you have gotten yourself this far, the final thing to think about is the colour of the silicone and frame. Again there are pros and cons to both, so it really is personal preference. The black silicone is very good for creating focused vision, as they don’t let in so much light. These are a particularly good choice for underwater photographers.
However some people may feel more claustrophobic in these masks and prefer to have more light, which is where the clear silicone masks are better. And as for the frame, most masks come in a multitude of colours, so this bit at least, is easy.
Just pick your favourite mask and enjoy your future dives.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI DM #355693)