Your scuba mask is perhaps one of the most important pieces of your scuba gear, it is your window to the underwater world. Even Leonardo DaVinci knew that you would need some sort of goggles/mask if you wanted to take a trip beneath the surface, thereby he sketched his underwater suit including a face mask back in the 16th century.
Our eyes aren’t designed to focus and see in the water, therefore, by creating an airspace in between your eyes and the glass, the scuba mask allows enough amount of refraction to occur when light passes from the air to the cornea, giving us the same (or very similar) vision as in the surface.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of different types of masks, they are different in shape, size, materials, design (e.g. low volume vs. high volume,) and this is good because no one has the same type and size of face. But the best mask is the one that fits YOU properly, so don’t go for the most popular, or the cutest mask, you need to actually try it on and make sure you find the correct one for you.
What features to look for in a scuba mask?
Once you step into a dive shop, they are going to show you dozens of masks, but remember the best mask is the one that’s comfortable on your face, don’t go for the hype. You need to look for a mask which will give you a good field of vision. In addition, it should be of a size and shape that you can clear the water effortlessly in those rare occasions when it leaks a little. And finally, the mask should have a nose pocket design, which you can easily reach and be able to pinch your nose for equalization.
Nowadays, most mask skirts are made of soft 100% silicone, make sure if feels good on your face. If you are allergic to certain materials, they also make masks with hypoallergenic silicone skirts and straps.
Many types of mask lenses, and designs!
Let’s start with the volume of the mask. If you can remember those old Jacques Costeau films, or if you watched the James Bond movie Thunderball, the diving mask they were wearing are high-volume masks. High-volume mask refers to the entire space enclosed between your face, the frame of the mask, and the lenses of the mask, in other words, the space created inside the mask when you put it on your face.
In general, high-volume masks can be a bit more difficult to clear when they get water inside, but despite of that, many divers prefer this type of mask because they offer a bigger field of vision and a sense of openness. On the other hand, low-volume masks are designed to be closer to your face, therefore, there is less space inside the mask and might be easier and faster to clear the occasional water that might leak in.
Single lense or dual lense mask?
The single lens masks, also known as mono-lens mask are increasingly becoming popular nowadays. This type of mask has one single lens running across the frame of the mask from one side of your face to the other. This design can offer a wider field of view, giving you the feeling of a more open and spacious view underwater. Some people are a little bit claustrophobic underwater; this design could help reducing that feeling. Single lens masks are usually high-volume masks, but there are some that are low-volume designed.
On the other hand, we have the dual-lens mask which as the term suggest, it has two separate lenses. These masks are normally low-volume in design; and as mentioned before, they can be easier to clear the water if they flood when you scuba dive. Many of the dual lens masks have an inverted tear drop design which allows for a wider field of view. Some masks are designed in a way where the lenses are placed in an inclined position, meaning that the bottom of the lenses are closer to your face and the top are a bit farther from your face. This allows for an increase in sideways visibility, but it really increases downward vision, which is helpful when you need to look at your equipment closer to your chest. Finally, you can switch the lenses for corrective lenses on some dual lens masks, in the cases where you wear glasses but don’t wear contacts. Ask your instructor or your scuba shop for advice about corrective lenses in your scuba mask, though you will need to have your prescription handy.
One more design is the tri-lens scuba mask. By having a single lens with clear windows on both sides, this mask allows for a panoramic view and minimizes blind spots as you swim underwater. They can be made of a low-volume design as well, but most are high-volume.
Finally, we have the full-face scuba mask, which covers the entire face as its name suggests. This mask is normally used by professional divers, such as commercial divers, fire and police departments, videographers, scuba instructors, etc. The full-face mask offers communication capabilities with your dive buddies, or with surface support through an integrated intercom system, and you can breathe through your mouth or you nose, since you don’t need to hold onto a regulator’s mouthpiece.
Note: You will need special training to use a full-face scuba mask, and you always need to carry a regular spare mask that you can switch to, in case of an emergency when you scuba with a full-face mask.
There is no one “fits all” mask, but there is one for you.
Humans have been trying to adventure under the water since early history, and now with the rapid advances in technology and equipment, we can do just that. Depending on what you want to accomplish underwater and how experienced you are, it is important that your equipment feels comfortable and that is functional. In this case we are talking about your mask —your window to the underwater world. Make sure you get a good one and remember that the goal of scuba diving is not only to enjoy the view, but to learn something from it.