Diver’s Buying Guide: Choosing the Right Snorkeling Mask

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Planning a snorkeling vacation or just looking to upgrade your old snorkeling mask? There are many reasons why you might need to buy a snorkeling mask. Like scuba diving, and spearfishing, a successful snorkeling experience basically depends on the right mask. After all, snorkeling is all about visuals. Therefore, it is crucial to have a snorkeling mask that is comfortable, keeps water out, and provides an optimal viewing platform.

Snorkeling masks have a unique curved lens that offers uninterrupted 180-degree views for the wearer. They also allow the snorkeler to breathe through their mouth or nose, an advantage, especially for those who are new to snorkeling.

Choosing a snorkeling mask can sometimes seem like a life draining task. With so many shapes, varieties, colors, and sizes on the market today, how will you figure out the right fit for you? Learning the different features and components of your snorkeling mask, and how to use them to your advantage, is always a good start.

The whole point of getting a new mask is to provide clear vision, comfort, and security once you are underwater. If you are gazing at a wall of snorkeling masks, they all look reliable and professional. How do you know which one is right for you? Don’t panic, we have the answers you need!

Snorkeling Mask Features

Your snorkeling mask is your window to the underwater world. They have an air pocket so that your eyes can focus and see underwater. When checking out a mask, you need to make sure that your nose is within the eye-pocket so that you can adjust to pressure changes. This is why swim goggles cannot serve as snorkeling masks.

Features to look out for

Your snorkeling mask allows you to see underwater, and seeing while you are snorkeling is critical if you want to experience the underwater world fully. You need to ensure that the mask you want to purchase is a real snorkeling or diving mask. Make sure the one you choose is manufactured specifically for snorkeling or diving activities rather than just a cheap mask that you can get at your local convenience store.

A properly constructed snorkeling mask will feature shatterproof glass. They are also built with unique materials that can withstand underwater pressure when snorkeling or when you go for breath-hold dives.

When you are choosing a mask, make sure you pick one that has a relatively small volume. The air space inside the mask doesn’t need to be larger than necessary. Having the right fit makes it easier to clear water when it comes in or to equalize it in case you dive below the surface.

Here are a few features to look out for when purchasing a snorkeling mask.

  • Tempered glass — Plastic fogs up and standard glass is dangerous
  • Enclosed nose — Your nose needs to be within the nose pockets so you can adjust the pressure
  • Feathered, double skirt — Makes the seal comfortable and more reliable
  • Shaped lens panel — For optimum viewing angle side to side and up and down.
  • Wide strap with a touch buckle adjustment — Makes your mask adjust easily and quickly
  • Low volume — Basically, the smaller your snorkeling mask, the less drag you will have while diving

Different mask styles

There are a variety of different masks that you can pick. When purchasing a snorkeling mask, ensure you buy one that has a good field of vision. Most people prefer single window masks. These have one large piece of glass, rather than two sperate pieces. However, this is a matter of personal taste.

Double glass masks

Double glass masks

These have two separate panes of glass that are normally held together by a frame that separates the windows. Depending on the designs and model, these masks can bring the lenses very close to your face reducing the internal volume of the mask. When purchasing this type of mask, makes sure that the mask frame doesn’t press against the bridge of your nose.

Mono glass masks

Mono glass masks

These masks have a continuous pane of tempered glass. For a lot of divers, this style makes it easier to see out of than the two-window mask since there is no frame between the diver’s eyes.

Pano-vision masks

Pano-vision masks

These masks have two additional panes of glass on the side of the mask. They allow more light, thereby increasing your field of vision. They have a slightly larger internal volume than other styles.

How to Choose the Right Snorkeling Mask

Before setting foot into a snorkeling or dive shop, it’s worth your time and money to consider the type of water activities you will be doing. You also need to know what is important to you; be that minimal glare, a wide field of vision, or just a snorkeling mask that is recognizable to others.

Snorkeling mask cost

There are a variety of snorkeling masks that you can choose from to suit your budget and they typically cost between $50 and $1,000. While it is important that you do not go for a cheap supermarket buy, the price tag shouldn’t determine your choice entirely.

If you are on a budget but still want quality, it’s better to buy a second-hand mask from your local snorkeling club and test it beforehand. Product recommendations from other divers are extremely helpful when selecting the right mask at the right price.

Mask fit

Mask Fit

If the cost of the snorkeling mask isn’t an important factor, then what is? The fit of the mask. One of the most important considerations you need to make when buying a snorkeling mask is how it fits. A well-fitting mask prevents water from getting inside, ensuring a comfortable dive without having to clear your mask repeatedly.

Different individuals have different shapes and sizes, and there are many snorkeling masks to choose from that account for different head shapes, nose shapes, and face shapes.

The nose pocket or nose enclosure is very important for finding the perfect fit. Having a flexible nose enclosure makes it easy for snorkelers to nip their nose and adjust easily, while the right shape stops water from slipping into the mask below the diver’s nose. This is an important feature for new drivers who get uncomfortable with the feeling of water under their noses.

How to Quickly Check the Fit

When choosing a mask, there are three sets of criteria that are important. Fit, fit, and fit. Since no two human heads or faces are alike, there needs to be a proper snorkeling mask fitting. The price or aesthetic value of the mask don’t matter if it doesn’t fit. Do not purchase a snorkeling mask that doesn’t fit you correctly. Here are some simple steps to take to test if a snorkeling mask fits correctly.

First, hold the mask against your face without strapping it behind your head so that the strap is loose and not in the way. Ensure your hair is away from the mask.

Breathe in through your nose while holding your breath, shake your head or look up and down to check if the snorkeling mask stays in place. A fitting snorkeling mask will stay on your face until you breathe out.

Put on the mask with the strap to see if it feels tight or comfortable anywhere on the face. Pay attention to if it touches the bridge of the nose. Do you feel any pressure? If the mask is a perfect fit, it should not cause any facial discomfort. Wear the mask for a few minutes to test its comfortability.

A perfect snorkeling mask needs to fit the snorkeler’s face underwater without applying pressure to the strap. Therefore, your mask straps need to be loose for maximum comfort. Improving the fit of the mask by tightening the strap while snorkeling will lead to discomfort. The pressure underwater will hold the snorkeling mask against your face once it is sealed on.

Mask Skirt Color

The silicone area on your snorkeling mask around the lenses that seals onto the snorkeler’s face is the mask skirt. It’s normally black, clear, or white, and each option has different advantages. Clear skirts bring in more light into the mask, while black skirts reduce the glare. They do this by removing any distraction from the snorkeler’s immediate surrounding or light patterns. White masks are good for underwater photography but are less popular.

Mask volume

Choosing a low volume snorkeling mask makes it easy to clear the mask and also for equalizing. There are a variety of low volume masks, including the popular Aqua Lung Micro that features an ultra-small mask with a wide-angle view.

Snorkelers who wear glasses

Snorkelers who wear corrective lenses may need to buy a two-lens mask. This is because you can customize them with prescription lenses. A variety of mask manufacturers make pre-made corrective lenses.

Snorkeling with a mustache

Having a mustache doesn’t need to be a problem when buying the perfect mask. Snorkelers with a mustache may select a mask that fits well just like any other snorkeler would. However, they need to be extra careful during diving to prevent their snorkeling mask from leaking. You can try shaving the area under the nose or use silicone grease on your mask skirt where it sits on the mustache. Both of these ensure a perfect mask seal.

Preparing Your Mask for First Use

Once you have identified a mask that you are happy with, the next step involves preparing it for use. There’s a thin film of silicone and mold release that normally forms during manufacturing on the lens of your snorkeling mask. It will cause rapid fogging and is normally resistant to conventional anti-fogging measures. Remove this film from your new lens before your first snorkel.

You can remove this film by scrubbing the mask skirt and lens inside and outside using a powerful surfactant. Avoid using toothpaste. You can ask at your local dive shop for a commercial cleaning product.

Rub the cleanser into the skirt and lens with your fingers and then rinse clean using warm water. Repeat this process twice.

You need to understand that mask fogging is a normal occurrence even after you get rid of the silicone and release agents. You can prevent normal fogging by using aftermarket anti-fogging agents. Just rub onto your snorkeling mask lens and rinse.

To protect your investment, it is advisable that you buy a padded mask bag that can store your snorkeling mask when not in use. They are fairly inexpensive and will help you extend the life of your mask.

Snorkeling mask tips

  • Always store your mask in a plastic mask box, some kinds of bugs eat silicone
  • Overtightening your snorkeling mask will cause it to leak
  • If you wear prescription glasses, consider optical inserts or prescription lenses
  • Always rinse your snorkeling mask thoroughly with fresh water after each use
  • Let your mask dry before returning it into its bag or box
  • Keep your snorkeling mask out of direct sunlight

Bottom line

Most people think of snorkeling as an equipment-light activity, which is why most people borrow or rent their gear and accessories when they are out snorkeling. As discussed, there are no similar shapes or sizes of human heads or faces. Also, there are numerous benefits to having your own.

Having the right snorkeling mask will allow you to see underwater marine life clearly. It’s also vital for being able to see hand signals or when reading gauges. Snorkeling is a fascinating activity that you need to experience with relaxation and comfort. If you are standing next to a wall full of snorkeling gear right now, go through this guide again and pick out a snorkeling mask that will revitalize your snorkeling experience.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson, a scuba diving enthusiast from San Diego, has spent over a decade exploring the underwater world across the globe. Sharing his passion through captivating stories and informative articles, Jack aims to inspire others to embark on their own scuba diving adventures and uncover the ocean's hidden treasures. Follow Jack on Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and Facebook or email him at Jack@diving-info.com

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