Which mask is the best for you?
Out of all the masks on the market, how do you find the right one? You need to narrow it down. First, with some exceptions, the general rule of thumb for photography, videography, freediving and spearfishing is that low volume, black silicone masks are ideal.
Clear silicone has a tendency to cast images or reflection on the inside of the lens causing distractions or even loss of clarity to viewing, however, some people prefer clear silicone claiming a less “claustrophobic” feeling. Side-windows greatly increase the air volume of a mask making them restrictive for deeper freediving but can be beneficial to increase peripheral vision or to at least enable a diver to see movement to the sides. Nose purges often leak defeating the purpose of the purge but they can be beneficial if a diver has facial hair or other specific needs. Proper fit will eliminate the need for a purge. Mirrored lenses will darken the lens and make seeing into caves more difficult and darken already poor visibility conditions but they can aid in “hiding” the divers eyes which can help fish remain calm or even attract them to the reflection. Color tinted lenses that are tinted too much will distort your vision, change the color of familiar objects and can even create nausea in some people but they can also increase depth perception, clarity and light intake. A mild color tint is recommended.
The air volume of a mask is important for freediving but not as important for scuba diving. Therefore using a generic “scuba mask” for freediving is not a good idea but using a low-volume “freediving mask” for scuba is fine. A low volume mask is an equation of the distance from your face to the glass x the height and width of the mask. As a freediver descends, water pressure creates an effect that pushes the mask against the divers face where a diver must “equalize” the pressure within the mask or risk causing damage to the divers eyes and/or sinuses. To equalize the pressure within the mask a diver needs to exhale from the nose and into the mask. A low volume mask requires less air that a freediver must “waste” into the mask. Clearing the pressure in the mask is considered a waste because the divers lungs cannot utilize the air/oxygen within the mask, therefore, the more wasted air, the less time a diver can stay underwater.
The visibility of a mask can vary greatly for each person and each mask. Visibility is simply defined as how much a person can see while the mask in on. When fitting a mask, pay close attention to how far your eyes are from the glass. The distance from your eyes as well as the height and width of the glass will determine visibility.
The descriptions of proper fit, air volume and visibility overlap in some ways so you will need to find a medium between them to figure out the best overall fit and comfort.
At this point you have hopefully narrowed down the options and style of mask you need and want. However, with all the different options in the market today, the mask isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t fit you properly. The shape of your face is the most important feature about mask selection. There are literally dozens of facial features I look at to determine which selection of masks will work for each individual. Here are some tips:
The height and weight of a person will help determine the general face shape. However, a persons ethnic background can also help determine things like high cheek bones, flat or substantial cheeks, wide or narrow face, long and skinny or flat and wide nose, low or high nose bridge, narrow or greater distance between eyes, shape of eye socket, flat or protruding brow area, distance from the bottom of the nose to the upper lip, fullness of the lips… etc.
If you don’t have access to an experienced mask tender you can use these tips to help fit a mask on yourself. You will need a mirror for best results.
Step One (1)
Pick up a mask in both hands and hold it up to your face but before you place it onto your face use your thumbs to gently fold back each side of the skirt. Gently place the mask on your face but stop as SOON as you make contact with any part of your face. Release the sides of the skirt you were holding with your thumbs so the skirt will gently touch your face. Do NOT apply ANY pressure to the mask to push it onto your face. By gently placing a mask onto your face you are trying to see light coming through any gaps between the skirt and your face. Keep in mind, if you press ANY mask hard enough it will appear to fit, when in reality it will not. The best fitting masks will not show ANY light between the skirt and your face and will seem to “stick” to your face with little or no effort to press it on. Note: Facial hair or “stubble,” as well as facial expressions, such as smiling or laughing will GREATLY decrease the ability to fit a mask properly.
While the mask is placed gently on your face look carefully into the mirror for any light, all the way around, between the skirt and your face. If you see ANY light at all the mask may not be right for you. After you have determined a good fit then proceed to step two (2).
Step Two (2)
Inhale very gently through your nose to verify if the mask will stick to your face with the minimal effort. Again, if you smash the mask against your face and suck-in too hard you may make a “bad fitting” mask appear to fit.
Step Three (3)
Now is the time to press hard, evenly distributing pressure throughout the mask frame, against the mask to your face. The purpose for this is to find out if the hard frame of the mask hits or makes contact to your face. This can sometimes be uncomfortable and if it’s uncomfortable on land it will be very uncomfortable after wearing the mask for several hours in the water. Common areas of concern are the bridge of the nose, eye sockets, eyebrow and cheekbones. If it’s uncomfortable than you may be experiencing a less than desirable mask. Keep trying different masks until you find the best medium.
Also check out our article on preparing a new mask for use.
View our selection of masks.
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