This article on Mask Essentials explains why your mask is the most important piece of equipment for snorkeling and/or scuba diving as it is your most personalized piece of gear. The mask is designed to create an air space for your eyes, allowing them to focus and see more clearly under water. The nose pocket allows you to pinch and equalize to relieve pressure as you swim below the surface. Picking the right mask is essential to having a good experience under the water. If your mask doesn’t fit well, you may experience leaking, fogging, and a constant need to adjust, which we all know is no fun.
With the strap out of the way, bring the mask to your face without applying any pressure. Make sure your hair is out of the way.
Check to see that the mask skirt rests evenly against your face. If it wobbles easily from left to right or up and down, you may also notice some air gaps around the skirt seal. Ideally, the entire surface of the skirt should form gently to your face.
If you need to, use a finger to apply a little pressure so that the mask doesn’t fall. Inhale through your nose and you will know right away if there is enough suction or if there are any leaks. If there are no leaks, you have found a nice seal and you should be good to go.
Facial hair might make this a little more difficult, but it is still possible.
Adjust the strap so that it sits along the upper back part of your head (careful that it’s not twisted) and pull the straps tabs on the sides tight but only enough to hold the mask in place. Pulling the straps too tight can cause additional pressure and discomfort on your face, requiring additional adjusting. It can also cause water to leak in through the skirt seal.
Placing the attached snorkel in your mouth is important to see how the masks seal will respond to this change in your facial features.
Make sure you can pinch your nose to confirm you will be able to equalize sinus pressure under water.
Don’t be afraid to try on multiple masks. The perfect mask might last you a lifetime with the proper care.
With that in mind, don’t make sacrifices on the fit of your mask based on price.
A single lens will offer 1 wide window of viewing with no interruptions, allowing maximum visibility. In the past, single-window lenses were constructed in a way that the lens had to sit further off of your face, causing the mask to have higher volume; this made it a little more difficult to equalize pressure. These days, almost all masks are constructed with a nice low volume for easy mask clearing and pressure release. If needed, there are prescription lens inserts available for this type of mask.
In general, a dual lens mask offers a lower volume, making it easier to clear and equalize pressure. The dual lens style mask design allows the position of the lens to be closer to the eye. Most lenses on this style mask are made in a teardrop shape that’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. This offers a great wide view in the main line of site, while still offering a nice downward view to look at your watch, gear, etc. A lot of dual lens masks have prescription lens replacements available, so be sure to ask a salesperson if this is something you require.
Did you know that there are actually more options than just single or double lens masks? There are triple and even quadruple lens options available. These styles will have either a single or double window style in the front with an additional window on each side. These side windows not only allow for optimal peripheral vision, but they also allow more light into your mask. They can even be a great option for those who tend to feel claustrophobic.
The best practice is to try on a number of masks and go with the most comfortable option.
Double Edge Skirt
This is an extremely important feature to look for in a mask. Where the silicone skirt seals to the face, this style skirt has an additional layer on the inner side of the skirt that covers more surface area, creating a much better seal, while causing less leaking.
Mask Purge Valve
While not as common to find, the purge valve on a mask allows a snorkeler to exhale water through a 1-way valve the nose section in the mask while their head is down in the water, versus needing to lift your head upright so that gravity forces the water out the bottom of your mask.
Need Kids Size?
In general, not all of the options discussed above are available in smaller sizing for kids but there are some very good Kids combos out there that will have everything you need. They have masks that can accommodate a smaller size face as well as snorkels that aren’t too large.
See this Youth Single-Window Combo Set for Kids offered by Reef Tourer with a 3-Year Warranty. It offers a semi-dry snorkel with a purge valve and a nice 1-window mask for the best viewing experience.
You may not know this yet, but the silicone skirt causes an off-gassing effect that results from the manufacturing of the mask. This causes the mask lens to accumulate a thin layer of silicone that will result in fogging if not treated properly.
Here’s the Solution:
Before ever using your mask, you will need to treat the lenses. You only need to focus on the lens surface on the inside of the mask. The outside will never fog when under water. The most popular method is to simply use common white toothpaste, dab some on your finger and rub it on the lens surface. Then rinse off the remaining toothpaste from the lens. To be safe, repeat these steps, drying the lens in between each application, 5 to 7 times.
Note: You only want to follow this process if your lenses are made of glass. Any plastic lenses will scratch very easily. It is not common to see this warning posted, so if the “tempered glass” message is not posted on your lens, please ask the salesperson helping you.
Remember, even if you’ve already treated your mask, it is always wise to have defog on-hand when you plan to use your mask. Many things can cause fogging and one of the most common is simply the temperature of the water. You can’t change that so your temporary fix will be to have some defog on-hand. These typically come in spray or gel forms. I recommend the Super Anti-Fog Treatment.
Rinse your mask and snorkel in fresh water after each use and let them air-dry in a shaded area.
When storing, it’s best not to seal your mask in a box unless it is vented. It’s better for the mask to have some fresh air-flow. Completely sealing can cause mildew, molding and recurring fogging.
Another reason to store your mask in a box is to keep it hidden from bugs. Believe it or not, there are some bugs out there with an appetite for silicone.
Don’t let your mask sit in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. The sun, over time, can cause the silicone to dry out & crack.
Avoid storing this with any of your neoprene gear to prevent any of the silicone parts from staining.
Do not walk or run while wearing a mask on land.
Do not jump into the water while wearing it. (There is a possibility of cracking around water surface or rock etc.)
Be sure to check the following before using the mask.
Stop using immediately if you find any defects or scratches.
Cracks and chipped marks on the lens surface (It may be damaged even with a small impact)
Scratches and defects such as straps, skirts, frames, or buckles
Unusual clearance between skirt, lens and frame
There is no pinching of foreign matter in the drain valve
You may be prohibited from using the mask in some swimming pool facilities. Please check before using.
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