Regulators and tanks are critical to scuba diving as well as safety, that’s obvious, however if you want to get any enjoyment out of the adventure, a good well fitted face mask is essential. You do not want to be in a situation where your mask leaks water or gets all fogged up during your dive. That is not much fun. You need a mask that is right for your and right for the particular scuba diving activity that you will perform.
Choosing the right mask, similar to choosing regular swimming goggles, could however be a challenge, so it is a good idea to keep a few important things in mind before you invest. Below you will find a few tips about what to consider when choosing the right scuba face mask.
Item number one on the list is fit. A diving mask has to fit well the face of the individual diver who is going to use it. Otherwise, all sorts of problems occur. Ill-fitting masks irritate the skin, make seeing difficult, have the potential for leakage, fog and other negatives.
When the mask irritates the bridge of the nose beginning divers will naturally try to adjust it underwater by unconscious facial movements. The skin under the nose can become raw from an ill-fitting mask or one that is made from cheap skirt material. Either creates the potential for leakage and usually just irritates the nose even more. Thus causing the diver unnecessary stress while underwater, making him/her consume more oxygen, therefore, shortening the length of the dive.
Irritating the skin can range from an annoyance to a health hazard, but the greater hazard is the inability to see well. Underwater exploration is potentially dangerous. Unstable caves, dangerous fish, outcroppings like coral and other objects are commonplace in popular diving areas. Missing them, because your vision is obscured by the fog skirt, leaves you vulnerable. To make sure you have the maximum possible view underwater, get a face mask that fits your particular head and face well. If you, however, find yourself underwater and you mask is fogging, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep the field of vision unobstructed.
Make sure you can put the mask on snugly without having to pull the strap so tight it gives you a headache. When a mask is too large, novices will sometimes attempt to pull the strap tighter to wrap it around the face. That will just irritate the face and obscure the view and – once again – lead to the possibility of leakage since parts of the mask will tend to crimp. Give up and get another mask.
Test any mask not just for good fit around the face along the forehead, under the nose and along the cheekbones, but for proper volume in front of the eyes as well. Some masks have a glass faceplate that is closer to the eyes than others. They are said to be ‘low volume’. The advantage is a more unobstructed side-view and that can help to judge the environment. Low volume masks are also easier to clear of water, since a little exhalation from the nose can fill the volume with air and push out any water. But taken to an extreme that choice can lead to a mask that is always fogging since the eyes and forehead and cheekbones give off heat, just like any other part of the body.
Get a mask made of silicon or newer composites, not rubber. Rubber will rot from the oil in your forehead and the skin on your cheekbones. But, be sure to clean a silicon mask after use. Silicon can support the growth of mold. Even when cleaned with bleach, it leaves unsightly stains.
A translucent mask allows more underwater light to penetrate the sides, but that may or may not be important depending on the depth of your average dive.
You can also consider a different mask for different purposes. For example, check out the mask on the picture. This would be a mask which has a camera built in, so for a basic underwater photography experience, this could be an interesting choice, if all the above criteria are met (good fit and good material).
Get a mask that is comfortable, fits your unique shape and allows you plenty of viewing angle. Any additional effort or expense extended in selecting the right mask will be repaid by the pleasure you get from using it on a dive.