This single piece of equipment can literally make the difference between a great dive or spending all your time exhaling water.
The same thing goes for snorkeling masks.
So how do you choose a good mask without testing it in the water? I have listed below the techniques I have used to literally help hundreds, maybe thousands of people find the right scuba mask.
Types of scuba masks There are basically two types of scuba masks, a single lens mask and a two lens mask.
Each has it's own benefit.
Two lens mask A two lens mask allows the mask to sit closer to your face, allowing for a lower volume.
This means less effort to equalize and also makes it easier to clear water from the mask.
Since the lens sits closer to your face, you will also generally have better peripheral vision.
Depending on your face shape, some people may notice the center piece.
Single Lens Mask The advantage of a single lens mask is that you have one unobstructed vision.
As they tend to be larger, they are generally the preferred choice for anyone who may feel a little claustrophobic.
Since the overall volume is larger, single lens masks do take more effort to clear.
The materials Any quality mask should be made of crystalline silicone.
Almost all masks from any major manufacturer now use this type of silicone.
It should feel very soft and flexible.
Lower quality masks (such as those sold at sports stores, Walmart, target, etc) generally use a vinyl silicone that is not nearly as durable or as flexible.
You can generally recognize vinyl silicone by its lack of clearness.
These type of mask should not be used for scuba diving as the frames can crack under pressure.
How to fit the mask 1.
Set the mask on your face (without using the strap).
Gently inhale into the mask until it sucks onto your face (you should not have to use any force to push the mask onto your face).
The mask should stay on your face with the initial suction you created.
If you have to continuously inhale then there is not a good seal and the mask does not fit well.
Most masks have an inner and outer seal.
Look into a mirror to make sure that both of these seals are sitting firmly against your face.
Make sure that there is nothing uncomfortable about the mask.
If it bothers you now, it will be amplified when you dive.
Now that you have the mask on, look around and check your vision.
The Price In general, a good scuba mask should cost around $40-$80.
There are masks that go above this, but in most cases the difference in performance does not warrant the difference in price.
If you find a mask below this price, then make sure you are getting a good deal, and not just a lower quality mask.
Take your time Be sure to try on several masks.
The more you try on the more you will start to figure out what you like and don't like.
Be sure to take you time with each mask.
Make sure that it feels very comfortable and fits your face well.
Since the mask will be your most important piece of gear, don't purchase one unless you can first try it on.