For diving, an excellent mask is unquestionably one of your most important pieces of gear. The mask can be the difference between a great dive, an unpleasant one, or missing the dive altogether. A great mask fits well, does not leak, supplies excellent vision underwater as well as protection for a diver’s face.
Masks can be found in many styles and colors. All offer the exact same function; to provide an airspace in front of the eyes to make seeing underwater possible. This means the mask should cover the nose so that the scuba diver can breathe in and exhale to adjust pressure. The airspace should be as small as possible (low-volume). The nose pocket of a diving mask is helpful to make up for handling pressure as you dive deeper.
Masks are designed with one solid lens or dual lenses made out of tempered glass. Tempered glass crumbles into small pieces rather than sharp fragments if the mask breaks. Some divers and typically those that needed glasses usually prefer dual lens styles. Some dual lens masks can be outfitted with the diver’s prescription. Single lens designs are often seen as more natural. Masks are made with clear, tinted or mirrored glass that reduces glare.
The skirt of the mask is necessary as it forms to the face and, ideally, keeps the water out. Most modern masks have skirts that are made from silicone rubber. High quality silicone lasts long, seals well, and is quite comfortable. A lot of masks have a double skirt. The external one seals from the water and the internal one adheres to the face muscular tissue.
The mask strap is usually made of soft silicone rubber. They typically have a quick release adjustment on each side. The strap keeps the mask on the head and, in some cases, attaches the snorkel. Many will replace/cover the strap and with a neoprene strap or at least a neoprene mask strap cover. This makes it easier to remove and replace the mask. These come in different colors, patterns and logos to you can personalize your mask per your liking.
As you can imagine, masks come in many colors and even with black, clear or colored skirts and there are as many preferences as there are colors available.
Some divers require prescriptive lenses to be able to see properly, above or below the water. As mentioned above, some masks can be fitted with optical lenses and others come with built in ‘readers’ -1.5 to -8.0 diopters in.5 increments, for those that just need assistance in reading their gauges or anything nearby. When buying diving masks with built in reading lenses, remember that that water multiplies vision by about 33% so you will need a lower strength underwater. Even if you do require reading glasses, do not assume you need glasses once you are submerged.
With masks, a great fit is the most important and given that all faces are different it can take trying on many before you find one that works well for you. When trying on masks, place the mask onto your face and inhale a little. If the mask fits well, that small inhale should create a vacuum and will hold the mask on your face. Once you’ve tried on several masks, you’ll feel which ones are a better fit right away. Be mindful that facial hair will complicate creating the vacuum.
Sharing masks is not recommended. Masks with the high-quality silicone will actually mold to fit your face over time. Loaning out a mask that has molded to its user may actually leak after when used by another.
There are masks being designed that will allow for unaltered vision and even be ability to view all of your computers data directly in your mask. There are also dive masks with cameras built in, allowing the diver to shoot photos or videos without using their hands. These are usually much larger but as technology progresses, we may see some very interesting inventions!