Choosing a Suitable Snorkel Mask
The mask is the most important and personal piece of equipment that you can own if you are into water activities. When you step into a dive shop, you usually find a whole wall devoted to masks or snorkels.
There are so many choices because of the high demand. Not only in quantity (the most sold pieces of equipment) but also in quality. All faces are different: lean, large, long or small. So obviously, this is your most personal piece of equipment. It is rarely possible to borrow a mask.
You’ll see very quickly that from one model to another, the price can dramatically change. The first obvious thing: the $15 masks which can be found at beach stores or a proprietary brand of these great sports store chains are not necessarily the best.
Do not hesitate to put a few dozen additional dollars into a snorkel mask of a great brand which suits you well. This is a good investment; mine is a few hundred dives old and looks as good as new with a minimum of care.
The important thing for a mask is how comfortable it is on your face. For this, there are some helpful tips.
First, needless to say: Try it on! Don’t go buying it online without having measured your face in real life!
Second, the received idea is that for a mask to suit you, it must sit well on your own face after you inhale more or less strongly with your nose.
I do not like this technique because it implies that during inspiration, you make a suction effect which will distort the skirt of the mask and that will stick to your face even if in resting position the mask is not tight. Do you follow?
What you need to do is make sure the second skirt of the mask, the one you find inside the mask, sits well on your face. This second skirt is the seal, and when you just lay your mask on your face, it should be set all along on your skin. If you have a few millimeters of vacuum, you’ll have leaks under water.
Look carefully through a mirror or ask someone to check for you. Do the test with a transparent skirt mask, although you may end up purchasing a black skirt, verification of this second skirt is easier that way.
Black skirt? Transparent skirt?
You’re going to meet divers who swear only by the black skirt of the mask, and other fervent followers of the transparent skirt. How to choose?
The transparent skirt may be best for people who do not want to feel oppressed by a mask which they are not accustomed to. The more light comes from the sides the more it reduces the mini claustrophobia.
If you are also a diver who will take photos, be aware that pictures of you with a transparent mask will be better. You will see your face better than a black mask that may risk even hiding your eyes. It’s pretty obvious. See photos of divers on your favorite sites or magazines and you will notice that the best pictures are with these masks.
Black Skirt finds has followers with divers who will want to protect their eyes from the light. If you sometimes dive near the surface of a sun-drenched spot (the Maldives) you’ll realize that too much light coming in from the shimmering surface is very unpleasant. Without sunglasses, a black mask will have a comfortable enough cap effect.
Moreover, if instead of the photo-diver model, you are the one who will take the shots, a black mask will once again reduce the excess light and make it more comfortable shooting through the viewfinder or screen.
Prescription Glasses and Masks
I have glasses, but they do not fit into my mask!
Seriously, one day I came across a customer wearing his glasses under his mask with zero seal. If you need corrective lenses, be aware that some brands will offer a prescription snorkel mask that makes it possible to place the glasses for your view. Generally, sellers have a stock of lenses to view at the store and will offer to adjust the mask during purchase.
Otherwise, another entirely valid method is to stick special lenses directly to your mask on the existing glass. But I advise you use the first solution, just because a former client had one of these lenses come off during snorkeling!