How to Choose a Snorkeling Mask
Maximize your snorkeling experience by selecting the ideal mask. One of the most important pieces of snorkeling equipment, a good mask gives you a pristine image of underwater worlds. The better it fits, the longer you can comfortably drift along the surface of the water, gazing at depths below. Read on to find out what specifics to look for in a mask, as well as how to test and choose the best one for you.
Key Features to Look For
All snorkeling masks include a lens for viewing, straps to secure it to your face, and a skirt around the lens to seal in air space. Both design and material factor into the functionality of a quality snorkel mask. Check out the specifics of a mask's skirt, lens, straps, and additional features to know what to look out for.
The skirt is the flexible, rubber-like portion of the mask that makes contact with your face. If a mask fails to seal properly, it can cause leakage, fogging, and even tire you out from frequent adjusting. An ideal skirt should:
- Create a watertight seal against your face. If it doesn't, you'll find yourself treading water frequently to fix leaks, which takes more effort than floating on the water's surface.
- Not require adjustments that expose the inside of the lens to new, moist air, causing it to fog up.
- Be relatively wide—the wider the skirt, the better seal it tends to provide.
- Be made from silicone instead of rubber, which will crack over time. Some masks may even feature supremely supple “Crystal silicone for a more-flexible and comfortable fit.
Made of either plastic or tempered glass, the lens acts as your personal viewing window. Look for masks with:
- Great peripheral vision. Some masks will give you a sense of tunnel-vision. Those with wider lenses provide better, non-dizzying views when you move your head.
- Vision enhancing coatings. Some lenses are designed to provide crisper images in poor lighting conditions. Special tinting reduces glare and filters some incoming light.
- Sturdy materials. Tempered glass resists scratches better than plastic and, if shattered, breaks in chunky pieces instead of sharp shards. While plastic usually works fine for snorkeling, tempered glass can also be used for scuba-diving and freediving, as it better withstands changes in water pressure.
Non-fogging lenses. While no lens completely prevents fogging, many manufacturers design lenses with low-fog properties. To prevent mask fogging:
- Make sure the mask fits properly. Leaks will disrupt your vision and the water will irritate your eyes.
- Do not take the mask on and off—the less you expose the air pocket to outside air, the less condensation will form inside.
- Use a mask defogger. Anti-fog solutions will add an extra layer of protection against condensation.
Straps secure a mask to your head. They typically come in an adjustable buckle system for finding an ideal fit. Different materials offer different benefits:
- Similar to skirts, silicone straps will last longer than rubber straps. They are less likely to become brittle and crack after a period of time.
- Thicker neoprene straps work well for people with a lot of hair, as they reduce the risk of entanglement.
- Neoprene strap covers also exist to go over rubber or silicone straps for extra comfort, and for those with more hair who do not want to seek out a mask specifically featuring neoprene straps over rubber or silicone. The Cressi Mask Strap Cover pairs well with most strap designs.
Some masks include purge valves, which work as one-way faucets to remove water from the mask. Many older designs with single lenses will include a purge valve at the base of the nose pocket. However, the plastic design can be irritating and breaks easily, requiring a replacement purchase.
Testing a Mask
To find the perfect mask, you must test it out on yourself. Luckily, this does not require you to be in the water—and SwimOutlet.com accepts returns on all eligible products, so you can sample a number of snorkeling masks. To try on a snorkeling mask:
- Begin by holding your breath, without inhaling or exhaling, and gently place the mask against your face, pressing only slightly.
- Let go of the mask without inhaling. A well-fitting mask should seal to your face completely to prevent any leakage when used. Any mask will seal with a strong inhalation, so make sure you continue holding your breath.
- Pull the straps on over your head. This should not disrupt the seal, and they should not need to be tightened in order for the mask to seal. Only adjust the straps enough to prevent the mask from shifting when you move your head.
- Make sure no hair is caught underneath the seal by running your fingers along all its edges. Those with long hair will want to slick back their hair before putting on the mask.
Find Your Perfect Mask
The ideal snorkel mask varies from person to person. It comes down to how a mask fits on your face. Along with seeking a mask offering the clearest, most-comfortable view, look for features designed to make the mask last long and function without excess adjustments. Most importantly, test out a mask for a secure, reliable seal to prevent leakage.