A major reason why most people might not consider scuba diving is because when they swim under water they don’t enjoy it primarily because of getting water in their eyes. In pools where there are chemicals like chlorine we usually keep our eyes closed, although we can open our eyes underwater but may not be able to see well because our eyes weren’t meant to be able to see well in water. Inexpensive goggles and masks are an alternative, but if you are going to get serious about scuba diving, a good mask can provide the difference between a miserable experience and a great diving or snorkeling experience.
The main benefits of a good mask are that it fits well, doesn’t leak, provides for good vision underwater and provides a level of protection to the eyes and face from accidents. There are also adjustments allowed to the mask when ascending or descending that helps with pressure.
A mask has one basic function, to provide an airspace in front of a divers eyes so they can clearly see what’s around them and the ability to adjust the pressure inside the mask. The size of the mask is important, as larger ones can be pulled off the face underwater easily.
The difference between goggles and masks is that a mask covers the nose and goggles don’t. A diver needs the mask to compensate for pressure as they dive deeper. Being able to blow air into the mask allows the diver to equalize the pressure.
A diving mask has either a single lens or one for each eye. The material is tempered glass because it needs to be four to six times tougher than regular glass and if it breaks it needs to crumble into pieces, much like glass in a car does when its broken. It is possible to order prescription lens if needed.
Skirts are necessary to keep water out of the mask. Some have double skirts to protect better.
Purge valves are found in some masks that can extract the water from inside the mask if any gets in. The water will exit the mask through the purge valve by snorting into the mask.
The masks have retaining straps that are made from soft silicone rubber. A quick release adjustment on each side provides an easy way to quickly get the mask off. It also provides a way to attach a snorkel should you have one to use.
There are frames for masks that are made from non-corroding material, providing the structure and place to mount the lens. Here are also single lens frameless masks that reduce weight and complexity.
Wearing glasses under a mask isn’t practical, so the options are contact lenses or having the lens in the mask fitted as optical lens, made to your prescription. Stick-on reading lenses may be added for divers who only need reading glasses.
Fit is the most important characteristic of a mask. Trying them on and breathing in them will quickly establish how the vacuum seal gets created with ach one you try on.
The less airspace inside the mask the easier it is to have good peripheral vision and easier to clear it of water.
Don’t share masks – the mask will form a memory of your face so you don’t want it getting confused when others faces change that fit.
There are specialty masks – look into them if you’re interested. For you high-tech scuba divers, there’s a Heads-up-display mask available. Check one out!