Whether you’re new to the sport or looking to upgrade, finding the best scuba gear can be an overwhelming task.
Scuba diving is a popular pastime. Young and old alike are equally entranced by the act of exploration. Shipwrecks and coral reefs, trenches and hidden caves. The beauty of life underwater is undeniable, from the exotic fish to the kelp forests. Deep sea divers especially testify to the addictive nature of the tranquility they feel. For most scuba divers, the biggest question is “where next?”
Because scuba diving is such a popular sport, there are a lot of different brands producing gears. Being so spoiled for choice can make finding the best scuba gear a challenge. You can spend hours reading through hundreds of reviews for a single item to find the right equipment.
This can be frustrating. We know, because we’ve been there! To make things easier for you, we did the research—so you can spend more time in the water, and less in front of your PC.
In our experience, if loads of professionals are all giving favorable input on a piece of equipment, chances are it’s the best scuba gear. There are always going to be ratings that exaggerate just how good (or bad) something is. But that type of review is a minority, so we were able to filter them out for you.
We read thousands of reviews in preparation. That’s why we’re confident that the following items are some of the best scuba gear available in 2018.
Best Scuba Diving Masks 2018
|Atomic Aquatics Venom Mask|
|ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask|
|Hollis M1 Frameless Mask|
|Cressi Nano Mask with Corsica Snorkel|
|Mares X-VU Liquidskin Sunrise Mask|
|Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask|
|Mares I3 Sunrise Scuba Mask|
|Sherwood Onyx Mask and Snorkel|
|Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Scuba Snorkeling Set|
Best Scuba Diving Masks Over $100
Atomic Aquatics has featured favorably on several authoritative review sites, and users speak highly of their products. It’s no wonder that their Venom Mask is considered one of the best scuba gear items available!
The Venom mask is a blend of Atomic’s SubFrame and Frameless mask designs. The relatively low profile of the Frameless mask is there, but so is the SubFrame’s internal frame molded beneath the silicone rubber skirt for reinforcement.
The single lens window also references the Frameless design, while also incorporating the tear-drop shape and high bridge of the dual-lens SubFrame.
Where the Venom mask does differ from its predecessors is in the lens construction. Both the SubFrame and Frameless designs boast Ultra Clear glass technology, which we’ve also seen in some of the other masks reviewed here. Ultra Clear is aptly named, of course, but the Atomic has managed to go the extra mile with the Venom. Schott SuperWhite Glass, imported from Germany, is of even higher quality. These allow for even better light penetration, without increasing reflection and glare (provided you opt for a darker tone).
As with other mask designs, the Venom brings the lenses closer to the user’s eyes. This broadens the already impressive field of vision and enhances clarity even further. It also allows for the easy integration of a one-hand nose well for ear pressure equalization.
Atomic have kept to the tried and trusted tradition of the double-feathered edge silicone rubber skirt. The Venom also sports a wide-split strap, and the combination allows for a better fit and perfect seal. Easy-squeeze buckles have been soft-mounted on the skirt, which makes for easy adjustments and increased flexibility.
- SubFrame / Frameless hybrid design
- Wide field of view
- Wide-split strap design
- Easy-squeeze buckles
- Optical quality Schott SuperWhite Glass single lens
- Double-feathered edge silicone skirt
- One-handed ear pressure equalization nose well
- Mask box
- Limited lifetime/1-year warranty
Undoubtedly one of the best scuba gear options on our prestigious list, the Atomic Aquatics Venom Mask is sure to make almost any diver a very happy owner. While it lacks a true equivalent to the Tri-comfort technology of the Mares i3 or the ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask Trufit comfort design, the hybrid SubFrame / Frameless integration does offer a superior fit. Thanks to the German import Schott SuperWhite Glass optical lens, the Venom certainly does boast possibly the best visibility specs. The limited lifetime warranty on the frame, and limited 12-month warranty on the strap and silicone skin are also very appealing.
The only real let down is that the lenses fog very easily, even when proper cleaning methods have been used. This is partially due to the close proximity to the eyes. However, the fogging does improve over time with consistent and proper cleaning.
ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask – Editor’s Choice
ScubaPro is one of the top names in scuba gear for a reason. Their new Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask is an innovative example of why the brand is so popular. The trademark Trufit ultra-soft skirt incorporates a unique rigidity that has been technically developed. This allows the mask to not only fit comfortably on every face shape but also ensures a perfect seal. The Trufit technology achieves this by using a single high-quality silicone rather than two separate materials. Two varying thicknesses are used instead.
Near the mask’s frame, the silicone is thicker and firmer to provide support and rigidity and sports a matte finish. Where it contours the diver’s face, the silicone is thinner. This gives it a softer feel and allows the double-feathered skirt to mold itself against your face for a unique fit and perfect seal.
Similar to the Mares’ Tri-comfort design, ScubaPro’s Trufit technology is easily identifiable by the unique ribbing texture. The ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask’s perfect seal is also achieved with the help of the wide-split style silicone rubber strap. An easily adjusted swivel buckle system makes finding the perfect fit even easier.
For increased comfort, the one-hand nose pocket is easy to reach, allowing divers to equalize their ear pressure—even when wearing thick gloves.
Where the ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask really stands out above most scuba gear is, of course, the lenses. The dual tempered glass in traditional reverse teardrop design was chosen specifically for increased vision and light intake.
Ultra-Clear Mirrored Glass, which is a pioneering innovation in optical quality lens material, provides almost unparalleled clarity and a high light transmission. The green tint caused by iron impurities in standard glass has been removed, and as a result, the Trufit’s color rendition rivals that of the Hollis M1 Frameless Mask.
Because the lenses are also mirrored, they provide added protection against glare when at the surface. Light reflection can be even further minimized by opting for a darker color scheme for the frame.
- Trademark ultra-soft Trufit technology for maximum comfort and seal
- Double-feathered silicone skirt
- Wide-split silicone rubber strap for improved seal
- Swivel buckles allowing for improved micrometric regulation
- Easy-squeeze nose well allows divers to relieve ear pressure without difficulty
- Dual tempered glass lenses
- Reverse teardrop design, which allows for improved visibility
- Ultra-Clear optical lenses
- Reduced light reflection and color distortion
The ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask is indeed one of the best scuba gear options available. Trufit technology, combined with the double-feather silicone design, rivals the comfort provided by Mares’ Tri-comfort technology. The Ultra-Clear Mirrored Glass optical lenses match the color rendition abilities of the Hollis M1 Frameless Mask. And because the lenses are mirrored, if you opt for a darker color the Trufit possibly exceeds the glare and reflection reduction of the Sherwood Onyx Mask and Snorkel.
The Hollis M1 Frameless Mask has been hailed as providing everything a diver could ever want or need. While we feel this is a little overly optimistic, we have to agree that it’s a very attractive buy.
The single-lens design allows for an uninterrupted field of vision. Optical Saint-Gobain Diamant Crystal Clear Glass has been used. Compared to standard glass, the Saint-Gobain Diamant has a lowered iron content. This allows for better light filtering by removing the green tint found in cheaper models, increasing visibility. Thanks to the Saint-Gobain Diamant lenses, the Hollis M1 also has a reduced color distortion, allowing divers to experience true color representation.
The double silicone skirt sits comfortably on your face, and users with wider faces have reported that they’ve felt no need to sync the straps to prevent water leakage. Some users have also said they’ve been able to use the Hollis M1 Frameless without any defog. As long as you remember to give it a quick rinse before use, the mask doesn’t fog very easily.
While not a low-profile mask (it does look a lot larger than most), the Hollis M1 does boast a reduced weight. The low internal volume also frees divers to spend less time equalizing ear pressure.
- Single-lens design for an uninterrupted field of vision
- Optical Saint-Gobain Diamant Crystal Clear Glass
- Improved visibility and color rendering
- Soft double silicone skirt
- Reduced weight
- Low volume design
Whether you’re looking for a new mask or not, we would certainly recommend giving the Hollis M1 Frameless a look. It’s become a go-to for many professional and casual divers alike, especially those with a wider face.
Best Scuba Diving Masks Over $80 – $100
The Cressi Nano mask sports a frameless design, ideal for both scuba diving and advanced free diving. The mask’s shape is incredibly compact, allowing for extreme hydrodynamics so you can easily cut through the water and maneuver in small areas.
Internal volume is minimized to the point where intentional equalizing is no longer strictly required. Some divers report not needing to equalize their ear pressure at all!
The anatomical strap is designed to fit the around the head comfortably. Swivel buckles allow for improved micrometric regulation, allowing you to adjust the strap perfectly. Thanks to the angled, tempered glass lenses, visibility is crystal clear.
The Cressi Corsica snorkel is a new design dedicated specifically for deep fishing and free diving, incorporating high technological innovation. The snorkel tube’s characterization is largely created by the unique use of special polymers. These have an excellent shape memory, allowing the tube to bend against objects as necessary and easily spring back into place.
Any feeling of discomfort is minimized greatly thanks to the special anatomical shape of the mouthpiece. Thanks to the hypoallergenic silicone used, the snorkel can be comfortably used for longer than most other models. The dry top also prevents water intake.
The mask itself is also ideal to keep as a backup if you’re not ready to replace your current one. The Cressi Nano mask fits perfectly into BC pockets for easy, convenient storage.
- Frameless design, ideal for scuba and free diving
- Maneuverability in small spaces and hydrodynamics are greatly enhanced by the compact design
- Intentional equalizing almost entirely unnecessary thanks to the minimal internal volume
- Anatomical strap
- Swivel buckles allowing for improved micrometric regulation
- Angled, tempered glass lenses
- Slim design allows for convenient storage in a BC pocket
- Special polymer feature allows the tube to bend against obstacles and bounce back into place
- Special anatomical mouthpiece shape
- Hypoallergenic silicone mouthpiece can be used comfortably for longer than most models
- Dry top prevents water intake when submerged and on the surface alike
If you’re a diver that enjoys and appreciates innovative technological design, then the Cressi Nano Mask and Corsica Snorkel are certainly among the best scuba gear 2017 has to offer. All in all, it’s a great option for anyone looking to keep a backup mask conveniently stored in your BC pocket. Whether it’s because you’re not quite ready to let go of your old mask yet, or because you enjoy your Cressi Nano so much you bought a second one, the compact design is sure to satisfy your desires.
Mares makes a second appearance on our list of the best scuba gears of 2017 with their X-VU Liquidskin Sunrise Mask. Like the i3 Sunrise Mask, the X-VU Liquidskin is dedicated to the Asiatic target market but is suitable for anyone with a wide face structure. Mares’ R&D and Design sections conducted several computer simulations to study facial shapes to optimize the design.
Designed after the X-vision model, the X-VU is a pioneering two-lens scuba mask incorporating Liquidskin technology. The natural comfort of the Liquidskin skirt is supplemented by an additional silicone layer injected into the nose area. This acts as an anti-shock bumper, similar to the i3’s tri-comfort design but using a different method. The tri-comfort factor does feature, with horizontal ribs molding the frame around the forehead.
The X-VU Liquidskin scuba mask also incorporates Mares’ innovative two-button buckle. These are attached to the skirt, generating superior hydrodynamics. The already impressive field of vision is expected to be enhanced even further with optical lenses by the end of the year.
The bi-silicone exclusive Liquidskin technology allows for a firmer support structure, while the skin allows for 45% softer contact. This also results in 270% increased elasticity, for improved comfort. Because of the buckle placement, pressure against the face is further reduced by directing the strap’s tension to the skirt rather than the frame.
The double feathered skirt edge makes for an improved seal, and the easy-squeeze nose well allows for one-handed ear pressure equalization.
- Two lens scuba mask with tempered glass lenses
- Liquidskin technology improves comfort with soft padding as an anti-shock bumper around the nose area
- Tri-comfort skirt design, which absorbs and redistribute pressure against the face for improved comfort levels. This is achieved with the use of extra silicone injections in the forehead area
- Bi-silicone technology allows for 45% softer contact and 270% increased elasticity
- Double-feathered skirt seals the mask
- Easy-squeeze nose well allows divers to relieve ear pressure without difficulty
- Ergonomic two-button strap buckle design makes it easy to adjust and secure your strap
- Strap can be efficiently adjusted even when wearing thick diving gloves
- Buckle placement allows the strap tension to act on the skirt rather than the frame
- Hydrodynamic design
- The skirt’s special geometry makes it particularly suited for wider faces
Mares have kept themselves at the fore in scuba gear design and technology. Serious divers will most certainly appreciate the ergonomic design and improved comfort of the Mares X-VU Liquidskin Sunrise mask. While the visibility is already quite impressive, if you prefer optical lenses you may want to wait for the end of the year.
Similar to their i3 Sunrise Scuba Mask, the X-VU Liquidskin is dedicated to those with a wider face structure. Designed particularly for Asians, the target market is somewhat exclusive. However, anyone finding other scuba masks too narrow for comfort would certainly benefit from the i3’s design.
The Oceanic Shadow scuba mask range is well-known as a favorite among reviewers and professional divers. Thanks to the all-silicone skirt and sleek frame, the Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask adapts to the shape of the user’s face over time for maximum comfort. The open design creates a wide field of vision.
Because the glass lenses are also placed closer to the eyes, improving general visibility. Users have mentioned that the model tends to fog up easier than other scuba masks for this very same reason. However, we were also able to find the best way to prevent this!
- No-frame design allows for reduced weight and a wider field of vision
- Reduced distance between the glass lenses and the user’s eyes create improved visibility
- Slap-strap design gives users the ability to make quick adjustments for maximum comfort
- Crystal silicone (the highest grade available) improves comfort levels further
- Sleek frame adapts to your face over time
- Designed for medium to large faces
- Reduced glare and reflection make the Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask ideal for photographers and spear fishermen especially
- Easy to store; ideal as a backup mask that fits into your BC pocket
Whether you’re a casual or professional diver, the Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask is an ideal fit. The shortcoming of becoming easily fogged is circumnavigated by proper washing. Using a soft scrub, wash rigorously for 1-2 minutes 6 or seven times. Coat the inside of the lenses with baby soap, and leave to dry. Before diving, pour some fresh water over the lenses. Swirl until the baby soap streak have been smoothed out, and you’ll have no fog!
Best Scuba Diving Masks Under $80
The Mares i3 Sunrise Scuba Mask supplements the company’s trademark Sunrise design with Tri-comfort technology. This assists in absorbing and redistributing the natural pressure exerted by the mask to boost comfort levels.
Smaller side panels compliment the wide central lens, mimicking a panoramic vision field. The strap is also designed to be easily adjustable, thanks to two-button buckles. Even if you’re diving with thick gloves, the ergonomic design allows you to secure your strap efficiently. Comfort is once again assured thanks to the x-shape of the strap.
- Tri-comfort skirt design, which absorbs and redistribute pressure against the face for improved comfort levels. This is achieved with the use of small, horizontal ribs between the skirt and frame surrounding the nose area
- Ergonomic two-button strap buckle design makes it easy to adjust and secure your strap
- Strap can be efficiently adjusted even when wearing thick diving gloves
- X-shaped strap designed for comfort
- The skirt’s special geometry makes it particularly suited for wider faces
While many diving masks are best suited for slimmer faces, the Mares i3 Sunrise Scuba Mask is dedicated to those with a wider face structure. Designed particularly for Asians, the target market is somewhat exclusive. However, anyone finding other scuba masks too narrow for comfort would certainly benefit from the i3’s design.
Have you ever wondered why professional scuba divers usually stick to black? Lighter colors tend to reflect surface light on the inside of the lens, which can distract the diver. Darker tones don’t have this same problem. This is especially important for spear fishermen.
Sherwood Onyx is known for their low-profile design and matte black finish, making their range perfect for the professional diver. With a great field-of-vision and clear lens, as well as the unique push-button buckle strap, you’ll wonder why you didn’t buy one sooner!
Sherwood Onyx has also brought back the classic J-style snorkel design. The contoured tube will hug the shape of your head for improved hydrodynamics. When you switch from snorkel to scuba regulator, the corrugated lower tube falls away from your face. The snorkel keeper is easy to attach and detach as you desire.
- Stealthy matte black finish to prevent glare from surface light
- Low-profile design
- Dual tempered glass lenses
- Low volume, easy to clear
- Improved field-of-vision
- High-quality double-feathered edge black silicone rubber skirt
- Easily accessible one-hand nose pocket for ear equalization
- Wide-split silicone rubber mask strap
- Unique push-button buckle strap system for easy adjustments
- Protective mask box
- J-style design
- Corrugated lower tube drops away from your face when you switch from snorkel to scuba regulator
- Contoured design hugs your head for improved hydrodynamics and reduced resistance
- Easily attachable (and detachable) snorkel keeper
Sherwood Onyx knows what professional divers are looking for in a mask and snorkel. Their range aims to meet every desire, and are a pleasure to wear. If you’re a spear fisherman especially, you won’t go wrong opting for this set!
The Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Scuba Snorkeling set forms part of the new Panoramic View Metallic range. Enjoy a crystal-clear view through the patented single-lens design, with seamless side windows. The double-sealed silicone skirts allow for comfortable wearing for long periods.
The Phantom Aquatics Dry Snorkel incorporates innovative designs to help keep water out of your tube, both on the surface and when submerged. The hypoallergenic silicone mouthpiece makes for a comfortable fit, and the bottom purge valve clears water from the bottom well. Thanks to the flexible tube design, you can enjoy resistance-free swimming for hours!
- EZ Equalize nose pocket
- Patented single-lens design
- Seamless side windows for a panoramic vision
- Double-sealed, crystal-clear silicone skirt, for superior fit and comfort
- New lower-volume styling for a snug fit
- Over-molded frame design
- Completely dry top prevents water from entering snorkel while submerged
- Unique splash-guard reduces water entry when in use on the surface
- Corrugated end piece, with a smooth interior, holds the snorkel away from your mouth when diving
- Flexible tube design reduces resistance when swimming
- Water collection well
- Large exhaust and elliptic purge valve at the bottom, for easy clearing of water
- 100% hypoallergenic silicone mouthpiece
- Innovative and patented production technology used in the design and manufacture
If you want to have an uninterrupted view of the aquatic life and scenery, then the Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Scuba Snorkeling set is the best scuba gear for you! When it comes to comfort and functionality, Phantom Aquatics Products have outdone the rest.
Scuba Gear Buyer’s Guide
Having the best diving gear will always enhance your experience underwater. Your mask is arguably the most important element to consider when gathering your equipment. You’re going to want to put a lot of thought into choosing the right mask, regardless of whether you prefer snorkeling or scuba diving.
Many beginners find this out the hard way. When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to rent equipment first. This allows you to get a feel for the sport before investing a lot of money into it. The downfall to renting equipment is that they’re not often of the best quality. You end up with a leaky mask more often than not, which results in a disrupted dive.
No matter how tough you think you are, having salt water seep into your eyes is uncomfortable. That’s why we built this list, after all—to help you decide on the best scuba gear to match your price range. Whether you’re starting out or looking to replace your old mask, the nine we’ve listed are the best money can buy. And that’s not just our opinion—it’s the general consensus of the community!
Something to keep in mind though: it doesn’t matter if you have the best gear if you don’t know how to use it properly. We’ve set out to help you select your equipment, and we’ll give you some general guidelines too. But it’s up to you to invest time in reading up on how to use your specific model properly.
You may also want to consider buying additional straps as a backup. Try to get a different style to the one your mask comes with, in case you decide you need it. Some scuba masks come with a protective box already, but if yours doesn’t you should definitely get one. The box will keep your mask safe from scratches when you’re not using it.
What Are the Different Types of Masks?
If you are starting out, then it’s also helpful to understand the different types of masks available on the market. There are several, and they typically differ the most in terms of design and features.
We’ve listed both framed and frameless masks above (as well as the hybrid Atomic Aquatics Venom mask), but what are the advantages of either?
As the name suggests, a frameless mask doesn’t have a thick frame. This allows the lenses to be placed closer to your eyes, which can greatly enhance visibility. The only downfall in this is that they do tend to fog easier, unfortunately. But if you’re looking for a lightweight, low-profile mask, then frameless is certainly the way to go.
Due to the lack of a frame, the silicone rubber skirt is attached directly to the lenses. This also makes it easier to fold them up, whether for storage or as a backup. Some of the masks we listed are able to fit right in your BC pocket!
Framed masks, on the other hand, are far more rigid, and the lenses are further from your eyes. While this little bit of distance can impair visibility slightly, it also makes the lenses less likely to fog up. Many experienced divers say that a framed mask will fit your face with better stability and security than frameless designs. If you find yourself struggling to find a mask that fits your face well, experts suggest narrowing your search down to framed designs only.
And then, of course, there’s the hybrid SubFrame/Frameless design offered by the Atomic Aquatics Venom mask. As discussed earlier, this innovative model gives you the best of both. You’ll benefit from the low-profile and low-volume advantage of a frameless mask, without losing the stable, secure fit of the framed.
Single Pane vs Double Pane vs Quad Pane
Another way in which masks are distinguished is by the number of lens panes they have.
Single lens masks have one pane without any separation (or, as is the case with the Venom, a deep bridge that cuts into the pane without separating it totally). This can have the advantage of an increased field of vision, but this is largely decided by the angle of the lens. One thing you should be aware of is that because there is more glass present, single pane masks tend to be heavier than their double pane alternatives.
Double pane lenses are almost like wearing a pair of glasses. Two separate panes are divided where your nose is. Most designs use this advantageously, utilizing reverse teardrop shapes set at an angle for a wider field of vision. A badly designed double pane mask might give you a ghost blind spot in the middle, where your nose forms a semi-transparent barrier in your field of vision where your eyes cross slightly. So, if you do opt for a double pane design, make sure it’s one of the best! One major advantage a well-designed double pane scuba mask typically has over the single lens is its decreased volume.
The third option is a quad pane design. This is similar to the Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Scuba mask, except that instead of a single lens with two side panes you have four windows. In basic terms, it’s a double pane design with two side panes. This allows you to look ahead, left, and right without having to turn your head. As is the case with the Phantom Aquatics mask in our list, this affords you a much wider panoramic field of vision.
Nose Well vs Purge Valve
The third way to distinguish masks is whether they have a purge valve or not. Many mask designs have a simple silicone rubber nose well, which—depending on the lens setting—often allows you to equalize your ear pressure. You can still do so with a purge valve design, of course. The main difference is your exhalation point. Without a purge valve, you’ll have to expel air through your mouth.
A purge valve, on the other hand, is a feature placed at the bottom of the nose well. This allows you to exhale through your nose, without breaking the seal.
Whether you opt for a model with or without the purge valve is largely up to personal preference and level of expertise.
Full-Face Snorkel Masks
A new mask design has emerged recently that engulfs the entire face. A dry snorkel is fixed at the top. This is known simply as the full-face snorkel mask. While popular with some snorkel divers, it isn’t a viable option for anyone wanting to do scuba diving. As a result, they do not feature on our list, but they’re worth a mention regardless.
Choosing the Right Mask
The full-face snorkel mask notwithstanding, there’s no fundamental difference between the snorkel and scuba mask. When deciding on a model, what you want to focus on rather is quality and durability.
With snorkeling, you’re not very likely to dive too far below the surface. The mask is not going to experience any real pressure as a result. This means that technically speaking, you can get away with less durable masks. Of course, you should always opt for the most durable model nevertheless. But our focus is on scuba diving, and therefore on scuba masks.
With scuba diving, there are added risks involved that don’t come into play with snorkeling. One of these is the amount of pressure your mask will be subjected to. A tough frame will go a long way in protecting your face should your mask sustain any damage, and will handle the increased pressure a lot better than a snorkel mask. This isn’t to say that frameless masks aren’t as suitable, of course.
One necessity that certainly isn’t up for debate is the glass used for the lenses. If it isn’t tempered, don’t even consider making a purchase! Tempered glass will handle deep water pressure well. Even if you do suffer damage to your mask, the tempered glass will withstand a lot better than cheaper variants.
There are a few common rules that you should follow no matter the type of mask you buy. Regardless of whether you opt for a scuba or snorkel mask, the most important factor is how well it fits your face.
A mask that fits poorly isn’t going to have a decent seal. You can expect to have water seeping in. As we mentioned earlier, a leaky mask is very disruptive to your dive. You’ll be returning to the surface to drain your mask, and have to contend with the discomfort of having salt water in your eyes. Simply put, if you have a leaky mask you may as well not be wearing one at all!
This is why it’s so important to have a well-fitting mask. You should measure your facial structure and make comparisons to the measurements companies and resellers provide. Where possible, you should test the mask’s fit before making your purchase (see below). Every brand and company have their own means of sizing, so avoid making a decision based on the S, M, L, etc. label. These aren’t universal measurements. If you have more than one mask, you’ll likely have noticed that they have different size labels—even though they have the same (or similar) measurements.
The skirt is another important factor to consider when choosing a scuba mask. Silicone skirts do cost a little more, but the benefits are well worth the price. They provide better comfort levels, last a lot longer, and will most certainly create a better seal. This is why companies like Mares and ScubaPro have gone to such great lengths developing their Tri-comfort, Liquidskin, and Trufit technologies!
Finally, you want to take a look at the mask’s straps and buckles. You’ll be dealing with these quite regularly after all. A wide-split strap, or an x-fit design like that of the Mares i3 Sunrise, will be far more comfortable and secure. Even more importantly, is the buckle system, which should allow you to make necessary adjustments in the water with ease. Slap-straps, push buckles, and swivel buckles each have their own merits, so find one that works for you.
How to Test a Mask’s Fit Before Making Your Purchase
Scuba masks come in a wide variety of designs, colors, and styles. Don’t just go for the one that fits your style though—go for the one that fits your face.
All jokes aside, we’ve already mentioned how important it is that your scuba mask fits properly. There aren’t any universal sizing standards between different manufacturers. Besides which, no two faces are exactly alike. No one mask is one-size-fits-all. Even the Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask in our list, which adapts to the shape of your face over time, comes in different sizes.
Most masks have a skirt that ranges from four and a half to five inches in width between the temples, but their shapes differ considerably. You might need something a little smaller, or a little bigger perhaps. What this all boils down to is the same as we said earlier. Where possible, you should test the mask’s fit before making a purchase. This requires some careful undertaking.
Before we run through the steps you should follow, there is one prevalent myth that needs to be dispelled first. The old method of inhaling does not work. All it does is create an artificial vacuum that won’t be replicated in the water. Even a mask that is hopelessly too big for you will have a near-perfect seal with this method! So, what are the steps to properly fitting a mask?
How to Find a Well-Fitting Mask in the Shop
- First off (and this is very important) remember to take your regulator with you when testing a mask’s fit. A snorkel will suffice as a substitute if you don’t want to carry your regulator around with you when shopping for a mask. Basically, you need something to see how well the mask will fit when you have a mouthpiece in. The regulator or snorkel will change the shape of your face and distort the mask somewhat. You’ll have your mouthpiece on when in the water, so your mask should fit comfortably and provide a proper seal with it in.
- Ideally, you should find a mask that has a nose well. This goes without saying, of course, but the nose compartment should give you enough room for your nose between your eyes and the lenses. As far as possible, opt for a mask that allows a little extra space, so you can exhale through your nose when necessary. The nose well is also used for equalizing your ear pressure. This helps you to alleviate and avoid facial and/or ear squeeze when diving. Ideally, the nose compartment should be easily accessible for this reason.
- Before you even put the mask on, inspect the silicone skirt. If you have a smaller face, with close-set eyes, nose, and mouth, a low-profile mask will suffice. These have a smaller skirt. On the other hand, if you have a larger face, with wide-set features, the larger skirt of a high-profile mask would be a better fit. It’s worth mentioning that there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb to bear in mind. Always remember to take into consideration your cheekbones.
- Take off the strap, or make it as loose as possible. You’ll want to test the strap later on for comfort and adjustability, but in terms of the fit and seal it isn’t immediately necessary. When you’re submerged, the water pressure is what should force the seal, rather than the strap itself.
- You’re ready to make contact! Making sure that no stray hairs are getting trapped beneath the skirt, and then wiggle the mask until all edges of the skirting are making contact with your skin. If it feels comfortable and centered, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
- With the regulator (or snorkel) in, inhale slightly through your nose. As mentioned earlier, don’t inhale too hard. Doing so will distort the silicone skin and provide a false seal. Inhale gently and let go of the mask. If it’s a good fit and has a proper seal, it’ll stick to your face.
- Leave the mask on for about a minute, then give it a gentle tug. If the seal has formed properly, then it won’t pull away too easily. You might want to repeat this step (and step 6) a couple of times with a varying degree of force behind your tug to make sure you aren’t pulling too softly—or too hard, for that matter. If you feel the mask is indeed coming away too easily, then you should repeat steps 2-7 with another mask.
- On the other hand, if you feel the seal is sufficient after step 7, then it’s time to adjust the strap again. Pull it close, but not tight. The mask should be held in place against gravity, but only just so. Repeat steps 6 and 7.
- Time for some vanity! Take a look at yourself in a mirror while wearing the mask. You’re not looking to see whether it matches your style or if you look particularly dashing in the mask, though. What you are looking out for is how well the mask fits your face structure. The first thing to check is to see how far the silicone extends beneath the nose well. If it’s too close to your upper lip, it’s likely to be uncomfortable. Even if it’s not immediately uncomfortable (you’ll have already picked up on that anyway), too much silicone between the nose and upper lip will most certainly cause some discomfort the longer you wear it.
- Still looking into the mirror, check how well the silicone skirt covers your cheekbones. A well-fitted mask won’t stop short or extend past them. If there’s extra skirting, the seal won’t last underwater, and you’ll be diving with a face full of salt water.
- If either step 9 or 10 reveal that the skirting is a little (or a lot) too long for your face, it’s time to start from step 2 again. This time, look for a shorter scuba mask, or one that’s roughly the same size and shape but has a lower profile.
So, your chosen mask made it past step 11? That’s great! There’s just one more step. Still, in front of your mirror, start making faces. You’re not going to be diving with a deadpan expression, are you? Smile, make a surprised face, pull your features the way you’re likely to do underwater. If the skirt doesn’t make any gaps above your mouth when making normal facial expressions, then it’s time to head to the counter with your new mask.
Of course, it doesn’t end with your purchase. When you get home, clean the mask properly to get rid of the manufacturing residue that causes the lenses to fog easily. Put it on, and jump into the pool!
There’s no better way to test a mask’s true fit than to properly mimic the way you’ll be using it. Some shops do allow you to return the mask for a refund or replacement if you’ve bought it recently and it hasn’t been used in salt water.
Shopping for Scuba Gear Online
Shopping for scuba gear online is convenient. It saves you time, it saves you gas, it saves you the frustration of having to find parking. Sometimes, it’s even cheaper. But when it comes to masks (and flippers, for that matter), shopping online gets a little complicated.
If you’re buying your first mask, or want to try a new model, head to a physical shop. As we’ve said a few times already by now, the fit is the most important element you should consider when making a purchase. How are you going to test the seal online?
Online shopping for scuba masks is best left alone unless you want to replace your current mask with the exact same model. The only other exception should be when shopping online with a site that has an amazing returns policy! After all, if it doesn’t fit and you can’t return it, you’ve wasted money.
How to Use Your Dive Mask
You’ve decided on a mask, it fits, and now you’re ready to dive. If you’re a first-time diver, you’re not quite ready yet. First, you need to figure out how to use your mask properly. After all, the best equipment is no better than the worst if you don’t know how to use it. While individual models might have some specifics, here are some general tips on how to properly use a scuba mask.
Remember how we’ve mentioned your new mask is likely to fog easily underwater? This is especially true of frameless mask designs where the lenses are closer to your eyes. It’s true of any new mask, however.
This is because there is a thin film of separation agent left from the manufacturing process. It’s a common occurrence and is due to silicone residue. There are a few mask models that leave the production line with defog pre-applied. For everyone else, it’s best you take a look at the following tips on how best to treat your mask before first-time use. If you don’t, your mask will fog up no matter how much anti-fog product you apply!
Treating Your New Scuba Mask to Prevent Fogging
- Toothpaste, believe it or not, one of the best ways to remove the silicone residue. Use the simplest toothpaste you can find, preferably one without bleaching agents or confetti strips. Airline toothpaste is probably the best, but you’re not going to book a flight just for the toothpaste. Simply squirt some onto the inner lens and scrub gently with a clean finger or soft cloth. Do this for a few minutes, then leave it overnight. In the morning, use a clean, soft cloth and fresh water to rinse it off.
- Flaming your lenses is the absolute best method, but it’s a lot trickier than the toothpaste trick. Blacken the glass of your inner lens by running the tip of a flame over it. Using a lighter or tapered candle is easiest, and probably the best option too. This burns the film of separation agent away. Once you’ve got the glass completely black, let the mask cool and wipe the soot off with a soft cloth. You’ll have to repeat the process two or three times. When it becomes difficult to turn the glass black, your work is done. The difficulty comes in making sure you don’t heat the glass up too much. You also need to keep the flame away from the soft silicone skirt, which will melt with very little heat. Needless to say, you don’t want to try this trick with plastic lenses! If you’re nervous about damaging your mask with the flame method, rather play it safe and use toothpaste instead.
Now your new mask is ready for use!
However, you’ll notice that your mask still fogs from time to time, especially on longer dives. Don’t rush back to the candle or your toothpaste tube though. As long as you’ve followed the instructions above, the manufacturing residue will be completely removed.
Any mask will fog from time to time. Why? Simple physics.
The fog is caused by condensation, plain and simple. There’s water vapor in the air, even inside your perfectly sealed mask. When this meets with the cooler glass of the lens, microscopic water droplets are formed.
The surface tension on your mask lenses, the humidity inside your mask, and the water temperature determine the likelihood of fogging. Surfactants (anti-fog or defogging solutions) reduce the surface tension and smooth out the droplets forming on your lens. By creating a uniform layer of moisture, the surfactant ensures the condensation is less visible. So, what are your surfactant options?
Treating Your Used Scuba Mask to Prevent Fogging
- Commercial defog products, also known as “mask defog”, are available at almost every diving shop. They do vary in price but generally, stick within the $6-$10 range. Quality and efficiency are the major deciding factors in the cost. Don’t feel bad splurging on one of the best. Defog products typically come in two-ounce bottles, but you’ll be able to use it hundreds of times because you only need small drops every time. A good mask defog can last you two or three dives. If you get the chance to buy a more expensive product, go for it—you’ll save money in the long run.
- All you need to do is apply a single drop onto the inner lens of a dry mask. Using dry, clean fingers, rub the defog evenly across the lens. You can rinse it in either fresh or salt water, but be careful not to rub or touch the inner lens again during or after rinsing. This will remove the surfactant (defog)—as will sunscreen residue on your fingers during application. Best you do this step at home before heading to the ocean.
- Spit is a quick and easy alternative. Some find it disgusting, others are nonplussed about it. At the end of the day, what works, works. Except using saliva as a surfactant isn’t all that effective. It’s not nearly as long-lasting as a commercial defog solution, for one thing. For another, spit dries out fairly quickly, so if opt for this technique you’ll need to do it shortly before hitting the water. There are a few other points that should be mentioned before we show you how to go about it.
- First of all, saliva carries a lot of bacteria. Reports of eye infections that are associated with diving are admittedly rare. But those bacteria slowly build up in the hard-to-reach confines of your mask. Secondly, if you are going to use the spit method, take a bottle of water with you for rinsing. Under no circumstances should you use the dive boat’s rinse bucket! These buckets are reserved for those using commercial defog agents only. Some dive boats have a specific product they prefer. If even one diver uses the spit method while sick, or shortly after recovering from illness, and then uses the rinse bucket, everyone could get sick as a result. Rather be considerate and bring a bottle of water.
- So, how do you use the spit method? Work up some saliva in your mouth and plant it on the inner lens of your dry mask. Rub it around with a clean finger or soft cloth (same as a commercial defogger), then rinse briefly. You don’t want to rinse all the saliva off. Again, don’t touch the lens during or after rinsing. You can use either salt or fresh water.
- Baby shampoo is another alternative to commercial defoggers. The ratio needs to be one part baby shampoo to one part water. For this reason, many divers keep a bottle of premixed solution with the rest of their scuba gear. The application is exactly the same as commercial surfactants. The reason you want to use baby shampoo rather than standard is because it’s specifically formulated to be hypoallergenic. It’s also far less irritating to the eyes, which is an important consideration. If your mask leaks, the water will likely carry the defogging agent into your eyes. As an added benefit, baby shampoo also smells a lot better than spit.
- Watered down glycerin soaps and dishwashing liquids can also be used, in the same way as baby shampoo. The main deterrent here would be that these chemicals tend to burn your eyes. Even without a leak, you might find yourself tearing up if you’ve used too much. Another issue is that some of these products aren’t biodegradable. If you have to use them, be careful not to dump any non-biodegradable solutions into the water.
- Our last tip is something of a diving urban legend. Some say it works, others say it doesn’t. But you may want to test the theory out for yourself next time you have a potato and a knife at hand before you dive. That’s right—rub a cut potato on the inside of your mask lens and briefly rinse! The starch acts as a surfactant. The only problem is if you don’t rinse enough the starch will leave a smudge across your field of vision. And if you rinse too much, you’ve basically wasted a perfectly good potato and will have to contend with a foggy mask.
It’s important to note that for all five of the above defogging methods, you need to make sure your mask is completely dry first. If not, the surfactant won’t bind to the glass, and you’ll end up with a foggy field of vision.
Preventing Fog While Submerged
Even after you’ve applied the best surfactant correctly, your mask is still likely to start fogging at some point during your dive. This is especially true for longer dives.
This is where your breathing patterns come into play.
Chances are, you’re exhaling through your nose every so often while submerged. Whether it’s out of pure habit, or an intentional attempt to equalize your mask, it’s going to happen. But with each occasional puff, more airborne water vapor gathers in your mask. This vapor collects on your lens, where your surfactant disperses it.
The real issue comes into play when you’re exhaling through your nose too often. More and more water vapor is gathering, raising the humidity levels inside your mask. Chances are high that the water you’re in will be a lot colder, so condensation levels will rise accordingly. Eventually, the amount of water vapor in your mask will be so high that it washes away the surfactant.
You may as well have a leaky mask as this point, or a tiny fog machine aimed at your lenses.
So, focus on your technique. Practice inhaling and exhaling through your mouth only.
The Proper Fit
You’ve found the right mask, you’ve treated your lenses, and you’ve practiced your breathing technique so much you sometimes forget you have nostrils. Remember how we showed you to test the seal before making your purchase? Well, you’re going to repeat some of those steps every single time you go diving. Make sure your mask is properly centered on your face, and that it’s comfortable, before tightening the strap.
Don’t make the strap too tight, though. It’s a very common mistake, but it increases the chance of leakage. You want your mask to sit firmly on your face, but it shouldn’t be overly flush against your head. Strap placement is also an easy one to get wrong. Unless you’re using an x-shaped strap like the Mares i3 Sunrise’s, you want the strap to go straight around the middle of your head. If it’s lying to high or too low, you may as well be praying that the water pressure is consistent enough to keep your mask in place. Besides with, you’d be distorting the silicone skirt—which, again, leads to leaking.
Once you’re confident you’ve got your mask on properly, take a deep breath and dip your head under water. This helps you make focused adjustments based on whether or not there’s even the slightest leak or discomfort. Sure, you’ll look like a duck. But if you’re with a group of professionals, you won’t be the only one who does. As you get better over time, you’ll be so practiced that you may not need to do a preliminary dip anymore.
Our Best Scuba Gear Choice
It’s difficult to prescribe the best scuba gear choice. Everyone’s tastes and requirements differ, and what’s best for one diver isn’t necessarily the best for another. We’ve also featured standalone masks as well as sets that include a snorkel. So, to be fair, we’ll give you two editor’s picks.
Editor’s Pick: Mask and Snorkel Set
We almost didn’t do an editor’s choice for the set, because all three have their own unique attractions. It was a difficult decision to make.
In an ideal world, we’d like the panoramic field of vision offered by the Phantom Aquatics Panoramic Scuba Mask, the Sherwood Onyx Mask’s unique push-button buckle system, and impressive glare reduction/color enhancement, and the Cressi Corsica Snorkel’s features special polymer bounce-back shape memory.
We’re not living in an ideal world, however. While such a set may yet come into existence, for now, we have to contend ourselves with one of the three sets. Taking everything into consideration, we opted for the Sherwood Onyx Mask and Snorkel Set. It may not boast the Phantom’s panoramic field of vision, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to complain about regarding visibility. The unique push-button buckle system is also a very attractive feature. And while the Sherwood Onyx Snorkel doesn’t have quite the same flexibility as the Corsica, its hydrodynamic J-style design is nothing to be scoffed at.
It was a close call between the Sherwood and the Cressi, though. The latter also boasts enhanced visibility features that reduce reflection and improve color rendition. As referenced above, the Cressi’s Corsica Snorkel is also superior. And the Cressi also boasts a similar buckle strap system.
In the end, comfortability was the deciding factor for us. The Sherwood’s low-profile design allows for a snugger fit than the Cressi, which we felt provided only average comfort.
Editor’s Pick: Mask
If you thought choosing one of three sets was difficult, try picking one out of six masks. Again, each mask offers unique value that puts it ahead of the competition in one way or another. We went back and forth between a few of them trying to single out what we considered the best. Once again, we tried to look at the overall merits. The best mask for one diver is not necessarily the best mask for another, after all.
In the end, we decided to go with the ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask. The Trufit technology used offered a superior comfort rivaled almost exclusively by the two Mares masks, the i3 Sunrise, and X-VU Liquidskin Sunrise. Mares’ Tri-comfort and Liquidskin technology made it a tough choice, so we had to turn to other factors in narrowing it down from three to one.
All three offered impressive buckle systems allowing for improved micrometric regulation, even with thick gloves on. One wasn’t necessarily better than either of the others.
But where the ScubaPro Synergy 2 Trufit Twin Mirrored Lens Mask stood out for us was in the lenses. It’s included in the model’s name for a reason! The Ultra Clear optical lenses equal the best that the Mares X-VU has to offer, even with the optical upgrade due later this year. What put the Synergy 2 ahead for us was the mirrored lens technology.
With the superior color rendition and glare reduction of the mirrored lenses, it was a clear choice in the end. Pun intended.
So, we’ve given you our list of community-based choices for the best scuba gears. If you’re just starting out in following your passion for diving, you now also know the different types of masks available. Hopefully, you’ve also learned which designs are best suited to their respective applications. We’ve also explained how and why a mask fogs, and how to deal with it. And just because our readers mean so much to us, we’ve given you a condensed “how to” guide for using your mask!
Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran, we hope you’ve learned something. Even if it’s only the new technology and designs coming into play in the best scuba gear 2017.
No review is complete without an editor’s choice. We strive to stay ahead at all times, so we’ve given you two! But at the end of the day, what really matters when buying a mask is how you feel. No two divers will have exactly the same needs and preferences, even if they overlap a lot.
Take what we’ve given, and make it your own. Find the best scuba gear for you, using our reviews as a guide. Happy diving!