Choosing a new scuba diving mask can be overwhelming. Don’t just rush out to the local dive shop and grab the first mask that fits. Selecting the right mask is always one of the most important decisions you will make.
There are many different types of masks available. You should have some basic idea at least, and should have a clear idea of what features you are looking for. Always go for a quality mask that has a 100% surgical grade silicone seal. Many manufacturers do not mark on the packaging or the mask that the seal is 100% silicone so you must do some research or rely on the honesty of the shop assistant. With a trained eye, you can tell the difference between a 100% silicone mask and an inferior rubber substitute.
Masks that are not 100% silicone might harden, crack, split and warp. So they could leak, even if they were initially a perfect fit. Silicone is also a very hygienic material.
Fitting the Mask
You must try it to do a fitness test once you have located a good 100% silicone mask. Do the following tests…
- Place the mask on your face. Don’t pull the strap over your head. Gently push the front of the mask with 2 fingers and breathe in through your nose. A mask that fits well shouldn’t leak. Check whether there is any hair, or if the strap is caught, if your mask isn’t sealing properly the first time. Don’t take it, if the mask is still not sealing properly.
- There should be an inner seal in all quality masks. Once you are sure that the first test is passed, make your friend check whether the second seal is fitting your face properly. It shouldn’t cut across the eye socket and must seal flat to your face completely.
- Now place the strap over your head and adjust for comfort. Look around, up, down, side to side to check out the field of vision. As a general rule, low volume masks should offer a wider field of vision than larger masks, provided they fit your face shape. You can increase the mask’s range of vision with single screen lens, side windows and low cut lens.
- Pinch the nose pocket with the thumb and forefinger to simulate equalisation techniques. If you usually dive with gloves, try this when you are wearing your gloves. The nose pocket in some masks is not easily accessible.
- Your choices have already narrowed down based on vision, fit, comfort, and personal preferences. Now select the color. There are many choices. But usually, there are just two options in seal color – black silicone or clear. Clear silicone allows more light into the mask. It gives you a more open feeling. Divers with clear masks on the other hand, make better photo subjects. However, over time, clear silicone gets discolored and can turn yellow. This does not happen with black silicone. The black silicone eliminates light, but you may find the lack of light a bit claustrophobic.
Corrective Vision Options
Divers who have mild near or farsightedness might not require any correction. Refraction of light in water passing through the mask glass will become magnified. Objects generally will appear 25% closer and 33% larger under water than in air. Consider corrective options if your vision is less than mildly imperfect. This will help you read important data like air pressure.
Many divers wear contact lens under water. This is safe if the lens is gas permeable. But if you flood the mask, then you can lose a lens. Thus, keep a spare lens set. You will find corrective lens in many dive shops in both plus and minus prescriptions.
Adjusting the Mask
You may have to do a couple of dives with the new equipment before you reach optimal fit and adjustment. But even before the first descent, make sure that your mask is properly adjusted and in place. Often divers will wear the mask strap too low, or the mask may be too high with the nostrils sticking out of the bottom of the mask.
In some masks, there are side adjust straps that can be locked into a tilted position to suit the face shape. This might need some refinement to decide what suits you best. Don’t make the strap too tight. Also, ensure that there are minimal smile lines under the seal. Smiling underwater can lead to mask leakage. There can be mask leakage if you have facial hair too. Smear some petroleum jelly on the seal. This should help. Clean-shaven is always the best with diving.
Get a mask tamer strap to fit to your mask. Mask tamers are neoprene sleeves that fit onto your mask strap. This protects your hair from getting caught in your strap. A strap with a tamer is more comfortable even if you have little or no hair. Choose a brightly colored one so that you can be easily recognized.
Use a permanent marker to write your name on the inside of your mask tamer. This helps to identify your equipment when there are many divers.
Caring For Your Mask
After use, rinse your mask in freshwater. Warm freshwater will dissolve salt particles quickly. You can add some detergent too. Dry thoroughly after washing, and store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Silicone is quite indestructible, but cockroaches can eat them in tropical locations.
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