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What does your diving mask say about you? If you’re a regular diver then the chances are you will wear it almost as much as your glasses (not statistically true) so therefore it’s vital that your mask is both functional and reflects your personality too.
You may be buying a mask for the first time but if you’ve already got one then here’s the first lesson: Learn when to let go. This is how to massively irritate any dive centre employee: Walk into the shop with a mask that is clearly over a decade old. The skirt is hard, yellow and opaque and the frame is probably a neon sick, green that would embarrass the term ‘retro’. Present said biohazard to the person behind the desk and tell them the clip is broken and you want to fix it.
First, no one makes your mask anymore and second, even if they did, it’s over. The beautiful relationship you had with your crap mask that came in a blister pack with a long lost snorkel, purchased from a trinket shop in the med somewhere has reached it’s natural end.
When the salesmen informs you of this fact, don’t harrumph in the kind of Daily Mail reader ‘I remember the days when people fixed televisions instead of binning them’ way. Instead this is the chance for you to buy another one! A new mask, one that fits, doesn’t leak and won’t make you look like amateur hour at the dive site. All this for only £60+. Oh, too expensive? Yes go and purchase another crap one online for £30 then. Byeeeeee.
Sorry, got lost in a reverie there. Anyway, assuming you’re not an idiot, what should you be looking out for?
Fit is really the most important thing, very, very closely followed by how awesome it looks. You don’t buy glasses based on fit and practicality. If we did, we’d all be wearing those massive granddad glasses with the cross-beam along the top instead of hunting down a pair of Rayban club-masters because it’s what they wear on Mad Men.
Checking the fit really isn’t massively complicated and because top brand masks tend to be pretty good these days, don’t be surprised if lots of them fit. Then you can just buy the coolest one. You can’t really check the fit by pushing your face against a laptop screen so it’s best to pop into your local dive shop. To check, simply place it on your face without putting the strap on and inhale gently through your nose. It should stay in place without any bit of the frame pushing into the bridge of your nose. I also find that if I move it gently up and down whilst I’m inhaling and it stays firmly in place without loosening the seal, that’s a good indicator of fit too. And that’s about it.
So what else can you look for? Well there’s single pane or double lens masks. The only real advantage of twin lenses is that you can often swap them out for prescription lenses. If you do this, make sure you give them a good old clean every now and then because evil greenness has a tendency to grow in the crevice between the lens and the skirt turning your lovely mask into a vile bacterial garden.
Big lenses don’t necessarily mean more vision, it tends to be more to do with how close the lenses sits to the eye. However tear drop shape lenses will give you a little more downward vision. Side panels don’t really let you see much more and low volume masks are really only important if you’re free diving because on scuba we don’t hold our breath so the tiny extra effort in clearing and equalising them is unnoticeable.
Finally, do you want to go black or clear? It used to be that black was popular with photographers who were looking down a view finder but unless you’re really using a bit more of a pro set up then this is no longer so important since digital cameras became popular. For me, the main selling point of black is I think they look cooler and also they don’t go all yellow and unpleasant after a year or so. However if you prefer the lighter feeling of a clear skirt then go for it. You won’t be able to see anymore with it though.
For me, the best mask about at the moment is the new Atomic Venom frameless. I got to be the first person to dive one in the UK and it’s without question the most comfortable mask I’ve ever used. Plus it’s all black and red so it looks suitably cool too….