When Scuba Diving, the scuba mask is your window into the underwater world. Choose the wrong mask to buy and instead of a big, clear, beautiful view of the ocean environment you'll end up with an obscured, cloudy, leaky irritating source of discomfort.
If you're serious about Scuba Diving here are 5 things you need to consider when evaluating scuba masks: Design, Materials, Color, Volume and Fit.
scuba mask Design
scuba masks have a few different design elements to consider. The first and most obvious design element is the number of "windows" or lenses which make up the viewing area of the scuba diving mask.
Single Window Masks have one large viewing area on the front of the scuba mask.
Two Window Masks have two separate lenses, one in front of each eye.
Three Window Masks will be similar to the Single Window Masks, having one large lens in front of both your eyes, with the addition of two small windows on the sides of the mask for peripheral vision.
While at first it may seem that more windows is always better, that is not always the case. Visibility when Scuba Diving is limited in even the best Dive Spots. Even on those perfect days when you can see 100-150ft you'll likely be spending most of your time viewing things up close and right in front of you. Side Windows on a scuba mask allow light to come in from the sides which can be a distraction, especially in shallower dives on sunny days. scuba masks with Side Windows will generally have larger internal volume due to the fact that the space required for the side windows means that the front windows(s) will most likely be positioned further from your face.
I generally prefer a Single Window scuba mask as they tend to give the best straight ahead view, however there is a situation when a Two Window scuba mask would be the right choice, if you intend on replacing the lenses with corrective lenses. While it would be possible to have a custom lens made for a Single Window Mask, many Two Window scuba masks have corrective lenses pre-made for various prescriptions.
scuba mask Materials
The Materials used for constructing a scuba mask should be a factor in your purchasing decision. Most modern masks are made with silicone skirts, however some are made using natural rubber. If you happen to have an allergy or some other aversion to either of those materials then you want to be sure of what you're getting, especially when ordering online.
The lens material is the other consideration, it will likely be either tempered glass or plastic. Glass will be a bit heavier, but I highly recommend it over plastic for its greater optical clarity and resistance to scratching. Plastic lenses will likely be less expensive, but they can become dull from small scratches and can yellow relatively quickly, both of which would detract from the enjoyment of your dive. So, in short, go for glass, but make sure it is tempered glass because tempered glass is MUCH safer in the event of glass breakage.
Color of the scuba mask
Choosing the color of scuba mask to buy is a functional decision, NOT just a fashion decision. Please resist the urge to buy a mask because it matches your wetsuit or BCD as tempting as that may be.
The color of the skirting is the most important. Many scuba dive mask have clear silicone skirting. Clear skirting sounds like a good idea, after all it should let it more light right? Yes it does let in more light, unfortunately that isn't as good as it sounds. The light which enters through clear skirting tends to scatter randomly, which ends up causing lots of reflections inside your mask and leads to a very distracting, annoying experience. I suggest going with a solid color, the darker the better from a vision standpoint.
Internal Volume of the scuba mask
The Internal Volume of a scuba mask is the amount of empty space inside the mask which is filled with air while you are wearing it. Choosing a Scuba Diving Mask with Low Internal Volume is an important consideration for the following reasons:
Equalizing your Mask is easier - The larger the Internal Volume of your scuba mask the more amount of air you will have to add in order to equalize.
Clearing your mask is easier - A mask with a larger internal volume means it holds more water and therefore takes more air to evacuate the water, so a mask with smaller internal volume is easier to clear. This should be especially desired by any divers whom dislike the process of clearing their mask.
How the scuba mask Fits
Everyone's face is shaped differently. Cheek bones and nose size/shape have a big effect on how well a scuba mask fits. Some masks fit only a select few while other masks seem to provide a nearly universal fit. Finding one which fits you well can be a challenge.