Fitting your mask
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Fitting your mask is relatively straight forward. Put the mask on your face (keep the strap loose - don't use it) and inhale through your nose. The mask should stick to your face without the aid of the strap. Even better, if you can do this with a snorkel / regulator in your mouth.

 
Then do the following checks:

  • Does the mask fit comfortably?
  • Is the nose free inside the nose pocket, if the nose touches the walls of the nose pocked it is too small?
  • Are you able to pinch your nose and equalise (careful not too hard)?
  • Are you able to pinch your nose and equalise wearing thick gloves?
  • Do you like the look of it?
Most divers pull the strap too hard. If the mask fits correctly your mask strap is only there to stop you from loosing your mask underwater. The mask does not have to sit tight on your face. Also, by pulling the mask straps too tight, your are likely to bend the mask slightly, which will create small breaks in the mask seal and water will enter the mask through them when your are underwater. Do not buy cheap plastic lens "diving type" masks (e.g. at supermarkets and beach stalls). Diving masks must have tempered glass in them (check the label). This ensures they are safe to dive with and won't crack underwater. We have recently a diver who bought what looked like a diving masks for a £5 at a major super market chain (and it said diving mask on the packet when he showed it to us) - the lens cracked underwater and it cut him just above the eye brow - he was lucky not to loose his eye. Preparing your mask. A mask with GLASS lenses is shipped with an oil on it to protect the glass. This film needs to be removed before using it for diving - otherwise it will fog up. To remove it, rub some toothpaste (do not use gel toothpaste, it won't work) on the inside of the lens and then rinse it off.
Lens Options
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Masks

Single Lens Masks

Single users masks only have a single lens, as to two separate lenses (one for the left and one for the right eye). Divers claim that it gives them a feeling of space and openness and less claustrophobic feel. A key drawback is single lens masks normally don't allow for corrective lenses to be fitted. (Black mask on the right)


Twin Lens Masks

Twin lens masks have two separate glass lenses. Most types allow the lenses to be removed for easy cleaning and also replace them with corrective lenses (not all models offer this).


Multi-lens Masks

Multi-lens masks usually have additional lenses fitted to increase your peripheral vision, they are normally on the side and the bottom of the masks. They offer no additional benefit and is more an issue of personal taste.


ARC and special coating lenses

Anti-Reflective Coating (ARC) lenses is a special (multi-layer oxide) coating applied to both sides of the lens. The are able to reduce the glare, offer a clearer crispier vision (esp. for more distant objects) and reduce "ghost" images (reflections in the mask). If you intend to do a lot of night diving, underwater photography and diving in areas of limited visibility, they do really help.
Some manufacturing offer lenses with different coatings to stop fogging (but Scuba Clear or Sea Drops will do the trick if you don't want to spit in it) or coloured lenses to compensate for the loss or red light within a few metres of the surface. However, the coloured lenses to darken things a bit and are not really useful for UK diving.

Prescription lenses: So if you are wearing glasses or contacts (and you don't want to wear them underwater), you can have your prescription strength lenses fitted (there are also bifocal lenses available). There is also a third option available, this works especially well if you are far-sighted - some manufacturers offer a magnifying lens at the bottom of the lens, this allows you to focus normally in the distance and gives you a bit of hand at the bottom of your mask, allowing you to read your dive computer and gauges.
Most manufacturers who offer prescription lenses will offer them half diopter steps. If you fall between two, choose the weaker one, as the water has a slight magnifying effect. (Clear mask on the left of photo)
Skirting and Frames
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Skirting

In essence it comes down to two options, clear silicone and dark silicone (usually black). Clear silicone gives you a more open feel, while black (dark) silicone will help you focus easier. It comes down to personal taste really.

However, on the skirt design there are a couple of options - double skirt or feathered skirt edges. All good diving mask have a double skirt, effectively you have the silicone spread into two directions on your skin (an inner and outer skirt), giving it a good seal.
The more expensive masks have a feathered skirt, meaning the skirt gets thinner towards the outside edges, making the edges more flexible and therefore more comfortable to wear. Avoid plastic skirted masks (usually very cheap mask in supermarkets or swimming pools). They are uncomfortable and are prone to leak (as well as giving us the risk of a rash). Some people tend to smile a lot - you are supposed to have fun - however smiling does give you slight creases in your skin, which means the mask may leak. A trick here is to able Vaseline to your mask skirt, that we it gives a better seal and should help to reduce any water coming in.

Frames - Framed or Frameless

Frameless mask are usually made completely out of silicone which is wrapped around the lens, making the mask usually lighter compared to its framed compatriots. A framed mask has a plastic frame in which the lenses are clipped in - allowing them to be changed to prescription lenses.
Other Options
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Pro Ear Dive Mask

The Pro Ear 2000 is a dive mask with "ear protectors". The mask is connected with one-way valves with an Ear protector. It claims to reduce equalisation pressure by up to 70%. One of our instructors has been using it for years (you can see him using by the mask). 


Obviously, the shorter the hair so easier to get ear cups over your ear and the out of it, otherwise water will leak in. When using it, the instructor has the following advise:

  • Apply plenty of Vaseline to the ear cups silicone skirting
  • Ensure it sit comfortable on your ears, get your buddy to pull out the hair for you
  • Press the ear cups gently onto your head, so more air you can squeeze out so better
  • Equalise slowly - you require significant less pressure to equalise your ears
  • When clearing the mask, ensure you press the top of your mask (as taught) and at the same press the top of the ear cups, this ensures water in the ear cups is pushed out at the bottom.


ProEar 2000 Dive Mask

The one-way valves will start to clog up with dirt if you don't clean them regularly and the will start squeaking underwater (very annoying). After each dive ensure you rinse the mask well with clear water.


Low volume masks

Especially multi-lens masks tend to have high volume, meaning it takes often more than a single breath to clear the mask completely. Low volume masks have only a little airspace between yourself and the mask. Ensure when you try a low volume mask that your cheeks or even forehead press against the glass. And if you have a larger nose, the nose pocket often presses against the tip of your nose (avoid you will end up with bruised nose).


Mask Strap

Ensure you are able to adjust the strap easily, this is especially true if you have longer hair. An excellent idea is to get a Mask Strap Wrapper - apart from the practical nature for your hair, it is also available in many different design, which allow you to personalise your mask.


Purge Value

Some masks have a purge valve fitted. This makes the purging of water from the mask easier, this is especially useful for those who smile a lot or have a moustache - divers who tend to suffer from persistent leaking.