Mask Buyer’s Guide

Masks

A mask is the single most important piece of equipment you will purchase when building the perfect spear fishing kit. There are many items to consider when researching masks, and of course there are dozens of brands and hundreds of different designs to choose from. The selection can be extremely overwhelming. The good news is that selecting the perfect mask really isn’t very difficult at all! The number one factor that you should be concerned with while selecting your new spear fishing mask is simply the FIT. If a mask fits poorly, you will have to contend with leaking, fogging, and other discomfort. Not only will this result in a wrecked day of spear fishing, but it is potentially dangerous as well. So in the remainder of this section we are going to discuss some key aspects of masks and provide you with a simple test that you should use to confirm the fit.

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Skirt Material

  • The first factor to look at is the material used to manufacture the mask’s skirt. Unlike the old days of rubber, most mask skirts are now manufactured of silicon. Silicon drastically increases comfort and prolongs the life of your mask. Masks with the older rubber skirts are very susceptible to heat and saltwater. They also require increased care and must be stored in cool, dry places in order to prevent the rubber from hardening and cracking. New silicon masks are long lasting and require minimal care.

Skirt Color

  • Skirt color should also be taken into consideration. The final decision on the color of silicon skirt will come down to personal preference, but here are a few reasons why people choose one over the other. Clear silicon allows more light to enter your mask and provides greater peripheral vision. Black silicon provides exactly the opposite, less light and narrowed “tunnel” vision. Many spear fishermen prefer the black silicon for just these reasons. With the reduced light and more focused “tunnel” vision they feel much less distracted by their surroundings and better focused on their target while hunting.

Volume

  • Mask volume is another important factor. Mask volume refers to the air-space between the lens of the mask and the face of the diver. In general, the larger the mask volume, the greater the visibility. Some manufacturers place side windows in low volume masks in an attempt to provide increased visibility, but for the most part you will be giving up a great amount of your peripheral vision when choosing a low volume mask. The first thing to look at when deciding on mask volume is whether or not you will perform most of your spear fishing while free diving, or if you will be on scuba, hookah, or other types of breathing assist systems. The concern with mask volume is directly related to the equalization of the mask upon descent. Equalization refers to the balancing of the pressure within your mask with the surrounding environment and is accomplished by exhaling through your nose which increases the volume of air within the mask. A free diver must expend air from his or her lungs in order to increase the volume in the mask’s airspace, which reduces the already limited supply of air in the diver’s lungs. For this reason, most free divers prefer low volume masks. The depth at which you plan to spear fish may also have an impact on which style mask you choose. If you will be diving in depths less than 33’ (10m) then the amount of air required to equalize will be minimal no matter what mask volume you choose.

Mask lenses

  • The majority of modern masks utilize tempered glass, which is a must for safety reasons. Your main decisions on lenses will come down to mirrored or not-mirrored, and the ability to replace the default lenses with prescription lenses if this is a necessity. Mirrored/treated lenses come in several variations. All of which have different claims of color correction, shadow vision improvement, and the like. Some spear fisherman also claim benefits in the fact that mirrored lenses hide the diver’s eyes from their prey and that some prey are even attracted to their own reflection in the diver’s mask. The major downside to mirrored lenses comes with varying visibility. When visibility is not optimal, the mirrored lenses reduce it even further. Your final decision will once again come down to personal preference.

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Low Volume speafishing masks (click picture for details) And now FIT

  • As mentioned in the beginning of this section, fit is by far the most important factor to consider when choosing a mask. The mask must seal well and be comfortable. Everyone’s face is different, and silicon skirts do a good job of conforming to all of the different faces. But, you will definitely find that some masks will fit you better than others. You need to make sure that the mask feels completely comfortable as well, and that any of the solid structures of the mask do not hit you when fitted on your face. A common problem encountered is contact between the bridge of a diver’s nose and the frame of the mask. This may feel like a slight discomfort in the store, but the added pressure changes of diving and the duration a mask is worn will result in extreme discomfort and the purchase of a new mask!
  • It is absolutely required that you try different masks on your face. Of course the best place to do this is at your local dive shop. Take each mask in your hands and flip the strap out of the way (you will not be using it to secure the mask to your face). Place the mask firmly against your face and slightly inhale through your nose. This should provide enough suction for you to let go of the mask and tilt your head forward without it falling off. If you can do this, than you are achieving a proper seal. You should then pay attention to your vision and any discomforts. Do yourself a favor and try this with a lot of different masks until you find the best fit. You may also want to make sure that you can easily pinch the nose pocket of the mask while it is on your face. You will need to be able to easily accomplish this when attempting to equalize your ears.
  • Most importantly, don’t let the many brands and manufacturer’s claims get into your head. Just find the mask that fits you best!

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