So you're about to go off on a grand dive adventure. To make sure you can see crystal clear on every dive, you want get to get your own mask before you go! What should you look for when you buy a scuba mask?
Tip 1. Price is not top priority
There are millions of masks out there to fit millions of faces. Some brands are better than others, of course, but don't assume that just because it carries the highest price tag, that it's the best mask for you. My first scuba mask was a $100 thing that leaked so I had to basically cement it to my face. I later discovered a $25 mask that fit my face like a glove, so I've been using that one for six years now.
Tip 2. How you test fit is important
When you're testing a mask at the store, don't put the strap on. The best way to test for fit is to hold the mask up to your face without putting the strap on, suck in and see how it seals to your face. If it makes a suction-y noise when you pull it off, that's the ideal fit.
Of course, things might change when you're underwater and under pressure, but the on-land fit test is a pretty accurate one. Ideally, you'll find a rental mask that you just love when you're on vacation, and then you know exactly which one to buy when you get home!
Tip 3. Don't wear the mask too tight
If a mask fits you properly, it should actually stick to your face when you're under pressure without having the strap on. The strap is essentially there so that the mask doesn't come off on land, and so that you can clip it to your BCD, but your mask shouldn't fall off your face if your strap happens to break underwater.
Unfortunately, too many people wear their masks way too tight, and that can alter the grooves in your face, which can cause leaking. So you wear your mask tight so that it doesn't leak, and then it has the opposite effect. No bueno.
Tip 4. De-fog your mask the right way
When manufacturers make masks, they line the inside of the mask with silicone to preserve the masks in transit. If you don't get rid of it, your new mask will fog up every time you dive, even if you put the most expensive de-fog in the world in it.
Use toothpaste to get rid of the silicone inside the mask. You don't want a gel toothpaste because there are no abrasives in it, you basically want whatever cheap toothpaste you can find. Put it in the mask and rub it around for a while. We've discovered that using ScotchBrite to rub the toothpaste around speeds the process up significantly, but make sure the gentle kind so that you don't scratch the mask.
You'll often hear people recommending burning the mask with a lighter, but unless someone is really, really experienced and really, really careful with it, I would strongly advise against it. If you burn too much, you'll ruin the temper of the glass and it's not as strong as it's supposed to be.
Tip 5. Store your mask properly
Rinse your mask after every dive. After every dive or snorkel trip, you should wash the mask with dishwashing soap, let it dry, then store it in a cool, dry area. Sunlight and heat age the silicone skirt of the mask really quickly, so you want to avoid that. If you treat your mask well, you'll get years and years out of it, so it's just good investment practices to keep it well-maintained.
And those are our Top Five Tips for buying a scuba mask! We'll have more posts coming up about other pieces of scuba equipment as well, so stay tuned!