5 Best Scuba Diving Masks in 2020 (Review)

Just as a certain pair of fins quickly come close to a diver’s heart, so too does a mask. And with good reason. There are a range of factors to consider when selecting a mask, including but not limited to: the number of lenses, the skirt, the frame and the colour. With the help of our product recommendations and buyer’s advice guide, you should be well on your way to knowing which is the best scuba mask for you.

#1 – Apeks VX1 Mask

Apeks VX1 Mask

Features

  • Frameless, low profile construction.
  • Low volume.
  • Pure Clear lens provides maximum optical clarity with no distortion.
  • Advanced skirt geometry is designed to minimise facial pressure points during long duration dives.
  • Quick Release Buckles with stainless-steel rollers allow easy adjustment for the best fit, even while wearing dry gloves.
  • Matte and gloss areas on the silicone skirt create a better seal and improve fit and comfort.
  • Premium, surgical-grade solid black or solid white silicone.
  • Single lens.

#2 – Hollis M4 Frameless Mask

Hollis M4 Frameless Mask

Features

  • Frameless, low profile construction.
  • Low volume.
  • Silicone skirt and strap.
  • Lens design provides a wide field of vision.
  • Single lens.

#3 – Scubapro Frameless Gorilla Mask

Scubapro Frameless Gorilla Mask

Features

  • Frameless, low profile construction.
  • Low volume.
  • Silicone skirt and strap.
  • Lens design provides a wide field of vision.
  • Single lens.

#4 – Cressi F1 Mask

Cressi F1 Mask

Features

  • Frameless, low profile construction.
  • Low volume.
  • Silicone skirt and strap.
  • CE approved tempered glass.
  • Single lens.

#5 – Cressi Nano Mask

Cressi Nano Mask

Features

  • Extremely low volume (suitable for freediving as well as scuba diving).
  • Hydrodynamic, streamlined construction.
  • Double lens – compatible with prescription lenses.
  • Can fit the smallest of faces, with great sealing.

Advice Guide

Size

Perhaps the most vital factor in predicting the success of a mask is whether or not it actually fits your face. The human eye does not possess the evolutionary advantage of being able to focus when submerged in water. In order to see, a bubble of air must be present in front of the eye. The mask does this by creating a sealed airspace, thereby allowing the eyes to focus. Therefore, it is essential that the mask actually fits your face, otherwise it will continually leak and become a distraction.

To know whether or not a mask fits you, a very simple test can be done:

  1. Hold the mask on your face (without placing the strap around your head).
  2. Ensure that there are no bends or kinks in the skirt, and that it is flat on your skin.
  3. Briefly inhale, then hold your breath and let go of the mask. If it stays in place, you have a well-fitting mask. If not, then you need to look for another.

On top of this, you will want to ensure that the edges of the mask’s lens do not squeeze the bridge of your nose, and that the nose pocket is neither too large nor too small.

The Skirt

The skirt of the mask has one job: to create a seal. When selecting a mask, you should always opt for those with silicone skirts. Other plastic skirts are less comfortable, more susceptible to UV damage and will not provide as good a seal.

Similarly, mask skirts come in two options (aside from their material): clear or coloured. Some divers, particularly beginners and those who have only ever dived in clear skirted masks, complain that coloured skirts tunnel the vision of the diver, as well as create a feeling of claustrophobia. While clear skirted masks may offer slightly better peripheral vision, the benefits of coloured skirts far outweigh this. The problem of a clear skirted mask is that allows light to penetrate it from all angles. This can result in light reflecting off the inner side of the lens, directly into your eyes, creating massive glare as well as discomfort. Similarly, this increased level of light within the mask can actually make it harder to focus on things, as well as reducing your field of vision. In places where strong sunlight is common, a clear skirted mask should be avoided. In contrast, a mask with a coloured skirt – be it black, purple, yellow or pink – protects the eyes of the diver, allowing them better focusing ability and a greater field of vision. This makes perfect sense if you think about it. On land, when we want to focus on an object far away in the distance, we naturally shield our eyes with our hand to allow us to tunnel in on the object. This is the exact same job that a coloured skirt is doing for us. Equally, the fact that the mask is coloured also allows it to be easily distinguished both above and under the water. Similarly, the problem of coloured masks reducing your peripheral vision can be minimised by having a low volume mask, thereby bringing the lens closer to your eyes.

These reasons make a coloured skirt the preferred choice for the vast majority of serious divers, from underwater photographers to technical divers alike.

Volume

The volume of the mask refers to the size of the internal airspace within it. A mask with a lower internal volume is usually preferable to a mask with a greater internal volume. There are three reasons for this:

  1. Easier to clear water from the mask – As there is less total volume within the mask, there will be less total water volume when the mask is completely flooded. As a result, the mask will take less effort to fully clear – meaning quicker clearing as well as less gas consumption from repeated clearings.
  2. Wider, more immersive field of vision – As the lens of the mask is much closer to your face, the skirt of the mask will be further behind your eye line, resulting in increased peripheral vision. Similarly, your vertical field of vision will be improved, again because the skirt will protrude less.
  3. Low profile – The reduced internal volume results in a low-profile construction. This is ideal for a range of reasons: it is perfect for travel, easy to store in a cargo pocket as a back-up mask, and reduces unnecessary bulk of your equipment.

The Lens

The lens, or ‘window’, is a critical element to consider when buying a mask.

The lens should always be made of tempered glass. Tempering refers to the process by which the glass is strengthened and turned into a type of safety glass through heating and/or chemical treatments. This not only makes it less likely to shatter, but also makes it safer in the event it does. Instead of breaking into large, sharp shards as with normal glass, tempered glass will crumble into smaller granular shards. Obviously, this is much safer. Similarly, plastic lenses are an equally poor choice. They are less UV resistant, much weaker, and are usually only used on cheap, poorly constructed masks that will not last more than a handful of dives. Therefore, you should always stick to tempered glass.

Apart from the material of the lens, the number of individual lenses also varies from model to model. There are two options: a single lens or a double lens.

A single lens mask, as the name suggests, is a single piece of tempered glass, without a dividing bridge above the nose pocket. Conversely, a double lens mask is composed of two separate lenses, with a dividing bridge above the nose to hold these in place. Compared to having a silicone skirt or tempered glass, the number of lenses your mask has is more a matter of personal preference. A single lens is the preference of many divers, allowing a clearer field of uninterrupted vision, a more compact design for storage, as well as a simple, minimal looking construction. Conversely, many other divers prefer the seemingly robust nature of the dual lens construction. From a factual viewpoint, the only critical difference is that you are not able to put prescription lenses in the majority of single lens masks. So, for those wishing to dive with prescription lenses, a double lens mask is the only option. Apart from this, the choice is very much a matter of personal preference.

The Frame

Frame or no frame? That is the question.

A mask with a frame has a plastic constructed frame holding the skirt and lens(es) in place, upon which the buckles are attached. Conversely, a frameless mask – as the name suggests – has no such plastic frame in place, and instead the buckles attach directly to the skirt which itself holds the lens(es) in place. A mask with a frame is usually able to be taken fully apart for the purposes of cleaning, maintenance and lens replacement: this cannot be done with a frameless mask. However, this benefit of framed masks is also one of their main drawbacks: an added point of failure. The integrity of the mask is reliant on the frame, which is usually constructed of plastic. Therefore, if the frame breaks, the mask is unusable. In contrast, a frameless mask does not have this failure point, and is thus more reliable. Similarly, without the frame, the mask can be folded into a much smaller size, allowing for easier storage, be it for travelling or for a back-up mask. Consequently, the frameless mask has become very popular, especially among technical and cave divers, and is continuing to grow in popularity. Therefore, it is recommended to invest in a frameless mask. That said, however, some divers do prefer the fact that a framed mask can be fully deconstructed. Whether or not you purchase a framed or frameless mask is largely a matter of personal preference. Although, if you are considering using it for technical and/or cave diving, then a frameless mask is your best bet, as any additional failure point adds another layer of risk to an already risky game.