Hello freedivers :)
Following on from the guide to freediving wetsuits that I posted previously, I thought I would do a post regarding freediving masks and provide a few tips and tricks to help you choose wisely and get more comfortable and relaxed with a proper freediving mask.
Here are 5 pieces of advice regarding freediving masks:
- Can I just use my scuba diving / snorkelling mask?: Not really. Scuba diving masks are generally bigger (internal volume), which means you have to waste more precious air on your dive equalising it. It might be good on your first freediving course but once you go past 15-20m you will notice the difference a low volume freediving mask makes during the free dive.
- How do I check if it fits me well?: Make sure you try a few on in a shop. I wouldn't recommend buying a mask you are not familiar with, online. You need to try a few on for comparison purposes. Hold it to your face, without the strap, and breathe in through your nose so the mask sucks to your face. It should hold there even after you stop inhaling. If it doesn't hold or feels uncomfortable then it's not the mask for you.
- Why are nearly all masks black?: Good question! But actually now you can get all sorts of colours such as white, pink or red. But yes, it used to be a choice between black silicone or clear silicone (the soft bit that's in contact with your face). Clear looks better in photographs but can refract the light more and does not age as well as it can discolour.
- Glass or plastic lenses?: Plastic lens masks are cheaper and more flexible under pressure (so can go deeper with less equalisation). They are 30-40% cheaper too, but on the down side they scratch more easily and give a different view underwater compared to glass lenses (no magnification and some distortion to the periphery vision). Normally the come on a wider fitting mask frame that curves around the face, so if you have a wider face they could be a good fit for you.
- How do I stop the lenses fogging up?: This is a common problem even with a high quality mask. A new mask has a coating on the lens from its production. You can buy a mask defogger spay or these following remedies work just as well if not better: Tooothpaste, rub inside the lenses and leave overnight. Baby shampoo, apply inside before diving or the night before. For both of these, wash out before putting the mask on for the dive. Use a lighter to burn away the layer inside the lenses. This is the best method but if you are not sure how to do it, ask your instructor to show you. For my current mask I needed to do the lighter trick 4 times in total but since then I get zero fogging up.
Bonus Tip: Most people I teach on the first courses pull their mask strap so tight that it leaves a mark around the face that can be seen for the rest of the day! Not only that, wearing the mask tight distorts the silicone skirt and can actually INCREASE the chance of the mask leaking and water entering. Remember, at depth we are under pressure, the mask is pushed onto the face by this pressure so it does not need our help creating extra pressure before we even start a dive.