Having a mask that doesn’t fit, leaks, or just generally does not satisfy a diver is one of the most common problems encountered by scuba divers around the world. Masks are fundamentally highly personal items, and while you can learn to muddle through with an ill-fitting leaky mask, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as having a mask that fits you like a glove, does not leak, and seems to be tailor-made just for you. There are several things you can do to truly master your dive mask and find the perfect one for you.
The first step to mastering your dive mask starts with buying your own! While it is easy and convenient to hire a mask from your local dive center, it is always best to bring your own. Which brings us to the question of How to select the perfect mask for you?
The bottom line with dive masks is don’t believe the hype. While there are many gimmicks out there, ultimately you only need to consider two aspects: the fit of the mask and how low-volume it is. You want a perfect fitting mask, and the lowest possible volume. The lower the volume of the mask, the easier it will be to clear and to fit.
To find the perfect fit all you need to do is simply place the mask on your face, with the strap folded back over the front of the mask. Do not place the strap around the back of your head. Inhale through your nose and hold your breath. If the mask fits properly, this will create a vacuum inside the mask and it will happily sit on your face without the strap or the need to hold it in place with your hands. If the mask falls off before you exhale or slowly comes loose, then it does not fit your face properly.
A well fitted mask will stay on in the water without the need for a strap (as long as you don’t shake your head about). The water pressure is sufficient to keep it in place and keep on diving. Once you have selected several masks that fit perfectly, then as mentioned above you need to select the one with the lowest volume.
Before you take your new mask and jump in the water you need to prepare it first. All quality masks come with a layer of protective coating on the inside of the mask. If you do not remove this layer, the mask will constantly fog up heavily. To remove this layer there are two methods that can be used.
The first method involves putting a small amount of grainy toothpaste on the glass inside the mask and rubbing it all over with your finger or an old toothbrush, and then rinsing it out. The toothpaste should strip off the protective coating. It is always a good idea to do this a couple of times to ensure you got all the coating off.
The second method is to use a flame lighter to burn off the coating; simply hold the mask facing up and use a lighter to run the flame all over the inside of the glass. Try not to pause in one place so as not to damage the glass. Keep the flame moving and make multiple passes over the surface of the glass. Divers need to be aware to try and keep the flame off the silicon skirt of the mask so as not to damage it. The glass will quickly become dark brown/black as the coating is burnt. Let it rest until it cools before rinsing under clear water.
Every diver learns during their Open Water course, that they need to spit in their mask, or use a defogging spray. With new masks, even the ones that have been properly prepared can fog up. One of the best ways to avoid this is to create a layer of spit or defogging fluid. Most divers perform their defogging ritual just prior to entering the water. Instead, perform the procedure twice; once prior to assembling your equipment or putting on your suit, which gives time for the layer of fluid in the mask to dry. Then prior to entering the water, perform your normal defogging routine. This double procedure creates a double layer of “defogging” on the inside of your mask.
There are a few other steps that divers can take to make using a mask a smoother process. Firstly, for male divers it is best to be clean shaven. Having a mustache makes it very difficult to create a proper seal between the mask and the diver’s skin. While some divers are fortunate and can get a mask to seal even with a mustache, most can’t.
In terms of general care and maintenance try not to leave your mask in the sun, and rinse it after each dive. Neglecting the mask causes the silicon to harden slightly, which then reduces the flexibility of the silicon and the fit.
Overall with a few easy steps every diver can have a mask that fits like a glove and is a joy to go diving with.