How to Select a SCUBA Mask When you are snorkeling and you get water in your mask you simply raised your head out of the water, lift the mask and let the water drain. While diving, you cannot raise your head. You need to secure the mask at your forehead and exhale from your nose to clear the mask. Because you need to clear the mask with your exhaled breath the volume of air between the mask and your face is important. The more air the harder it will be to clear. For an experienced diver this is likely not to be a problem but a new diver may find it disconcerting to have to exhale several times to clear the water from the mask. New divers, particularly those concerned about a flooded mask will want to buy a smaller volume mask. A SCUBA mask will also need a soft area around the nose so you can pinch your nose to equalize the air space in you ears. Goggles that do not enclose the nose will not work for diving because you will not be able to equalize the air space in the mask. Most masks come with either a clear silicone skirt or a black skirt. The silicone mask may eventually yellow with exposure especially if you leave it in sunlight. The same chemical process happens to the black skirt but you cannot see it. The selection of black or clear skirt can depend on which side of the camera you are on. If you are taking pictures or video the black skirt will reduce glare and make it easier to see the items in the view finder. A clear skirt will be better if someone is taking your picture because it will allow more light around your eyes. There a many styles of masks. A dual-lens mask has two lenses and generally dual-lens masks are lower volume than single-lens masks of relative equal size. Panoramic masks will be the largest volume but will also give the widest field of vision. A panoramic view mask with dual lenses will be slightly smaller volume. The size of the glass is not the only indicator of volume. Generally the more glass you have the more you can see. With the panoramic you will not being looking out the side window but you will see movement and be able to turn to the movement. A mask with a great deal of glass surface can be relatively small volume because the glass is close to the face and not extended by side panels. For the experienced divers who dives in very cold water or the public safety divers who needs to communicate underwater there are full face masks. These come in several different styles but will usually have ports to add communication gear. The access to the nose on these masks can be difficult particularly with heavy wet gloves or thick dry gloves. When deciding how to choose a scuba mask you should consider fit, skirt - clear or black, volume of air behind the mask, field of vision, and of course color. At Sea Lions Dive Center we strongly suggest you try on masks at a quality dive center because fit is by far the most important criteria for choosing a mask. A poorly fitting mask will flood and ruin your diving experience. Tom Robinson is a PADI OW Instructor in the western suburbs of Chicago with over 700 dives. He has taught SCUBA at Sea Lions Dive Center and through dive clubs since 2001. He is part time business manager at Sea Lions Dive Center in Hanover Park Illinois and writes and ongoing blog about Sea Lions Dive Center's activities and diving in general. He welcomes comment on his articles and blog. He has three rules in his classes 1. Never hold your breath, 2. Have fun, there is no other reason to dive and 3. no hair jokes.
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