Snorkeling Masks

Snorkeling masks are one of the essential items required to go snorkeling.  The snorkeling mask would normally be the most expensive item of all the items included in a snorkeling set.  Therefore when purchasing a snorkeling set you should first look at the mask design and quality to see if this meets your needs and requirements.  You may then base your decision on which snorkeling set to purchase based mainly on the mask.  Note that snorkeling masks, like all snorkeling equipment, can also be purchased separately.  For example, many masks sold for scuba diving are also suitable for snorkeling.


Snorkeling Masks Components 

A snorkeling mask consists of the frame (or body), the skirt, the lenses (or lens) and the strap.

 Frame: The mask frame is normally made out of durable plastic.  It will be molded in a way to hold the lenses and will have buckles on the sides to hold the straps.  The frame and mask as a whole should be lightweight.  Any metal in the construction should be non-corrosive such as stainless steel, however most modern masks do not have any metal in their construction.  Basic masks normally have fixed buckles and more expensive masks often have swivel buckles that allow the mask to sit more naturally on your face when the straps are around your head.


Skirt: The mask skirt will normally be made out of a type of plastic (often PVC), rubber or silicon.  Plastic or rubber is very often used in cheaper masks and silicon is used in the more expensive masks.  Silicon skirts are better than plastic skirts because they:

  • are more elastic and therefore mould better to the face, thus providing an optimal fit,
  • feel more natural against the skin, and
  • are not as perishable as plastics.  Silicon skirts should last at least 10 years.

If you are a beginner or a very occasional snorkeler then a cheaper plastic skirt based snorkeling masks should still be fine for you.  Plastics used today are much better than they were, say 10 years ago.  If you intend on snorkeling more than a couple of times a year over the next few years then I would recommend getting a silicon based snorkeling mask.

Mask skirts are normally clear or black.  It is really personal preference on what to get.  Clear skirts can allow more visibility but can also allow more glare.  For that reason black mask skirts are preferred by underwater photographers.    


 Strap: The mask strap is normally made of the same material as the mask skirt.  When fitted the strap sits just above ears and goes around the back your head holding the mask on.  The strap’s length can be adjusted at the point at which they go through the buckles on the snorkeling mask frame.  Having the straps really tight does not always ensure the snuggest fit.  Sometimes the best fit can be made by loosening the straps a little.


Lens or Lenses: Snorkeling masks can have between one to four lenses.  One and two lens models are the most common.  Four lens models have side windows that allow more peripheral visibility.  This, however, increases the internal volume and total mask size.  Should it leak, it will require more effort to dispel the water.

Lenses are normally made of tempered glass and will often have “Tempered” printed on the lens.  Plastic lenses are not as common as they used to be.  They are not as strong as tempered glass and are very easily scratched.  Plastic lenses should be avoided except in perhaps the most basic toddlers’ snorkeling set.  


  Purge Valves: Some snorkeling masks contain purge valves.  Purge valves allow you to expel any water that has entered the mask by gently blowing out of your nose.  Personally I find it easy enough to just pop my head up out of the water and manually remove any water from my mask.