There is a direct correlation between a correct snorkel mask fitting and enjoying your time whilst snorkeling. In case of a leak within the mask or realizing you have an uncomfortable mask when you are down under, it can be disappointing and frustrating to say the least, and potentially dangerous at worst.
The ideal fit will have an airtight seal covering your face and the fitting of the mask would be comfortable, without being overly tight. A tight or wrong fitting would lead to discomfort and a big compromise on the sealing of the mask, and hence your vision (due to the salty water into your eyes) and overall safety.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach with snorkeling masks, as we have different dimensions and shapes of faces. It will be important to ascertain the shape of your face (narrow or large or long or short, for instance), when looking for the right fit. It is not difficult and you need to be brutally honest with yourself – as opposed to opting for something that just simply looks chic and nice on you or provides you with a panoramic view.
How to Fit the Mask Properly & Step by Step Guide
This quick guide aims to provide you with the step by step knowledge of finding the right size and type of snorkel mask for yourself that gives you a perfect fit and optimum performance underwater, before you rent or purchase it.
Step 1: Fitting Test
Once you get your hands on your mask, the first thing you need to do is to perform the fit and comfort test. All snorkel masks will feel and fit differently on your face, even those that have the same size but are form different manufacturers or different products of the same manufacturer.
Hold the mask to your face and observe yourself in a mirror. How do you feel about the fit? Do you have enough cushion in your upper lip region so that it isn’t touching your lip? Do you have sufficient skirting around the eyes and over your eye brows? All these will ensure that you have a good seal around your face. If you are wearing prescription glasses, then is there any contact between the lens or frame with any part of the mask? Even if it isn’t, you need to be careful of the fact that once you are under the water, it may get discomforting due to air pressure as the mask and eye glasses starting to hit each other.
Some of the other factors you need to consider include: the width and narrowness of the fitting, closeness or wideness of the eyes due to the stretching caused by the mask, spacing under your nose or above the lip region. Facial features of every person will vary and hence the fitting. Always keep your facial dimensions at the forefront of your mind when choosing a snorkel mask.
A quick tip relating to mask fitting for men in particular. Always shave (if you do) before you try the snorkel mask fitting. A big stubble or mustache may not be able to assist you in testing the seal of the mask.
Step 2: The Suction Test
Place the mask onto your face without strapping it over your head. Press the mask a little bit and try inhaling with the help of your nose slowly. This will allow the mask to form a suction on your face. As you release, the mask should stay in its place, until you exhale. When you move your head around slightly, the mask should still be suctioned to your face.
Smiling and laughing will expand the area around your cheek region and that can cause the seal to break slightly, however, you shouldn’t be too concerned with slight movements around your face.
After this suction test, you should feel confident about the fit of the mask, whilst the strap is still above the mask (and not worn over your head). Place the mask on to your face and inhale through your nose whilst pressing it gently. This should cause a suction on your face and at this point, you can release your hands. The suction should continue to work even when you are not inhaling.
The mask shouldn’t fall off when you are moving your face and muscles around it slightly. You can try to smile now and this shouldn’t break the seal. It is at this stage that the seal does get broken even with good fitting masks. Try and observe how the seal is behaving with different facial expressions.
Those who are older and tend to have wrinkly skin should smooth out their skin as much as possible with the help of their fingers to achieve a good seal on their masks.
Step 3: Putting the Mask On Fully
Next step is to wear the mask fully on your face with all straps tightened. This should cause an airtight fit and added slight pressure due to the straps, which shouldn’t touch your ears as tightened around the back of your head. They are not meant to be placed on the top of your head but slightly higher, to avoid slipping. If you notice strap markings or red patterns on your face, then that signifies that the mask fitting is too tight. You should be able to pinch your nose through the skirt so that the ears are clear (otherwise it can be a painful experience) and the pressure is maintained equally when you are under water. A light strap pressure should allow for an airtight fit which is what you are aiming for. In other words, a mask that is nicely fitted will stay in its place and provide slight suction. If your mask is leaking then that may be a sign of tight fitting or straps being fastened too tightly. Try loosening them up and then see how it fits.
Always consider the type of mask strap and whether it is comfortable around your skin. A lot of ladies would tie their hair in a bun and that causes the mask to give them a nicer fitting. This may not be the case with most of the men. In a lot of instances, mask straps have a connection in between them, and you will need to adjust your hair and face accordingly.
Step 4: Mask Sampling With The Snorkel Attached
The final step is also meant to be one of the most important ones when signing off on your mask fitting. The mask now needs to be attached with the final snorkeling gear, i.e., the snorkel itself. The snorkel needs to be fitted in to your mouth, and that in itself will cause the shape of your face to change – primarily your lips and cheeks. You will need to re-check your entire mask and snorkel fitting and setting, whether it is comfortable around your face.
Never compromise on the quality and fitting of the full gear – mask and the snorkel. Do not get bogged down with the aesthetics of it. This gear is meant to provide you with the requisite safety, comfort and good vision whilst under water. You are not participating in a beauty or aesthetics contest!
The ultimate test of the mask is when you try it out in the water. As they say, the proof is in the pudding! A lot of times, it has been noticed that what fits well at home or in stores doesn’t necessarily feel the same when tried in water. It is at this point that you will have to do the mast fitting process all over again.
If you are purchasing the mask from an online store, then always be careful and observant to the size and dimensions of your own face and that of the manufacturer. Always measure your face and factor in all other aspects such as prescription glasses (which would require more spacing to insert them or fix them as required), before making the final decision on the fitting of the mask. Nothing works like trying it out in a water sports store yourself. Always read reviews, recommendations and eventually the pros and cons of each gear.
Try to take it slow and easy when you are testing the mask in the water. Get used to the equipment and practice it out, before making big dives. If you have followed all the above mentioned steps carefully, then you should be able to get a good fitting snorkel mask that is guaranteed to give you a great snorkeling experience, in a safe and comfortable manner.