As a new freediver, one of the first things you need to figure out is what type of freediving gear you will need to get started in the water.
While there are divers who dive without any gear at all – mask-free, fin-free and maybe even naked (yay) – we actually use some pretty specific equipment to make the most out of our ‘natural state’. There is some super elite freediving equipment out there that isn’t necessary for beginner and recreational divers. So, before you drop $1000 on a full suite of competition-grade gear, keep reading for tips on choosing decent entry-level equipment that will last you a while. I’ve included tips on how to choose the best mask for freediving or spearfishing, and gathered up my list of the best freediving masks for beginners in 2020.
This is part of a series of articles on freediving equipment for beginners. If you’re looking for other freediving equipment, watch this space. I’m creating posts to help you choose the best freediving wetsuit, fins and other gear too.
Please note: this article does contain some affiliate links. I only include links to products I have personally used and I can vouch for. If you decide to buy any gear via these links, it’s a big thank you from me.
What makes a good freediving mask?
There is one major characteristic that makes a freediving mask different from a scuba or snorkelling mask: the volume of the mask.
If you’ve read how freediving works, or checked out my post on equalisation, you’ll know that when you freedive you need to equalise the pressure in your air spaces. This includes the air space in your mask. When we are freediving, we literally only have that one breath to last us the whole dive. We don’t want to waste it by blowing into a giant mask. Low volume masks mean we have to do less to equalise the space.
Some other characteristics of freediving masks are:
- Masks usually have softer silicone around the nose area to make it easier to pinch your nose and equalise
- Some spearfishing masks have mirrored lenses, helping to hide your eyes from fish
How to choose the best freediving mask for you:
Truly, the best thing you can do is go to a dive shop and try on a whole bunch of freediving masks.
Yes, it’s a pain if you don’t live close to a dive shop. And yes, you can find the masks cheaper online. People have different shaped faces and there is no one-size solution. When you do get your hands on some masks to try on, here are some things to look out for:-
- Place the mask on your face and suck in through your nose. Does it stick to your face, or is air getting in somewhere? If it doesn’t stick to your face, it’s probably not a good fit.
- Try pinching your nose. How soft is the silicone? If you’re a new diver I suggest getting something that you can pinch easily. You need as few complications as possible when you’re learning to equalise.
- Push the mask into your face a little to simulate water pressure. How does it feel on the bridge of your nose and between your eyebrows? I have a hard time with this, and most masks press hard between my eyebrows and leave big red marks.
- How’s your field of vision? Generally, you have a smaller field of vision in a low volume freediving mask. This isn’t really an issue if you do lots of pool and line training, but for fun diving it can be nice to see what’s happening around you. Recently I was diving at Bondi, and completely missed a seal that had been swimming next to me because my peripheral vision was blocked. That was a sad day for everyone. You may need to weigh up visibility vs volume.
Once you’ve found a fit you like, here are some more things to consider:-
- Plastic lenses are fine, but they scratch very easily and you will likely have to replace them earlier than a glass mask.
- Some of the best masks on the market are actually pretty cheap. You really don’t have to sink a lot of cash for a good mask.
- Oval masks look really, really cool. Personally, I find it too hard to equalise to use them at depth but I know some divers who really like them. I think of them as a mask for taking photos, but I would love to hear experiences of oval masks in the comments.
- Unfortunately, most of the divers I know (myself included) can’t smile in their freediving masks underwater. The movement in our cheeks causes the mask to fill. If you do find a mask you can smile in underwater, you’re the rare exception (and let me have your skinny face please).
What are the best freediving masks of 2020?
As a general rule, if you’re sticking with a heavyweight freediving brand you will be getting a quality mask. Here are the brands to look out for:
I am a complete nerd for trying on my friend’s masks (not advisable during pandemics), and seeing how I go with them. I’m particularly obsessed withe the criteria I laid out above – volume, silicone softness, field of view and general comfort. I’ve narrowed down my 5 favourite freediving masks available in 2020:
Features: Ultra low-volume with curved plastic lenses to give you better peripheral vision. I love to use this mask for line diving because it requires such little effort to equalise at depth. Divers generally either love or hate the Sphera. The curved lenses are amazing for visibility, but it does create some distortion on the edges and they scratch very easily.
Best For: Smaller and less angular faces. This mask is very popular with women. I love it because it lets me see more around me, although it does create some distortion at the edges of my vision. Also, this is the best price by a long way.
Features: Single pane of tempered glass allowing a very wide field of vision, super-soft silicone to mould to the face and make equalising simple. Huge range of bright colours.
Best For: Anyone who has is prone to masks pressing between their eyes. It’s also great scuba/snorkelling/freediving hybrid, and comes in a range of super bright colours.
Features: Could it be the most popular freediving mask? Maybe. This mask is widely available, and has a low volume with a pretty good field of vision. Just make sure it’s not pressing too hard between the brows.
Best for: Great all-rounder with lots of colour choice.
Features: Good visibility, super comfortable, great value for money
Best For: those who want to just try out freediving without spending a lot, and those looking for a scuba/snorkelling/freediving hybrid
Features: Soft silicone, low volume with space for eyebrows, classic shape that suits most people, high friction patches on nose for nose clip attachment. The mask comes in several different colours, so you can match with your snorkel and fins.
Best For: Another good all-rounder and good value for money. This is my favourite mask for pool training and fun-diving.
Features: Super-soft silicone which mould beautifully to your face, ultra-low volume, comfortable for for most people, ‘Batman look’ if you’re in to that.
Best For: Looking like a badass, and avoiding mask-face
Hopefully you found something helpful in this list. Again, I would always recommend getting to a dive shop and trying on some things to work out what feels good. If you really want to nerd out, check out these sites too to see some more freediving gear reviews and comparisons.
As always, I love to hear about your experiences as beginner freedivers and the more experienced divers. What are your favourite masks for beginners? Have you worked out any great tips for finding a good fit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, via my social links, or feel free to get in contact.
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