We get a good number of folks asking us about a prescription snorkel mask. Galen has pretty terrible eyesight, and wears contacts with a standard mask. But what do you do if you wear glasses? You can't easily use your glasses inside your snorkel mask.
Fortunately there are number of options to turn your snorkel mask into a pair of corrected glasses, so that you can see perfectly underwater (or nearly). You then also wear your mask as glasses before and after getting in the water.
It used to be a prescription snorkel mask would run you a minimum of $250, which is a big investment.
Fortunately there are now a number of masks available where you can purchase pre-made corrected drop-in lenses that fit into the mask, at a much more affordable price. So, there's no good reason not to see the beauty of the underwater world crystal clear!
Below we explain all your options for a prescription snorkel mask, from the expensive to the ridiculously cheap, and the pros and cons of each. And we also share why we think wearing contact lenses is an excellent option for some people.
Note that for all of these options you need to see an eye doctor and get a prescription that will be used to correctly buy or make your mask.
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The first option is called a bonded lens. With this method a corrective lens is created to your prescription, and it is glued to the inside of your snorkel mask lens. You either send in your own mask, or buy a mask from one of the companies that provides this service. Your local dive shop normally has a relationship with one of these companies and can also take care of it for you. The company grinds a lens to your prescription specs, they cut it to the basic shape of your mask lens, and then bond that to the inside of your mask with a special glue. It will likely take from a week to ten days. The pricing is very similar to the cost of regular prescription glasses, starting at around $200 for a basic lens. Prices go up for bifocals and other custom options.
They can also add prescription readers to the bottom of your mask if you are having trouble seeing things up close like your camera settings or watch.
There are a couple of downsides to this method. It adds weight to your mask, because of adding another lens inside the existing mask lens. And, the bonded lens is often not exactly the same shape as your mask lens, which will cause some gaps at the edges.
Note also that if you have a very strong prescription and or astigmatism, this method may not work for you.
Bonded Corrective Lens Companies
Unfortunately we do not have any direct experience with these companies. But our snorkeling equipment partner Dolphin Snorkel Center has used UseMyFrame.com (previously Scuba-Optics.com) for over 20 years and highly recommends them, and we have seen other recommendations for them, so that is who we would use.
Here are a couple more options in the US.
Mike's Dive Store comes well recommended from a partner of ours in the UK.
This method is similar to the bonded, but the entire lens of your mask is replaced with a lens that is custom ground to your prescription. This may give better results, particularly for very strong prescriptions, or for folks with a strong astigmatism. It has the added benefit of being a perfect fit. Sometimes with the bonded option above there are gaps around the edges where the corrected lens does not cover. This option can also weigh much less because of very strong and lightweight plastic lens options.
There are not many companies providing this service. Sea Vision is the best known, and pricing is similar to the bonded lens option above. Although you can buy a mask from them, you can also contact them about putting a corrected lens in a mask you already own.
With either of the above two methods, bonded or custom prescription snorkel mask, the lens is made specifically to your eyes, including measuring where your pupils are, something that is missing from the next option.
There are a range of masks that are designed to have their lenses fairly easily removed, and you can then drop in pre-made corrective lenses or bifocals. This is the most affordable option, and what many snorkelers opt for if their prescription is not too strong, or if they don't have a strong astigmatism.
These drop-in lenses are generally available from
about -1.5 to -8.0 in 0.5 increments. You can buy these and put them into the mask
yourself, if you know what your prescription is, although getting the
mask apart without breaking it takes a bit of skill.
you buy a mask and corrected lenses from our partner at Dolphin Snorkel Center they will install the lenses for you before shipping. See their prescription snorkel mask options here. On their website the Oceanic optical lenses fit the Oceanic Ion series masks, and those lenses also fit the ScubaPro Flux Twin Lens mask, and the Tusa M-212 Ceos mask.
The benefit to this drop-in lens method is that it can be relatively affordable and quick. Quality masks start at about $50, and the lenses start at around $30 for each side. So for about $110 you can get a good mask with prescription lenses.
If you are on a real budget you can get an IST optically corrected mask on Amazon for less than $60. They don't give
you an option for a different prescription number for each eye, and we
don't know what the quality of the mask is, but it is cheap! Personally we would spend up a bit on such an important piece of gear.
One of the downsides to these drop-in lenses is that the correction is not centered exactly where your eyes are, so the correction is not as accurate as the two other options above. For some people with very narrow or wide eyes this may be a minor issue.
Choosing Your Drop-In Prescription
One of our site visitors had the problem that his prescription for one eye was -7.25, but drop-in lenses only come in half steps. So he asked if he should go with -7, or -7.5. The correct choice is to go lower than your prescription, in his case -7. Using a prescription that is too high can cause eye strain and headaches.
Note: Masks can and do sink, along with your snorkel, if you let go of them, which can be an expensive and inconvenient loss, particularly with a prescription mask. Adding a SnorkelBuoy is the solution for about $12. Use coupon code tropical10 for 10% off at checkout at www.snorkelbuoy.org.
All of the above solutions are to solve distance sight problems. But if you are farsighted, and only need help with close things, you can purchase ready made "reading glasses", that stick inside your mask. These are small half circles that sit near the bottom of your mask. Galen tested the DiveOptx magnifiers and wrote his review on this page.
You can also buy lenses for the drop-in masks above that have readers in them, and you can have custom readers bonded to your mask lens from the companies above.
If you don't plan on using it a bunch, then renting an prescription snorkel mask is probably a great option. We know that many snorkel rental equipment companies in Hawaii rent them, and many dive shops around the world do also.
Galen has some terrible eyesight. And for him the very best solution is to wear contacts. Why?
Believe it or not there are many people who have modified a spare pair of their glasses so that they would fit inside their snorkeling mask. This can work, but was more common when lower cost prescription snorkel mask options were not available.
A Compact Snorkeling Camera