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 a 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. And as new prescription snorkel mask products become available we will announce them in our free newsletter. Get yours.
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.
Prescription Snorkel Mask Option #1 – Bonded Corrective Lenses
The first prescription snorkel mask 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 an equipment vendor we use suggested UseMyFrame.com (previously Scuba-Optics.com). They have used them for over 20 years and highly recommend 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.
Prescription Snorkel Mask Option #2 – Custom Prescription Lenses
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 prescription snorkel mask 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.
Prescription Snorkel Mask Option #3 – Drop-in Lens Mask – Most Popular
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 prescription snorkel mask 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.
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.
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 prescription snorkel mask options above. For some people with very narrow or wide eyes this may be a minor issue.
In our experience it is not easy to find the drop-in lenses for the pre-made masks for sale. Scuba.com has some and you can figure out the mask they go with on their website.
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.
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Magnifiers or Readers
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.
Rent a Prescription Snorkeling Mask
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.
Our Top Suggestion – Wear Contact Lenses
Galen has some terrible eyesight. And for him the very best solution is to wear contacts. Why?
- Perfect vision in the water. Unless you pay for custom cut lenses for your mask, your lenses will not be designed for your eyes, and will not be as good as contacts.
- Perfect vision out of the water. Think about that one. If you have poor vision, you will have to wear your mask until you can get your glasses on. What happens when it fogs up in the sun? Because it will.
- Less weight. Remember when you had those old style glasses that were huge? Remember how heavy they were? Because the stronger your prescription, the thicker the glasses need to be at the edges, hence the term Coke Bottles. Well, dive masks are big glasses, and so a strong prescription can have a lot of heavy glass or plastic.
- Both Galen & Nicole use affordable stick-on readers in their masks, since their near vision is going.
Some Misconceptions About Contacts & Snorkeling
- They Will Wash Out – In all the years Galen has snorkeled, hundreds of times in the water, he has never lost a contact. In fact when splashed the contacts tend to cling on tighter. And if one washes away, backups are cheap. He always brings many pairs on a trip.
- They Are Uncomfortable – Years ago contacts were uncomfortable. But have you tried some of the new soft contacts these days? They are amazingly comfortable. You might be surprised.
Ultra Cheap Option – Wear Your Glasses Inside Your Mask
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.