Correct snorkel mask fitting is potentially one of the most important things for having a good time snorkeling. If it leaks or is uncomfortable it can be miserable.
On this page we will show you how to choose the correct size and type of mask for your face shape, and how to test to see if it is the perfect fit, before you buy or rent it.
What you are looking for is an airtight seal around your face, without having the mask too tight.
First, take a good look at your face in the mirror. Is it narrow or wide? Are your eyes close together or wide apart? Is your nose bigger or smaller? Do you have much space under your nose above your lip?
Our faces are very different. Nicole's face is wider, but not as tall from chin to forehead, her eyes are farther apart, and she has a smaller nose. Galen's face is narrower, and taller, and his eyes are closer together. His nose is much bigger, with a wide bridge.
When you go to a store to try on masks, keep your face dimensions in mind with what you are selecting. They make masks to fit many different face shapes. Some are very wide and big, some are narrow and small.
If you don't have a dive shop close by where you can try on masks, then see our snorkeling mask buying guide page, where we suggest different masks we have tested for different face shapes, and also explain all the different mask features.
So with these things in mind, try to pick a mask that looks like it will
fit your face instead of what features it has, or how cool you think
Fitting Hint For Men - Don't forget to shave before you go to do your snorkel mask fitting. It is hard to test a seal with a lot of stubble (let alone a mustache, but that is another issue which we give a suggestion about on this page).
You will want to try on as many masks as you can, that are of good quality with a high silicone percentage in the skirt (the part that seals to your face). Start by picking one that looks like it might be good for your face shape, instead of what features it has.
Pull the straps over the top of the mask and try the mask on your face, without putting the strap around your head. You must look in a mirror and notice where the skirt foot lies.
Is it too narrow around the sides of your eyes? You don't want the skirt so close to your eyes that the skirt is not laying flat against your face.
On the other hand, you don't want the mask skirt to be so wide that it is too close to your hairline on the sides and top.
What about your nose, does it have plenty of room? You should not be pulling the nose pocket up against the underside of your nose. If you don't have a wide area between your nose and upper lip they do make masks with less width in this area. How about the bridge of your nose? Does the hard frame or glass rest on your nose anywhere? How about when you push the mask in a little bit, does it hit your nose? Because when you are snorkeling, water pressure will press the mask onto your face a bit, and you don't want hard points against your nose.
Now, if it seems the mask is a good basic fit, with the strap still over the top of the mask (not over your head yet), put the mask to your face, press slightly, inhale a small amount through your nose to suction it to your face, and release your hands. The mask should suction to your face without continuing to inhale.
You should be able to move around a bit without it falling off. Try moving your face muscles a bit. Does that break the seal easily? Try smiling. That will often break a seal on even a good fitting mask. But see what it does. (Sometimes we try to get each other to laugh when snorkeling to cause each other's face mask to flood).
Sometimes older folks with more wrinkles do need to smooth out their skin a bit with their fingers to get a good mask seal.
Good so far? Notice that a good fitting mask will stay on with just a little suction. Now try it with the mask strap on your head. You should get an airtight fit with very light strap pressure.
The strap should sit high on the back of your head, not resting on your ears. If it rests on your ears it will get painful.
If you have to pull the straps tight to get a fit, or if you have big red marks when it comes off, you have it too tight. A leaky mask is more often a case of straps too tight than too loose.
Also consider what type of mask strap the mask has. Nicole has long hair and likes to put her bun between the two parts of the mask strap, which keeps it in place on her head. Some mask straps are connected between the straps, making that not possible.
Also, make sure with the mask fully on that you can easily pinch your nose so that you can clear your ears when diving underwater.
Finally, with your mask on with the strap, see what happens to the seal when you put a snorkel in your mouth. We would even attach the snorkel to the strap and move our heads around a bit. Most folks don't try a snorkel in their mouths when mask shopping, but it can really change the shape of your face and break the seal of some masks. If it does, try another mask.
If your dive shop has a pool, see if they will let you test it in the water before buying it.
This step is easy. If you have found a mask that fits you perfectly, buy it! Some people have to try on a dozen masks to find a good fit. If it is an inexpensive mask buy it. If it is expensive, buy it. If you think it looks a bit dorky, still buy it. What is most important is a great fit.
The ultimate test will be trying it in the water. Sometimes a great fitting mask in the store does not work that well in the water, and you get to start the process over. We test a lot of masks, and many that seem OK in the store end up not being great in the water for some reason.
The full face snorkel masks are very different when it comes to fitting. There are many less steps. But as with normal masks, it is best to try them on at a store to be sure the fit is right. If you are purchasing online, we suggest that you measure your face as instructed by the manufacturer and choose the right size based on that. Be prepared that even if you order the correct size, it may not fit your face and you may need to try another brand. Read about our brand recommendations and pros and cons of these masks on our full face snorkel mask page.
If you wear glasses you probably want to read about your options in a prescription snorkel mask. You will need to find a two lens mask that fits well so that the prescription glass can be inserted.