Updated - August 2019
Buying the right snorkeling mask can be challenging. There are a lot of mask shapes, sizes and options, and everyone's face is different. Of all your snorkel gear, a correctly fitting mask is the most important. Normally to find a good fitting mask it is a process of elimination, trying on many different masks. Even then, once you get in the water you may find the mask not to your liking, and need to start over. It is a worthwhile process though. A quality mask can last you a lifetime, and a great fitting mask makes a world of difference in your snorkeling experience.
In order to be able to suggest masks in this buying guide that fit most faces we have bought and tested a bunch of them. We also have snorkeling mask recommendations for big wide faces, and small faces.
The best thing is to visit a store and try on masks, after you have read our snorkel mask fitting guide. But if you don't have a store nearby, then our suggestions below will at least give you a starting point. Just be prepared for returning some masks before you get it right.
Note these are all regular, traditional snorkeling masks, the classic style, which is what we use. If you are interested in full face snorkel masks see our buying guide for those here.
So, check out our recommended masks, and make sure and read about the different mask features explained further down this page.
Note: Our suggestions come from hands-on experience. We hope you find them helpful. You can help us if you purchase from the links below. We may make a small commission, from Amazon or other companies, at no extra cost to you. Thank you.
We have very different faces, in terms of shape. Nicole's 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. All of
these things affect the fitting of a mask.
All of the masks below fit both of our faces relatively well, which means they will likely fit a lot of faces. Two of them fit us very well, which may or may not be of use to you.
SEAC Giglio [?]- This is a very affordable snorkeling mask to buy, at less than $20, and it worked great for both of us. Nicole is testing it in Indonesia in the picture above. It comes in a variety of colors, and has tempered glass. Nicole likes the split strap so her hair bun can sit between. The strap has an adjuster on each side that worked fine. The silicone-blend skirt material is of good quality, but is not as supple as higher end masks, so likely has less silicone in it. But both of us got a good seal with it on several different trips, in the Caribbean and Indonesia. And it is a fairly low volume mask. The width at the top of the nose pocket is slightly wide, and is noticeable in your vision if you focus on it. It's an easy snorkeling mask to recommend, and so affordable you could just give it to a friend if it does not work for you.
TUSA Paragon [?] - This is the other mask that fit the best for both of us, and it is the most expensive snorkeling mask to buy of the bunch. This mask is full of all kinds of technology. It has a special skirt for better fit, some clicky strap angle buckle adjusters, quick adjust straps, optical quality glass, and special lens coatings for clarity and eye protection. Nicole again likes the split strap for her bun. It is not a very low volume mask, and is a bit heavy because of the rather robust frame. Most important about the mask for us is that it fits well for both of us. The special anti-glare coatings do seem to work on the mask. It does appear to give a slightly clearer view underwater than other masks. But the coatings also color shift what you are looking at very slightly. This is Nicole's current snorkeling mask.
TUSA Freedom One [?] (Also available in a black skirt here.) - This snorkeling mask almost worked great for both of us. The nose pocket was a bit small for Galen, and the bridge of his nose would contact the mask at times. It was a good fit for Nicole. She is testing it in St. Lucia in the picture at right. It has a very thin and supple silicone skirt, tempered glass, quick strap adjustments on both sides, and the split strap Nicole likes for her bun. It is a fairly low volume mask and very lightweight. Overall an excellent mask to buy.
Aqua Lung Impression [?] - This mask worked great for Galen's narrow face, but not for Nicole's wider face. It is a relatively low volume mask, with a high quality silicone skirt, tempered glass, and a quick adjusting strap. Note that the strap does not have a slot for a bun or ponytail to fit through. This is Galen's current snorkeling mask.
Aqua Lung Linea [?] (Also available in a clear skirt in different frame colors here.) This is a very good quality mask that is made for small, narrow faces. It fit Galen width wise, but the nose pocket is too short and small. It is a fairly low volume mask, with quick adjustment straps that have no slot for buns or ponytails. It has a very supple silicone skirt, and tempered glass.
TUSA Freedom Elite [?] - This mask fits wider faces better, and so worked for Nicole but not Galen. It is a fairly high volume mask, with a quality silicone skirt, tempered glass, clicky angle adjustments on the strap, quick strap length adjustments, and a split strap that is good for a ponytail or bun. It has a big single lens on it with good visibility all around, making it great for a snorkeler.
TUSA Freedom HD [?] (Available in a clear skirt here.) - This is similar to but larger than the Freedom Elite. It has massive visibility, with a huge lens both in width and height. Nicole has a fairly wide face, but this was wide enough that it was too close to her hairline, so it will be best for folks with large, wide faces. It has more techy features than the Freedom Elite above.
SEAC Touch [?]- This is a very nice lightweight frameless mask, with a good quality supple skirt, a split strap that is easily adjustable, a wide view, tempered glass, and comes in different skirt colors. It is best for a wide face, with a flatter forehead.
Storm MK1 Frameless [?]- This is another frameless mask that seems better for a wide face with a flatter forehead. It has tempered glass, and a decent skirt that seems a little lower in silicone percentage. It comes with a neoprene strap. We found it difficult to get the right tension with this strap. Out of the water the elastic is tight, but in the water it loosened up a lot.
Of course you can find many more traditional snorkeling masks on Amazon too.
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.
Focus on Fit, Not Features
Mask companies have lots of techy trademarked features for their products, with special names. We suggest you ignore all features and price points, and focus on getting a good fit. So long as you are looking at quality products, don't consider how many lenses it has, the quality of the silicone, if it is a women's or men's mask, or any other sales features. We would be absolutely happy with a $20 mask if it fits better than an $80 mask. In fact, that is exactly what happened recently. Of the eight masks we tested, the two masks that fit us the best were the cheapest and the most expensive.
Do You Need a Prescription Mask?
If you need a prescription mask you may be limited in what mask you can buy, depending on what type of RX method you choose. Read our RX snorkeling mask page to learn more first.
Mask Skirt Silicone Percentage
Higher quality mask skirts are either 100% silicone, or a high percentage of silicone. You can feel the difference between a high silicone percentage and a lower one; a skirt with more silicone is much more flexible and pliable.
Different Brands Selling Same Mask?
Sometimes you will see what appears to be the same mask frame, sold under different brands, at sometimes surprisingly different prices. But even though they may be using the same frame, one brand might have a higher quality silicone skirt, hence the higher price.
Clear Silicone Skirt - A
clear mask skirt will allow more light in, and generally give a less
claustrophobic feel, with a greater peripheral field of vision. It is
much easier to notice someone or something along side you with a clear
mask skirt. The downside to a clear skirt is that if you snorkel in
bright sun on the surface, it may cause more eye strain from squinting.
All the light may also interfere with your vision underwater slightly, and
make it harder to see your underwater camera.
Black Silicone Skirt - Many underwater photographers prefer a black silicone skirt because it reduces light in the mask, making it easier to take pictures. It also helps you focus more. We both prefer a black skirt, for that reason and for less squinting.
Colored Skirts - Some manufacturers now offer a large variety of colored skirts, from bright red to blue to yellow to white. We have tried some, and prefer either clear or black, because the color of the skirt is noticeable and slightly distracting. But it is not a big deal if you enjoy the look of a particular color. Although, a white or yellow skirt will reflect the sunlight and make it brighter in your mask.
Unless you need a prescription mask, it really does not matter how many lenses your mask has. There are some benefits to each type, but generally speaking whatever fits best is what you should get.
Single Lens Masks - These give the best unobstructed view, but often don't work for people with big noses. They also tend to be higher volume masks (read about mask volume below).
Two Lens Masks - These can be good for folks who need prescription lenses or people with bigger noses, or if you want a low volume mask. You can see the center plastic section if you pay attention to it, but while snorkeling it is quickly forgotten. Although if your eyes are very close together, some two lens masks are obtrusive to vision in the center.
Side Lens Masks - There are also masks that have extra lenses on the sides. This is good for maximum peripheral visibility and light intake. They tend to be high volume masks. We tried the TUSA Tri-Quest Mask and it does offer great peripheral visibility.
Big Teardrop Lens - Some masks have big lenses in a teardrop shape, allowing you to see downward easier without tilting your head down as much. Big teardrop shaped lenses can help with neck strain because you don't have to use your neck to look up to see where you are going. Galen's Aqua Lung Impression Mask has this type of lens.
Frameless Snorkeling Masks
A frameless mask gets rid of the stiff plastic frame that holds the glass lens and instead glues the silicone skirt directly to the lens. In the picture at right the blue mask is frameless. These are very lightweight, sometimes low volume and they tend to be more flexible.
High Volume Vs. Low Volume Masks
Volume in a mask just refers to how much air there is in the mask. A mask with more than two lenses or big lenses often has a lot of air inside. A mask designed for low volume normally has two small lenses, and a skirt that wraps tightly around the lenses, eliminating as much air as possible. Low volume masks tend to sit closer to your face.
What are the pros and cons of each? Low volume masks are primarily used by people who dive underwater. As you get deeper, and water pressure increases, the mask starts to suck to your face. In a low volume mask this is less pronounced, and it is easier to equalize by blowing out through your nose. Generally low volume masks are smaller and lighter weight. The downside to most low volume masks is that the small lenses limit visibility and peripheral vision, making you have to turn your head more. Many snorkelers really prefer big lenses, so don't go for a low volume mask unless you intend to dive a lot.
Mask Purge Valves
Some masks offer a purge valve in the nose pocket, allowing you to clear water out of the mask by blowing out. But we have found that you can easily do the same thing without a purge valve, by holding the top of your mask and blowing out of your nose. The water pushes out the bottom of your mask, and the skirt reseals just fine. And you can also just pop your head up to the surface and pull your mask away at the bottom to drain it. If your mask fits right you should rarely have leaks. Although, some folks who have a mustache can have a continual leak and enjoy having a purge valve in their mask.
We like a silicone mask strap. And Nicole prefers a split strap so that she can put her hair bun or ponytail between the straps. It keeps the strap from sliding up or down on her slippery hair. Some straps are not split and do not allow for that. Some people add a neoprene cover to their strap, or replace it with a neoprene strap. The neoprene can be nice for not getting tangled in and pulling on your hair.
Adjustable Strap Buckles
Many higher end masks have some very techy buckle adjustment options, for quickly adjusting strap tension, or pre-indented angle adjustments, and other other gizmos. Mostly these features make the mask bulkier and heavier, with more stuff for hair to get stuck in, and we have found little value in them. What is important is that you can fairly easily adjust strap tension, and it should not slip once set.