There are literally hundreds of masks and snorkels that you can choose from, and throughout your diving adventure you will probably end up owning a few. I often try out different types as these are the one item in scuba that are relatively inexpensive, you can pick up a top mask for around $120. That being said I have wasted good money on gimmicks that I wish I hadn’t, one being the Oceanic Pioneer. It was comfortable, but for some reason it just didn’t feel right on may face.
I think the qualifier here is that because of the different shapes of our heads, a great mask for one person will be terrible for another. I have really enjoyed the Cressi Big Eyes Evolution Crystal, it fit well and is easy to clear. Sometimes a mask is like a book, you start reading it and hate it only to try it again in a few months and love it, as was the case with my Hollis M1, now my Cressi is my spare and my M1 my go-to mask.
When it comes to masks you should get one that fits well, comfortable and is easy to clear, the only problem here is that you can’t try them before you buy, so a little luck is involved. Personally I prefer low volume masks, the ones where the silicon skirt attaches directly onto the lens, as the M1 does.
Clearing a mask
When you scuba dive water will leak into your mask, and during your dive training you will have to demonstrate to your instructor that you can competently clear it. Some students struggle with clearing their mask as they are disturbed by the water rushing over their face. I always remind them, do you wear a mask when you swim? they always answer no, so I point out, is there any real difference? I think it’s just a case of excessive task loading as not only do you have to clear a mask but continue to breath through a regulator whilst doing so. Fortunately, there is a very easy way to expel the water. Simply place a little pressure on the top of the frame, although remember, don’t lift the mask of your face. Then looking towards the surface take a big breath and blow hard through your nose. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again, there is no rush. Just remind yourself you don’t really need a mask, its sole purpose is to allow us to see underwater.
When It comes to snorkels, I can honestly say that I leave it at home. You don’t often see experienced divers wear them, they get in the way and can cause your mask to leak because of the weight. I would suggest if you are inclined to buy a foldable one and keep it in your BCD. It is reasonably foreseeable, that if you are on the surface in high seas and low on air you will want a snorkel.