Mares Viper mask receives our top pick for the best low volume mask. Mares is known for designing some of the best freediving masks on the market. The viper is a standout within their lineup. The decreased eye to lens distance allows for a broader field of vision, while the matte-silicone and smooth, anti-glare interior increase the visual performance underwater. The unique beveled nose and forehead shape enable the mask to fit most faces while retaining its ultra-low volume. The simple, two-button buckle is low profile and attaches directly to the skirt to create a sleek shape. Mares has maximized the hydrodynamics of this mask to reduce drag during ascent to the surface by optimizing the lens angle. For the ultimate in performance, the mask has no internal lip creating a leak-free anatomical profile and promotes a self-equalizing effect. The Mares Viper mask review comes back as a solid top-place contender in the freediving world.
- Ultra-low volume
- Hydrodynamic design
- Large field of vision
- Very lightweight
- Reduced fogging because of New Silicone used in the skirt
- No internal lip for self-equalizing effect
- Not available for prescription lens
- Does not come with tinted lens option
The Aqua Sphere Sphera gets our selection for best freediving mask 2020- “Best Value” category. It has been a favorite for years and earns its way onto the list again. This mask is unique in that it has curved lenses allowing full 180-degree visibility. The patented Plexisol™ lenses are crystal clear and solve the problem of distortion that curved tempered glass creates. Another plus, the lenses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection for your time in shallow water or at the surface. The unique curved shape allows for a low volume mask freediving enthusiast’s love because it is easy to equilibrate. It’s prudent to note that the plastic lenses are more susceptible to scratching even with the anti-scratch coating—so it may be worth considering how well you treat your freediving gear before purchasing. One last thing about the lenses, the plastic does not magnify objects underwater the way glass does. (So that fish you are stalking, is as big as it looks.)
- 180-degree visibility with exceptional clarity
- Patented Plexisol™ lenses to reduce distortion
- Very low volume
- The plastic lens does not magnify objects
- Easy to access nose for equilibrating, even with gloves
- The face fitting seal is comfortable for extended wear
- Lenses can scratch
- Well designed and made, but not “tough”
The Cressi Metis is a low volume, 2-window freediving mask that is ideal for spearfishing and photography because the exaggerated inverted teardrop lenses improve downward visibility—excellent for searching for shots (of either variety) from the surface. The mask comes with a choice of either clear, yellow, or mirrored lenses. The mirrored lenses are often chosen for spearfishing as it shields the diver’s eyes from their target. It has a supple, full silicone skirt that is comfortable to wear for extended dives. The wide buckles are easily adjusted, but well designed for a low-drag profile. Many two-window masks can produce pressure points on the bridge of the nose; this mask has ample room here and is an option for those faces needing a deeper fitting mask across the bridge.
- Great downward visibility
- Choice of clear, tinted, or mirrored lenses
- Comfortable soft silicone skirt
- Good quality at affordable price
- Is not the lightest, lowest volume mask on the list
- Skirt does not have a matte or no-glare finish option
The Cressi Perla is a low-profile mask that is great for freediving at an unbeatable value. It is a favorite for schools and dive shops providing freediving gear. While at first, that may not seem like a positive remark, it is. Shops and instructors rely on it because it fits most faces with a perfect, leak-free seal, and it is tough enough to stand up to a hard life. The lower volume and the downward-tilted lenses create an easy to equalize mask with generous visibility. The 2020 models have an updated restyle and are now available with a transparent skirt option. While dark skirts are popular to reduce glare, some freedivers prefer to allow more light into their masks to overcome their feelings of claustrophobia, and the Perla is one of the few low volume transparent skirt masks available. This is a reliable primary mask and an ideal secondary freediving mask.
- Comfortable fit on most faces
- Lower volume makes it easier to equilibrate
- Choice of clear or dark silicone skirt
- Great value
- Very durable
- Not the most hydrodynamic mask on the list
- No alternative lens options
Kraken Aquatics has designed a no-frill freediving mask that performs exceptionally well at a good value. While this mask isn’t ideal for competitive freediving, it is a solid choice as a cross-over mask between snorkeling/scuba and freediving. It has a lower volume, making it easier to equalize than a traditional scuba mask. Plus, divers find the silicone skirt supple, and the inverted teardrop lens allows for excellent visibility below. Both the tempered-glass lenses and the sturdy frame will stand up to being jostled in with all your other freediver gear on the boat.
- Great all-purpose mask suitable for freediving
- Sturdy construction
- Good value
- Comfortable skirt available in clear or dark silicone
- Heavier than most freediving masks
- Only comes with clear lenses
The comment that this mask receives the most from freedivers is that it fits and feels like their high-end masks but doesn’t share the same price tag. That’s a pretty impressive shout-out. It is an authentic, low volume mask explicitly designed for freediving. The two large lenses are brought in close to the eyes and provides a wide range of visibility. The soft silicone skirt around the nose is unobstructed by the lens frames and is easy to equalize even with dive gloves on. With its budget-friendly price point, it’s hard not to at least grab this mask as a backup or an option to lend a friend who has misplaced their free diving goggles. Notably, this mask does run on the narrow side.
- True low volume mask
- Excellent value
- Great option for narrow faces
- Large field of vision
- Doesn’t fit all larger face shapes
- Buckle may be hard to use with gloves
The Mares X-free mask has a very low volume making it one of the best masks for freediving. Mares knows freediving, and their hydrodynamic design provides low resistance in the water, especially on a rapid ascent. The wide, inverted teardrop lenses offer an increased field of vision, and the matte silicone finish wraps over the lens frame providing a completely glare-free mask. Even the interior of the mask has a matte finish. The texturized silicone on the nose piece increases grip for easy equalizing. This lightweight mask uses the new silicone in the skirt to reduce fogging.
- Very low volume
- Hydrodynamic design
- Matte finish
- New silicone for reduced fogging
- Only comes with clear lenses
- Does not come with clear silicone skirt option
SeaDive has created a lower volume, all-purpose mask that can be used for snorkeling/diving as well as freediving. The single-pane, inverted teardrop lenses provide a wide field of vision, and the Optical MultiCoat Technology HD lenses minimize glare. It changes harsher white light to an easier-on-the-eyes blue light. From the outside, the coating has an orange-ish mirrored tint and provides a polarized dive mask experience. The soft silicone skirt is comfortable for most average and larger faces. Notable: the SeaDive mask reviews show this is not the best choice for narrower faces.
- Vision Brightening lens
- Provides UV and glare protection
- Reduces eye strain
- Fits larger faces
- Less likely to fit smaller/narrower faces
- Lenses may show scratches
The Nano Cressi freediving mask is a favorite with professional freedivers. Cressi took engineering this ultra-low volume mask seriously. The Nano features Cressi’s patented Integrated Dual Frame Technology to create a compact mask that further reduces the interior volume. The inclined lenses provide an excellent field-of-view and create a very hydrodynamic profile. Cressi offers this mask with both standard and HD mirrored tempered glass lenses. The anatomically-molding silicon skirt creates a comfortable mask and the adjustable buckles anchor directly to the frame for optimum stability. Not only is this mask impressively designed, the Italian-made construction is top-notch as well.
- Extremely low internal volume
- Superior design and construction
- Hydrodynamic profile
- Inclined and inverted lenses for improved visibility
- Durable and easy-to-use buckle
- Higher price-point
- Can’t be fit with corrective lenses
Omer and MOMO collaborated on the design to create one of the best freediving masks on the market. This mask boasts an ultra-low internal volume making it ideal for serious freediving and spearfishing. The unique ‘square’ lenses and their position provide an almost unobstructed view. The Omer UP-M1 mask is one of the few masks on the market with this low internal volume that has removable lenses allowing the option to add corrective optical lenses. The lenses can be bought separately and installed yourself, so you can test the mask for comfort and fit first or have the option of changing prescriptions in the future. The double-lip, soft matte silicone skirt creates a comfortable long-wearing fit. There is plenty of room around the nose for equalizing, and Omer also sells a nose clip designed for use with their mask.
- Very low internal volume
- Wide field of vision
- Accommodates use of nose clip
- Corrective optical lens compatible
- Higher price point
- Buckle requires more effort to operate
Out of all the best freediving gear, selecting the right mask is probably the most important. And it’s hard, especially when making choices behind a computer screen. Here are a few helpful hints to help you get the best mask for you.
IDENTIFY IMPORTANT FEATURES
Understanding how different features of freediving masks affect your performance underwater can help you focus on choosing the best free dive mask for your use. The three features that set freediving masks apart are:
In general, what separates a freedive mask from a snorkel or dive mask, is the amount of internal volume (the air inside the mask). The lower internal volume requires less air from your lungs to equalize. A large volume mask takes too much air away from you.
A low volume mask, because it is closer to your face, also becomes more hydrodynamic. This is important for a rapid ascent to the surface or chasing a fish. At worst, a traditionally sized mask can cause such drag while coming to the surface that it can become pulled from the face or fill with water. Some masks further optimize the hydrodynamic by adjusting lens angles and streamlining buckle attachments.
FIELD OF VISION
The field of vision is especially critical for spearfishing. A freediving mask moves the lenses closer to the face, broadening the field of view. Mares has an excellent video illustration of how this works on their masks, take a look below.
Not only is increased peripheral vision important, but increasing downward visibility is sought after for spearfishing. Unlike scuba, where you may be at eye-level with your targets, freedivers start at the surface—looking below them—until they find a target to pursue.
PRIORITIZE YOUR PREFERENCES
First, acknowledge that the best mask for someone else may not be YOUR best mask. Define what you are looking for most and narrow down your choices right from the start. Do you participate in competitive freediving? Then the most ultra-low volume, hydrodynamic masks might be important, and you will deal with a harder to use mask strap buckle. Do you spearfish in shallower waters? The best spearfishing mask for you may have mirrored lenses that hide your eyes and have excellent downward visibility to search for prey. These features might be more relevant to you than a few less mL of internal air volume. On the other hand, if you can’t tell the difference between a pufferfish and an angelfish without your glasses or contacts, a prescription lens mask may be your highest priority.
In an online shopping world, we depend on reader reviews to guide us toward smart purchases. But user reviews aren’t flawless, especially when it comes to freediving masks. Take any mask and read through the reviews from divers who have purchased it, and a considerable chunk of those reviews will be about whether the mask fogged up or not.
A few bad remarks can skew a rating drastically. In reality, fogging has very little to do with a specific mask and more to do with how it was treated (or not treated) before use. In your mind, be able to edit out these reviews and focus on more valuable feedback, like design flaws or durability.
Two quick defogging tips: A foggy mask can ruin a dive (as we repeatedly see in all the reviews). Here’s how to prevent it from happening to you (no matter which mask you select). First, follow the masks instructions when you first get it to remove the silicone that is coating the lenses. Sometimes you will scrub the lenses with toothpaste, sometimes use a small flame to burn off the silicone. This is critical. Until that factory residue layer is removed, you will have problems with fogging.
Second, to get an all-day, dive-after-dive, fog-free mask—whether you use a baby-shampoo (cheap and highly-effective) or a bottle of no-fogging gel or spray from your dive shop—you must apply it correctly. The key is to have a completely dry mask when you goop it up. Put your preferred product on a dry mask and let it sit. If you have been fighting with a foggy mask, this can change your world. If you get in the habit of smearing up your lenses while on your way out to your dive site and letting the mixture dry on the ride, you’ll be good. Just wash off the dried product when you are ready to dive in.
FINDING A FIT WHEN YOU CAN’T TRY IT ON
Like foggy masks, leaky masks can ruin a dive. They also play a factor in biased reviews. Just because the mask leaked on one diver’s face, doesn’t make it a bad mask. It makes it a very bad mask for them. It might be excellent for you, though. Hopefully, the reviewer was kind enough to mention if their face was generally smaller, narrower, or wider. This information changes a worthless “this mask leaks” review into one of the best freediving mask review comments. Some masks do tend to work toward specific face shapes, and detailed user reviews can help you eliminate or focus on options that match your needs.
What is the difference between a scuba diving mask and a freediving mask?
The primary difference between a scuba mask and a free dive mask is the interior volume. Masks designed specifically for freediving have less volume. The reasoning is because it requires air to equalize the mask’s pressure at depth. The larger the volume of air inside the mask, the more air required. For a freediver, without access to a tank, they rely on the precious little air in their lungs. With a smaller mask, a freediver conserves their air. To reduce the volume inside the mask, the lenses are brought much closer to the face. This provides additional benefits to a freediver. Because the lenses are closer to the eyes, the range of vision increases as less peripheral vision is blocked by the frame of the mask. Freediving masks also tend to be sleeker. Some of this comes naturally from the lower volume, but some are by design. A sleek mask is more hydrodynamic and will have less pull on it during a rapid ascent to the surface.
Is freediving safe?
Freediving, like all sports, has risks. And there are certainly a handful of freediving fatalities each year to support this. However, most of the risk factors are controllable. Actions like diving with accountable partners, selecting conditions to dive in, knowing the area you are diving, knowing your limits, understanding the physiology of breath-holding, and being aware of surroundings can dramatically affect how safe freediving is for you.
Because freediving has a low barrier entry (the freedive gear is simple, and certifications are not required), novice freedivers can quickly place themselves in situations and conditions that overwhelm their experience and skills. The best way to keep safe is to educate yourself, dive with experienced and trusted partners, and know (and adhere) to your limits.
Why do freedivers use snorkels?
Snorkels allow freedivers to breathe naturally at the surface while still being able to view the surroundings around and below them before they descend. For example, while they are searching for a fish while spearfishing. Competitive freedivers may not use a snorkel once they descend; they may even leave it at the surface. Many freedivers choose to remove the snorkel from their mouths when returning to the surface. The reason for this decision is the belief that if they were to suffer from an underwater black-out, the body would experience a reflex called a laryngospasm in which the body protects itself by closing the airways. It is thought that by having a snorkel in the mouth, it will circumvent this reflex. If the mouth were to close around the freedive snorkel, water would be allowed to rush in once the tongue of the unconscious diver is not blocking it the snorkel.
The best freediving snorkels often do not have the elaborate splash guards that are popular among surface snorkelers. In fact, these dry snorkels can prevent the freediver from taking deep, pre-dive breaths because the heavy breath will trigger the flapper-valve to slam shut—blocking air into the snorkel. You can read more about snorkel options here.
How do you clear your mask when freediving?
Getting water into your mask can be uncomfortable, reduce your visibility, and increase your chances of panicking. But by learning a few skills, clearing the water doesn’t require bringing your entire head out of the water to remove your mask. If at the surface, and breathing through a snorkel, many freedivers will press against the top part of their mask and blow through their nose, displacing the water in the mask. Some find it easier to take a shallow dive just to be able to tilt their head while clearing the mask if water has filled the mask while at depth, it may be more prudent to save the extra air required to clear it until returning to the surface.
What is a low volume mask? Should I use a low volume mask for freediving?
A low volume mask is one that has less air inside it. Low volume masks are ideal for freediving. With less air inside the mask, a freediver will need to use less air from their lungs to equalize the mask at depth. Other advantageous features of a low volume mask for freediving is the increased visibility. By bringing the mask closer to the face, the field of vision increases. The lower internal volume also creates a more hydrodynamic shape for a freediver, thus reducing drag as the diver moves through the water. Some high-performance freediving masks alter the angle of the lenses to maximize the hydrodynamic performance.
What is the best mask for freediving?
The best mask for freediving is the one that makes you feel most comfortable underwater. The best freediving mask and snorkel will fit you perfectly. It won’t leave marks on your forehead or smoosh up under your nose. It won’t leak even on a rapid ascent. The lowest volume mask possible may be desirable, but if you have a broad brow that creates a pressure point against the mask, no five-star ratings will make up for that. Find the mask that works for you. If getting the perfect photograph is how you judge a good dive, then a black skirt that blocks the glare might be a high priority. If you can’t shake the feeling that your sight is hindered, a clear skirt may feel less claustrophobic to you. It’s all about preferences and priorities.
Can you freedive with a full face mask?
No. Full face masks should not be used for freediving. The best freediving masks are all low volume masks. Full face masks are, well, the exact opposite of that. They are not intended for any form of freediving. In fact, it is risky to try to freedive with a full mask. Full face masks can’t be equalized, prohibit the ability to practice safe surface breathing, and can create so much drag that they dislodge from the face during ascent. Full face masks are designed only for surface snorkeling.
How do you equalize when full face mask freediving?
As freedivers descend, the pressure increases around them, causing the negative air spaces to contract. To compensate, freedivers use the air held in their lungs to fill or equalize their ears, sinuses, and their masks. It is the primary reason a low volume dive mask is sought after for freediving. On the other hand, a full-face mask has a considerable volume and inhibits the equalization process in two ways. First, the nose cannot be pinched through the full-face glass—the most common way to equalize the ears and let a controlled amount of air into the mask. Second, the amount of air needed to be used to fill the large volume of space in a diving face mask would simply take too much from the lungs. There is not enough air leftover to oxygenate the diver. Therefore, free diving with a full-face mask is not recommended.
As always, we create our content with you – our fellow freedivers – in mind. So, how’d we do? Did this help you make a decision? Did we leave any great gear or discussion points out? We’d love to hear from you below.
Thanks for reading and we hope your next dive is a great one – Keep Diving Blue!