I’ve been snorkeling since I was 8 years old and I’ve owned and used a lot of different kinds of masks. I know what I like and what I don’t, which is why I always travel with my own snorkel mask (and often a backup just in case). FYI, snorkel mask, snorkeling mask and diving mask will be used interchangeably throughout this article because, if you’re buying quality, you will essentially be browsing and choosing from among the same masks.
If snorkeling is a big part of your travel and you are serious about doing it right, you will want to invest in a good mask (preferably two, there’s nothing worse than being stuck without a mask).
Winner of the Best Snorkel Mask Overall: SeaDive Eagleye RayBlocker HD Mask
The winner of Best Overall Snorkel Mask, for me, is the SeaDive Eagleye RayBlocker HD Mask. It has everything you want in a high-quality snorkel mask–silicone, tempered glass, panoramic view–but what really makes this the best is the UV and red light filter.
If you snorkel a lot in the tropics, like me, and you like to dive down to check out reef life, you will notice that everything starts to look blue and green past a certain depth. That’s because the deeper you go, the more red light the water absorbs, meaning you stop seeing reds, oranges, yellows and greens as you descend. This is why a lot of deep-sea animals are red in color–animals that are red actually appear black, meaning they are less visible to predators (and prey).
The SeaDive Eagleye Rayblocker has a red light filter that allows you to better see coral and other sea life in the amazing technicolour you were meant to see it in.
While this is definitely the best snorkel mask on the market for the money, I’ve also covered several other great high-quality masks in this article that are great options for specific use cases. They are:
- Best Budget Diving Mask: Phantom Aquatics Classic Black Mask and Snorkel
- Best Snorkel Mask for Kids: Cressi MAREA JR
- Best Backup Mask: Phantom Aquatics Rapido Boutique Collection Clareza Panoramic Three Window
- Best Snorkel Mask for Larger Faces: Cressi Z1
- Best Snorkel Mask for Smaller Faces (great for women): TUSA TM-5700 Liberator Plus Scuba Diving Mask
- Best Snorkel Mask for Free Diving and Spearfishing: Scubapro Solo
Best Budget Diving Mask: Phantom Aquatics Classic Black Mask and Snorkel
This is a mask that I’ve used on and off since 2015 and, other than having to change the strap once in that time, this is a solid little budget snorkel mask that I have taken with me around the world. I’ve packed it in both checked and carry-on luggage, dropped it, lent it to friends and family, left it out in the sun, forgot to rinse it off–basically everything you’re not supposed to do with a snorkel mask–and it is still going strong.
If you are serious about snorkeling but aren’t looking to spend a lot of money (and you don’t need bells and whistles like purges and color correction), then this is an exceptionally good snorkel/diving mask.
It’s got tempered safety glass, a double feathered edge silicone skirt for constant comfort, a malleable and easy-to-squeeze nose well for simple equalization, a single-pane panoramic field of view that lets you take in everything underwater, and is low volume, so it sits close to your face and reduces drag in the water.
This kit also comes with a snorkel (all for under $50). I’ve bought this mask for newbies who have only ever used cheap plastic junk that you often get on day snorkeling trips in SE Asia or the Caribbean and they can’t believe how much clearer, more comfortable and easy to swim with this mask is.
To be fair, even the best snorkel masks out there are going to fog to some degree and you have to apply an anti-fog treatment to them before snorkeling or diving or you are going to deal with visibility issues.
Best Snorkel Mask for Kids: Cressi MAREA JR
The best snorkel mask for kids that is both age-appropriate and high-quality is the Cressi MAREA JR. It has everything you would want in an adult snorkel mask–tempered glass, a double feathered silicone skirt, a durable and easy-to-adjust strap and a soft nose pocket–only tyke-sized.
Kids get a wide field of view so that they are able to see and enjoy all of the underwater sights, the lenses are anti-UV, so kids’ eyes are protected, and the silicone strap and skirt keep sensitive faces comfortable and happy.
This is the best snorkel mask for kids because you get Cressi quality at an affordable price (the mask is quite a bit smaller than an adult mask) and it comes in six different color combinations so that kids can personalize their snorkel mask to suit them.
I will always have a special place in my heart for snorkeling masks from Phantom Aquatics, even if they aren’t the top of the market, because they’ve served me so well over the years.
When I say “backup mask” I’m referring to the mask you will use in the event that your main snorkel mask is unusable. Either the glass has cracked, the seals have broken, the strap has broken or, perhaps, you’ve lost it. Maybe you want to be the kind stranger on a dive or snorkel trip who comes up big for someone who is dealing with their own primary mask issues.
Either way, the Clareza is everything you would want in a backup mask. You get Phantom Aquatics reliability and design, along with all of the standard quality mask features–including silicone skirts, tempered glass, low volume design, good seal, and the tri-window design gives you a better field of vision than even some of the more pricey snorkel masks.
It also comes in a ton of different color options (if that matters to you). For under $30 (depending on where and when you pick it up), this is a fantastic backup snorkeling mask that even experienced snorkelers and divers would be happy to have as a just-in-case.
Best Snorkel Mask for Larger Faces: Cressi Z1
No one face is the same, and different-sized faces demand different-sized snorkel masks. The best snorkel mask for larger faces is the Cressi Z1. The Z1 is a Cressi classic, beloved by divers and snorkelers around the world. It’s simple, elegant, well made and well priced.
The Z1, like most of the masks on the list, is frameless with a wide field of vision, has the silicone skirt that is necessary for comfort while snorkeling or diving, uses tempered glass and has an easy-to-adjust buckle that lets you make changes on the fly.
Best Snorkel Mask for Smaller Faces (great for women): TUSA TM-5700 Liberator Plus Scuba Diving Mask
Tusa has been making some of the best snorkel masks on the market since 1952 and the Liberator Plus has been the first choice among a lot of divers for a while now. The durable polycarbonate frame is impact-resistant and the silicone skirt provides the comfort you would expect from a professional quality snorkeling mask.
Best Snorkel Mask for Free Diving and Spearfishing: Scubapro Solo
For me, free diving and snorkeling tend to blend into one another because I really like to dive down 10+ metres to check things out and shoot video. A snorkel mask can be a snorkeling, freediving and diving mask, depending on the quality and some other variables, and the Scubapro Solo checks off all the boxes.
The ScubaPro Solo has the silicone skirt that you absolutely need if you’re free diving. Plastic around the eyes, nose and mouth simply digs in far too much to be comfortable when you are down past a few metres.
It is also low profile, so it limits your drag while descending and ascending (essential for freediving) and the frameless single lens gives you a great, extra-wide field of view so that you can see everything around you (both prey and potential predators).
This is what I mean when I say predators.
I know spearfishermen who swear by tinted, color-corrected lenses while spearfishing because you can see fish and your surroundings more clearly. However, studies have been done which purport to show that eye contact is an important part of shark safety while snorkeling, diving or spearfishing in areas with potentially dangerous sharks–whites, bulls, oceanic whitetips–and that sharks are actually more likely to come in close to you if they can’t see your eyes.
I like the ScubaPro Solo because you get both a very wide field of vision, a great fit and your eyes are super visible through the crystal clear lenses.
What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Snorkeling Mask List
- First off, I avoided full face masks. I don’t like them, and they are potentially quite dangerous if the manufacturer hasn’t done things like ensure the mask has a one-way breathing system and put one-way valves in both the snorkel and mask.
- Second, no hard plastic lenses. If you go to a big box store to buy your snorkel mask, you might notice that the available sets have hard plastic lenses. Cheap plastic lenses scratch easily, can warp over time and start letting water in and generally are not durable. You pay more for tempered glass, but those are the best snorkel masks out there.
- No hard plastic inner frame. The outer part of the frame of a snorkel mask is usually some combination of hard plastic and rubber, and that’s fine. What you don’t want and what I would never recommend is a hard plastic inner frame. You want silicone around your eyes, mouth and nose, otherwise, it’s going to hurt over time, especially from the pressure if you’re diving down.
My Main Criteria When Choosing a Snorkel Mask For Myself
When I’m trying to choose the best snorkel mask for myself or as a gift for someone else, there are a handful of criteria that I always abide by and, so far, it hasn’t steered me wrong.
- Wide field of vision. I always want a wide field of vision because I want to be able to see as much of what is going on around me as I can. I want to know if there are any cool critters in the vicinity that I can check out and, conversely, I want to know if there is anything I should avoid (other snorkelers/divers, potentially dangerous or unpleasant animals).
- Color correction/filtration. As previously mentioned, if you are a serious snorkeler that combines some free diving, the deeper you dive, the more color you lose. This is because red light is the first wavelength to disperse in deep water. This is why the best snorkel mask, for me, is one with a red light filter that lets me see all of the beautiful, vibrant colors underwater.
- Silicone skirt. This is really non-negotiable in a snorkel mask, especially if you also use your mask for diving and freediving. Hard plastic is going to dig into your face (unbearably once you reach a certain depth/pressure).
- Low volume. A low-volume snorkeling mask is essential because it means that it’s easy to clear. Whether you are diving or snorkeling, at some point your mask will let in some water and you are going to have to clear it (if you’ve taken a scuba diving course, you know how to clear your mask underwater).
- Enclosed nose. I haven’t seen an open-nose snorkel mask in a long time, but I would never buy one because it just increases the odds that you accidentally inhale water through your nose while snorkeling.
- Wide head-strap and easy-to-adjust buckles. I much prefer a wide head strap because more surface area on your head means less digging. I also like easy-to-adjust buckles because sometimes you need to make adjustments on the fly. It’s nice to be able to quickly tighten or loosen your straps without having to stop what you’re doing.
Snorkel Mask Styles
The best snorkel mask for you is going to depend on the style you are most comfortable with. There are several different common mask styles that the different manufacturers make, and some divers and snorkelers swear by one over another.
Two-Window Snorkel Masks. A two-window snorkeling mask is one in which a piece of plastic separates two distinct lenses. These masks usually have a nice, low profile, which means they sit quite close to your face, meaning they tend to be easier to clear should you need to expel water. An important consideration when looking at two-window masks is whether the plastic divider puts pressure on the bridge of your nose.
Side Window Masks. A Side window snorkel mask is that which has two extra small panes on either side of the main lens. They allow for an expanded field of vision and let more light into the mask. They do, however, tend to be a bit larger than the average mask, which means they require some more effort to clear.
Single Window Mask. A single-window mask is, for me, the best snorkel mask style because I find the plastic lens divider distracting. Single window masks tend to be the most widely used mask styles in dive shops and liveaboards because they maximize comfort and field of view.
Prescription Lens Mask. This one is pretty straightforward. If you are an avid snorkeler and wear corrective lenses or contacts, you know how annoying it is to have to be constantly washing your hands, prepping contacts and putting your fingers in your eyes. Thankfully, you can get prescription lens masks that use your glasses or contacts prescription, which means less rigamarole to get in the water.
Color Correcting Mask. We’ve touched on this a couple of times now, but color correction is a nice feature to have in a snorkel mask if you are also a diver/free diver because the deeper you go, the more red light you lose. A red light filter will allow you to see light wavelengths and colors that would otherwise be diffused by the water.
Built-in Purge Valve. Masks with built-in purge valves have small mechanisms near or on the nose that makes getting rid of water easier. I’m on the fence when it comes to built-in purge valves in masks. On the one hand, yes, clearing water is more effortless. For this reason, this is often the preferred best snorkel mask for people who also dive. On the other hand, if the valve breaks, the mask can flood, which can end a dive or a snorkeling session right quick.
Reasons To Bring Your Own Snorkel Mask When Traveling
If you’re a serious snorkeler, you probably don’t want to be stuck using someone else’s mask. If you’re staying at a serious dive resort or are on a liveaboard, you will probably have access to quality gear. Even still, I always feel much better when I know that I’ve purchased a snorkel mask that is right for my face and preferences.
If, on the other hand, you are staying at a hotel or relying on beach shack snorkel gear rentals, the risk is high that you are going to be stuck with straight-up crap. The people that this gear is meant for probably don’t take snorkeling seriously (otherwise they’d have their own stuff), likely won’t complain too much, and probably won’t be putting the mask through its paces enough to understand why you want something like the gear I’ve included on this list.
Looking After Your Snorkel Mask
Even the best snorkel mask is going to suffer wear and tear and you will shorten its useful life if you don’t give it some TLC. Looking after a snorkel mask involves similar care to what you’d give to other snorkel gear.
- Rinse a mask with cold fresh water to get the salt off it
- Store it out of direct sunlight because UV rays are damaging
- Don’t store in glass down to avoid breaking or scratching the lenses
In addition to the above care tips, if you want to get the most out of your mask, there are a couple of other things you should consider doing.
1) The lighter trick. The lighter trick involves carefully burning off the thin, transparent layer of silicone covering your tempered glass that is left over from the manufacturing process. Basically you hold your mask upside down in one hand and then, with a lighter, allow the flame to lick the inside of the glass. Check out this tutorial below.
2) Baby shampoo defogging. I’ve used a wide range of off-the-shelf defogging agents as well as DIY recommendations like toothpaste and dish soap, and I’ve found that the best defogger and the one most benign for the environment is some good old Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. Apply a very thin layer to your mask before jumping in the water, give it a quick rinse, and you should be fog free at least for a few hours.
Why Investing in a Good Quality Snorkel Mask Makes Sense
From my own personal experience and from the hundreds of reviews I read while compiling this list, it’s pretty clear that if you invest in a good quality diving/snorkeling mask, and you look after it properly, it will last for a long time.
Companies like ScubaPro, Cressi, Tusa and Phantom Aquatics are so well respected in the dive sport industry because they carefully make great products.
Another reason to invest in quality is that cheaping out when it comes to a snorkeling or diving masks (or any gear for that matter) is bound to leave you extremely disappointed. There is nothing more demoralizing than gearing up for an amazing underwater experience, only to spend the entire time uncomfortable because a hard plastic frame is digging into your nose, or because a cheaply sealed lens is continuously leaking.
Get a snorkel mask that fits well, is comfortable, is made with quality materials and is manufactured by a storied diving brand and maximize your enjoyment underwater.
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