To the outside observer, snorkeling and scuba diving masks are no different from one another. But there are subtle variations that make a world of difference, especially underwater. Choose the best mask for you aquatic adventures by understanding how snorkeling and scuba diving masks stack up.
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The biggest difference between a snorkeling mask and a scuba diving mask is build quality. Masks made for scuba diving are made from much higher quality materials and subjected to more scrutinizing tests because they must keep out water at much greater depths. The deeper you go, the more pressure there is pushing water into the mask. With a snorkeling mask, pressure is greatly reduced, and if there is a problem you are never far from the surface. Mask problems for scuba divers are very dangerous if it restricts a diver's ability to see his environment and his gauges.
A scuba diving mask is made from high-quality silicon and tempered glass. High-quality silicon is soft and durable, provides a tight seal to a diver's face, won't dry out after use and can take years of abuse. Tempered glass is the best material for discouraging fogging in the mask and is safer than normal glass, because it will not shatter. Snorkeling masks are available in several more affordable materials and they may use a simple rubber and plastic lens materials that prove adequate in limited, shallow water uses.
Because scuba masks are made with better quality materials, they are much more expensive. Scuba diving masks typically cost between $30 and $120. However, there are scuba diving masks that cost more than $1,000 and feature integrated dive computers. Snorkeling masks can run from $10 to $40. You can save money on scuba masks and snorkeling masks by purchasing from online discount dealers or by choosing last year's models.
The last thing to consider is the importance of fit between scuba masks and snorkeling masks. A mask that fits well will work for snorkeling, but for scuba diving you need a mask that fits perfectly. The smallest imperfection in fit will send streams of water into your mask whenever you dive. To find the best fit for scuba diving or snorkeling, press the mask to your face without using the head strap and inhale. If the mask holds to your face, then it fits. If it does not hold, keep searching.