Diving Masks for Underwater Caving: A Complete Buying Guide

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at www.caves.org or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

For freediving or cave diving, a proper diving mask is understandably a crucial piece of life support gear. It is vital to a successful dive not just for protection, but because it acts as an optimal viewing platform when you are in the darkest and deepest corners of the underwater caves.

In this guide, you will learn how to find a cave diving mask that is right for you and enhance your time in the water. We have covered the fundamental points that not only help you in understanding the terminologies of the mask but also explain why it is often a matter of preference.

How to Use Your Diving Mask

A man in a diving mask with only his head above water.

Learning the components and usage of the diving mask is essential.

Before buying a mask, consider joining diving classes to see how the masks actually work. This will help you make a more informed decision. When you learn about how the human eye focuses on water, the process by which the mask seals to your face and provides a tight air pocket, and consider the movement changes according to variations in pressure at different depths, buying a diving mask becomes a different task entirely. You will start comprehending what many of the foreign features in the description mean as well.

Besides understanding what you’re buying, in diving classes, the professional instructors teach you the best method to use them. This tells you a lot regarding the specific features of the mask. You know what to look for exactly. Some things you might come across include shaped lens angle, tempered glass, and feathered (double) skirt.

A diving mask is one of those products in which you value the functionality more than the design and looks. If the components aren’t good and don’t help underwater, the mask is worthless. So keep in mind that many of the vital features included in a good mask deserve proper inspection and testing, and this is impossible without some fundamental knowledge that instructors can provide.

Brands Don’t Matter…That Much

It doesn’t matter what some experts say; we believe brand names don’t matter in this game.

Cave diving masks are mostly developed by major professional manufacturers. Divers from all walks of life know their names too, and so you often find a reliable and quality product from a well-respected brand, such as Cressi, Scubapro, and Aqua Lung.

There are many other quality brands as well that create whole cave diving equipment for their customers. They understand the idea behind all the various diving terminologies and create their products according to them.

As aforementioned, it doesn’t matter what brand or type of mask you are buying for the most part; the thing that matters most is how the mask fits your face. If it fits you well and if it is comfortable, it is probably the best mask for you. This is important because every face is different. If a mask is getting A++ ratings and carries a high price tag, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to fulfill your diving needs too. It may be uncomfortable or have features that aren’t even necessary for your particular diving adventure.

On the other hand, some economical cave diving masks can gently fit on your face in their proper position and work better than expensive models. 

For that reason, don’t be overwhelmed or easily impressed when shopping for a diving mask.

We know you will be greeted with a variety of options from famous brands, but always consider the features of your face first and assess which mask can take you underwater safely, above anything else.

Comfort & Fit

A blue framed and transparent scuba diving mask.

For this tip, you need to properly assess the components of the diving mask you’re considering. This will assist you in understanding the description of the product and checking which model can fit your face properly. If you are buying it online, you won’t have the option to put it on your face first.

The first thing you have to check for comfort and fit is the ‘Skirt’ part.

The skirt is the seal between you and the mask. Its basic purpose is to equalize the internal pressure of the air. It often encloses the nose so that you can exhale through the nose easily without creating any kind of pressure.

But the color of the skirt plays a significant role also, and unfortunately, most divers don’t know about this. They associate it with the mask internal pressure only.

The light color of the skirt indicates you will have peripheral vision, whereas dark color increases the vision. The dark color is great for those who deal with claustrophobia symptoms. They feel more calm when their vision is clear. In many underwater caves, you will feel enclosed due to the darkness even if you are in a relatively open area. Underwater photographers prefer the dark color skirt also as it increases light; it gives them a clear perception of their surroundings.

Straps are also important when it comes to comfort. Rubber and silicone are the most common materials in straps as they don’t slip inside the water and keep your mask in a correct position.

How to know which diving mask fits you properly?

Masks are designed for all types of faces. It can be tough to decide which masks fit you properly especially if you are buying it online; the only way you have is to trust the positive reviews and description. After buying the mask, there are a few steps you can follow to see if it fits you well. For example, touch it to your face. Ideally, it should touch all around your face at the same time; this shows the mask is perfect and fits fine.

It is very important, while putting the mask on, not to inhale through the nose, which forces the mask seals to touch if they didn’t naturally. Note that if the inner seal is not touching your face, it may be a problem. The outer seal might protect you from water leaking in, but if both seals don’t touch, it may not be as successful. Also, make sure the inner and outer seals do not cut across your hairline, or your eyebrows.

Inhaling and exhaling are another great method that tells you which mask is right for you. Place the mask on your face and inhale; if it creates a vacuum and the mask stays on your face without any straps and removes automatically when you exhale, it is a sign you have found the best size and design for you.

Mask Types

The type of mask can greatly influence the comfort of your dive.

Some most popular mask types you will likely encounter are:

Single Pane Lens… This mask gives you an unobstructed view of the underwater world. They are the upgraded versions of their vintage counterparts. It feels like there is a fashion sense behind their creation as well, which is why experts call it a modern mask type. The biggest advantage of this type is you have lenses on both sides of your face that allow you to sense the movement around you. In other words, you have a wider range of vision.

Double Pane Lens… The only difference between a single pane lens and a double pane lens is the double pane lens has 2 lenses in the front instead of one. This increases the field of view and works quite well for close-range operations. If your sole purpose is to explore the walls of the underwater caves, especially more enclosed areas, you should get a double pane lens mask.

Full Face Mask… Commercial and professional divers love the full face mask. It contributes to an airy feel by covering the whole face of the diver. Calling it the most advanced version of diving masks is correct. It has a mouthpiece that allows the diver to breathe and explore the deepest corners of the underwater world without any trouble. This mask is often used with a diving tank, and it also gives you the ability to talk with your team. This is vital for some cave divers.

A man raising his arm while treading water, wearing a full face diving mask.

How do you choose the right mask with clear vision?

Many people think the number of lenses plays a significant role in providing clear vision. This isn’t true and you shouldn’t associate the quality of vision with the lenses option or type. The vision solely counts on the quality of glass or plastic. Just remember that if the glass or plastic looks cloudy and not crystal clear, don’t buy it. Any flaw or visual impairment like blurriness will magnify a lot once you are underwater. You will face visual distortion that will make it tough for you to dive and explore the depths safely.

Manufacturers often mention the ‘field of view’ term to define the vision. This term isn’t about vision quality. It is more about what field of view it supports more. For instance, if it gives you a better vertical field of view, it indicates you can look up and down comfortably due to the angle of the lens. But if a mask talks about a side-to-side field of view, it means you can see what’s happening around you on a horizontal level. The horizontal field of view helps greatly in the tight passages of the cave, but depending on the cave, you may want a little of both.

Can we use a snorkeling mask for cave diving?

No, you cannot use a snorkeling mask for cave diving, since you typically don’t know what kind of depth you are going to explore. The thrill can compel you to dive deeper and deeper, and it can become deadly before you realize, if you have the wrong equipment. Exceeding the depth limit with a snorkeling mask isn’t recommended at all even if you know the conditions under which you are diving. However, a scuba mask works rather well for cave diving. It suits different diving styles and gives you a thousand times better vision.

Two people swim underwater wearing full face snorkeling masks.

Diving Mask Features

What special features should I look for?

A good cave diving mask has 4-5 special features, such as an enclosed nose and shaped lens panel.

The enclosed nose feature is great for pressure changes. It doesn’t matter whether you are diving vertically or horizontally, it keeps the pressure constant inside the mask and allows you to adjust according to pressure changes, whereas the shaped lens panel is solely for your vision. In underwater caves, it gives you maximum viewing angle; you can see up and down and side to side easily.

Also, make sure you are getting tempered glass instead of plastic. The tempered glass in a mask is known for providing a clear vision in underwater caves.

The only drawback of tempered glass is it can become hazardous if it is accidentally broken. On the other hand, if the plastic material is of good quality, it is fine. But standard plastic materials create fogs; it can be tough to dive with them.

Are there any optional features in a diving mask?

Yes, you can look for some optional features like the ‘Purge Valve’. The purge valve is specifically designed to blow the water out of the mask. This feature is mostly available in the full-face models. If you think the leakage is going to annoy you or create trouble for you once you are inside water, buy a cave diving mask with a purge valve. It is going to help you and keep your diving stress-free. Apart from that, some brands give you the freedom to use special lenses too if you wear glasses or use contacts.

Other Diving Mask Questions

Can water leak into the mask?

Water leakage is a quite common situation. Even if you have the best mask, water can leak into it. Sometimes it happens due to the movement of the facial muscles or the impact of an external object. In some cases, a change in the pressure while diving can cause the water to enter inside the mask too. Fortunately, in these situations, exhaling through your nose can drive the water out along the bottom edge of the skirt. But if the water is leaking because of poor fit and interfering with your vision, you have to change your mask. Otherwise, it will keep on leaking and dislodging. A few brands have purge valves; this optional feature assists in clearing your drive mask if it floods out.

A man poses underwater with a diving mask on.

What are some common drawbacks of cave diving masks?

There are several drawbacks or common complaints with diving masks. These include leakage complaints, longer straps, lenses being too close to the face, the mask pressing hard against your forehead, fogging during exhaling, bulkiness, small nose area, low-quality stitching, and tough adjustment. All these negative factors can be presented even in the expensive models. So, it’s best to try them on, compare the features and potential discomfort between two or more models, and make an informed decision. Ultimately, if you settle with a mask that fits well, feels comfortable, and is rated well, you should not have any serious complaints when you put it to the test.

How much does a diving mask cost?

The cost of a good diving mask depends on the brand and features. Full face masks are often more expensive than the standard ones since they have more features and work with efficacy inside the deepest pockets of the underwater caves. A basic quality mask can cost around $50, but if you are looking for a top range mask with top-notch features, you might have to pay $100 or more. But before emptying your wallet, try to learn and understand the terminologies and functions of the mask. This will be immensely helpful in understanding the differences between different models.


A good fit is always paramount; you can compromise on other features but not on how it fits your face. So, consider all these above factors when shopping for your next cave diving mask. If you have other questions that weren’t covered in this buying guide, please let us know so we can do something to include it where we can. We hope to make your buying experience as straightforward as possible, so remember – there are no stupid questions!

Be sure to check out Diving Cylinder Buying Guide as well, as you will probably want a good source of oxygen soon after choosing your mask. And when you’re ready to purchase a mask, you may find the one you need on our Top 5 Diving Masks Review.

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