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(The Gear Loop) - With travel restrictions lifting and the call of exotic locations proving too much for most, attentions are turned towards warmer climates and warmer waters. Taking a dip in crystal clear oceans is the dream scenario and it’s made all the more enjoyable if you can spend some time with the aquatic locals.

We’re huge fans of snorkelling here at The Gear Loop, as it’s a brilliant way to explore the underwater realm without lugging around cumbersome scuba kit or having to keep track of depths, dive limits and air pressure, or work out how to operate the complex diving function on your fancy new smartwatch

The Gear LoopThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures lifestyle photo 4

But there’s still one piece of kit that is absolutely essential, and that’s a dive mask. Seeing as it’s a fairly personal, low cost piece of equipment (do you really want to rely on the stinky rental bucket?), it makes sense to secure a mask of your own. One that fits correctly and packs the features that you need.

We jetted off the the Maldives (sorry, not sorry) to test six of the best masks we could muster, but if you need further tips on what to look out for when buying a new snorkel mask, scroll to the bottom of the page. 

Benjamin L. Jones/UnsplashThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures lifestyle photo 6

The best masks for snorkelling

AqualungThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 2

Aqualung Teknika Mask

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For 

  • Hi-tech design
  • Incredibly rugged

Against 

  • Opaque frame skirt may encourage claustrophobia 

First things first, the blurb states that this mask is designed for technical diving, but it’s a brilliant all-rounder, too.

The two-piece, shock-resistant frame is constructed using AISI 304 stainless steel (in other words, incredibly tough stuff that will resist seawater-related corrosion), and the frame itself is made from techno-polymer (a type of plastic that can withstand substantial mechanical stress). In short? It’s fantastically rugged. 

Struggle to keep your mask on in the water? This might just be your saviour. The extra-wide headpiece at the rear of the strap ensures it stays firmly in place and the joints between the mask and strap rotate on vertical and horizontal planes, for a fully customisable fit.

But our favourite aspect of the Teknika is the wide field of view, which means more time to admire your surroundings, and less chance of neck ache. 

ZoggsThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 6

Zoggs Reef Explorer Snorkel and Mask Set

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For

  • Unbeatable value
  • Snorkel package

Against

  • Strap could be more comfortable

This is sold as a set, so you’ll get a mask and snorkel, which might feel overly budget to some but we’re including it because it’s brilliant value, and the mask is a great option for beginners. 

The PVC skirt surrounding the frame does a great job of ensuring a watertight fit, backed up by a clear strap with an extra-wide section at the rear for additional security. 

A polycarbonate lens packs anti-fog protection, and the wide field of view is enhanced by the use of transparent materials for the skirt, too.

While opaque skirts can help to reduce eye fatigue, transparent options are often best for beginner snorkelers, who’ll be less likely to suffer long sessions in the water, while the reduced sense of claustrophobia generally makes things more comfortable.

ScubaproThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 5

Scubapro Synergy Twin Trufit Mask

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For

  • A fabulously comfortable fit
  • Fantastic watertight seal
  • Two skirts for fit and comfort

Against

  • You'll pay more

Our favourite feature of this mask is the skirt, which has a varying thickness (it’s quite noticeably thicker near the frame, and thinner in the areas that are in contact with the face) to provide a brilliantly watertight seal without any discomfort. 

It’s a great entry-level mask, but is also a fantastic choice for more experienced snorkelers and divers too. The push-button buckles make it easy to adjust the straps by tiny increments, and the buckles are attached to tabs on the skirt, meaning adjustments on the go won’t compromise the watertight seal.

The mirrored lenses also do a great job of reducing underwater glare for a crystal clear view and won't scare away marine life. 

AqualungThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 1

Aqualung Plazma Mask

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For 

  • Very light
  • Easy to store
  • Sturdy

Against

  • We'd like to see a thicker strap

Despite this mask’s incredible lightness, which comes courtesy of surgical-grade silicone and a frameless design that makes them easy to stash in the smallest of bags, this is some seriously sturdy protection. 

The Plazma features extra areas of reinforcement around the skirt to keep it firmly in place, along with pressure reduction areas on the face for an ultra-comfortable fit (post-snorkel black eyes are never a good look, after all). 

This mask is incredibly easy to adjust, thanks to a one-touch release mechanism that makes finding the most secure and comfortable fit a breeze, even when snorkelling in choppy conditions or when wearing neoprene gloves in colder climes.

CressiThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 3

Cressi Nano Mask

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For

  • Wonderfully easy to adjust
  • Works in choppy conditions
  • Great visibility

Against

  • It’s difficult to fault at this price

This is a high-tech mask originally designed with free-divers and spear-fishing folk in mind, but it’s a brilliant all-rounder and still a great option for snorkelers.

A hydro-dynamic shape helps underwater swimmers slice through the water, while swivelling buckles on the strap are designed to make micro-adjustments a breeze. 

It’s another incredibly tough mask, with some seriously heavy-duty hardware anchoring the straps to the frame, and a tempered glass lens that has less lens-face distance than most masks on the list for increased visibility. 

Despite all the clever tech, these goggles are incredibly lightweight (they weigh just 125g), thanks largely to single-piece frame construction.

The precisely angled lenses do a great job of improving downward visibility, too, which is perfect for checking out colourful deep sea creatures. 

ScubaproThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures product photo 4

Scubapro Zoom Mask

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For

  • Great value
  • Easy clearing
  • Lightweight

Against

  • Chunkier straps might not appeal to all snorkelers

Another mask with a fantastic price tag, the Zoom is one of the best we’ve seen at this budget.

Their low-volume design makes clearing the ultra-lightweight mask easy, and a brilliantly simple lens change system means you can swap out glass in a fews seconds. 

Users can opt for glare-resistant tinted versions or swap them out for prescription lenses, rather than having to wear contact lenses in the sea.

The strap is easy to adjust (although the mask is also compatible with Scubapro’s Comfort Straps) and a wide range of colours means you can co-ordinate your mask with other pieces of kit for maximum underwater style points. 

The Gear LoopThe best snorkel masks for underwater adventures lifestyle photo 5

What to look for in a snorkel mask

How deep is your love?

Free-diving and scuba masks tend to be designed for an optimal fit around the nose, allowing those who like to dive deep to perform iterations of the Valsava manoeuvre to equalise and reduce inner-ear pressure. Surface swimming models are also less likely to have specific stabilisation zones in the skirt, which are there to make masks more comfortable over deeper and longer dives.

Avoiding tunnel vision

Those new to snorkelling and diving can suffer easily suffer from claustrophobia or tunnel vision when wearing mask with a shallow field of vision and opaque skirt. These tend to be for spear-fishing, where blending in the surroundings and getting as close as possible to marine life is key, but perhaps isn’t so good for the uninitiated.

Flirt with numerous skirts

The skirt - the flexible material which surrounds the frame - is often overlooked, but it’s an incredibly important component, and one of the many reasons why it’s a good idea to try before you buy. The holy grail is a skirt that feels flexible and comfortable but which will still create a watertight seal around the face. Bear in mind that not all masks fit all faces, much like wetsuits and body shapes, so try a few to find the most comfortable. 

Under pressure 

Don’t forget to think about the strap. Look for one that is easily adjustable - ideally with joints that rotate both vertically and horizontally - and one that packs a wide headpiece at the rear to ensure a tight fit, but one that also spreads pressure evenly across the skull. 

Writing by Tamara Hinson. Editing by Leon Poultney.