The function of a mask and snorkel hasn’t changed much in the last several decades. The mask provides an airspace between your eyes and the underwater world allowing you to see. The snorkel is a tube that lets you breathe on the surface. Today's mask and snorkels provide the same basic experience but with modern materials, designs and decades of evolution the equipment make diving and snorkelling much more enjoyable. With thinner, softer, silicone skirts more face shapes can have a watertight seal.
Lenses are made from tempered glass and can be incredibly clear as well as enhanced to greatly improve your underwater experience. Modern snorkels can seal when you dive underwater preventing water from entering. No need to remember to purge the snorkel on the way up or whale-like spouting at the surface. Fins utilize a variety of solutions to maximize efficiency and make kicking much less fatiguing. Things are more comfortable and simply work better making time in the water more enjoyable.
This is arguably your most important piece of equipment. It's your lens into the underwater world and can enhance your experience or make it a chore. Our goal at Fathom is to make masks you forget you’re wearing. Comfortable, clear and dry.
For a mask to be dry and watertight you need a skirt that is flexible and able to conform to your unique face shape. The only material you should consider is silicone. Silicone is flexible and maintains is flexibility for many years. PVC will be the other material found in masks not labelled as silicone. Manufacturers label their PVC masks with names like Silflex, Siltech, Sillyness, etc. Although PVC is much less expensive it isn’t as flexible nor will it maintain is flexibility, therefore, makes fitting different face shapes more difficult. We simply don’t think the trade-offs are worth the savings. All Fathom masks, even our recreational series masks and Jr. masks, use high-quality silicone skirts. Our Elite series utilize thinner, softer silicone skirts that make a very comfortable seal and ensures a great fit for the maximum amount of face shapes.
Skirts can also come in a variety of colours. Clear is what majority of masks have. Clear skirts allow light into the sides of the mask and offer a ‘bright’ experience. A clear skirt’s main disadvantage is in areas with a lot of bright sun, light coloured sand and shallow diving. Too much light comes in and you feel like you want sunglasses. Generally speaking, this is the exact description of where we want to be diving and snorkelling which is why coloured skirts are the choice of professionals. Coloured skirts only allow light in from your lens and are the choice of most experienced divers. Black skirts are the norm for coloured skirts and help focus your vision on the picture you see through your lenses. White is another colour we utilize as it allows for a nice blend of ‘brightness’ and focus that comes from non-clear skirts.
Material - For the choice of a lens we recommend only tempered glass. Tempered glass is the standard for all diving masks because of its clarity and increased safety. It's about four times stronger than regular glass. Plastic is the alternative and is only found in lower quality masks made for surface snorkelling. A plastic that scratches easily isn’t considered safe for diving and fogs easier than tempered glass. Fathom only uses plastic/polycarbonate lenses in our full-face masks as tempered glass isn’t currently an available option.
Lens Options and treatments
You can improve your underwater vision in a few ways. Standard tempered glass has a slightly greenish hue to it. A standard tempered glass is found in Fathom’s Recreation and Jr. series of masks. Its also found in virtually every other diving mask available.
Ultra-clear lenses, found in our Elite and Freedive series, have fewer impurities in the glass and no green hue, therefore offering the truest visual experience. Up to 92% of visible light gets through vs roughly 85% with standard tempered glass.
We also use anti-reflective coatings on some styles. These you can tell by their blue-ish hue when looked at from an angle. Anti-reflective coatings are metal oxides that reduce reflected light allowing for more light to come through the lens giving you the truest visual experience possible in a dive mask.
Lenses come in many shapes and sizes. Single lenses, double lenses, triple lenses, quadruple lenses, etc. It really comes down to personal preference and how you like the way the world looks when you are wearing the mask.
Most masks have two lenses and ideally, you want lenses that are either as large and funny looking as possible or as close to your eyes as possible (see mask volume below). By large, funny looking lenses we mean large lenses that drop down below your eye often referred to as a teardrop lens. The teardrop lens allows for a better downward view. And let’s face it, we’re looking down a lot underwater.
Some masks have side lenses that allow for greater peripheral vision and they work great.
Low volume and ultra-low volume masks have come on the scene over the last several years. Low volume means that the lenses will sit closer to your eyes. There is virtually no disadvantage to a low volume mask. By bringing the lens closer to your eyes, it increases your visibility without the need for larger, more expensive, lenses. Ultra-low volume masks are used primarily by free-divers and we currently do not offer a true ultra-low volume mask.
We believe low volume is the way to go and most of our masks are designed to sit closer to your eyes.
How do you know it fits? Fitting a mask is very simple. Put the mask on your face without the head strap and gently inhale through your nose. The mask should stay in place. Make sure your hair isn’t in the way and if you have a mustache, heavy whiskers or beard you’re most likely out of luck for a good seal. If you need to keep the facial hair you will need to be comfortable with leaking as there is no good solution other than shaving. See https://ca.movember.com/ for a good excuse to shave.
Snorkels are pretty straightforward. The primary features we recommend are fist off, having a silicone mouthpiece. Silicone is hypoallergenic, soft, comfortable and very durable. All Fathom snorkels, including Jr.’s, have silicones mouthpieces.
There are three primary types of snorkels. Dry, semi-dry and standard. We’re fans of the dry snorkel. Dry snorkels have a float that seals off the top of the snorkel when you dive underwater preventing any water coming in. We find it the most comfortable. Our dry snorkels utilize silicone gaskets to ensure the best seal for the longest time. Dry snorkels are not perfect though and you will find some water gets in. This is why a purge valve is located below the mouthpiece. It’s a one-way valve that allows water to escape from the bottom of the snorkel making it easy to clear. Almost all dry snorkels are set up this way.
Semi-dry snorkels deflect surface waves away from the top of the snorkel. It doesn’t seal and requires you to clear the snorkel when you surface. It too has a purge valve to make clearing easy. We include the semi-dry snorkel in our entry-level recreational mask and snorkel sets.
Lastly, standard J snorkels are a simple tube. No seal, no purge valve just good technique allows you to surface with an empty snorkel. Or, a strong blow that forces the water back up the tube. Many spearfishers and freedivers prefer the simplicity of the standard snorkel. There’s also nothing to go wrong. As well it’s common practice to not dive with the snorkel in your mouth when freediving so the advantages of a dry or semi-dry snorkel are lost.
Besides its dryness, another thing to consider is how the mouthpiece is connected to the breathing tube. We utilize a flexible silicone connector on our dry and semi-dry snorkels. This allows for less jaw fatigue as the mouthpiece can be positioned in the most comfortable position.
Today's fins have really come a long way since we first started diving. For one thing, they aren’t nearly as stiff and heavy as they used to be. Fins can be lumped into two main categories, open heel and closed heel designs. We prefer open heal designs with adjustable heel straps for most instances. Open heals allow for a wider variety of fits as well as being able to snug up a fin to your desired fit, tighter or looser depending on your preference. As well, it allows for more flexible footwear choices like neoprene socks or water shoes without the need to buy new fins. Closed heel fins are sized like shoes and need to fit snug with minimal movement. We recommend using neoprene socks with any closed heel fins and make sure you wear the socks when trying on the fins. The neoprene socks help to keep your feet warm, provides protection walking to and from the water and prevents blisters.
The size of the fin generally is dependent on what you're doing and what you're wearing. For snorkelling, a smaller surface area is acceptable compared to a fin for scuba diving. Scuba fins not only need to propel you but all the scuba gear attached to you. Scuba fins have larger surface areas because of this. Because we are currently appreciating being unencumbered we do not offer fins that we would consider appropriate for scuba diving. Travel fins are made smaller to be easier to fit in luggage and are suitable for most snorkelling endeavours.
We designed our travel fins to easily fit in a carryon and be as light as reasonably possible. Fins for freediving and spearfishing are long and graceful and are best for diving down deep, quickly and, most importantly, efficiently. We offer a medium flex that is a great all-around fin. There are soft, medium and stiff freediving fins. Once you get a whole bunch of dives under your belt and depending on your circle of friends you will eventually want to explore the options.
Fathom snorkelling fins incorporate a soft pocket in the middle that helps to direct and channel water to propel you more efficiently. We use this technology in our adult, children’s and travel fins. We aren’t alone doing this as most brands have found that incorporating a flexible centre area of split fins replicate the way marine life propel themselves and offers improved efficiency.
Full Face MasksThese great devices are relatively new on the scene and are making quite an impact. For very good reasons you will see them all over most major destination snorkelling locations around the world. For surface snorkelling, they are hard to beat, especially for recreational or first-time snorkelers. They have a huge lens that makes for an incredible view of the underwater world. They incorporate a snorkel that allows you to breathe through your mouth and nose which experienced divers find a bit odd but beginners find natural. The airflow created by these styles of mask prevents fogging. We use silicone skirts for all of our full-face masks in order to fit the widest range of face shapes. Our masks combine a dry snorkel for comfort.
Standard full-face masks like our Belize are only suitable for surface snorkelling. You can’t access your nose in order to equalize so even shallow dives are uncomfortable. The lenses are plastic and are not designed for diving.
Our second generation full face mask has incorporated features for added comfort and performance. The skirt is a gas-filled silicone skirt that lets us fit a huge amount of face shapes and sizes. We’ve separated the inhalation and exhalation breathing tubes which makes fogging almost non- existent. The snorkel has been extended to prevent surface waves from entering. We’ve added a soft pocket around the nose that allows you to equalize your ears in order to dive below the surface to explore a little deeper. We still recommend these only as a surface mask and not diving deeper than 4 meters. All in all, these are amazing surface snorkelling products that are a very comfortable way of seeing underwater. For anyone wanting to dive below the surface to explore regularly, traditional mask and snorkels are the way to go.
Care and MaintenanceThis one is fairly straightforward. At a minimum, rinse in clean fresh water and air dry in the shade. If possible, soak and wash in warm (not hot) soapy water. This helps remove anything like sunscreen, dirt and salt crystals. Rinse in clean fresh water. Air dry thoroughly in the shade before storage. Store in a cool, dry place where your gear won’t get squished.
For new masks and snorkels we recommend giving them a wash in soapy water (dish soap works fine), rinse well in clean fresh water and dry in the shade. Although all our lenses have an anti-fog treatment for best anti-fog results we recommend applying Gear Aid’s Sea Gold. This is an anti-fog gel that lasts longer than other treatments we’ve used. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.