Wear Glasses? You have options, see below...
We get a good number of folks asking us about a prescription snorkel mask. What do you do if you wear glasses?
In particular nobody really wants to spend the large $250+ investment that a custom RX mask costs.
Fortunately there are some corrected lens mask options for less than a $100. Here we will explain all your options, give you some ideas of prices, and point you to some good resources for where to get what you need.
First, just let me say that if you wear glasses, you really do need to find a solution that is going to work. Because the underwater world is just too beautiful to miss.
Second, we highly recommend that you reconsider contact lenses over a prescription snorkel mask. We believe contacts to be the very best solution, and we will go into all the reasons below.
But for now, let's assume you are set on getting a prescription snorkel mask. So what are your options?
Let's start with the more expensive and custom options.
Option #1 Bonded Corrective Lenses
The first option is called a bonded lens. A bonded lens is a corrective lens that is glued to the inside of your dive mask lens. Essentially you give a local dive shop your mask and glasses prescription. They send it off and a company grinds a lens to your specs, and cuts it to the basic shape of your mask lens, and uses a special glue to bond it inside your mask. It will likely take from a week to ten days. The pricing is very similar to the cost of regular prescription lenses, running up to around $180 for a basic lens (not bifocal, etc).
The good thing about this method is the price is a bit lower than the custom lens method below.
The bad things about this method are:
- The lenses may not be exactly the same shape as your mask lens, meaning you may not have a full field of view.
- Added weight, combining the new lens with your existing lens.
- For some very strong prescriptions and astigmatism, it may not work.
Option #2 Custom Prescription Lenses
This method is similar to the bonded, but the entire lens of your mask is replaced with a piece of glass that is custom ground to your prescription. This method costs more, but generally gives superior results and is better for very strong prescriptions. It has the added benefit of being a perfect fit, and will weigh less. You can also choose high quality plastic lenses that are very strong and much lighter weight. Expect a custom mask and lenses to cost you from $250 to $300.
Sea Vision is a popular company that provides this service.
And this forum conversation talks about the differences between bonded lenses and custom cut, particularly for folks with an astigmatism.
With either of the above two methods, bonded or custom prescription snorkel mask, the lens is made specifically to your eyes, including measuring where your pupils are, something that is missing from the next option.
#3 Drop In Lens Mask
Fortunately there is a newer good alternative to having custom lenses made. There are a range of masks that are designed to have their lenses easily removed, and to drop in pre-made corrected lenses. You can buy these and do it yourself based on knowing what your prescription is. Generally speaking this method is not as good for people with very strong prescriptions or astigmatisms, although there are some bifocal options available.
The benefit to this method is that it costs much less. You can get into a prescription snorkel mask for less than $70.
For example the very popular mask, the Tusa Liberator Plus, is corrective lens compatible. The mask fits many people, costs about $50, and it costs only about $40 per lens for corrective lenses. So for only $130 you get a corrected mask. And if you already own a mask that is compatible, all the better.
At right is an optically corrected mask from Amazon.com with drop in lenses and bifocal options for less than $70.
It is better to test a mask before buying it, but you could try this before your trip and if it fits great, if not return it.
Choosing Your Prescription
One of our site visitors had the problem that his prescription for one eye was 7.25, but drop in lenses only come in half steps. So he asked if he should go with 7, or 7.5. The correct choice is to go lower than your prescription, in his case 7. Using a prescription that is too high can cause eye strain and headaches.
All of the above solutions are to solve distance sight problems. But if you are far sighted, and only need help with close things, you can purchase ready made "reading glasses", that stick inside your mask. These are small little circles that sit at the bottom of your mask. Here is one option. These are more often used by divers who can't read their dive computers and gauges, but it could help a snorkeler also.
Rent a Prescription Snorkeling Mask
If you don't plan on using it a bunch, then renting an optically corrected mask is probably a great option. We know that many snorkel rental equipment companies in Hawaii rent, and many dive shops around the world do also.
Our Top Suggestion - Wear Contact Lenses
Galen has some terrible eye sight. And for him the very best solution is to wear contacts. Why?
- Perfect vision in the water. Unless you pay for custom cut lenses for your mask, your lenses will not be designed for your eyes, and will not be as good as contacts.
- Perfect vision out of the water. Think about that one. If you have poor vision, you will have to wear your mask until you can get your glasses on. What happens when it fogs up in the sun?
- Less weight. Remember when you had those old style glasses that were huge? Remember how heavy they were? Because the stronger your prescription, the thicker the glasses need to be at the edges, hence the term Coke Bottles. Well, dive masks are big glasses, and so a strong prescription can have a lot of heavy glass.
Some Misconceptions About Contacts & Snorkeling
- They Will Wash Out - In all the years Galen has snorkeled, hundreds of times in the water, he has never lost a contact. In fact when splashed the contacts tend to cling on tighter. And if one washes away, backups are cheap. He always brings many pairs on a trip.
- They Are Uncomfortable - Years ago contacts were uncomfortable. But have you tried some of the new soft contacts these days? They are amazingly comfortable. You might be surprised.
You can also choose to just wear your glasses inside your mask
Believe it or not there are many people who have modified a spare pair of their glasses so that they would fit inside their snorkeling mask. This was mostly in the past before lower cost options appeared.