Tolga K.'s Mask Guide Spring 2006
What to look for in a mask (Most Important to Least in my opinion):
Remember that before you buy any mask, find a way to try it on. This is an absolute must.
The lens should be secure in the mask and not easily moved around. Same goes for the sides and the "grill." If the strap has any potential of coming loose, don't even consider buying it. Make sure it has enough protection too keep paint from hitting your jaw or temple. A shot to the temple has the potential to knock you out or even kill you. Masks come in all shapes and sizes so those of you with big heads (like yours truly) really need to check this out. The last thing you want to do is buy a mask for its reputation only to find that it doesn't cover your sensitive areas.
If the mask squeezes your head or the foam can shred your skin off, don't buy it. Wear something that has soft foam and that can fit snugly. When trying on a mask, do it with any headgear that you play with. Also, ALL of the foam around the lens should contact your face for proper fit, if it doesn't work out, raise or lower the strap to figure out where it should be. I find that I'm most comfortable with a backwards Flexfit hat on. It puts the strap where it needs to be and keeps my hair out of the goggles. If you wear glasses under your mask, avoid double pane lenses (unless you want to take the thermal pane out) because glasses wont fit under most of those.
Optical Clarity and Fogging:
In paintball, the most important sense you have is sight. You'll never hit an enemy without knowing exactly where he is (or just rare cases of luck). Having a mask with a variety of good lenses available to you is very important. Airflow behind the lens should come from the outside and the area should be separated from the bottom half to prevent moist air from getting up behind the lens and fogging it. Yes there's foam on all masks (except the V-force Vantage rental version), but if you look at the nose area on your masks, many will have vents that allow moist air to come up from your mouth.
The field of vision should be a factor too. Some masks only allow a small range to be seen without turning your head. This doesn't help in looking for people but just knowing your distance from a bunker or where your comrades beside you are.
Breathing, Speaking and Hearing:
This all has to do with the ventalation around the ears and lower half of the mask. When at the store, take a buddy with you. When you try on the mask, ask him to talk to you and also talk to him to see how well the sound travels. You'll also want to try breathing heavily or with short, quick breaths to see how it feels. If the mask slows your breath down enough so that you will have to struggle to breather during these tests, don't buy it. A lot of masks have huge holes (like the old Scott mask that used to come in the 98 Custom power pack, but they do no good.
Quick Change Lens:
More masks these days allow you to change out a lens in just seconds. This is not just some novelty, it really helps. The best thing about it is how it helps in cleaning the goggles. My lens is double pane so I really don't want to risk getting water in the unreachable part by drenching it. To clean, all you have to do is remove the lens and (though it is not recommended) dunk the mask for a few seconds. If you get shot in the lens in a game, the best way to clean it (afterward) is to take it out of the frame so that you can get every corner and clean out those places on the mask that could be holding paint from the impact. If the lens cracks, or you need to change from a tinted to non-tinted lens, you can do it before the next game starts.
Light is obviously better. You should be able to hold your head up without fatigue and be able to quickly look to the right or left.
You want it to be slim but not to the point where the mask is actually touching your face. In some parts it's inevitable but if it's in front of your mouth where it's touching, forget it. Nobody wants to go home with a bloody lip.
Make sure it covers all of your parts. Some people with larger heads find that their chins stick out below the mask. For example, I can't fit in a JT Proteus. No part of your ears or jaws should be exposed. If you can't stand forhead shots, make sure it has a visor or at least a brow shield. If you have to sacrifice profile for a bit more coverage, do it. You don't want to risk your temple or something just because the mask has a less of a chance of getting hit.
If you have a stock or something on your gun, bring it. You never know if that mask will fit with a stock or not.
Most likely, a ball that hits will break. But with a softer lower section, that chance is reduced and you can extend your time in the game. Don't buy something that flexes enough that it will let the mask slap against your face when hit. Hard masks are ok to buy if you don't mind the 99% chance of breakage.
Color and Shape:
You want to play in style. YOU WANT TO. It's the least important factor but still, you don't want to play with something that you will think is ugly every time you lay eyes on it. Besides, most good quality masks look awesome anyway. They do that to draw your attention to the expensive stuff. Enjoy the fact that you can look like a BAD BUTTOCKS!, or that all your apparel matches color, or you look like you're some visitor from space. Almost all masks are available in some sort of subdued color scheme if you'd like. Proto offers the Switch in black but a black lens comes seperately.
I have a smoke lens (black) and I love it. It's just like wearing sunglasses. It is so much easier to see in high light conditions and can help you hide in the woods because it's so dark. Mirror lenses have the same effect and if there's no direct sunlight, the reflectiveness will actually reflect the flora around you to aid in camouflage. Amber elminates certain colors so that other colors stand out. Think about wearing shooting glasses. Bright colors will stand out and contrast is greatly increased.
Like I said before, try on the mask through a friend, fellow player, or pro shop.
Don't just try on your target mask, try on a bunch. You may never realize that the mask of your dreams only costs $30 when you had your eyes set on an Invision.
If the mask has some sort of special capability, try it out. I mainly mean a quick-change lens system. Some systems are easier than others for certain people.
You don't have to buy it in a pro shop. You could try it on at a store and buy it online for 1/2 the price.
Buying a USED mask IS OK. Sometimes really good ones sell for very cheap. I recently acquired a Profiler for $20. Just remember to inspect for cracks or any signs of weakness. The mask guide works for used masks too.
Keep in mind that I'm stating price ranges, not quality. Better quality usually comes with a higher price tag but there are exceptions where cheap masks have quality.
Proto Axis: Same great features as Proto Switch FS with a little bit of the Invision (very light) thrown in there. In my opinion it will be the best new mask on the market. The lens can be changed in seconds and it is a very clear lens. The only difference you see when putting on the mask (the F.S.) is that everything gets a little bigger. I’ve tried it on and it’s easily one of the lightest I’ve worn. The foam is as good as the F.S. and the visibility is about the same.
Empire E-Vent: I've read much about it and looks just as promising as the Axis. Comes with one black lens and one clear. It's light, has high projection, low profile, no fog, and I'm not sure but I think the lower and side parts are soft. They haven't shipped because of a foam problem so I can't tell you how it could end up. Bookworm v.1.5 found this from Empire's website: The Vents lens system is a very advanced and optically correct lens. Although at first glance it looks like a "flat lens," it actually changes in thickness to maintain the best optical quality possible. The power imbalance, which means how your eyes see for straight ahead, is 0.00 for both Spherical power imbalance and Astigmatic power imbalance (the value is so small it can’t be read with conventional testing equipment). What does this mean? It means what you are seeing is really where you think it is, so you can be more accurate in your shooting."
Profiler: V-Force is known for their outstanding optical clarity in their lenses. There's some sort of test used to measure clarity of camera lenses and the V-Force line (before the Profiler came out) measured at 91%. The Profilers use the same lens (which is really freakin' thick) as was used in this test. Even some professional camera lenses couldn't match that. The field of vision also extends really far.
Proto Switch F.S.: All around awesome mask. It's a bit on the heavy side but that is it's only shortcoming. Very good breathability and projection of voice. I have one and it has only fogged on me once after I removed the thermal pane. I've never played on a day more humid. With the thermal pane still in there (it comes with one) you will NEVER fog. This is coming from a guy who lives in the hell we call South Florida.
DYE Invision: Right now it's about $67 on Action Village and that's slightly under the price of a Profiler. Invisions are insanely light and extremely comfortable. Voice projection is great. Unfortunately it is reported to have one of the longest lens switching times in any mask system.
JT Flex 7 and 8: Light, comfortable, and around $50. I've tried on the Flex 7 once and was pretty satisfied. The lens isn't a quickchange but it takes less time with the Spectra lens then it does with the Invision. I did not like the Flex 8 as much. The foam was of mediocre quality and like most JT lenses, not very wide at all. The protection around the chin was lacking.
Proto Switch E.L.: As you can see, I'm a big fan of the Proto line. Maybe it's just because I have one, but I've never been more satisfied with a mask. Slightly less coverage than the F.S. and doesn't come with a thermal lens. I'm not sure but I don't think the bottom section is soft like the F.S. but don't let that be a factor if you have a limited budget. Everything else is on par with F.S. version.
V-Force Shield and Morph: Great low cost masks. It uses the same lens as the Profiler so you know optical clarity will be good. I've seen a review where someone put one in a hot shower (on someone's face) and it still did not fog. I'm not sure but I believe the Morph has a soft lower section. The Shield is hard plastic and also comes with a hinged extension to go lower so that you can protect your upper neck as well.
Vents Cylus: Now, these masks haven’t come out yet so I've never been able to try them, but the entire Vents series looks promising. You can start at the lowest level mask and interchange parts all the way up to their best model, the E-Vent. They advertise breathability, voice projection, and no fog at all. These masks look really light so you might want to try them out. Having superb optical clarity is advertised.
Super Low Budget:
V-Force Vantage: This is one of those examples where you don't need to pay much to get good results. Though I don't like the lens (I've tried on the Armor which has the same type of lens) as much as I like their spherical kind, the features seem pretty good. To be honest I've never really held one of these in person but from the looks of it the front end is a combo of soft and hard materials to keep shape but deflect paint. These masks come with foam that is supposedly very comfortable. The rental version uses a rubber seal (much like a SCUBA mask only goes in instead of out) that folds inward to act as cushioning between the mask and your skin. Some say it's comfortable, I really don't know. It's to make it easier for field operators to clean the rentals.
Thanks NinjaoftheNight79 for the revision.
If anyone has experience with this mask PM me so I can update this section with more factual information.
If you don't have at least $40 to spend on a mask, save up. You don't want to buy a mask of low quality only to loose satisfaction the first time you use it. The low-budget masks I mentioned stood out above all others in the same categories and make excellent primary or loaner masks. Again, I strongly advise you to go to a pro shop or test other peoples' goggles before you buy.
All the masks I mentioned above can be bought online here.
Mask Maintenance and Storage Guide by Femur Breaker
Cleaning Your Mask:
Here is what you will need:
-A soft clean cloth
-Can of Plexus lens cleaner
-Fogtech bottle or wipes-what ever you prefer
Prior to playing paintball, follow these directions to insure a clean and fog free mask:
Clean your mask’s lens inside and out with Plexus lens cleaner. A little goes a long way here guys so spray the cleaner conservatively. There’s no need to over spray and throw valuable paintball money down the drain.
Now with your soft cloth gently wipe the lens until its dry and streak free. You may need to do this for a minute or two periodically turning the cloth to a dry spot. Your mask should be crystal clear and streak free. If you cannot get a hold of Plexus, then the next best solution should be a 50/50 mix of water and alcohol. Plexus is what we recommend for true clarity of your lens as water and alcohol may leave streaks.
Now apply a coat of Fogtech to the inside of your lens. Apply the Fogtech as if you were “painting” a thin layer onto the inside of your mask. Don't wipe it dry. It will dry crystal clear and may last well over a 4 hours, depending on your level of perspiration.
IMPORTANT: Do not get it wet, once it is dry!
Once Fogtech is applied to your mask do not get the inside of your mask wet with water. Fogtech has a chemical reaction to water and will need to be reapplied if it gets wet.
What about between games? The method used to clean and care for your goggles between games:
If you get gogged or have a lot of splatter from playing, wipe the lens first with a damp handful of toilet paper. Try to stay away from paper towel as it is more coarse and may scratch your lens. Be thorough in wiping the paint away from the lens, as you don't want your cloth that is used along with the Plexus to pick up any paint.
If your cloth does get any paint on it, the Plexus will cause it to smear and will degrade the clarity of your lens. Now, once the paint is removed thoroughly, apply Plexus to the outside lens and wipe clear. Do not over spray your mask with Plexus, as you do not want the Plexus to interact with the Fogtech you have applied to the inside of your mask.
Wipe the lens clean the same way you would prior to play. Using this method of cleaning your mask between games will keep your lens free of any paint, which can cause the integrity of the lens to degrade over time.
Thoroughly cleaning your mask regularly will insure that your mask will last much longer thus keeping your eye protection in good condition. Maintaining your gear such as your mask is an excellent way to play it safe while enjoying the sport of paintball, and playing it safe will keep you in the game for years to come.
This information was gathered from http://www.paintballtimes.com/
Storing your paintball mask:
Since your mask is the most important piece of paintball equipment you have (Really! You can be on a field without a gun, but not without a mask), you should make sure you are storing it correctly. Here are a few quick tips.
To avoid unnecessary lens cracks, keep your mask out of direct sunlight or hot places (like your car or the attic).
Cover the mask up (with the bag it came with, cotton t-shirt, or padded goggle bag) to make sure the lens doesn’t get scratched up.
Make sure you don’t put anything heavy on top of the mask, or its shape will deform. (If you must stack something on top, then put the mask inside a sturdy box first).
If you notice cracks on your lens, make sure to get it replaced before you step out on the paintball field.
This information was gathered from http://about.com/
Some other things to cosider that I will add here is that is to NEVER USE A SPRAY NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PAINTBALL MASKS. Some sprays could actually weaken the masks lense and result in injury or even death. Replace any lense that shows the slightest sign of any crack or has been hit from less then 20 ft. away. It is also recommended to replace the lense every 6 months no matter how well you have taken care of it. Stay safe everybody, and take good care of your goggles.
Tolga K. hangs his masks by the straps in mid air inside a closet. Nothing ever touches the mask except the tight bungee cord used to suspend it.
If anybody wants more information, wants to add information, or wants to improve upon a review, PM either Tolgak or Femur Breaker and we will follow through with you request to the best of our abilities. Anything you add you will get credit for so don't hesitate to give us information.
This post has been edited by Tolgak: 20 October 2006 - 01:24 PM