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A Guide To Paintball Masks
The paintball mask is undoubtedly the most important piece of gear that you'll buy. Taking a paintball hit to the body might sting, but it certainly isn’t dangerous. Getting struck in the eye or face can be a totally different story, though, so the right protection is essential.
Choosing the best mask can sometimes seem like a minefield, but these pointers should help you get started.
The all-important visor is the part of the mask that protects your eyes from harm. Visors come in all shapes and sizes and can usually be replaced. Replacements and interchangeable lenses are often sold in multipacks, like the Dye I4/I3s. Since lenses also double as sunglasses, there are clear benefits to being able to swap them regularly.
Most players will find that they require a different kind of visor when they’re playing outside than when they’re competing indoors. Some visors have reflective tints, while others will filter out light by degrees. Some are built to repel moisture, and others are designed to be worn with glasses. Visors are varied, and you’ll probably go through quite a few different types until you find your preferred style!
Different types of masks offer different levels of protection, and this is usually offset by how maneuverable they are. Streamlined masks like the Push Unite will keep you nimble and enable you to quickly turn your head. More protective, larger masks like the JT Proflex X might be more restrictive, but this comes with additional security.
Masks are a highly personalized choice that depends on your play style and even the type of format you’re competing in. Beginners tend to start with more secure, wrap-around masks before migrating toward the slimmer models. Any paintballers fortunate enough to turn professional and get a sponsorship deal will often have some kind of branding on their masks, too.
Paintball is a fast-paced game! With all that sprinting, ducking and diving, it's inevitable that you’ll start to heat up. When that happens the inside of a paintball mask can become an unpleasantly hot and sticky place. If you wear glasses, that can be a big problem. The moist atmosphere inside the mask will make your lenses steam up. At best, it’s an inconvenience; at worst it can limit your vision so much that it becomes difficult to play.
Fortunately, most quality masks come with at least some level of ventilation, and others are designed with specific anti-fog technology for glasses wearers. Look for vents along the underside of the mask. Generally speaking, the more vents, the better the airflow and the more comfortable the mask. If steamed-up glasses are a particular problem, consider masks like the V Force Armor, which has an anti-fog design that facilitates airflow.
All masks come with some form of padding, whether it's deep foam (on more expensive models) or a more rigid frame on budget options. The deeper the foam padding, the better the mask will mold to the contours of your face and the more comfortable it will be. Foam is also useful for absorbing sweat, which keeps conditions drier and cooler within the mask.
Some paintball masks, like the V Force Grill, feature quick-dry foam for an even better experience. Foam on that particular mask can be swapped if it gets too moist. If you’re in the market for a truly premium mask with high levels of comfort and minimal fogging, opt for dual foam layers.
Getting the right fit
When you’ve found the ideal mask, it’s important to get the fit exactly right. Every face shape is different, and a loose mask can be just as cumbersome and unpleasant to wear as one that’s too tight. There are some exceptionally stylish masks on the market nowadays, but fit should always be your primary concern.
Try the mask on and make sure that it’s snug around the eyes and ears without being too tight. The mask shouldn’t be so loose that it wobbles as you move, but it shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts your movement or puts pressure on your nose. The strap shouldn't fasten in a straight line across the back of your head; instead, it needs to be angled for a more comfortable fit.
Most importantly of all, try on a few masks before you make a decision. That’s really the only way to ensure that you have the right fit and one that won’t let you down in the heat of a match.