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Paintball equipment can vary wildly between matches, settings and even individual styles of play, but there are some basics that you should consider.
Your paintball mask is your standard piece of equipment. A solid mask from a respected paintball manufacturer like the HK Army Thermal is an essential purchase. Most of the other gear on this list comes down to taste, but you will need a mask. Getting struck by a paintball isn’t particularly painful, but getting hit in the eyes can be dangerous. That’s why it’s so important to find a high-quality mask with good, all-around protection.
Masks do, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. Some offer anti-fog technology for glasses wearers, some are lightweight, and others are fully wraparound for additional protection. The one you choose eventually comes down to personal preference, but your eyes need to be protected at all times. If there’s one piece of gear that you’re willing to splash out on, make it the paintball mask.
After your face, your hands are your most vulnerable spot! Holding a marker suspended in front of your body makes them an easy target, and getting hit on the hands stings more than getting struck on the body. It’s a brave and perhaps even foolhardy player who ventures onto the field of play gloveless! Fortunately, there are plenty of paintball gloves available, ranging from full gloves to fingerless options like the HK Army Bones.
Both types have their positives and negatives. Fingerless gloves offer much more control and precision shooting since you can operate the marker unfettered. Full gloves give you more protection, however, so you might feel confident starting with them.
Long-sleeved t-shirts are overwhelmingly favored by paintball players simply because they offer a lot more protection. Even a single extra layer to cover your arms cushions blows, and many players opt to wear a jersey over their t-shirt. Jerseys like the HK Army Slime are padded, so they’ll give you another layer of protection. You’ll also be able to choose between a variety of cool designs or opt for something more subtle, like traditional camouflage.
Jerseys are advantageous because they cushion the whole body while remaining more maneuverable than extreme options like full chest protectors. Padding is usually located predominantly around the shoulders, chest and elbows.
Paintball can take place outdoors or indoors, with woodsball matches even situating players in dense woodland. Whatever the setting, you should always wear long pants rather than shorts. If you’re playing in the woods, those pants will protect you from scratches and scrapes in the undergrowth. Indoors, they’ll offer you a crucial extra layer of protection against taking hits. Getting struck on exposed flesh will hurt, but long pants can act to cushion the blow.
The baggier the pants, the more cushioned the hit. Skintight jeans are liable to rip in the heat of an exchange, and they don’t offer as much protection as baggy cargo pants. Even a surface as seemingly benign as astroturf can be perilous for unprotected legs. Crawling between cover, crouching and diving can all inflict burns on the skin.
Footwear is a more complex issue. You can wear anything from trainers to combat boots, with paintball cleats somewhere in the middle. What you wear on your feet depends on where you’re playing. For example, a woodsball match where exposed roots and uneven ground pose problems would be well suited to boots, steel capped if possible. Fast-paced speedball matches, on the other hand, demand the maneuverability of cleats like the Exalt Tournament.
You might even be able to get away with trainers for a more sedate, purely recreational match. Whatever you choose, ensure that your shoes are maneuverable. Matches demand dexterity and quick changes of direction. Ankle support is a good idea for rapid turns, and additional padding can help with friction-related problems like blisters.
If you’re taking to the paintball field for the first time and are worried about getting hit, layer up. Wearing multiple thin layers is preferable (and often cheaper) to choosing one single, densely padded item of clothing. When a paintball hits you, the kinetic energy is dissipated between layers, and even the air between each layer offers some additional padding.
Protective clothing doesn’t have to be expensive. Opting for layers is a great way to save money, balance protection with agility, and take to the field with confidence.
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