So you’ve recently started playing some paintball and are really enjoying the game. You’re tired of using the rental equipment at the field though and are thinking why not just go ahead and make the investment into buying a paintball gun?
And if you’re planning on making paintball a frequent or serious hobby, we absolutely recommend buying your own marker. But we are hoping there’s another piece of equipment you are planning on investing in also: a paintball mask.
Researching paintball masks, sometimes referred to as goggles, shouldn’t be as intimidating as paintball guns. They are pretty straightforward and you don’t need to understand a bunch of technical terms like poppet valve and spool valve or RAPS on/off ASA regulator.
However, it can be a challenge figuring out which mask to buy because it’s not as easy to distinguish how they are different. If you don’t know how to figure out how they are different and why a mask with slightly different features would be better for you, how will you find the right one?
We will get into all the basic information your need on paintball masks and give you tips on how/what to shop for, but if you take away nothing else from this article, remember this: don’t overthink it when looking to buy your first paintball mask. What two main qualities should you look for in an excellent first paintball mask? Comfort and quality. If you nail those two criteria, you should be happy with your purchase.
Invest in a high-quality mask before you invest in a high-quality marker
Most beginner paintballers spend most of their money on buying the best (aka most expensive) marker they can afford, while a mask remains an afterthought. We think this is a big mistake. In fact, if you have a limited budget, we highly recommend you invest in a higher-quality mask and hold off on buying that more expensive marker.
Why spend your hard earned money on a mask instead of a marker first?
First of all, having a mask that is comfortable and durable will greatly improve your paintball experience. The difference between a cheap, rubber mask and a still affordable but comfy mask that has good foam and solid ventilation is like night and day.
Secondly, what’s the point of a mask? Oh yeah, to protect your face, eyes and ears! Wouldn’t you rather have a well-made mask that you know is going to stand up to a direct hit rather than something that may not be as sturdy and protective? You only get 2 eyes and we recommend doing your best to protect them.
There are injuries in paintball, but overall it is a pretty safe sport as long as you wear good protective gear. And that starts with a quality mask.
The 4 Main Types of Paintball Masks You Can Buy
The Basic Mask
The basic mask is as plain and simple as paintball masks can get. They are the cheapest you can find, which has as much to do with their quality as with their features.
Rental masks are typically basic because they are designed for repetitive use. Why else would it be a rental? They are trying to make money off it, so the design needs to be rugged without a lot of maintenance and cleaning required. They are not designed for comfort.
What features do basic masks share in common? First, they use rubber gaskets for the lining on the inside instead of foam. Using rubber instead of foam makes them perfect for rentals because they are easy to clean. The rubber prevents swapping sweat from person to person like foam would.
Another couple of features basics have is that they typically have a single-pane lens and little ventilation. The ventilation might be heavy in the front with little on the side or back.
Overall, the basic models with these features are uncomfortable, and we highly recommend avoiding them. The rubber will rub against your face while you’re running around, while the single-pane lens and lack of ventilation will cause them to fog up more easily.
Intermediates share many similar features as the basics, except they have a foam insert on the inside instead of just rubber. It will probably still have a single-pane lens and little ventilation, though.
You can find decent intermediate masks on the market, but we still don’t think they are a great choice if you’re going to be playing frequently or for extended periods. They are certainly better than the basic model because they won’t rub on your face quite as much, but they are still not going to be too comfortable.
Alright, now we are getting to the good stuff! Advanced masks are a pretty big step up from intermediate.
Now, we are starting to get into features like thicker, softer foam, better ventilation throughout, and dual-pane lenses. Dual-pane lenses are a little more work to clean and maintain, but they do a much better at preventing fog.
Advanced models are also going to have a little more room on the inside, so you won’t feel quite as restricted, which we think is a huge upgrade. You will also have a wider peripheral view, but the lens won’t sit as tight on your face. If you wear glasses and need a little more room inside, this is a must-have feature.
If you buy the right premium mask, it can feel so comfortable that you might forget you’re even wearing it during a game, but it’s still there protecting your pretty little mug! If you buy the right size and fit, premium models are ridiculously comfortable.
What features make these so good?
- Excellent foam that is comfy but snug
- Tinted, dual-pane lens
- Excellent ventilation throughout, pretty much never fog up even in adverse conditions
- Wide lens for great panoramic views so nobody can sneak up on you
Yes, premium masks come at a premium price but it is because the attention to detail and premium parts used to make them really set them apart.
We want to make sure you understand that not everyone needs a premium model though. In fact, most of you weekend warriors should probably invest in something a little less flashy but you’re not afraid to ding up a little.
9 Tips to Help You Buy Your First Paintball Mask
Tip 1: Go try on a variety of masks in the store
We aren’t saying you must buy the mask at a local paintball store, but at least try some in the store. If you’ve never tried on different styles, how do you really know what you will like?
Online reviews are great at steering you in the direction regarding quality and which ones to avoid, but you can’t figure out which one will best fit your face and head by just reading a review. No two heads are the same size and shape, and what works for your buddy or the person that wrote the review may not work for you.
It’s really easy to sit online, read reviews, add something to your shopping cart and have it delivered within a week. But that doesn’t mean you always get what you’re expecting, particularly in regard to fit.
Get out of your house and try on some paintball masks.
And when you are trying them on, don’t just stand there. Paintball is an active sport, and you are going to be running around with your head making a lot of movement. Make sure you test how well it fits and remains in place when your head moves around.
Tip 2: Don’t buy a cheap mask
When you first get into paintball and start buying equipment, it can be costly. And if you are anything like we were, you probably want to buy an awesome marker, a new hopper, some great paint, some other gear, etc. And the costs of all these things add up quickly!
But as we said earlier, don’t buy a cheap mask. Your mask is, without a doubt, the most important piece of paintball equipment you buy. You can buy a cheap paintball gun and still have an enjoyable time AND be competitive.
But it is tough to have fun every weekend if you buy a cheap mask. They are usually uncomfortable. They fog up easily, so you always want to take it off and wipe down the inside, but you can’t because that’s not safe! And they usually break or fall apart quickly, and then you have to buy replacement parts or an entirely new mask.
You get what you pay for when it comes to paintball masks. Look, we aren’t saying you should go out and buy a top-of-the-line mask. There are really good and affordable masks available.
But just don’t be surprised when the cheap mask you buy is highly uncomfortable to wear when you’re running around playing woodsball for several hours. We’ve seen players so uncomfortable and irritated that they just quit in the middle of a game. Don’t let that happen to you.
Tip 3: Invest in a good mask and you will be able to find replacement parts when necessary
Want another good reason to avoid cheap masks? When a part breaks on cheapies, and they will, you won’t be able to find replacement parts. You will just have to throw it away and buy a new one.
It may still be cheaper after the first 2 or 3 breaks, but eventually, it will catch up with you, and you’ll end up spending more money on cheap masks in the long run than you would if you just bought a better quality mask and replaced the parts individually as they wear out.
You can typically find replacement pieces for advanced and premium models. So if you find a mask you enjoy using, but something snaps or wears out eventually, but the rest of the product is in great shape, you can always fix it instead of buying a brand new mask.
Tip 4: Look for something with a more rigid outside if you are a beginner
Paintball masks are made in a variety of materials and composites. Some are tougher, more sturdy plastic, while others are not as firm and feel more like a softer rubber.
For beginners, we recommend going with a stronger, harder material on the outside to fully protect from any direct hits you might take. Lots of competitive players like to use a softer shell because they are looking for any advantage and the remote possibility of a paintball hitting their “softer” shell and bouncing off without breaking.
But honestly, we don’t think there’s any competitive advantage/disadvantage from having a harder shell. It just does a better job from stopping any direct hits.
Tip 5: Make sure there is good ventilation throughout
We can’t overemphasize how important it is to have good ventilation. You need to be able to see, hear and breathe while playing.
Make sure there is good ventilation throughout, not just in the front close to your mouth. You need ventilation in the front to help circulate those deep breaths, but you also need it in the side and back to prevent fogging up and help for hearing. Poor ventilation affects your breathing and hearing.
If you’re worried about any paint or shell making it through the ventilation, just find a mask with smaller ventilation holes. A good mask should be able to let plenty of air in/out while keeping any paint fragments out. A good mask is able to protect and ensure projectiles will be kept out while still having adequate ventilation.
Tip 6: Consider the trade-offs between single pane and dual pane lens
There are good single-pane lens, and there are bad single-pane lenses. Just like there are good dual-pane lenses and bad dual-pane lenses, don’t assume that it is better quality just because a mask has a dual-pane lens.
Most dual-pane lens masks are of higher quality, but not always. And there are definitely trade-offs between the two types of lenses: they mainly differ in regard to performance, maintenance, durability, and replacement cost.
Single pane lenses typically have anti-fog coating cured onto them, but depending on the environment and situation, they don’t always do a great job of preventing fogging up. However, single-pane lens are easier to maintain and clean. They are also pretty durable and typically quite a bit cheaper to replace when necessary.
Dual pane lens, on the other hand, do an amazing job at actually preventing fogging, but the trade-off is that they are much more sensitive to being damaged. The inner lens of the dual panes can get scratched much more easily, so you can’t just quickly wipe it down or dip it in water to clean it. It takes some time, focus and patience.
Dual pane lenses are also more expensive. Dual pane are also extremely durable and can last long, but they are more sensitive than a single pane lens.
Tip 7: How much space do you need on the inside?
Not all masks have the same amount of room inside between the lens and your face. Some are much more roomier and built for comfort, while others are a streamlined design, and the lens sits right up on your face.
Remember to account for any extra space you need while trying them on. Do you wear glasses while you play paintball? Well, if you do, ensure you wear them when testing fit.
We have found that we prefer something in between not too tight but not too big and bulky. If the lens sits out too far from our face, it distorts our view a little, but if the lens is too close, we sometimes get claustrophobic, and it can get a little hot no matter how good the ventilation is.
It’s really more about personal preference than anything though, but just make sure you’re paying attention when trying them on. Typically, speedball masks are the more streamlined close masks, while woodsball/scenario masks are made more for comfort.
Tip 8: Comfort and fit must be excellent — if it doesn’t ‘fit like a glove’, don’t buy it
Once you have narrowed your selection down to a few masks that are good quality and will keep your face protected, the final decision all comes down to comfort. But don’t think of comfort as an afterthought – it is an essential feature.
The mask you pick should form a good seal around your face for reliable comfort while preventing fogging and providing safe protection. There’s not much else that needs to be said. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, find one that will.
Tip 9: How much coverage do you want?
Coverage refers to how much do you want to be covered in addition to your face. You can go with an ultra-streamlined design that covers basically just from above the eyebrows down to the jaw and ears, or you can go with a full helmet that covers the top of your head and the face, jaw and neck.
We usually steer beginners toward getting a mask that gives them more coverage rather than less, but you have options. If you’re mainly playing woodsball or scenario, definitely get a model with more coverage. You get very little benefit from a streamlined design.
A more streamlined design does help reduce your profile in a speedball game where you are in more close-quarters games, but we still think the benefits are marginal. It’s not going to drastically improve or hurt your abilities because your mask size has an extra couple of inches protecting your neck and forehead.
Break it in before you spend a long day playing
Alright, so you went to the store and tried on a plethora of masks in a variety of sizes with different features and design aspects. And after doing some more research, you finally narrowed it down to the one you want to buy. After researching the pricing, you pulled the trigger and bought it from Amazon Prime, and it will be at your house in 2 days!
Can we make a recommendation before you take it out of the box and immediately go play a woodsball game? Break it in a little before actually using it in a game.
What’s the best way to break it in? Wear it around the house a little. Exercise in it. Put it on and do some squats, push-ups, and jumping jacks for 15 or 20 minutes.
First of all, this will help you figure out what settings work best. How tight should the strap be? Where exactly does it best fit on your face? Does it rub anywhere that might need an adjustment?
Secondly, this allows your face to get accustomed to the mask. It’s just like breaking in a new mattress. It takes your body some time to adjust to a new mattress. It’s the same thing with masks, and the more you wear it around the house, the quicker your face will acclimate to it.
We want to clarify this: finding a good, durable, comfortable paintball mask does not mean you have to break your bank account. But to find the right one in your price range that has the features you want and fits perfectly, it will take some time and research.
Ever heard the saying “Look good, feel good, play good”? Well, you will have way more fun and, as a result, play better if you feel comfortable and well protected. Nobody has fun when they are running around just trying to make sure their mask stays on or doesn’t rub their face raw.
So follow our tips on how to find the perfect paintball mask and make it an investment, not an afterthought. You won’t regret it.