When getting ready to buy a paintball mask or goggles for the first time, it can be intimidating. There are so many different choices available for purchasing a paintball mask, deciding which one is right for an individual is a tricky process.
So how do you buy a paintball mask or goggles? Here’s a basic rundown of the things you need to consider:
- Features desired or required in a paintball mask such as a good field of view or shatter resistance
- Functions of various paintball lenses and which is the best choice for starting based on color or style
- Decisions between a full helmet style mask or goggles alone, as well as other aspects of the paintball mask design such as fit and durability
- Decisions on what other paintball accessories are needed or desired along with the mask, such as anti-fog measures or cleaning devices
It might take you a while to figure which of these masks will be the best for you. You need to consider all the functions a paintball mask is used for and which of these functions is most important to your particular style of play.
Read on to find out more about paintball masks and goggles, as well as how to pick a good set.
Why is a Paintball Mask Important?
The reason that protective gear is necessary in paintball is that while paintball is not typically considered a contact sport in the same way football and rugby are, it’s still a contact sport because the paintballs themselves impact the players at a high rate of speed.
As many paintball players know, these paintballs can hit very hard and have the potential to leave welts or even break the skin. High-speed impact of paintballs hitting your face or eye area can be very damaging, which is why facial masks and goggles are used.
Facial bones are thinner than bones in other parts of the face, and the cartilage in the nose is also prone to breaking.
While a bloodied nose or a cracked cheekbone would be bad enough, if a paintball hits someone at the right angle directly in the eye, it can cause blindness or even cause the eye to be knocked loose from its socket.
Not only is it recommended for paintball players to wear protective gear, on many paintball fields, but it is also a requirement of management.
While many paintball fields supply gear to people who use their facility, not all do, which means if you show up without a mask or goggles, you might not be able to play.
The stock equipment at a paintball field or arena is often scratched up and worn out as well, which will decrease the quality of your experience. It can also smell bad since many sweaty players have used it repeatedly for hours at a time.
Stock paintball equipment at a playing field may not fit well either. A bad fit on your paintball gear can give you a significant disadvantage on the field. Buying your own gear instead allows you to customize your mask or goggles to the perfect fit for your comfort and efficiency.
What to Look for in Paintball Goggles or Masks
There are a variety of factors you should take into consideration when deciding on which paintball mask or goggles to buy. Here are some things you should look into before making your final purchase decision:
- Intended price range
- Intended paintball environment
- Preference for mask or goggles
- Need to cover prescription glasses or not
- Color preference
- Frequency of Use
Intended Price Range
Like many other kinds of sporting equipment, the equipment involved in paintball can range from the very cheap to the ridiculously expensive.
Goggles or paintball masks can cost anywhere from thirty or forty dollars to several hundred dollars. It depends on the complexity of the features you want to be included and the quality you’re willing to pay for.
Cheaper equipment is easier to obtain from a financial standpoint, but what you gain in cheaper cost, you lose in quality and durability. If you only intend to play paintball occasionally, this may be a compromise worth making.
If paintball is a serious hobby that takes or will take up hundreds of hours of your time, then it is probably worth your trouble to invest in some decent equipment right from the start, rather than take on the extra cost of accruing better equipment later down the road.
Paintball is conducted in a wide variety of play environments, from indoor arenas to virgin forests to wide open fields. Figuring out where you intend to spend the bulk of your paintballing time is crucial to deciding what kind of paintball mask or goggles to buy.
The main factor influenced by your intended paintball environment is lens color.
The different colors of paintball lenses have very different effects on sight acuity and sharpness of visual perception in different lighting situations.
This means a lens color that performs well in dappled shade in woodsball, such as yellow, may not be nearly as effective in the bright fluorescent lighting of an indoor arena.
Mask or Goggles?
One of the big decisions when trying to decide which facial protective gear to buy for paintball is deciding whether you’d prefer a full head mask or just goggles.
While goggles can be a good choice for those people who find a full mask claustrophobic or uncomfortable, they are not as protective as full masks. The eyes (the most important part of the head to be protected) are shielded, but the rest of the face is exposed to paintball strikes.
Whether a person chooses a full mask or goggles is mostly down to personal preference. Both types of protection offer shielding for the eyes, which is arguably vital in the sport to prevent accidental blindness.
But depending on sensitivity to paintball impacts, some players may want additional protection.
Need to Cover Glasses?
If you wear prescription glasses to see, your considerations are going to be a little bit different from other buyers looking for a paintball mask or goggles. Without your prescription glasses, you won’t find yourself to be a very effective player, as the game is dependent on sight acuity.
Some people choose to use contacts instead of their glasses while playing paintball, but others don’t have contacts or prefer not to use them during a sporting activity.
Thankfully many kinds of paintball masks have been designed with spectacled players in mind and can slide completely over glasses that are already on the face while still allowing the shooter to be comfortable and see easily through both layers of lenses.
If you wear glasses I would advise you to buy the Dye Precision i5 mask – I wrote more about it in my other article. There you can read more about 5 best anti-fog paintball masks.
Paintball masks and goggles come in a dazzling array of colors and designs. It might be beneficial to consider your favorite colors and color combinations before deciding which paintball mask to purchase, and search for one in those colors specifically.
If you are joining a paintball team, you might want to consider getting gear that is an outfit in your team’s colors for solidarity and style.
Besides personal preference, choosing color is also important when looking at paintball mask or goggle lenses. Different colored lenses have different visual effects and can offer you different advantages on the playing field.
Paintball has been a popular sport for decades now, so the sheer variety of masks and goggles available is staggering.
Whether you want to buy a frilly decorative mask with all the high-tech bells and whistles or a spartan black-on-black rig that makes you look like a futuristic super-soldier, there are styles of paintball masks and goggles available for every fashion preference.
Some players may choose to go all-out when accessorizing their gear, while others will choose to keep it simple. There is no right answer, so everyone interested in paintball should choose equipment that aesthetically increases their enjoyment of the game.
Along with a range of prices of gear available, paintball protective gear also comes in a bunch of different levels of quality and durability.
Cheaper gear may seem like less of an investment in the beginning, but much of it is not as high quality as more expensive gear. Cheaper gear can lead to increased scratching/scuffing on the lenses, fogging issues, stretched straps, and other problems.
Thermal goggles, for example, are typically rather more expensive than single-lens masks and goggles. But they are much less prone to fogging problems, and the dual thickness of the lenses leads to the overall mask being more durable.
Frequency of Use
How often do you plan on going paintballing? If paintball is just a sport you’d like to do occasionally with friends in rotation with several other leisure activities, it may not be reasonable to go spending hundreds of dollars on it in gear right from the start.
However, if you’re more interested in taking up paintball as a serious sport or getting involved in regular team play, it can be worth your while to buy some more expensive (and better quality) gear.
That way you’re not having to turn around and replace it when the frequency of use causes cheaper equipment to degrade too quickly, and performance suffers as a result.
One of the major features of a paintball mask or goggles are the lenses. These are the most important aspect of the protective gear. Lenses that protect from permanent blindness (which is one of the greatest threats of playing paintball).
Paintball lenses come in a variety of effects and colors, and these different types of lenses can lend different advantages on the playing field. Here are some of the lenses available and their recommended type of play:
- Thermal paintball lenses: Thermal
paintball lenses are also known as dual-pane
lenses and feature two lenses with a thin layer of air between them, which
lends the lenses anti-fogging
capabilities on the field.
Thermal paintball lenses tend to last longer and are more durable than single pane lenses with an anti-fog coating and come in a variety of tints and mirrored styles. However, thermal lenses tend to be on the higher end of the expense for paintball lenses.
- HDR paintball lenses: HDR stands for “high definition reflective”, and these lenses offer a high definition clarity while also reducing glare. HDR masks come with a variety of highly polished mirror lenses in every color scheme imaginable.
While they are somewhat expensive, HDR lenses are a good choice for those who would like to enhance their visual sharpness while still looking good on the field. Be forewarned, however, that these mirrored lenses can be very visible in the open field.
- HD paintball lenses: HD lenses are similar to HDR lenses but are capable of correcting visual aberrations in a person’s sight perception that are too slight to be corrected through prescription glasses.
However, these aberrations can be strong enough to make an impact on sports performance in a visually demanding sport such as paintball. HD lenses can help enhance a shooter’s performance in the field under the right circumstances.
- Mirrored paintball lenses: Mirrored paintball lenses come in both dual and single pane varieties and can be seen for sale in all different gradients of sparkling color. Looking through mirrored paintball lenses often gives the viewer a brown or gray tinted view.
While these colored lenses are undeniably cool-looking, many of them can be expensive,
and their bright, flashy colors can draw unwanted attention on the paintball field in ambush-type play.
- Amber paintball lenses: Amber tinted paintball lenses block blue light in the visible light spectrum, which makes the paintball player more visually effective on overcast days, where blue light is prominent in the ambient light scheme outdoors.
Blue light has a shorter wavelength than other kinds of light and is more difficult for the eye to focus on, so being in environments with a high level of blue lighting can cause eyestrain and tension headaches related to it, especially during prolonged periods.
Because of this effect, amber-tinted lenses are a good choice for overcast weather, judging distances, or finding contrast in shades of green, such as in a wooded area.
- Smoked paintball lenses: Smoked paintball lenses are similar to gray paintball lenses but feature a gradient of tinting. These lenses are primarily used to reduce brightness and glare in high light scenarios.
This makes smoked lenses a good choice if you intend to play a lot of paintball in an open field on bright, sunny days, or intend to play paintball in an indoor arena, which is light by fluorescent lighting.
Unlike some color tinted lenses, smoked paintball lenses distribute all colors evenly, allowing the wearer to see in a monochromatic palette with no color distortion.
- Gray paintball lenses: Gray paintball lenses are similar to smoked lenses in that they evenly distribute the color, but these lenses don’t have a gradient and are a single tint throughout.
Gray paintball lenses are a good multipurpose lens and are effective in a variety of environments. They are a good starting lens for beginners who are not sure where their primary place of play will be yet.
- Green paintball lenses: Green tinted paintball lenses are not as commonly found as green-tinted lenses designed for other outdoor sports, but they are still available.
This color of paintball lenses dims glare and brightens shadows simultaneously, appearing to sharpen the visual field. Green tinted lenses are considered good for all outdoor paintball play, both during cloudy and sunny weather.
- Yellow paintball lenses: Yellow tinted lenses are a good choice for players who would like to improve their visual contrast while still preserving visual sharpness and reducing distortion.
This intense tint is very popular in the field shooting, both in paintball and with normal guns. Yellow lenses are recommended for foggy conditions, night conditions, and overcast conditions, and operate similar to amber-tinted lenses in that they filter out blue light.
Unlike smoked and gray lenses, yellow lenses do cause some color distortion, but this rarely outweighs their effectiveness on the playing field.
Yellow lenses are especially good for playing paintball in the forest, or for any paintball played on monochromatic terrain.
- Blue paintball lenses: Blue tinted paintball lenses are some of the coolest and fashionable lens colors you can buy.
This cosmetic appeal comes with a bigger price tag though. Unless you’re planning on doing a lot of paintball in the snow (where blue lenses give the wearer an advantage by enhancing the contours around objects) you might want to consider something different.
On the other hand, if you do play paintball in snowy areas, blue-tinted lenses are great at reducing glare from visible white light (which is reflected most strongly off white snow). They have also been shown to have a psychologically calming effect.
If you are a paintball player who tends to get wound up tight by adrenaline on the field, you might consider a blue-tinted lens to help you keep your cool, both on a snowy field and off it.
- Rose paintball lenses: Like blue-tinted lenses, rose paintball lenses are calming to the wearer and reduce eye strain, making them a good choice for people who get uptight while playing.
You don’t want to allow stress to control your actions on the paintball field. Rose-tinted glasses both block blue light and offer higher contrast than naked sight alone, which causes eyes to work less hard and prevents eyestrain.
This makes rose-tinted glasses a good choice if you intend to play paintball for long stretches of time, as these prolonged play periods can strain the eyes. Pink lenses are also advantageous in helping a player maintain their footing on uneven terrain.
If you need more information, read a post I wrote about 11 different paintball lenses.
Components of a Paintball Mask
When looking at paintball masks and goggles for sale, what are the different components you should be looking at? All paintball masks or goggles are comprised of the same basic components:
- The lenses (either set in a mask or in a goggle frame)
- The goggle or mask frame
- The protective mask (not present with goggles alone)
- Goggle straps
Each of these individual components forms a vital part of the mask or goggle structure, ensuring that it keeps the player safe from harm while maintaining comfort and visibility.
We’ve already gone into great detail about the different kinds of paintball lenses available, so how do you choose which ones are right for you?
If you are planning on taking up paintball as a serious hobby, you might want to go ahead and invest in a full mask with thermal lenses, as this will save you some hassle with regards to your mask fogging up later on. Thicker lenses also tend to be more shatter-resistant as well.
If you go with single pane lenses, fogging issues can be mitigated through anti-fog sprays. You can buy single pane lenses with an antifog coating, but thermal lenses will last much longer and are typically more effective.
Many lenses are created to be replaceable or interchangeable depending on the brand of a paintball mask, so you can always choose to get a higher-quality mask that has several types of lenses available so you can choose between them as demand warrants.
Goggle or Mask Frame
The frame of a paintball mask or set of goggles is simply the structure of plastic around the lenses that holds the lenses in place. It is important that the lenses are either designed to come in and out without wobbling or are fixed in place in the mask or goggles so that they don’t tilt.
If your lenses become loose in your mask or goggle frame, it can distort your field of view and can lead to serious performance issues on the field.
Frames in paintball masks and goggles should also be fitted with dense layers of foam to ensure wearer comfort. Otherwise, the hard points of the mask’s frame will cut into the skin of your face and distract you while playing.
When paintball players opt for a paintball mask rather than goggles only, they are afforded a lot more protection. Paintball masks are designed not only to protect the eyes from accidental damage, but also the ears, mouth, face, and forehead.
Head injuries can be particularly dangerous in comparison to other injuries, so if you’re playing an extreme sport like paintball, it can be worth your while to give yourself as much protection in that area as you can possibly afford.
While paintball goggles do the job of protecting your eyes well enough, wearing goggles alone leaves your mouth, nose, and the rest of your face exposed.
This can lead to cracked bones in the face, bloodied or broken noses, or damaged teeth. In some cases, wounds from paintballs to exposed flesh can require stitches. It’s better to just not take a chance when it comes to personal injury in sports, so protect yourself well.
When looking at paintball masks and goggles, it is important to look at the straps that bind the mask or goggles to your head. Masks and goggles slipping is not only a pain in the neck that negatively affects your play performance; it can also be dangerous.
If your goggles are loose on your head, they could fall off at an inopportune time. Or you will need to remove them to readjust. All this leaves you dangerously exposed to flying paintballs. Loose straps can also lead to chafing and other issues.
Besides that, loose goggles are simply annoying, and having to fiddle with them removes a lot of joy from the game. For great fun while playing paintball, make sure that you have a good fit on your goggles or mask before you hit the field.
Paintball Mask and Goggle Accessories
Once you’ve chosen your paintball mask or goggles, it can also benefit you to acquire some accessories for your gear so that you are fully kitted and ready to go. Here are some of the paintball accessories that are available to go along with your gear:
- Paintball mask bottoms: Paintball mask bottoms can be used in correlation with either goggles or full-face masks. They give added protection to the mouth and jaw area and often come as a slotted grille to allow the player to breathe easily through them.
- Paintball lens cloth: One of the easiest ways to prevent scratches and scuffs on your paintball lenses is to make sure they are wiped clean before and after every use to avoid damage from grit or other debris.
Microfiber lens cloths are perfect for leaving a mirror shine without depositing lint or scratching the surface of the lens.
- Anti-fog fans: For players that have to deal with major fogging issues due to humidity or other ambient environmental factors, anti-fog fans can be installed in a paintball mask to reduce condensation and other fogging issues.
Anti-fog spray: There are anti-fog sprays available for paintball that can be sprayed on paintball mask or goggle lenses to prevent condensation and the formation of fog on the inside of the lens.
These sprays are a good option for those players who cannot afford anti-fog lens such as thermal lenses, but you will need to periodically reapply them for optimal function.