What’s in a Paintball Mask?
When we started playing paintball in the late eighties, paintball masks did not exist. With no alternatives, we put our eyes at risk and used things like shop goggles to protect ourselves. Thankfully, the paintball industry has since developed a wide range of paintball masks offering comfort, style, and most importantly, safety.
Comfort, Style, Features, and Fit
Not all paintball masks are created equally. There is a struggle between providing adequate protection to the face and ears, while at the same time having the paintball mask fit as closely to the face as possible, so as to provide the smallest possible target. This is especially true for tournament paintball, and the masks that have been developed for this purpose. The classic example of this struggle is the DYE I4 – this highly popular mask clings very closely to the face, and if you have a wide face, then the lower part of your cheeks will likely be left exposed. Virtue has addressed this with the VIO, and offers a paintball mask with a similar profile to the I4, but which also provides slightly more check protection.
Badlands carries a wide variety of the best masks on the market. Choose a style that suits your taste, and if you are able, try it on first for comfort and fit. Not all masks will be comfortable for you, and some may offer less protection than you would like. When you visit one of our stores, you will be able to try the mask on. Adjust the strap so that the mask fits snuggly against your face, but not too tight, then shake your head side-to-side, and up and down to ensure the mask does not slip. Make sure the mask is comfortable and does pinch or squeeze your face or head – you may be wearing it for hours at a time.
If you wear glasses, you also need to make sure the mask you are looking for will fit over them comfortably. Most masks should fit over your glasses, but you may have issues with the Elite series by JT – namely the Radar and the Head Shield Elite. The JT Spectra series will easily accommodate glasses as they offer a wider lens than the Elite.
Many goggles offer a quick-change lens system. These lenses are much easier to remove than standard lenses, making it easier to maintain and replace your lens.
Paintball Goggle Lenses
The lens is what stands between your eyes and the force of a flying paintball. Paintball lenses are rated to withstand the impact from paintballs travelling up to 300 fps. For this reason, it is very important that your measure the velocity that your paintball gun shoots, so that you do not exceed 300 fps.
Most entry level masks come with a single-pane lens. While offering the same protection as a thermal lens, a single lens is more likely to fog. Not only is fog a nuisance, it can be very dangerous if you get frustrated, and take off your goggles during a game to wipe away the condensation on the inside of the lens.
Higher end goggle systems usually come with a “thermal” or dual-pane lens. A thermal lens is much better at keeping your mask from fogging. It works like the dual pane windows in your house – the air space between the two lenses helps prevent condensation from forming on the inside of the lens. It is important to never submerge your thermal lens under water. If you do, water is likely to get in between the lenses and it will likely never dry, destroying the thermal properties of the lens and requiring you to replace your lens.
One disadvantage of thermal lenses is the softer, inside lens is prone to scratching. The outer lens is covered with a tough, anti-scratch coating, which helps protect it from scratches. The inner lens does not have this coating. For this reason, always use a clean micro-fiber cloth to carefully wipe the inside lens when it needs to be clean. You can spray this inner lens with water and then wipe it away (do not submerge the lens under water). Do not leave water to dry on the inside of the lens as it will leave spots.
Not all goggle systems require thermal lenses to prevent fogging. The Vforce line of goggles are sold with a single lens, and due to the design of the goggle system and the anti-fog coating used on the lens, most players find that these goggles never fog.
Paintball masks fans, like the JT Vortex Fan, offer an extra boost in the battle against fogging. Actually, if you use a fan, you will win the battle – your mask will not fog. A mask fan is most useful for players who wear glasses. If you use a thermal lens, your lens will probably not fog, but your glasses probably will. A paintball mask fan will keep both your lens, and your glasses, free from fog.
Lens Care and Replacement
Clean your lens with water. Basic H2O – that’s all you need. Do not leave any paint on your lens when you put your paintball mask away at the end of the day. The paint will slowly degrade your lens and leave marks that cannot be removed. If you are shot in the lens while playing, it is recommended that you thoroughly clean all paint from the area between the lens and the goggle frame, because paint will get trapped in this location and eat away at your lens over time.
It is highly recommended that you use a microfiber cloth to wipe your lens, and to never scrub, or rub your lens too hard.
A lens with a lot of scratches, or any sign of cracking should be replaced. These are your eyes you are trying to protect so don’t mess around.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing your lens at least once a year.
Safety – The Last Word
A paintball marker is not a toy. Without exception, if you are shooting your paintball gun for any reason, please make sure that you, and anyone else around you, is wearing a paintball mask. Paintballs can bounce, and can end up going in directions you did not intend them to go. Play often, but play safe!