The frameless mask design has always been popular with spearfishers and freedivers due to their low-volume design, making them less buoyant and easier to equalize. However, these once obscure and niche sports have had a surge in popularity in the recent decades, and so have the specialized gear they use.
Thanks to its frameless design and low-volume profile, the frameless mask has become a hit, and now you can find frameless scuba masks in almost every dive shop. Many snorkelers and scuba divers are wondering what the hype is about, so in this article we’ll be covering the differences between frameless masks vs. regular masks, as well as reviewing the best ones to buy.
Essentially, the biggest difference between framed and frameless masks is that in the frameless design, the lens is one big piece that is molded directly to the mask’s skirt. Framed masks have a hard frame that holds the lenses, and the skirt is molded onto the frame, not the lens itself. There are pros and cons to the frameless design, and depending on your personal preferences, you may prefer one type to the other.
Our Top Picks:
Best Frameless Scuba Mask Recommendations
Atomic Aquatics Venom Frameless Mask
- “Gummi Bear UltraSoft” (10 shore) silicone creates an incredibly soft yet reliable face seal.
- “Gummi Bear UltraSoft” (10 shore) silicone creates an incredibly soft yet reliable face seal.
- More rigid silicone skirt is also soft but won’t collapse, distort or fold.
The Atomic Aquatics Venom frameless mask is a blend of their SubFrame Mask and Frameless Mask designs. It combines the low-profile of the Frameless mask, but also has the internal frame molded beneath the skirt for reinforcement. The single lens window is yet another callback to the Frameless design, while also incorporating the high bridge and teardrop shape of the dual-lens SubFrame.
Where the Venom stands out from its predecessors is in its lens construction. Both the Frameless and SubFrame use Ultra Clear glass lenses, which some of the other masks in this review also use. The Venom takes this a step further with its Schott SuperWhite Glass, an even higher lens imported from German. This lens lets light penetrate more easily for better vision underwater, without increasing glare and reflection.
Since the Venom has such a low-profile, the lenses are very close to your ears. Without a frame in the way, the field of vision is broadened significantly, and the special lens enhances the clarity even more. This mask even allows a one-hand nose well to be integrated for convenient ear equalization.
Atomic has stuck to their roots by keeping their double-feathered edge silicone rubber skirt. The Venom also comes with a wide-split strap, and paired with the skirt, provides a great seal and comfortable fit. Thanks to the easy-squeeze buckles that are soft-mounted on the skirt, it’s very easy to adjust the tightness of the straps.
Overall, the Atomic Aquatics Venom frameless mask is one of the top options for a scuba diving and freediving mask. WIth its comfortable design, excellent seal, unparalleled visual clarity thanks to its Schott SuperWhite Glass lens, and wide field-of-vision, it’s hard to go wrong with this mask. Additionally, Atomic offers a limited lifetime warranty on the hidden internal frame, as well as a limited 12-month warranty on the skirt and strap.
The only downsides to this mask are that the lens tends to fog up due to its close proximity to your ears. However, with proper cleaning methods such as removing the manufacturer’s coating and applying anti-fog to it, you’ll find it won’t fog as much or at all.
- Low profile, wide field-of-vision.
- Retains a frameless design with a hidden internal frame to provide support.
- Wide-split strap design.
- Lens is the Schott SuperWhite Glass optical lens imported from Germany.
- Seals comfortably and tightly on the face.
- Limited lifetime warranty on the frame, 12-month warranty on skirt and strap.
- Very easy to equalize with.
- Can fog easily because of how close it is to the face.
Cressi F1 Frameless Mask
- frameless masks are loved by many divers for their low-profile and ability to fold flat for easy carrying, even in a bc pocket.
- cressi’s frameless design bonds a high-grade silicone skirt directly to a single lens for the ultimate in simplicity.
- the lens is made of tempered glass and certified by the ce (communauté européenne).
The Cressi F1 frameless mask is a highly affordable mask that has features which are appealing to both new and experienced divers alike. Thanks to its flexible silicone skirt, the F1 can flex and bend to fit all kinds of unique facial shapes which makes getting the right fit very easy.
The F1 comes in various colors, including a clear version for those with claustrophobia. You can match the colors to current or future dive gear if you want! You can also go in the opposite direction and get a bright color that stands out so your dive buddy can spot you more easily in low-viz conditions.
Since this is a frameless mask, it has a low-volume profile that provides a wider view, is lightweight, and is easy to clear and equalize. It’s easy to adjust the fit of the F1 with the adjustable strap that loosens up with just the press of a button. No more fighting against the strap! The mask strap is also replaceable with a single flexible elastic band.
Some downsides to the Cressi F1 are general issues which affect most other frameless masks as well. Its durability is not as great due to its frameless design. The lens cannot be replaced for prescription lenses, and if it breaks the entire mask must be replaced. Furthermore, the soft silicone is also susceptible to mask mold if you do not dry it out before stowing it.
After purchasing the Cressi F1, there are some preparations we highly recommend you do. First, you should burn your new mask to get rid of the clear adhesive coating that the manufacturer added to prevent scratching and damage to the lens. This coasting just makes the mask fog up. After burning it, quickly wash and scrub any black residue before it becomes permanent. Then apply the mask spray or anti-fog treatment of your choice to keep it from fogging up.
- Flexible silicone skirt makes for a soft and comfortable mask, and can even seal against facial hair.
- Extra room in the nose pocket.
- Numerous color options, including a clear option for claustrophobics.
- Single-lens design provides an unobstructed view.
- Can replace the mask strap with an elastic band.
- Very affordable.
- Not as long-lasting due to its frameless design.
- The strap is not very strong, however it can be replaced.
Hollis M1 Frameless Mask
- Frameless 100% pure silicon skirt
- Saint-Gobain Diamant - Crystal Clear Lens
- Wide vision and low volume
The Hollis M1 frameless mask has been regarded as everything a diver could want in a mask. While this sentiment from its supporters is clearly a little optimistic, we can agree that it’s a very high-quality mask.
First, the single-lens design provides a panoramic field of vision. The lens is Saint-Gobain Diamant Crystal Clear glass. This special lens has lowered iron content which provides superior light filtering by eliminating the green tint that lower-quality models have, overall increasing the visibility. This lens also has decreased color distortion, so the colors that you see are much closer to their original hue.
Furthermore, the double silicone skirt seals tightly and comfortably on your face. Some customers with wider faces have said that they did not have to tighten the straps very much to prevent water leakage. Some other customers also report that they were able to dive without any fogging issues despite not applying any anti-fog. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse the mask before a dive to prevent mask fog.
With that said, the Hollis M1 appears to be slightly larger than most frameless masks, though it is as lightweight as the others. The low internal volume allows divers to spend less time equalizing the pressure to prevent mask squeeze.
Whether you’re looking for a new mask or not, the Hollis M1 Frameless Mask is one you cannot go wrong with. It has become a must-have for many recreational and technical divers alike, especially those with larger faces.
- Panoramic field of vision.
- Saint Gobain Diamant Crystal Clear Glass reduces color distortion to provide views that are close to the original hue.
- Not strictly necessary to defog, but should give it a quick rinse before use.
- Comfortable double silicone skirt.
- Very lightweight.
- Fits wide faces.
- Mask is somewhat bigger than other frameless masks, which is why it fits wider faces but it makes it harder to pack for travel.
- May not seal as well on smaller faces.
Oceanic Shadow Frameless Mask
- Low volume frameless mask withmolded silicone color accents
- Extremely low volume design, Swiveling, easy adjusting buckles
- Ultra Clear Safety Tempered Dual Lens Design
The Oceanic Shadow frameless mask features a sleek silicone skirt that fits most face shapes, including wider faces. In fact, the skirt can adapt to most people’s faces over time for maximum comfort and a tight seal. The single lens provides a wide field of vision, and due to its low-volume design, the Shadow provides excellent visibility.
However, the downside of having lenses so close to the eyes is that it increases the chances of it fogging up. However, if you remove the manufacturer’s coating and apply anti-fog before each dive, you can easily prevent this.
Thanks to the frameless design, the Shadow is extremely lightweight. Furthermore, the slap-strap designs allows wearers to make micro-adjustments for a better fit. The skirt is made from crystal silicone which is even more durable and comfortable than regular silicone. The single-lens on the Oceanic Shadow is designed to decrease glare and reflection, making it the optimal mask for spearfishers and underwater photographers.
Whether you’re a recreational or technical diver, the Oceanic Shadow frameless mask has lots to offer you. With its low-volume profile, equalizing is a breeze, and packing it for travel or stowing it in your BC pocket as a backup mask is much easier. If you’re dealing with fogging, try rubbing baby shampoo on the lens to clean it.
- Crystal silicone skirt.
- Wide field of vision.
- Low volume, reduced weight.
- The skirt will fit your face better over time. Perfect for wider faces.
- Easy to store in luggage or in a BC pocket.
- Reduced glare and reflection.
- Slap-strap design lets you make quick micro-adjustments.
- The mask strap is not very durable.
- Can have fogging issues if not properly treated.
Seadive by XS Scuba RayBlocker Monarch HD Mask
- Mask, Mask Box
- Seadive by XS Scuba RayBlocker Monarch HD Mask
- Six Years in Development
The Seadive RayBlocker Monarch HD mask features an anti-reflective coating (ARC) that lets almost 100% of light pass through the lens while simultaneously reflecting scattered light. In other words, your eyes are seeing the truest, most undistorted underwater vision that a dive mask can provide.
Whether you are snorkeling, freediving, or scuba diving, your experience will only be improved by the ARC lens. This lens can also reduce harmful UV glare, surface grit in eyes and give you an overall clearer view of the underwater world. When you return to the surface, the Rayblocker Monarch offers quick vision-return from surfacing making it the optimal mask for scuba instructors.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll be happy to learn that the Rayblocker’s low-volume design makes equalizing and clearing it a breeze. Furthermore, the buckles of the Seadive are located on the skirt which reduces drag and weight. Additionally, the high-quality silicone skirt and head strap helps it to accommodate a wide variety of faces, and can even easily fit under a dive hood.
To increase comfort even further, the mask skirt features a double feathered-edge design and the wide split style head strap helps it to sit comfortably and seal tightly on your face. Thanks to the large and easy-to-reach nose pocket, it’s very straightforward to do one-handed equalization. Lastly, the Rayblocker Monarch comes with a mask box to protect it from damage while traveling.
- Anti-reflective coating (ARC) allows for near 100% transmission of light for the clearest “true view” of the underwater world.
- Glass tint provides anti-UV and anti-glare properties.
- Lightweight and even comes with a mask box for easier storage while traveling.
- Comfortable silicone skirt that fits a wide variety of facial structures.
- Fogs easily.
- Strap quality is not the greatest.
Frameless Scuba Mask Buying Guide
Since the frameless design was created to improve freedivers’ and spearfishers’ underwater performance, it’s no surprise that it’s very advantageous for those sports.
This is especially the case for spearfishers, who can take advantage of the low-volume profile and wide field-of-vision. To provide this, the frameless mask has a special construction process. Similarly, specially engineered materials are required for its construction. This means that the biggest differences between framed and frameless masks are in their intended use, materials, and construction.
To be fair, even though frameless masks were made for spearfishers in mind, technically any kind of underwater diver can benefit from a frameless mask. After all, who wouldn’t want a mask with a wide FOV and low-volume?
If you’re an underwater photographer, for instance, you can get a better view of your environment to help you set up the perfect shot underwater. Imagine getting a wide-angle camera lens but for your mask. Once you use it, it’s hard to go back.
Perhaps you’re a new snorkeler or scuba diver who still gets some anxiety when you’re in the water. With the wide views provided by a frameless mask, it can reduce the feeling of anxiety and claustrophobia despite its low volume.
You may have a small or narrow face, in which case the lightweight and flexible design of a frameless mask can seal tightly against your face. Since it is so lightweight, it will barely feel like it’s there which goes a long way for comfort. If you’re looking for masks that fit narrow or small faces, you can also check out our review of the best ones here.
The framed mask has been the go to mask for all underwater sports, but perhaps that’s going to change in the next few years.
For a dive mask to be effective, it must prevent water from entering and getting into your ears. Thus, it needs to form a watertight seal on your face, but this also traps air inside the mask. There are large tempered glass lenses which provide you a clear view, but in order to seal against your face, the mask must be flexible and soft to conform to be comfortable and to prevent leaks.
To solve this engineering problem, framed masks use a durable frame to hold the lens, and the part that actually presses against your face is a rubber or silicone mask skirt. Sturdy clips are used to attach the mask frame and strap together. The issue with framed masks is that they hold a high-volume of air and that the frame adds extra weight to the mask.
As mentioned, frameless masks are low-volume since the design removes the framed section of the mask, thereby decreasing a significant amount of volume from the mask. When diving, the water pressure increases and causes the volume of air inside the mask to compress, causing a type of barotrauma called mask squeeze.
In order to prevent mask squeeze, divers must equalize the air in their mask by exhaling a little bit from their nose to fill up the lost volume. Since low-volume masks have so little airspace, the diver does not need to exhale very much to equalize. This is perfect for spearfishers and freedivers who need to conserve as much air as possible.
One way to decrease the volume of a mask is to reduce the size of the lenses. This is not optimal, however, because it restricts the wearer’s field of view which is terrible for spearfishers and underwater photographers. For this reason, the frameless mask design won out because it allowed the mask to retain its large lenses by removing the framed portion of the mask.
With modern construction technologies, manufacturers can easily create masks where the silicone skirt portion of the mask is molded onto the glass lenses directly instead of a frame. This process is possible thanks to injection molding. Usually the molding process is used to create the frame on a framed mask, whereas the skirt is traditionally made via compression molding. How did the engineers solve this problem?
In a framed mask, the framed mask is injection molded onto the lens. In a frameless mask, if the skirt is to be molded onto the lens, it too must be suitable for injection molding. For this to be possible, advanced materials are necessary to construct a frameless mask.
Modern dive masks use thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) and liquid silicone rubbers (LSRs). TPEs are a fantastic material for dive masks because they are flexible with some thermal properties. Swim goggles were the inspiration here, since they were already made of both TPEs and LSRs; they just needed to be improved to match the size and pressure exposure of dive masks.
Thus, there is a clear distinction between framed and frameless masks not just in design, but also materials. The skirts of frameless masks are necessarily composed of TPEs or LSRs so that they can be injection molded. The skirt of a framed mask is made of rubber or silicone.
In some cases, even the chemical composition of the frameless mask skirt will differ to allow for more rigidity where the skirt is sealed to the lens, and more flexibility and comfort where the skirt seals against the face.
Is a frameless mask a good choice for you?
When it comes to a framed mask vs. frameless scuba mask, what are the pros and cons of each one? In this section, we’re going to pit these two mask types against each other to help you decide on which you prefer.
The main advantages that a frameless scuba mask provides are:
- Lower volume (easier to equalize, less buoyant).
- Lighter weight (easier to travel with).
- Greater flexibility (comfortable, can be stowed in a BC pocket or luggage).
As you can see, the frameless mask design makes it a fantastic choice for traveling since it can fit easily in bags or pockets and it is lightweight. Frameless masks are also the optimal choice as a backup dive mask for similar reasons. The flexible material also helps the mask feel comfortable on your face and provide a tight seal.
Take a look at how the advantages of a frameless mask compares to the advantages of a framed mask:
|Frameless Mask||Framed Mask|
|Wider field-of-vision||Durable and sturdier.|
|More flexible and comfortable.||More affordable.|
|Tighter seal (less likely to leak).||Time-tested design.|
|Easy to clear.||Accommodates prescription lenses.|
|Easy to equalize (less mask squeeze).||Sturdier strap clips.|
Regardless of what watersport you’re taking part in, having a wider field-of-vision is a major benefit. Furthermore, the lens on a frameless mask is usually a single continuous piece so there’s nothing obstructing your view. Thanks to its low-volume design, the lens is closer to your eyes, providing a more panoramic view with peripheral vision that is only rivaled by framed masks if they have side lenses.
Additionally, frameless masks are lightweight and flexible. They are easy to pack and travel with, and underwater, they are more comfortable and provide a tighter seal. If the mask does leak a bit, the low-volume design makes the mask easy to clear and equalize to prevent mask squeeze. The continuous lens means there won’t be an imprint on the bridge of your nose that framed masks can cause.
The main disadvantages of a frameless mask are its cost and reduced durability.
As mentioned in the “Engineering Materials” section above, the specialized material required for manufacturing frameless masks drives up their cost to be more expensive than framed masks on average. If you’re buying a mask from a leading brand like Scubapro or Atomic Aquatics, it’ll be even more expensive.
Furthermore, since there is no durable plastic frame for the glass lens to seal to, the areas where the lens and the mask skirt are molded together are vulnerable to degradation. The strap clips are attached to the frameless skirt, not a hard frame, so it too is susceptible to breaking.
With that said, as the frameless mask surges in popularity, more improvements in its design are sure to come, and future innovations in its materials and constructions can mitigate these disadvantages even further.
Take a look at how the disadvantages of a frameless mask compare to the disadvantages of a framed mask.
|Frameless Mask||Framed Mask|
|More expensive.||Less flexible skirt seal.|
|Skirt can detach from the glass over time.||Heavier.|
|No prescription lenses.||Narrower field-of-vision.|
|Can feel flimsy.||Higher volume, difficult to clear and equalize.|
|Lower quality strap clips.||Frame can put a lot of pressure on the face.|
There are some divers, particularly technical or commercial divers, who need a heavy-duty, sturdy mask to withstand the pressure at great depths. Similarly, some people just prefer a heavier and robust mask.
On the other hand, avid spearfishers and freedivers basically are required to wear a frameless mask because of the advantages it gives them. They may even wear something called ultra-low-volume masks, or micro masks, which are a type of framed mask.
Most recreational divers and snorkelers will probably enjoy the flexibility and comfort that a frameless mask provides. However, if you need a vision-correcting mask, you will either need to get prescription lenses or wear contact lenses. For most dual-lens framed masks, you should be able to swap out the standard lenses for a corrective pair.
Tips for wearing frameless masks
As with any mask, test how well it seals against your face before you try it in deeper waters. Next, remove the manufacturer’s coating, which is a thin layer of plastic film by heating it with a candle or lighter. Once the coating is removed, apply a good anti-fog on the glass each time before you head out into the water.
When wearing your mask, it should have a snug fit without the straps digging tightly into your skin. Be warned: since frameless masks are so lightweight, you might be tempted to over-tighten the straps.
For storage, make sure that that skirt is not crumpled up so that it won’t develop any folds or separate from the glass lens. Similarly, when you are packing it for travel, try to surround it with socks or underwear to cushion it and help the skirt retain its normal shape during transit.
Photo Credit: Cressi
Last update on 2023-03-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API