Glasses and sports don’t mix well. It’s really easy for them to get knocked off, lost, or become a hazard to your eyes if they shatter. When it comes to snorkeling and diving, glasses just get in the way of your mask skirt by preventing it from forming a watertight seal on your face. Unfortunately, a regular pair of glasses cannot be worn for snorkeling, but this doesn’t mean that you are forced to snorkel with blurry vision.
Thankfully, there are many alternatives to snorkeling with glasses that can help glasses wearers get a great view of the fish, coral reefs, and other marine life. You can make the most of your vacation by using any of the alternatives to glasses. You can wear contact lenses, add bonded corrective lenses or lens inserts to an old mask, or get a prescription snorkel mask. We’ll look at all of these options in detail further below.
The Problems with Snorkeling with Glasses
Why is it not a good idea to snorkel with glasses? Anyone who has ever tried will tell you that it failed miserably. The main issue is that the earpieces of the glasses get in the way of the mask skirt. It’s the same reason why it’s difficult to wear a snorkeling or diving mask over a beard. If even just a single strand of hair can compromise the skirt’s seal, then how much more of a leak could the glasses earpiece cause?
Next, it doesn’t matter how large of a mask you get; the main issue is not the space in front of the mask, but the mask’s seal on your face. That is why not even a full face snorkel mask will solve this problem. In order to wear glasses under a snorkel mask without affecting the seal, you would need to modify the temples of the glasses frame to be significantly shorter. However, this introduces a new problem, which is the positioning of the lenses.
The lenses of your glasses are designed to sit above the center of your nose, which is a short distance from your eyes. If they are a little farther or shorter than that distance, you’ll find it’s disorienting and headache-inducing. The result is that your vision is warped, your head is hurting, and it may be even worse than if you just snorkeled without glasses.
If you’re handy and have a spare pair of glasses you are willing to sacrifice, you can do some DIY on it to replace the existing earpieces for shorter ones. However, if the positioning of the glasses under the mask is even slightly off, then your vision will be warped. It’s much easier to try some of the alternatives listed below.
You May Not Need Vision Correction to Snorkel
If your vision is only slightly impaired, you may not actually need to wear glasses or use any other vision correction because water actually has a natural magnification effect. When wearing a mask with a flat lens, underwater objects will appear 25% closer and 33% bigger than they are. This is enough to make certain blurry objects much sharper and clearer even without glasses.
Don’t believe us? Try setting a glass of water on top of printed text on a piece of paper and look at the text from above the glass. It will look slightly bigger than normal. So if your vision is not far off from normal, say between +1.00 and -1.00, then you may not need glasses to enjoy snorkeling.
Before you book an expensive flight to Hawaii, you’ll want to test your vision underwater. You can do a trial run by going to a nearby beach or swimming pool and test how well you can see. You can even do this at home if you have a large enough bathtub. We recommend placing items at various distances away from you to test your vision.
Of course, this kind of testing is no match against the real thing. However, the point is just to test the natural magnification of water and how it affects your vision. If an object is out of focus above water but is much sharper underwater at the same distance, then you can expect the same thing to happen when looking at coral or fishes.
Alternatives to Glasses for Snorkeling
Daily Contact Lenses
Just like on land, if you don’t want to wear glasses then you wear contact lenses. Well, you can do the same for snorkeling but there are some caveats. The first thing to keep in mind is that your contacts should never come into contact with water. Water can easily wash out your contacts and leave your vision blurry again. If water enters your mask, we recommend completely shutting your eyes to prevent water from ever reaching the contacts.
However, the second and more important reason why water should never reach your contacts is because of the microbes and viruses in it. Contact lenses are highly absorptive and will store this contaminated water inside it. Since the contacts are pressing up right against your eye, this allows the bacteria in the water to reach your eyes. You can get a nasty eye infection this way which, if left untreated, can cause blindness.
The bacteria in water is usually not a problem because it is quickly rinsed out of your eyes through tears. When contacts are in the way, however, the tears cannot get rid of the bacteria that have been absorbed by the lens.
For this reason, our recommendation is that whenever water gets into your eyes with contacts on, you should immediately head back to shore and put on a fresh pair of contacts and leave the contaminated one soaking in contact solution for 24 hours. After a snorkeling session, remove the contacts immediately even if it never touched water just to be safe.
As you can imagine, you will be going through many contacts being this cautious. It is better to use disposable dailies so that you don’t run the risk of wearing contacts that have lingering bacteria in them. Having many disposable ones on hand can also help you in case you lose a pair while on your vacation.
If you’re going to snorkel with contacts, then we recommend bringing a contact case lens, contact solution, anti-bacterial eye-drops, and plenty of disposable daily lenses.
Stick-On Corrective Lenses
Another alternative to glasses while snorkeling are stick-on lenses. These are helpful if you already have a preferred snorkeling mask and just want to glue some lenses on the frames without doing anything invasive to the mask.
The benefit of using stick-on lenses is that you can typically buy one for each eye. So if your eyes don’t have the same prescription, you can purchase inserts with different prescriptions separately. Then you just glue them on the inside of your existing mask lens to refract what you see just like glasses do.
Most lens inserts come in a bi-focal format, which are smaller strips of adhesive lens that you install on the lower portion of the lens. This is the optimal solution for people who are farsighted since they can still look through the existing lens like normal, but look down through the corrective lensing to see things close-up. This is perfect for checking your watch or any gauges if you’re diving.
Installing corrective lenses is straightforward. First put on your snorkel mask and take note of where you would like to have your vision corrected. Mark this area on the outside of the lens with a washable marker. Now take off your mask and rinse the inside thoroughly and allow it to fully dry. Finally, stick the lenses on the inside of the mask using the marked area as a reference point, press on the center of the lens and work your way to the edges to work out any air bubbles.
Drop-In Corrective Lenses
The next step up from stick-on corrective lenses is an optical dive mask with corrective lenses installed. This is a relatively popular choice among corrective vision options because it’s highly effective but still not too expensive.
Essentially, you are looking for a manufacturer that provides a regular snorkel mask, with the option of purchasing prescription lenses to replace the existing lens. You will have to remove the old lenses and install the prescription lenses yourself. If you’re not careful with the removing and installation process, you could damage the mask or lenses.
Costs will vary, however if you’re just a recreational snorkeler who wants to be able to view the corals and marine life with total clarity, you can find a mask with the right prescription for less than $100. This is a no-frills option that is more than adequate to suit your snorkeling needs without breaking the bank.
If you are an avid snorkeler who is willing to pay a bit more, then you can get a sturdier mask with a more comfortable skirt with a tempered glass lens and other nice-to-haves depending on the level of mask you choose. However, if you want a mask that lasts a long time, it will be worth the investment.
A good starting point for a mask with drop-in lenses is the Cressi Focus mask. You can order lenses for the Focus separately for the proper Diopter correction for each eye. Cressi is a well-known manufacturer of scuba and snorkel masks, and their products are made from durable materials with reliable straps and buckles. It is also available for a reasonable price, and Amazon is great about returns.
For those who prefer wearing a full-face snorkel mask, vision correction technology has advanced so that even corrective full-face mask lenses are being manufactured. The Vista Vue II is one such example of a full-face mask with built-in prescription lenses. You can avail it by clicking here.
You can also see our review of the best prescription snorkel masks here.
Bonded Corrective Lenses
If the other options are not convenient or possible for you, and you already have a mask that you love, then you can try using bonded corrective lenses. This option is where you send your glasses prescription to a company that specializes in creating prescription lenses for snorkel masks.
After you have sent them this information, they will create flat lenses that can be bonded to the inside lens of your mask. This is less invasive than drop-in lenses, but you get the same benefits once you have bonded the new lenses with the old ones.
The downside is that this adds extra weight, since new lenses are glued onto the existing lens. Furthermore, if the prescription lenses are not perfectly the same shape as the existing lens, then cleaning the edges will be a pain. Also, it is quite expensive, with most services starting at $200. Lastly, if you require a strong prescription, or you have significant astigmatism, then these lenses may not be powerful enough for the job.
Get Prescription Lenses Installed for You
It’s not uncommon for people to try to install drop-in lenses themselves, only to break their mask or lenses. Instead, why not have it done for you by a professional? This option is similar to the bonded corrective lens option above, but instead of sending in just your prescription, you send your mask as well. The manufacturer will create the new prescription lenses and install them directly onto the snorkel mask.
The end result are prescription lenses that have been seamlessly integrated with your existing mask. If your eyes have settled down and you haven’t changed prescription in years, then this is a fantastic option. However, because of how labor intensive this process is, it’s the most expensive option on this list. You can expect to pay over $300. And if your eyesight worsens in the future, you will have to repeat this process all over again.
To avail yourself of this option, you will have to pay a visit to your local dive shop. Tell them what you need and they should have a list of specialized companies they work with that they can contact for you.
DIY Snorkeling Glasses
Some of these options listed above can get quite costly. Instead, if you have an old pair of prescription glasses laying around and you’re feeling a bit handy, then you can try to make your own specialized glasses for snorkeling. You will need an eyeglass screwdriver, waterproof super glue that is safe for use on plastic or tempered glass, an anti-fog dive or snorkel mask, and the aforementioned old pair of glasses.
The first step is to use the screwdriver to remove the earpieces from the old pair of glasses. With what remains of the glasses frame, try to fit it in the mask to see if it’s comfortable. The frames should not be pressed up against your eyes or nose, nor should the glasses interfere with the mask’s seal.
If the frame doesn’t fit inside, you will have to remove the lenses from the frame and glue them directly onto your old mask lens as if you were installing a stick-on lens. Before you do so, find the optimal location for your glasses. Once you glue them on, it will be difficult to remove them.
How to Get a Mask with the Right Prescription
Regardless of which mask type you end up choosing, you need to know what your eyeglass prescription is in order to get the appropriate corrective lenses. Find your glasses prescription or call the optometrist’s office if you can’t find it. If it’s been a few years since your last eye exam, perhaps now is the time to go in for a new one.
Once you have a prescription, look for the SPH or SPHERE number for each eye. It should give you a number, something like +4.0 or -4.0. That’s the value you’ll use when you order the prescription lens online for each eye. Double check that you have the correct numbers, and include the negative or positive sign.
Very rarely, you may be able to find drop-in optical masks for rent. Wherever you plan on taking a vacation, you should call the local dive shops to see if they have any to rent out. Most tour operators will not have them on hand. And if they do, it may cost a bit more to rent out than usual masks, but it’ll be cheaper than buying your own.
Can You Snorkel with Glasses? The Verdict
If you are willing to do a bit of DIY, then yes, you can snorkel with glasses. However, there are many viable vision correction alternatives such as snorkeling with contact lenses, or the various prescription lens options.
Do not let your vision impairment keep you from enjoying snorkeling. With the alternatives presented in this article, all spectacled snorkelers can enjoy the beautiful sights offered by this underwater activity with perfect clarity. The best solution for you depends on your eyesight, budget, and how often you plan on snorkeling. The easiest method is to wear contacts, but be aware of the risk of eye infection and know the steps to avoid it..
Last update on 2023-03-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API