Snorkeling With Glasses: The Do’s and Don’ts

If you’ve always admired your friends with perfect vision or contact lenses who can snorkel freely without worrying about their specs getting in the way, don’t feel like all hope is lost. You can snorkel with imperfect vision, but there are do’s and don’ts about how your eyewear fits into the picture.

Snorkeling with glasses:  The do’s and don’ts:  It is not possible to wear your prescription glasses under your diving mask.  This is because water will seep in through the sides of the diving mask, and it will become waterlogged and clouded.  Therefore, you may have to consider other options, for example, customizing your diving mask with old prescription lenses, or by purchasing a diving mask with pre-made prescription glass.  One can also purchase a diving mask and get prescription glass fitted.  Another option is to wear contact lenses.

Approximately 75% of all adults wear prescription glasses.  This means that there are many snorkelers and divers who have to consider their options when it comes to seeing underwater.  Snorklers usually want to see the wonderful, underwater world of beautiful colored fish and corals that may be 30 or more feet away.  Being able to see is a top priority. 

Can You Snorkel With Glasses?

It is not possible to wear prescription glasses under your diving mask!  The mask seals against your face, this seal will be broken because the handle of the glasses goes around your ear.  This will pose an immediate problem with water seeping into your mask.

Glasses are also made to sit in a certain position on your face.  When placing your diving mask over your glasses, your glasses will be pushed into a different position, making your vision distorted.

There are other options, for example, wearing contact lenses or buying a mask with prescription glass. Sea Elite has an entire line of different strengths and colors on Amazon. Keep in mind that refraction occurs naturally between water and standard glass in masks, so follow guides for choosing the right strength lenses and read the Q&A portion of their listing.

There is also one inexpensive DIY method that may be right for you.

How To Make a Prescription Snorkeling Mask in 10 Easy Steps

  • Buy these items:  Select a good diving mask, which fits well on your face.   Find an old pair of prescription glasses, a tiny Phillips screwdriver, whiteboard marker, and superglue.  Remember, this option is really only affordable if you have an old pair of prescription glasses you won’t need for another purpose.
  • Using the tiny screwdriver, unscrew the tiny screws found on the right-hand side and left-hand side of the glasses’ frames.  This is where the ear stems screw onto the sides of the glasses.  These tiny screws don’t only support the ear stems, but also keep the frames securely around the prescription glass.  By unscrewing these screws, the lenses will fall out of the glasses.  Be careful to remember which lens is which, so that they don’t get swapped.  Each eye usually has a different prescription and, depending on the shape of your lens, it may be hard to tell one from the other. 
  • Prepare your mask:  Place the diving mask onto your face.  Make marks, using your whiteboard pen, on the outer glass of the mask, exactly where you want your lenses to go.  This should be exactly in line with your vision.  
  • Make sure that the placement of the glass on the diving mask is correct.  If the distance is incorrect for the lenses, you will not see well.  It would be a good idea to stick your prescription lenses onto the diving mask glass, in a temporary fashion using clear tape.  Try on the mask to see if you see clearly, before gluing them to the glass.  
  • Take your diving mask off and place the lenses face down on a flat surface.  
  • Clean the inside glass of your diving mask, well.
  • Clean the prescription lenses.  Be careful not to muddle them!  
  • Put superglue on the outer edges of one prescription glass, and place it inside the mask, gluing it in the correct position.  The lenses must be positioned where you drew the dot, with the whiteboard pen.  
  • Do the same with the other prescription lens.  It is very important to place the glue on the right side of the lenses and place the correct lens on the correct side.
  • Allow to dry.  Test your diving mask.  This may not be the best solution, but people have found that it works well, and it is also affordable.  

Snorkeling With Slightly Impaired Vision 

There are divers with vision that isn’t terribly compromised.  These individuals should consider diving without their prescription glasses.  Wait, how can that be? It doesn’t work for everyone, but for some, being underwater with a diving mask or goggles actually improves vision enough to see. It has to do with refraction.

This is possible because the mask creates an airspace between the cornea of the eye and the glass of the mask.  This allows light to pass through the air into the cornea at an angle.  This increases the included angle from the perceived object you are looking at, and hence it appears larger.   This magnifies everything you see, so prescription glasses, may not be needed.  Usually, the magnification is up to 30% more.

Can You Snorkel With Contacts?

Yes, you can snorkel with contact lenses!  This is the option most people choose, as it is inexpensive.  Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Avoid wearing hard and gas permeable lenses, as these lenses cause blurry vision, and can cause pain to the eye, due to the increasing water pressure, as you dive deeper.
  • Disposable contact lenses are a good buying option.  They are soft and can be discarded after the dive.  This can be an effective way to stop eye infections.
  • Always shut your eyes when putting on your diving mask. Otherwise, you will lose your lenses.  You will also experience discomfort or even pain, should you get water in your eyes, especially if you are diving in seawater.

Different Types of Diving Options for Prescription Glasses:

Different Types of Diving Options for GlassesPros and ConsExpense
Home-make Glass Fitted to MaskPros:  Making a home-made prescription diving mask is a method, which has worked well for some divers.Cons:  The only problem one may have is finding a diving mask, with the glass at the correct distance, for the diver to see through the lenses properly.This is an affordable option, as long as you have an old pair of glasses and the correct type of diving mask.
Contact LensesPros:  Contact lenses are the cheapest option, and if you use disposable soft lenses, they work well.  Soft lenses allow gases to pass through them; this, in turn, allows air to pass through the lenses.  Soft lenses are larger than hard lenses, and the eyelids hold the lenses firmly inside the eyelids. Cons:  On the other hand, using hard contact lenses is not suitable, as gas is not able to penetrate them.  This will make your vision blurring, especially as you dive deeper into the depths of the water.  Hard lenses are usually smaller, and therefore, it is easier to lose them while diving.This option is very affordable.
Prescription MaskPros:  If you are an avid diver, and you dive regularly, it is worth buying a prescription mask.These masks are pre-made and can be bought at any diving store.  These masks may not be suitable for everyone, as both lenses will be the same strength, and a person may have different prescriptions in each eye.The other option is to buy a mask that fits well and send it to an optician, who makes specialized prescription lenses, for diving masks.  When choosing a prescription mask (pre-made or custom-made), your need to consider what type of diving you usually do.  If you are a deep-sea diver, you may need to see objects at a greater distance.  It would be best to buy a prescription diving mask for short-sightedness.  On the other hand, if you are a diver who dives in coral reefs, you may need a prescription mask to be able to see objects close-up.Cons:  There are no disadvantages to prescription diving masks, aside from their cost.This option is very expensive.  
Visit Amazon to view the Sea Elite Prescription Mask line

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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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