Like most of us I enjoy a good superhero movie, preferably one in which the lead is an ordinary guy or girl who works hard and trains hard and becomes a superhero only when they don their superhero outfit, pull a tiny mask over their eyes, and go to work – like Zorro, Captain America, Batman and Catwoman.
Yes, I know Catwoman was a baddie in the ’60s, but it turns out she’s really been one of the good guys all along, and the nicking stuff thing is just an amusing eccentricity.
I mention this because I like ultra-low-volume diving masks, and the only real downside to such masks is a tendency for them to make
you look like an extra from a low-budget superhero movie.
I say the only downside, but there is another, and slightly more personal, one. Some years ago I was persuaded to have a caricature of myself drawn by a street-artist, and when my other half saw the drawing she said it was all nose and glasses, then went quiet and added that it was
a very good likeness. So you’ll appreciate that nasal accommodation is important to me.
All of the above went through my mind when Mares sent me its frameless X-Free ultra-low-volume freediving mask to try, and it was a relief to find that it was white with grey highlights. Black does tend to emphasise the Zorro thing.
First and second jobs, peel off the protective stickers from the lenses, then rub toothpaste on the inner surfaces to fully clean and degrease them to avoid fogging, followed by wash out, spit and rub, and go diving. Does anyone else find that their new mask smells minty for a few dives, despite thorough rinsing?
Design & Fit
The Mares X-Free is made of an extremely soft and pliable material that followed the contours of my face perfectly. Placing it over my eyes and nose, it took just the merest inward sniff to hold it securely in place.
That’s probably the single most important thing to check when trying a mask for the first time, and a good start for the Mares.
Mares X-Free strap-adjustment: squeeze the tabs together to adjust, release to lock the strap length.
The strap is adjusted and the setting held firm with a pinch-type arrangement near the flexible tab at each side, where strap and mask are joined, and is flexible enough to cope easily with a bare head or a hood.
Talking of hoods, the mask fitted easily inside the face opening on every hood I was able to try, unlike bigger masks that need you to run a finger under the hood aperture to ensure that the skirt is sitting on your face.
It’s not a big deal, but refitting your mask at depth with cold hands and numb fingers in thick gloves will be simpler with the X-Free.
Once fitted, the mask remained exactly where it was supposed to be when I entered the water, either bare-headed or over a hood, and when rolling back off a RIB or striding from the dive-deck. The strap flares out to form a broad cup for the back of your head, and it does the job well.