The very first high-end upgrade for any serious paintball player is a high-quality mask. The purpose and use of a mask goes far beyond simple face protection in the current day and age of paintball. Having a good mask makes playing easier, it makes you better aware of your surroundings, and it opens up possibilities when playing that you wouldnít have with a beat up hand-me-down mask.
So what are the facts?
Clear Vision: Being able to see the battlefield clearly and consistently is something every player wants and has had trouble with at some point in their playing career. Fogging has even become a regular part of some players weekends time and again, but you donít have to be that unlucky player. Dye, Sly, and Empire all use dual-paned Thermal lenses in their flagship goggle systems standard and JT and V-Force both have fantastic Thermal lenses ready for upgrade immediately. What does Thermal mean? Dual-Paned Thermal lenses consist of two lenses with a thin air-filled space between them. The air in-between the two lenses act as a barrier between the air near your skin and the outer temperature. This protective barrier keeps the inner lens closer to the temperature of your face, which limits the rate that moisture will fog up your mask. Thermal lenses will keep you clean and clear in the coldest or hottest of weather guaranteed.
Recommended Brands: Dye I4ís and Sly Profitís for their outstanding out of the box standard Thermal Lenses.
Cutting Edge Vision: On top of keeping the elements from ruining your day, itís important to use lenses appropriate to your playing situation. Traditionally players have used clear lenses for inside play or dusk and night matches and then switched to smoke lenses during the bright daylight. But now there are quite a few more options such as the Blue, Yellow, and Rose tints for Dye I4ís that allow you to customize how you perceive your surroundings and follow movement on the field. Dye I4ís also have the options of the High Definition lens that brightens your field of vision and contrasts greater than other lenses giving you a leg up when looking in dark places and looking for subtle differences that surround you. The Sly Profit goggle system has its own innovative lenses that have a Gradient smoke tinting up top fading down to a clear coating at the bottom. These gradient lenses come in a variety of colors including Mirror Blue, Mirror Red, Mirror Silver, and even Mirror Purple! Similarly V-Force, JT, and Empire also have their own sets of thermal mirrored lenses that include the Silver, Gold, Ninja Black, Blue, and Burnt Orange color sets.
Recommended Brands: Dye I4ís, Sly Profits, and V-Force Grillz/Profilers for their great selection and innovative lens options.
Quick Change Lense:
One of the newest features to hit the market is the quick change style lens. Paintball goggle lenses used to have to be held in place by a frame and tabs. Although a very durable design, still in use in some goggles today, the time it can take to remove the lens for a thorough cleaning or replacement can cost you valuable time. Whether that is the 2 minutes in an X-Ball match break or just missing a round with your friends while you clean, the new quick changes systems get you back out there quicker. The designs vary, but the Dye I4ís, Sly Profits, Save Phace, Empire Eívent, and V-Force Lines all have this fast setup.
Recommended Brands: V-Force Grillz/Profilers, Save Phace, and JT QLS for their time saving lens and lock designs.
Youíre going to be wearing your mask all day long every time you take a trip out to the field. With that in mind you need to make sure that youíre focused on the game and not on how your mask is crimping your ears or scratching your jawline. Dependable and soft mask foam will keep the sweat out of your eyes and make your mask feel more like a pillow than a helmet. V-Force brand goggles have very comfortable foam that lasts forever and is easily replaceable should you need to and also has rubber molded parts that wonít ever scratch your face and have a tendency to get bounces. On the flip side, Sly Profitís have a velvety soft foam texture that is one of a kind in comfort and looks. Profitís also sport a double-strap design that keeps the mask secure on the top and side of your head and is easily replaceable with other single straps should you choose to customize it. JT ProFlexís, Dye I4ís and I3 Proís as well as Empire E-Vents also sport comfortable Soft Ears that relieve pressure on the sides of your head, help with venting and look great. They are a great feature to look for when choosing a mask.
Recommended Brands: V-Force Grillz and Sly Profitís for their super comfortable design and long-lasting reliability.
Communication and Breathability: In the heat of the moment, communication is absolutely critical. If you see an opposing player running up the other side of the field to bunker your teammate and all that comes out of your mask is a muffled scream, then itís time to try on a new mask. It also so happens that the best masks for communicating in are the best masks for breathing in as well. The Dye I4ís low profile ďVĒ design allows for great communication and breathability, but its jaw line running design favors those with smaller heads and jaws. Two other fantastic options are the V-Force Grillz and the JT ProFlex which both have generous amounts of rubber vent holes and large front jaw molds to allow for maximum breathability, absolute minimal echo, and the greatest amount of jaw protection. Donít overlook these features when choosing a mask as they can become very important aspects of your game.
Recommended Brands: V-Force Grillz and JT Proflex for their excellent breathability, communication, and protection.
Price: A mask is something you should never skimp on, but in the current economy getting the best bang for your buck is never a bad deal and is sometimes necessary. If you canít reach the highest price bracket of masks such as the Dye I4ís and Sly Profits, there are still fantastic options in the next lower price range. The V-Force Grillz, Empire E-Vents, and Dye I3 Proís are all excellent options in the $79.95-99.95 range. If thatís still a little too high then JT Pro-Flexís and V-Force Profilers are the best of value and performance in the $69.95- 73.95 range. This is especially true with JTís new Limited Edition ProFlex colors and V-Forceís new Profiler Mirrored Thermal Lenses.
Recommended Brands: V-Force Grillz/Profilers, JT Proflex, and Empire E-Vents are great buys for the smart consumer.
Lookiní Good: What mask should you get to look awesome? Thatís one area we canít help you in besides just showing you every mask. Your personal preference is all about you and in this landscape of paintball products there are many masks to make you look your best. Customize yourself to your hearts content!
Staff Favorites: Gold & Black Dye I4ís, Lime Green Limited JT ProFlexís, and RedEye Edition Sly Profitís.
At the end of the day there are many options and many masks to invest in, use this guide and talk to other players about their experiences and try on as many masks as you can. Every mask mentioned in this guide is going to be great and have been used extensively by Proís and Newbies alike. Donít be afraid to try something new.