Ah, yes... You wouldn't think that something so simple would cause so much controversey, would you?
We're asked all the time about "those neoprene mask straps," and "what we think of them."
Well, the standard silicone strap that came with your mask is probably one of the new design - it's either a
"double strap" (one strap can be placed high on the back of your head while the other is placed low) or a wide strap (more than
one inch in width). These newer straps are excellent, and are generally problem-free. It sounds silly, but we don't
recommend fixing a problem that does not exist.
Some people complain about the standard mask strap pulling their hair. Those people tend to prefer the aftermarket
neoprene mask straps. They claim that the neoprene is "softer" on their hair than the standard silicone or rubber strap that
came with their mask. We have found that people who say that the strap pulls their hair usually have the problem
because the mask strap is entirely too tight. The strap should be snug and should enable the wearer to take the mask off and
put it back on effortlessly. If you have a "ring" on your face after diving, you're wearing your mask too tight!
Neoprene mask straps don't stretch very much, at least by comparison to the "stock" straps. This means that getting the mask
on and off can be a more painful ordeal, and strap adjustment is much more critical. When wearing a hood, the thick neoprene
straps usually do not allow you to wear the hood over the mask strap, a practice that we recommend over wearing the strap on
top of the hood (if it's under the hood, then your mask can't be kicked off of your face by a spaz buddy or an errant fish).
Lastly, rubber or silicone straps dry much quicker than neoprene straps... Something that you'll really appreciate on the
trip home in the car or plane.
We have found that for the most part, the "big push" toward neoprene mask straps in the dive industry today has been from
the local dive shop, who usually has their insignia or logo on the strap.
One more tip: Once you've found the right adjustment on your mask strap, we recommend neatly cutting off the excess strap.
Not only will this create for a neater appearance, but it will help streamline you in the water, give monofilament fishing
line one less place to snag on your body, and discourage theft at the dive site. After all, if your mask won't fit the
thief, he's likely to simply go steal someone else's mask.