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Why Paintball Masks Fog and How to Prevent It?

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The buildup of fog on your paintball mask lens distorts your vision and makes your paintball game hell. A foggy lens prevents players from seeing the field clearly and dramatically reduces their reaction time. This raises an important question: Why do paintball masks fog and how to prevent it?

Paintball masks become foggy due to the buildup of humidity. The temperature difference between the inner and outer lens causes water vapors to condense on the cooler surface.  The surface of the lens has microscopic depressions that attract moisture in excess.

Preventing fog buildup takes a two-pronged approach. First, you take preventative measures by buying paintball masks that are designed to minimize the buildup of fog. Secondly, you apply additional anti-fog solutions to further boost the lens’ resistance against fog.

In this article, we will take you through all the available options on how to prevent fog buildup without seriously hampering your movement on the field.

1. Buy a Compatible Anti-Fog Visor Insert

An anti-fog lens insert is one of the most robust solutions that you can use in cold and humid environments. If your paintball mask doesn’t already come with anti-fog inserts, you can buy ones that stick on. These inserts create a bubble of air that isolates the visor from your breath and prevents the buildup of condensation.

The inserts might be somewhat expensive, but you’ll appreciate their remarkable efficiency in keeping the moisture at bay.

How the Anti-Fog Visor Insert Works

The anti-fog mask insert creates an effective anti-fog barrier with its airtight insulator. This maintains a stable temperature and prevents any fluctuations responsible for condensation. Furthermore, the anti-fog visor is made of a hydrophilic substrate that decreases the water’s surface tension, thus forcing the water droplets to stretch themselves into a thin film that allows the maximum transmission of light.

2. Use an Anti-Fog Spray

This is a temporary solution that you will need to apply every 24 hours to 72 hours. Anti-fog sprays have the same working principle as visor inserts: they try to keep moisture from condensing and collecting on the flat surface of the lens on the inside. Although it is very inconvenient to have to reapply anti-fog sprays, they are the cheapest and easiest means of stopping fog dead in its tracks.

In particularly hot climates, anti-fog sprays may start showing their limits. Application of anti-fog is easy: simply spray evenly and use a microfiber cloth to carefully spread it. Once the lens has become dry and clean after the application, you’re good to do.

3. Buy Paintball Masks with Built-in Fans

Some paintball masks come with built-in fans that help in reducing fog. The good thing is that you can upgrade them later on. Once the fan is properly positioned, it starts to blow a continuous stream of air across the surface of the lens. This action of the fan energizes the water droplets, transferring latent heat that causes them to evaporate back into vapor form, thus completely stopping fog buildup.

Mask fans work exceptionally well but they can be rather expensive and require extra batteries. If they are too heavy, they may end up restricting your movement. Some people complain that the sound of the fan’s impellers moving in a rapid motion creates a lot of noise, enough to disrupt the flow of the game. To make things worse, if you drop the mask or fall on the field (that may happen more often than you give credit for), the fans may end up breaking.  But you can bet that fans will work even in the most humid and cold conditions.

4. Buy Paintball Masks with Generous Ventilation

You can also buy paintball masks that have generously sized vents near the bottom of the chin to allow air circulation. Some masks may even allow you to lift the vents to improve air circulation, this is certainly better than removing the entire mask in the middle of the game.

Make sure the mask has good ventilation everywhere, not just the mouth. Good ventilation in the front helps circulate your deep breaths. Back and side ventilation prevents fogging and improves hearing on the field. Just make sure that the ventilation holes on the paintball mask are small enough to prevent any paint fragments from leaking into the mask. A good mask should be able to keep flying objects out while providing good ventilation.

5. Buy Paintball Masks with Thermal Lenses

A thermal or dual-lens is a type of protective paintball mask lens that significantly minimizes fog buildup on the field. They are composed of two separate lenses separated by about 0.2 to 0.3 cm with the help of a glued gasket that can be traced around the outer boundary of the inner lens. The outer lens has the same thickness as most standard lenses, while the inner lens is relatively thinner and weighs less.

Moisture accumulates on the inside when there is a dramatic difference in temperature. The warm moist air coming from your mouth contacts the much cooler surface of the lens, turning water vapor into liquid water.

Thermals lenses eliminate this by creating a layer of sandwiched air between the two lenses. This layer of air acts like a thermal insulator, allowing the inner lens to have the same temperature as that of our face, thus systematically preventing the cause of moisture condensation on the lens.

The only trade off with thermal lenses is that they are not easy to clean and maintain in the long run. A towel is easily going to leave scratch marks, and that is never good for your paintball mask. It takes time, patience, and lots of focus to properly clean the thermal lens. On the upside, thermal lenses are extremely durable and resistant to direct blunt force.

The Difference Between Single Pane Lens and Thermal Lenses

Most normal masks on the market have a single pane lens with an anti-fog coating already cured onto them, but depending on the environment and its conditions, they don’t always do a good job of preventing fog build-up.  That being said, single pane lenses are easier to clean after a game and their maintenance is easy in the long run.

They are very durable and don’t break unless you deliberately apply excessive force. In the unlikely event that you do end up breaking the lenses, replacing the lenses is cheaper.

Combining the Above Methods

Some players buy paintball masks that combine the above solutions. The masks have a thermal lens, lots of ventilation, built-in fans, and anti-fog coating. Just keep in mind that the more upgrades you want, the pricier the paintball mask gets.

Is Buildup of Mask Fog a Big issue?

Fog buildup can be dangerous if you’re not able to defog and clear your vision quick enough. After all, you won’t be able to see the incoming paintball pellets and probably get shot more often.

Some players like to lift their masks in the middle of a paintball game to clear the fog. This is dangerous for several reasons: it takes only a few seconds for a dangerous paintball pellet to strike you on your now-exposed face. It is not unheard of for paintball pellets to cause blindness in the unprotected eye.

It doesn’t even have to be intentional from your opponents. After all, an intense game of paintball can have lots of stray paintballs flying around. Either way, having a paintball hit you directly on the face can cause serious damage to the ears, nose, eyes, and more. Just don’t take the risk. If the fog gets so bad that you can’t see ahead of you, request a team to remove you from the field.

Tips for Buying the Perfect Paintball Mask

Go to the Store to Try Out the Mask

If you’re a first-time buyer and don’t know what size you should get for your face, it always helps to go to a local paintball store and try them out. You don’t have to buy them at the store, just get an idea of what the perfect fit for your face is. No two faces are alike, and what may fit your friend won’t necessarily fit your face.

If the paintball mask lens sits too close to your face, it is undoubtedly going to create issues with fogging. If it’s too large for your head, you will struggle to keep the mask properly balanced on your head.

While online reviews for paintball masks give you a rough idea about the mask’s pros and cons, they are not always a good indication of the mask being a good fit for your head and face. It’s easy to sit through online reviews, get encouraged, and have the mask delivered to your doorstep within just a week. But if you haven’t done your due research, there is a high chance you may end up getting disappointed should the mask not fit.

So make sure to leave your house, try out a couple of masks, and get a good idea of the perfect fit for your head and face. Once you have the mask in your hands, it’s a good idea to wear and move around. You will be moving a lot on the field, such as dodging, jumping, and even hopping, try to ‘simulate’ a similar environment at home. Running (or lightly jogging) around with the mask will create enough movement to test the fit and see if the mask sits on your face.

Don’t Buy a Mask Just Because It Is Cheap

When you first start buying gear for paintball, you will be flooded with so many options, you’ll get buyer’s remorse just by purchasing one item over the other. In such situations, it is easy to fall for cheaper masks. Don’t cut corners when it comes to the paintball mask. Instead, try something that is durable and offers resistance against fog build up. As the saying goes, ‘buy once, cry once’.

The one big disadvantage of buying a cheap mask is that they are very uncomfortable to wear. Worse still is the fact that they fog up easily because of poor anti-fog preventative measures. This means you may end up lifting the mask more often during game-play just to wipe away at the fog. This is not safe, and for the most part, will leave scratches on the inside of the lens.

Cheaper masks are not durable and will break easily because the quality of parts is simply not good enough. You will have to either buy replacement parts (not recommended for a cheap mask) or replace the mask once again. In the end, you always end up spending a lot of money in the long run due to replacement and repair costs.  

Here’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to paintball masks: you get what you pay for. Now we’re not asking you to buy a ‘flagship’ top of the line, premium mask from a luxury manufacturer, just spend more time researching the paintball mask’s strengths and weaknesses. Look for affordable, durable, and fog-resistant paintball masks.

The Mask Should Have Replacement Parts

If something breaks in a cheap mask, you won’t easily find replacement parts. You’re forced to throw it away only to purchase a brand new one. This is why you should invest in a mask that lets you replace parts as they wear out over time (and this will happen).

Most advanced and premium masks let you easily find replacement pieces. This way, if something snaps but the rest of the mask is in good shape, you can buy a replacement part instead of spending money on a new mask.

Find High-Quality Straps

Most players don’t give particular attention to the straps when choosing their paintball mask. Almost all straps have high elasticity, but the good models have silicon beads running along the inside to give the sliders a stronger grip and stay secured on the face. A strap that does not have these beads will require constant readjustment throughout the session.

Higher-end models even have a clamp to secure the adjustment in place. When the paintball mask loses its grip, it increases the risk of fog buildup since more air is not coming in contact with the lens.

Look for Durability

When it comes to paintball, look for durable masks. Paintball masks are made of a variety of composites and materials. Some are sturdy, while others are not as strong and feel like soft rubber. If you’re new to the game of paintball, we recommend buying something strong from the get-go. The paintball mask should be able to fully protect you from any direct hits you may end up taking.

More competitive players might look for something softer since they want a competitive edge. A softer shell increases the possibility of the paintball bouncing off without breaking, thus allowing them to last longer each session, although each hit will hurt more. Those paintball pellets can be painful if you take a direct shot at close range.

How Much Space Do You Need on the Inside?

Not all paintball masks have the same amount of space between your face and the lens. Some are designed to be much more spacious to make the experience more comforting. Others have a smaller footprint where the lens is close to your face.

You don’t want the lens sitting too close to your face. Otherwise, you risk increasing the chances of fog build-up, not to mention the fact that it may make you feel claustrophobic. If the lens sits too far away from your face it will distort your vision and affect accuracy on the field. Although it all comes down to personal preference, we feel that masks should offer a fit that is neither too tight nor too loose.

If you’re still confused, just buy a speedball mask since they have a more streamlined design that offers comfort. You can wield them for several hours on end without fog buildup or feeling uncomfortable.

Comfort Is King

You will be spending several hours on the paintball field dodging flying projectiles, ducking for cover, and shooting at opponents. It is advisable to buy a mask that that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable for extended periods. So how can you tell that the mask will feel uncomfortable? Try it on for five minutes and see if it fits perfectly. If it doesn’t, find a mask that will.

You can comfortably wear this mask on the field for several hours without feeling tired. Plus, it won’t fog as much as it would if it were uncomfortable.

Look for a Mask That Offers the Most Coverage

Coverage in this context refers to how much of your face is covered in addition to your eyes. Based on the coverage they offer, there are four different types of paintball masks.

Paintball Goggle Lenses (Eyes Only)

Goggle lenses, as the name suggests, are lenses that cover your eyes only. No other part of your face will be covered. This lens securely fits on your face to protect the eyes from both direct impact and paint splatter. Depending on the model you buy, the lens may be curved, flat, or have a bubble design to provide varying degrees of vertical and peripheral vision, clarity, and fit. They also feature an anti-glare coating and have a durable frame that resists scratches.

The goggle lens is secured onto your face via the frame. The frame has either a quick-release lens system or a fixed lens. A quick-release lens system makes it easy to clean and maintain the paintball mask, but it is rather costly. The frame will make contact with your face and create a good seal between to prevent your exhaled breath from coating the inner lens. The frame often has thick, soft foam that comfortably rests against your skin. For the most part, Goggle lenses are good at preventing fog build-up since they cut off the supply of air from your face. Make sure to buy thermal lenses to eliminate the chances of fog build-up.

Full-Head Paintball Mask (Complete Coverage for the Face)

Full-head paintball masks are designed to provide complete coverage of the face. They are made using rigid material that can absorb the direct impact of paintballs yet is versatile enough to contour to your head’s shape.

Although they are slightly less comfortable since they run hot and study over time, full-head masks offer unparalleled protection to your face so you can play with complete confidence that no stray pellet will leave a bruise on your face!

Do keep in mind that full head paintball masks will create a closed environment around your face, and that will only increase the humidity and temperature around the inside, this means more fog buildup. So make sure you apply anti-fog spray and buy a thermal lens.

If you are a new player who is still learning the ropes, go for a mask that offers more coverage rather than less. There just isn’t as much benefit from a compact paintball mask that offers less coverage (other than the advantage of less fog build up).

How to ‘Size’ a New Paintball Mask That You Just Ordered

Now that finally decided to buy a paintball mask after narrowing down all your options, it is time to ‘break it in’ just a little before using it on the actual game. Most masks will break in 15 percent to 20 percent after a few hours of using them. The best way to break-in the mask is to wear it and do a little exercise. Put it on, run around, and do some pushups, squats, and jumping jacks for a few minutes.

This allows your face to get accustomed to its new mask. It’s just like trying out a new mattress. It will take your body some time to adjust to the new mattress. The same principle applies with masks, the more you wear them around the house, the quicker you will acclimatize to them.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Paintball Mask

Cleaning and maintenance of your new paintball mask is an on-going task. Keeping the mask clean of debris will give improve your in-game performance, and help you identify deformities and damage on the lens. It is very common for paintball splatter and debris to cover cracks on the lens or mask, and that is an accident just waiting to happen.

A tiny crack on the mask means that an incoming paintball will easily crack the lens open and send the resulting debris crashing into your eyes. Lastly, cleaning your paintball mask regularly allows you to extend its life span. The paintball splatter over time will break down certain parts of the paintball mask. This includes the straps, padding, and even the vents. When that happens, more fog starts to build up.

Never store your paintball mask with paint stains in it because it will permanently stain the lens and degrade it over time.

Things You Will Need to Clean the Paintball Mask

  • Microfiber cloth
  • A lens cleaner designed specifically for paintball masks
  • Water

You don’t need to overspend on cleaning products. Most household cleaners will degrade the paintball mask and remove valuable coatings from the lens such as anti-glare, anti-scratch, and anti-fog coatings. The only thing you should use is a manufacturer-approved paintball lens cleaner.

If the outside of your mask has paintball splatter on it, use your microfiber cloth to remove most of the gunk away. Spray the approved lens cleaner or water and then use the microfiber cloth to wipe away the goop. If needed, repeat this step multiple times to properly polish the lens.

Do not clean the inner lens with a towel because it will create scratches and degrade the material. Instead, take a microfiber cloth dabbed with the approved lens cleaner and then dab at it until the debris and paintball splatter is gone.

Some players remove the lens from the marker and submerge it underwater or hold it against running water from the faucet until it is clear of debris and paint. However, if you have a thermal lens, do not submerge it underwater because some of the liquid will leak into the layer and cause permanent damage.

Now that you have done cleaning both the outside and the inside, it is time to dry the water out. It takes 30 minutes to an hour for the mask to properly air dry. You can use a fan to speed up the process, but some may consider this to be too much!

Lastly, when you’re not using the paintball mask, you want to find a way to properly store it. If your paintball mask did not come with a separate goggle compartment, then make sure to store it in last on top of all your other gear so it doesn’t get crushed. 

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