To date, I have never had the misfortune of taking a paintball directly to my face. I have, however, been shot in just about every other spot; often at very inadvisable ranges. So I think I can imagine the pain of being paintballed on the nose. If you took a paintball to the eye, well, that’s game over folks.
A paintball mask is an absolute requirement if you want to play safely, but there are so many to choose from! They come in different styles and colors, and with varying features, so where do you even start?
Styles of Mask
Some people are crazy enough to play paintball with just a pair of goggles, leaving the rest of the face exposed. That’s certainly your choice but, personally, I’d never do that. I get it – wearing a mask can make you feel constricted. But the good news is that modern masks are way better in that department.
The most common and, to be honest, sensible mask style is the full-face paintball mask. These have a large plastic lens that covers your eyes. That means no actual paint can get into your eyes.
I now see that mesh masks are also being marketed as paintball masks. These have mesh protection over the eyes, but this obviously won’t stop paint from getting into your eyes. If you really must wear a mesh face mask, then try to get one that allows you to wear small goggles underneath. These mesh masks are actually meant for Airsoft, so I think this is irresponsible marketing. I can understand the appeal though, since many of these mesh masks really do look awesome. There’s not much you can do with the design of a normal paintball mask, but the mesh ones can look like something from a movie or a badass military shooter game.
I’ve decided not to include those mesh masks here, but you can look at some in my Airsoft mask review page.
What to Look for in a Paintball Mask
Paintball masks can vary quite a lot in terms of price, which means you can expect different features and quality levels. Masks are also an item that one wears on the body, which brings all sorts of subjective issues to the fore – such as the exact styling.
In general, you want to pay attention to usability and protection. You want a mask that’s going to be comfortable and allow you to see enough of what’s going on around you to be competitive. You also want a mask that will be durable, but still light enough. Obviously there’s no such thing as a product that will have all these things in one, but striking the right balance for your needs is the key concept here.
Best Paintball Mask Overall
Dye Precision I4 Thermal Paintball Goggle
While there is no such thing as a perfect paintball mask, there is perhaps such a thing as the ultimate mask you can buy. I think the Precision I4 from Dye ticks all the boxes for what you want in a paintball mask.
This is a true pro mask, used by actual professional teams. It has a quick lens change system, and the lens itself provides anti-fogging technology. It also has, arguably, the best field of vision of any mask on the market.
The mask provides a lot of facial coverage, but thanks to its unique shape it’s also very compact and light. The anatomical fit, dense foam, and amazing ventilation all make for what many consider the professional standard. In short, you can’t go wrong with an I4.
Best Budget Pick
Valken Annex MI-7 Goggles
The MI-7 is another budget entry, but with much more aggressive styling than we typically see from entry-level products. It looks like someone took the back off a motocross helmet. It actually reminds me a bit of the Master Chief’s helmet from the video game Halo.
The lens wraps around significantly – especially surprising at this price. The peak will also help cut down glare from the sun; it might also limit vertical vision, so take your needs into account. The visor is, however, removable, so it should be a non-issue. This is a very attractive and versatile mask for the budget paintball player.
Empire EVS Paintball Mask
This mask has an absolutely massive lens. Empire says that this spherical lens provides 270-degrees of vision without distortion, which is amazing, if true. The lens consists of two-layered panes, which creates a thermal barrier that should reduce fogging significantly. The mask wraps right around, protecting your ears and the side of the face. The steampunk graphic on this particular model is very attractive too. Overall, this mask looks very premium indeed. To top it off, you get some very high-density foam that’s both soft and extra absorbent.
While not that expensive, the EVS is more than twice the price of an entry-level product like the Valken Annex. Is it worth it? Absolutely! It’s the perfect step up from entry level, and you’ll look awesome while wearing it. What’s not to love?
Virtue VIO Paintball Goggles/Masks
The first thing that struck me about the VIO series of masks is the striking color choices on offer. Virtue seems to be bringing back the 80s with these color schemes, and that’s no insult. Bright and fun, it’s a refreshing take over the “tacticool” masks with their black and grey designs.
VIO claims that this is the most comfortable mask design ever made. Double padding is the main factor that backs up this claim, but the mask is also more comfortable in several other ways. For example, this mask eliminates the echoing you might hear with traditional paintball masks as the sound gets trapped between the mask and your earhole.
There’s plenty of venting all over, so I expect heat dispersal and breathability to be good. The thermal anti-fog lens wraps around pretty far, but not as far as I’ve seen on some other products.
Whether this is really the “most comfortable” paintball mask in the world is not something anyone can really prove. However, I have spent some time reading what people who play with this mask on have to say, and something almost everyone seems to be happy with is comfort.
However, there are quite a few people who say the mask is too small; if your face is on the larger side, you might want to double check that this will exactly cover your whole mug. For the price, this is a solid mid-range mask that has a great look and all the bases covered.
Invert Helix Thermal Paintball Goggles Mask
There may not really be such a thing as a “classic” paintball mask, but when I try to imagine such a thing, this Invert Helix mask is more or less what comes to mind. This specific model comes in military olive green and looks about as generic as they come. On the plus side, it comes at a very pocket-friendly price. This will surely make it draw the attention of those on a budget or who don’t know if they are going to stick with the hobby or not.
Based on the feedback from people who have bought this mask, however, it seems like money well-spent either way. The Helix is just good enough not to be an active nuisance and, really, what more could you ask?
Splattered Stealth Paintball Mask
This mask from Splattered Stealth is marketed as a paintball mask, but actually does double duty as a pair of dirt bike goggles. The lower part of the face mask can be removed, so you can just use the goggle part independently. That’s a neat idea, but it leads to a situation in which this mask doesn’t provide wide face protection, especially when it comes to your ears. I guess you can think of it as dirt bike goggles onto which someone stuck mouth protection.
If you use alternative ear protection, or just don’t care about the issue, this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Just be aware that this isn’t a wraparound mask, meaning you don’t get the 180 degrees of view some recent masks have been touting. You can expect about the same peripheral vision as you’d get with any dirt bike or snowboarding goggles.
Looking at the inside of the mask, there’s a suitably thick sponge to go around the eyes. This should also isolate your breathing and prevent the lens from fogging up as much as possible. The mask’s frame is made from TPU, which has a reputation for being pretty flexible and durable.
The lens is coated in anti-glare and UV material. It’s also billed as being “non-scratch”, which is a good thing. All in all, I think this is a pretty good deal, especially if you want your dollars to do double duty for multiple hobbies. Personally, I’d prefer something that wrapped around the head more, but if you’re brave then this is a pretty neat option.