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October 1998 Vol. 13, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Low-Volume?

a look at Dacor's Bandit Mask

from the October, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

a look at Dacor's Bandit Mask

Photo by Gabriel Moore-Gordon

I've seen many gimmicks in masks over the years, and few have impressed me. Earlier this year, Dacor introduced the Bandit, which stirred up discussion on Internet forums. Arguably the lowest volume scuba mask on the market, it distinctly makes the wearer look like a bandit (or a raccoon) -- hence the name.

It's this look that many divers like, but I've yet to meet an underwater critter that comes closer to a diver to get a peek at a fashion plate. One of our regular travel reviewers, who cares not a whit whether a mask adds or subtracts from his value as a model, had more practical ideas for it. Here is his report.

-- Ben Davison

As a free diver and scuba enthusiast, I stay in shape by swimming laps or distances on dive trips. When I saw the ultralow- volume Bandit, with not much air between my eyeball and the lens, I wondered whether it might suit all three of my needs.

Frankly, I've found "low volume" more a marketing ploy than a mask improvement. Yes, purging and equalizing require less effort, but less than what? And it does reduce drag, but that would matter only if I were chasing Pippen's deep dive record. The best I can say about the Bandit's super-snug fit is that it's less likely to be dislodged by your buddy's fins or by rapid head movements.

The Bandit has two gogglestyle eyepieces set in a plastic frame and held in place by a very compact skirt. I chose a clear skirt to let in more light and aid in peripheral vision; however, the image through the sides is blurry -- I initially felt disoriented gazing side to side, although I adapted.

The minimized depth of the single-seal skirt restricts the mask's ability to conform to facial angles and changes of expression such as smile lines, which increase, as we older divers know, with age. So I was careful to smooth out the creases in my face, but on the first dive the mask leaked a bit, and on the second it stayed dry as a bone. I have a light mustache, but that wasn't the source of the leak. Now, having used it on scores of dives, my experience with the Bandit's skirt seal has been consistently inconsistent: sometimes it's an angel, sometimes a bitch. Go figure. At least, a low-volume mask is easier to clear, and the nose pocket is easy to pinch with one hand, even with a second-stage mouthpiece in place.

But even this innovative design didn't resolve my greatest gripe underwater: the inability to see straight down when trying to reach BC straps, pockets, etc. While light and colors are visible through the clear silicon skirt, downward vision is too fuzzy to make out details such as matching buckles.

The Bandit's polycarbonate lenses are high impact and scratch resistant, according to Dacor, and mine are certainly holding up fine so far.

As for free-style swimming, conventional masks hamper my ability to breathe through my mouth. The Bandit made it easier, but unlike swimming goggles, after a few laps the Bandit began to leak a little, creating an unpleasant little puddle in the nose pocket that irritated my sinuses.

Although Bandit literature touts the permanent hydrophilic "anti-fog" coating on the inside lens surface, it just didn't work -- even after scrubbing away the "releasing agent" added to the silicon in the manufacturing process to help separate the skirt from its mold. Because mask fog is formed by moist air warmed by your body temperature, lowvolume masks fog more easily since there's less space between your face and the lens.

After trying several defoggers, I discovered the Diver's Best mask defogger, a highly-concentrated but pricey blue goop (a 1 oz. tube is $7.50). It doesn't sting my eyes like some anti-fogging compounds, and I can put a drop in each lens several minutes before a dive, an advantage especially for beach diving. It's worked fine in temperatures from 48 to 78 F.

All in all, Dacor has devised a respectable compromise of a mask, surely not perfect, but I've still made it my regular for diving and free diving, though not for swimming. Perhaps the best discovery of this testing process was the Diver's Best Mask defogger. I'll use that no matter what mask I carry.

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