8 Best Paintball Masks!
by Justin M.
So, you're about to play paintball for the first time, or have played once or twice and discovered that simply put, rental masks SUCK.
So you want to buy your own. Good choice. I would say that its the one piece of gear you should ALWAYS splurge on. Buy the best one you can afford. Your mask is by FAR, your most important piece of equipment, even more important than your gun. This is all you TECHNICALLY need to play. I've gone out and played without a gun, but NOBODY is going to let you play without a mask. Here is a list of price ranges and options (if bought new). Just remember that these are only products I've owned or tested myself. There are other options out there.
20-40 dollar range:
Vforce Pro Vantage: the only mask in this price range worth bothering with. It's extremely comfortable, and the only problems I've had with fogging were on very humid or rainy days, when just about any mask will fog. Note that if you have a bigger head you might be susceptible to chin shots every now and then, but not often. Bottom-line: 3.5/5 stars- a good mask, but doesn't compete with other high end masks. (Note: as far as I know, they do not manufacture thermal lenses for this mask, like they do for VForce's higher end masks, but I've never had problems with fogging anyway)
JT Raptor: It's ok... Dual pane thermal lenses, so I only had it fog once, when it was raining. The foam is VERY uncomfortable, and scratchy. Fairly breathable, but not going to keep you cool when it's hot, by any means. The lens is near impossible to change, as is the trend with JT masks. Bottom-line: 2/5 stars, for the lens. If you HAVE to be cheap, just get the ProVantage, and pass this one up.
JT Elite Prime: see the above review, and erase that sentence about it being slightly breathable. Bottom-line: 1 star- awful, but looks cool.
40-65 dollar range:
JT ProFlex: probably the best mask JT has ever made. Extremely comfortable foam, nice breathability (slightly dependent on whatever bottom you have), and by far the most customizable mask ever made. My only problem with this mask is the hassle of changing the lens, but still a good mask. Bottom-line: probably the best product JT has put out in years (of any kind of equipment). Maybe ever. 4/5 stars.
JT Flex 8 full coverage: First off, I'm done with JT products after this. Second, don't get this mask unless you just really can't stand a shot to the back of the head. The Flex8 is comfortable enough, and is essentially a slightly cheaper version of the Pro Flex. But I just can't take the back part of this mask! It's basically designed to be a helmet to protect the back of your head. I don't know about you but I don't often turn my back to the other team, so there's really no point. And even if I did get shot in the back of the head often, I'd still rather take the pain then deal with how hot and sweaty I get inside this mask (I could wring the sweat out of my headwrap like a wash rag
after playing a game in this). Bottom-line: just... No! It's not worth it. The regular Flex8 (not full coverage) may be a good option however. I've never gotten to use it. 2/5 stars, 70-130 dollar range:
Sly Profit: A good mask. I've only played a couple games in this, but everything seemed great with just one catch that may or may not turn you off to this mask. Comfort is great. Many people claim this to be the most comfortable mask on the market for them, though I personally like VForces and i4's better. I didn't notice any problems with fogging or breathability, and they certainly look cool. The catch is that it is kind of hard to hear and make yourself heard through, as opposed to other masks. This doesn't bother me very much as I mostly play speedball, where everyone is screaming the whole time anyway, it just means I have to yell a little louder, and listen a little harder. But it could cause problems with a woodsball player (as you often hear the enemy before seeing them), or a back player in speedball (as they have to yell across field). Bottom-line: If it wasn't for the one little catch, just might be my fave mask. 4.25/5 stars.
VForce Grill: Oh, boy; this one's my favorite. Unfortunately, I've only gotten to play a few games in these as well :(. Great comfort, though I've heard people with smaller heads complain about them not fitting right. In my opinion, VForce makes the best foam on the market. Good breathability, only beat by the Pro Flexes, IMO. No fogging problems, unless you are sitting still for a long period of time, which could cause problems for woodsball players, especially if you live in one of the more humid parts of the country (Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, etc.) like me. This is likely due to the fact that they don't come stock with thermal lenses, and VF didnt start making them until recently. Bottom-line: I'd recommend them to anybody except maybe hardcore woodsballers and small headed people. 4.5/5 stars.
Dye i4's: great comfort, great lenses, good foam, best soft ears on the market, best looks on the market (IMO). What's the catch? The price tag and the size. They can cost up to $130. They're not 40-70 dollars better than Grills, Profits, or Proflexes, etc. Also, if you've got a big head, NOT FOR YOU! Your lower jaw and chin will be exposed. Having actually broken the bone on my chin before (from football, not pb), I can tell you that you do NOT want to get shot there. It's just a painful spot. Luckily for me, I'm only exposed when talking (did take a couple off the chin/jaw while talking to my teammates, and that left some good little welts), but other people are exposed the whole time. Bottom-line: If you've got a small head, and can afford it, it's a great mask. 4/5 stars.
Other products to consider that I have not yet tested: Empire E-vents, Empire E-Flex, VForce Profilers, Dye i3's.
In the end, no one can tell you exactly what mask will best for you, but these should give you a good way to get started. Just make sure to try each mask before purchasing.