If you're just getting into paintball, or you've been playing a while but are just thinking about buying your own equipment, you might think the most important thing to buy first is a paintball marker (gun).  Whilst these are incredibly cool to browse through and you might be really keen to drop all your spare cash on one immediately, we'd always recommend you purchase a paintball mask first!

If you play on a paintball site you'll be familiar with "site masks" which vary greatly from site to site but most will be very similar in that they probably have a single lense - so they fog up a lot - they might have been worn a fair few times so the strap is a bit stretchy, and they've probably been half-washed to death (which is at least good for hygiene reasons). Your paintball game and experience will improve 10,000% if you have your own clean, shiny, thermal, anti-fog paintball mask!

When you're out playing paintball, your mask will stay with you - like a close friend. It's important to keep it on the whole time you're out playing and, as such, it's important that it's comfortable and fits your face well. If you play alongside others who already have a paintball mask, ask if you can try theirs on so you can get a real feel for how it fits on you as everyone's face is different. If you're close to our Darlington store, why not drop in? We're more than happy for you to try on any of the masks we sell and you'll get a really good feel for which one is most comfortable for you.

If you can't get to any masks to try them on, or you're just looking for some advice, check out our top picks for every budget.

Starter Paintball Masks

If you're only getting into the sport and are looking for a good paintball mask that won't break the bank, then there are plenty to choose from that come under the £40 price mark but still give you all the benefits you'd need. There are masks that start from as little as £17.95 such as the Valken MI-3 Field Mask but these are often non-thermal masks which means they aren't likely to prevent fogging up when you're playing and so you'd be better off paying a little extra to get something a little better which has a thermal lense. There is still a benefit to buying a single lense mask as it will be more comfortable and 'scratch-free' than a site mask but if you can stretch to a thermal mask you will notice the benefits of it not fogging up. Masks "fog up" because your hot breath goes directly into the lense section of the mask and clouds the lense (which is cold) when it hits it. This will prevent you being able to see where you're going and you'll end up getting shot or falling in a hole - we don't want this to happen! A thermal lense works more like double glazed windows and the double-pane lense helps prevent fogging almost entirely.

Our top tip for a mask in this price range is currently the Dye SE mask which comes complete with a thermal lense. It's a lightweight goggle with an easy to change lense and the lense even comes in a range of different colours. The SE mask has a fixed visor / peak which protects the lense from hitting the deck and scratching if you accidentally drop it and also stops the rain dripping into the lense section.

Dye SE thermal paintball mask

The Dye SE mask comes with an adjustable strap and a chin strap for an extra secure fit - and the foam around the lense itself is specifically designed to be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time. At only £33.95 we really recommend this mask and it is definitely one of our most popular beginner level masks.

If you're not that keen on the look of the Dye SE mask or would like something different, or perhaps in a different colour as the SE only comes in black, then take a look at the Valken MI-7 Thermal mask. This is a very popular and comfortable mask and has the added bonus of the thermal lense to prevent fogging up during games. The mask is available in black as standard but also comes in a range of colours including Tan and two different styles of Camo. The mask as standard is only £32.95 and the camo versions are available for only £44.95.

Valken MI-7 paintball mask

All versions come with the thermal lense as standard and have a soft foam interior for maximum comfort. The MI-7 mask is also famed for its vertical ventilation system which not only helps reduce air flow into the lense area of your mask but allows your voice to be transmitted better across the game field so you can be heard better when playing. The Valken MI-7 mask is also available in bright yellow which makes it a popular choice for paintball marshals and field referees.

Mid-Range Paintball Masks

If you've been playing paintball a while, have a slightly larger budget or are looking to upgrade from a starter paintball mask then you might want to consider some of our recommend mid-range paintball masks. As you get into the more expensive masks, you start looking at the more detailed benefits that each mask brings and also the appearance of the mask as the colours tend to get more custom and a fashion element potentially creeps into your buying decisions.

As a direct upgrade from the Valken MI-7 mask, we recommend the Valken MI-9 mask which is also our most popular mask for players who wear glasses. The foam is upgraded so is even more comfortable than on the MI-7 mask and the face plate has more flexibility which makes for a more comfortable fit.

Valken MI-9 thermal paintball mask

The MI-9 is available in a range of colours and has the "snap click" SC feature so you can change the foam on the mask in a matter of seconds. The MI-9 is available in a range of colours to match with your gear or marker!

As an alternative to the MI-9, take a look at the VForce Profiler mask which has been a mask of choice for years. Available in a wide range of colours, the masks offers style and comfort and also a peripheral vision that is hard to beat. The lense is one of the widest profile lenses and, as such, gives an excellent field of vision. Whilst the lense is not officially thermal, the ventilation and design prevents the "thermo-cured" lense from fogging up like a traditional anti-fog lense. The masks is lightweight, comes with a high density foam that is easy to clean but exceptionally comfortable, and it's a great mid-range price at only £79.95. Spare lenses are also available in a range of colours and replacing the lense won't break the bank, unlike some higher level masks!

VForce Profiler paintball mask

Virtue is a more emerging brand although they've been producing other gear in the industry for years. Their masks first appeared on the market about 3 years ago and they've been getting cooler ever since. The Virtue Vio Ascend mask is a popular mask for team players as it is available in a massive range of colours and is considered one of the most comfortable masks on the market.

Virtue Vio Ascend paintball mask

The Vio Ascend is one of the newer masks to the market and is moulded as a one-piece mask to create the perfect combination of protection, rigidity and comfort. The mask comes as standard with a thermal lense and features a quick-change system so you can literally change the lense in a matter of seconds. It's not the cheapest of masks at £79.95 and if you want protection from the rain you have to purchase the rain visor separately, but it's certainly becoming more popular among all levels of player.

Top Level Paintball Masks

If you've been playing a while or you're looking to get an absolute top of the range paintball mask then there are plenty out there to choose from, ranging from the Empire EVS which has a built in Heads-Up Display (as a separate add-on purchase) or the ever-popular VForce Grill masks which come in so many different designs they've become a collector's item!

If you're not limited by budget then you should definitely check out the Dye I5 mask which currently comes with a free jersey to help lessen the impact of the £160.95 price tag.

Dye I5 paintball mask

Dye have been producing paintball goggles for years and the I5 is their most recent release. The mask comes as standard with a thermal lense and there must be another 10-15 different coloured lenses available for it, ranging from smoke and yellow to chrome silver and "northern lights". The I5 has a truly unique and innovative strap that Dye have introduced from their Dye Snow range which has a "twist to fit" dial on the reverse. This makes the I5 one of the most comfortable masks on the market. The I5 is also a very narrow profile mask which some players love as it keeps them well hidden behind the barricades whilst others prefer something slightly bigger so their chin is as protected as the rest of their face!

The most recent mask to join the paintball party comes from a new company, Push Unite - and they've come in right at the top end of the market with a retail price of £164.95. The Push Unite goggles are worthy of the price tag with a host of features that are truly unique. The most clever feature is the "adjustable nose" which allows you to adjust the positioning of the mask against your face. This feature makes the Push mask one of the most comfortable masks on the market because it is so customisable and you can fit it to your face exactly.

Push Unite paintball mask

In addition to this, the mask comes with a magnetic chin strap which is so strong you can just about show the ends of the strap to each other and they meet in the middle. Unlike most masks, the Push goggles come in their own hard case which zips round to offer full mask protection. The Push Unite lenses also come in a hard case to match the mask - which helps justify their £49.95 price tag - and are also available in a massive range of colours! Like the VForce, the Push mask is extremely lightweight and although it's only new to the market it is already proving really popular among players of all levels.

There are so many masks on the market that there really is something for everyone! As always, if you're unsure of anything or you want some specific advice about which paintball mask to buy please just get in touch with us directly and we'll be happy to help!