The most important piece of paintball gear is the paintball mask. It’s the only piece of gear you can’t take off during a game and it’s solely responsible for your vision on the field.
Without a good paintball mask, you’re going to have a hard time seeing what you’re doing when you play. And if you can’t see the enemy players in front of you, then it doesn’t matter how good of a paintball gun you have. You can’t shoot what you can’t see.
But what are the best paintball masks currently on the market today?
My favorite mask is the Empire E-Flex, but the Dye I5, Virtue VIO Ascend, Empire EVS, and BunkerKings CMD are all top-of-the-line paintball masks as well. Below I’m going to review all of these paintball masks and let you decide which is the best mask for you. Then I’m going to list all of the most important features that make up a good paintball mask so you can be better informed when making a purchase decision.
Without wasting any more time, let’s get to the review
The birth child of the JT Proflex and the Empire E-Vents — the Empire E-Flex. The E-Flex combines the best features of both the E-Vents and the Proflex to create the best paintball mask under $100.
Bonus Tip: The V-Force Grill and Profiler are other great options under the $100 price range (I got my Grill for $50 at Ansgear.com).
With the lens from the E-Vents and the ventilation from the Proflex, you get the benefit of both great vision and breathability. The vision may not be quite as good as other high-end paintball masks, but its breathability is by far the best out of any mask on the market (except for other lower-end JT masks). This is great news because the more ventilation a paintball mask has, the less you have to worry about fog as well.
And the only reason the visibility isn’t the best is that the nose of the mask is a little bit in the way of your vision. You never notice it while you’re playing, but you can definitely tell there’s a difference in visibility between a mask like the E-Flex and the Dye I5. Although if you didn’t read this review, you probably wouldn’t even notice what the difference was.
The other thing I love about the Empire E-Flex is how comfortable it is. The foam is extremely soft and I often forget my mask is on when I’m wearing it. Also, the flexible rubber faceplate is great for bounces and helping with aim if you’re playing with a marker with a buttstock — which I commonly do.
Unfortunately, there are talks of the E-Flex being discontinued, so you may want to get it now while you still can. Although, if you don’t mind buying one used or at a markup, there’s always one popping up for sale in a Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook.
- Easy to breathe
- Easy to communicate
- Extremely comfortable
- Easy to remove lens
- Affordable compared to other high-end masks
- The nose of the mask gets in way of vision
- Limited color choices at the moment
- May be discontinued
- Paint can get in your mouth if you get shot in faceplate
The Dye I5 is widely considered to be one of the best paintballs masks of all time. The first thing I noticed when trying on the Dye I5 for the first time was how comfortable it was. Everything from the soft foam with added terrycloth to the GSR Pro-Strap with an extra-wide pad that perfectly fits the back of your head and ensures perfect grip and maximum comfort.
But wait, it gets better.
On the back of the Pro-Strap is the GSR gear lock system that allows you to simply rotate a dial to adjust the level of tension holding the mask to the back of your head. This is by far my favorite feature of the Dye I5 and what I believe contributes most to its superior comfort. Of course, you can’t forget about the compression-formed ears (commonly referred to as cheek pillows) that have the benefit of being soft, flexible, lightweight and having the properties to increase moisture evaporation.
The Dye I5 also has great visibility thanks to its unique anti-fog thermal lens. This 290-degree lens offers a great field of view and has more clarity than virtually any mask on the market today. This could be because it’s an optically correct toroidal impacts lens, or it could be because it comes with a premium hard-coat dip that protects both sides of the lens from scratches and abrasions as well as offer UV protection to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.
The coolest feature of the Dye I5, however, is the e.Voke communication system. The e.Voke allows you to wirelessly hook up to any MOSAir paintball gun such as the Dye M2, M3, or M3+ and hear helpful information through a small speaker in your mask. Some of the helpful information that the e.Voke is programmed to say includes professional training drills, game timers, shot trackers, G-Count trackers, training modes, service alerts, and even motivational speeches for when you’re feeling uninspired (I know it’s cheesy, but hey, it works for some people).
And last but not least, the Dye I5 comes with something that every paintball mask ought to have — replaceable foam. There’s nothing more annoying than having to rip out old-nasty foam, use alcohol to get rid of the leftover gunk, and then attempt to superglue new foam to the mask without messing anything up. Luckily, Dye made a good decision and started using replaceable foam.
- Great clarity and field of view
- Extremely comfortable
- Back-strap fits perfectly on back of head
- Has separation in foam for glasses
- Foam can be replaced in seconds
- Easy to remove lens (not as easy as I4’s)
- e.Voke is fun and useful
- e.Voke can only be used with Dye M2, M3, and M3+
- It’s one of the more expensive masks
- Hard to breathe (not a lot of ventilation)
- Mask is small in size (can be a benefit if you have a smaller head)
Virtue VIO Ascend
The best paintball mask for the money is the Virtue VIO Ascend. With this paintball mask, you get the best of both worlds — high-end performance and an affordable price tag. And while you can save money by buying the Ascend with an anti-fog lens, you’re better off spending a little bit more and getting the Ascend with a thermal lens. The extra amount of money in cost is worth the benefit of not having to worry about your lens fogging up.
Another advantage of wearing the Virtue VIO Ascend is its large peripheral field of view helps you see everything that’s going on around you. Its distortion-free optical clarity also helps you see with crystal clear vision. And if that’s not enough, the thermal lens also comes with 100% UV protection to help reduce the damage from the sun’s harmful rays.
The Virtue Ascend also offers great protection to the wearer and is extraordinarily comfortable considering its single-piece design (similar to the V-Force Grill). This just goes to show that you don’t need a separate foam earpiece to be a comfortable mask. Even though the Ascend doesn’t have a foam ear-piece, the Ascend does give your ears plenty of room to breathe (you know what I mean) and allows you to easily hear what is going on around you. This is extremely important to me as I often listen out for enemy players moving around when playing woodsball.
The ventilation on the Virtue Ascend is pretty good as well and in my opinion even better than the more-expensive Virtue VIO Contour II and Extend. This is great news for heavy-breathers like myself who need superior airflow. Plus, the ventilation also allows you to transmit your voice better so you can communicate more clearly with your teammates.
So for the reasons listed above, the Virtue VIO Ascend would be my go-to mask (instead of the E-Flex) if I wanted an affordable mask with better vision, and didn’t care about losing a little breathability. Considering the price range of the E-Flex and the Ascend are both fairly similar, it’s really up to you if you want the cool looks and better vision of the Ascend, or the increased breathability of the E-Flex.
Oh, and don’t forget that the Ascend has replaceable foam as well, so it can hold its own against the mighty Dye I5 as well.
- Affordable yet delivers high-end performance
- Great peripheral vision
- Easy to breathe
- Easy to hear
- Lots of accessories (18 lenses, 35 straps, 16 visors, replaceable foam, and the stealth visor fan
- Lot’s of coverage (great for players with bigger heads)
- Replaceable foam
- Extremely easy to remove lens
- Single-piece body isn’t very flexible
- Fewer color options than Virtue Contour II, XS, and Extend
- Doesn’t come with all the cool features that the Virtue Contour II, XS, and Extend have
If you were a big fan of Buzz Lightyear growing up, then I’m willing to bet you’ll be a big fan of the Empire EVS (Empire Vision System). This paintball mask comes with a huge lens (and I mean huge) and offers you more peripheral vision than any other mask on the market. It may not be that noticeable, but it’s definitely a cool feature, and what attracts most players to buying the Empire EVS.
Another benefit of having a giant lens is that there’s a lot of empty space behind the lens for players that wear glasses. The triple-density foam is also separated in two pieces so you won’t have to worry about the foam pressing your glasses into the side of your face. So if you want the best paintball mask for players with glasses, it doesn’t get any better than the Empire EVS.
Besides having a great field of view, the EVS also has one of the easiest to change lens systems. All you have to do is pull the black-plastic arm on the inside of each side of the mask (left and right) and then rotate the arm towards the lens. After you’ve pivoted both arms, you can then pop out the lens and either clean it or swap it out for a new one.
Unfortunately, the EVS does come with its downsides as well, such as the large echo you hear when you speak with the mask on. This echo is the result of the EVS having little-to-no venting on the side of the mask. That’s also why it’s a little hard to breathe with this mask on compared to other paintball masks such as the E-Flex, CMD, and Ascend.
Some players also complain about the nose of the EVS not fitting correctly on their face, but personally, I never had this problem. Now what I do have a problem with is the foam that holds the thermo-formed ear-piece to the mask. I don’t know who at Empire thought this was a good idea but it’s far from it. The foam wears out over time and eventually you’re going to have to either replace the foam or glue it down. Or maybe you’ll have better luck than my friend who owns an EVS and never have this problem.
- Huge field of view
- Looks awesome
- Easiest and quickest lens-change system
- Great for players with glasses or bigger heads
- Comfortable for most players
- Replaceable foam
- Flexible co-injection molded skirt promotes bounces
- Good amount of coverage
- Lots of echo when you speak
- Foam on earpiece wears out over time
- Some players complain about the fit on their nose
Finally! A paintball mask that is great for both visibility and breathing. It’s still a step below the Empire E-Flex in breathability, but compared to the other high-end paintball masks on the market, it definitely has the advantage.
The lens, however, has just as much visibility as every other bubble-lens paintball mask currently available. This is because the Bunkerkings CMD (Command) uses the same lens and quick-change lens system as the Virtue line of the masks. In fact, the CMD is essentially an advanced version of the Virtue VIO Ascend. And in my opinion, the Bunkerkings CMD is even better than the Virtue VIO Contour II, Extend, and XS.
Some of the differences between the Ascend and the CMD include more ventilation (better breathability and voice projection), a flexible faceplate (increase bounces and aiming), a micro-visor (glare and rain protection), a wider back-strap (more stability), and just plain cool looks. It’s my opinion that the foam on the Bunkerkings CMD is nicer than the Virtue line of masks as well.
And just like Empire EVS, the Bunkerkings CMD has one of the best lens-change systems I’ve ever seen. Simply push the plastic piece of the strap forward while pressing down on the button-tab on both sides of the mask and then the lens will pop right out.
In my opinion, this is the best paintball mask currently available in terms of performance, but it costs over $150 so it’s certainly not a paintball mask for the player on a budget.
- Highly breathable
- Great for voice projection
- Large field of view
- Easy to change lens
- Extremely comfortable
- Replaceable foam
- Looks awesome
- Micro-visor helps with glare and rain
- Flexible faceplate helps with bounces and aiming
- Separation in foam is great for players with glasses
- The width of the mask is great for players with bigger heads
- Fairly expensive
- Master Sarge edition has been discontinued (yes I’m mad)
Ultimate Guide to Buying a Paintball Mask
The paintball mask is the most important piece of gear in a player’s arsenal.
If you don’t have a good paintball mask, you’re going to have to worry about your lens fogging up while you play. And if your lens is all fogged up, you’re not going to be able to see what you’re doing.
This is why a paintball mask is so important. Without a good paintball mask, it doesn’t matter what kind of paintball gun you’re using. You can’t eliminate players you can’t even see.
So what makes a good paintball mask?
In my opinion, the most important features that make up a good paintball mask are breathability, comfort, visibility, appearance, and protection-fit. I’ll discuss each feature below and explain why I believe they’re important.
While most players rank visibility and comfort as the most important features of a great paintball mask, I believe breathability is even more important. If you’ve ever been out of breath while wearing a mask with little ventilation then I’m sure you feel the same way.
Now if you have great endurance, then having a mask with good breathability may not be so important. However, there’s another benefit of wearing a mask with lots of ventilation, and that’s to help reduce the chance of your lens fogging up while you play. The more ventilation a mask has, the less of a chance that water vapor from your breath will be able to build up behind your lens and cause your mask to fog up.
The next most important feature is a mix-up between visibility and comfort. While visibility is extremely important, virtually all high-end paintball masks are going to come with good visibility. Comfort, on the other hand, varies greatly from mask to mask.
This is why I believe it’s so important to try on a paintball mask before buying it. Every mask is going to fit differently, and there’s no way to tell how a mask is going to fit you until you try it on. Every mask is going to have different foam, be made from different materials, and have different dimensions. You may be able to get some idea of how a mask is going to fit by reading the reviews above, but without trying it on you can’t be completely certain.
The reason it’s so important for you to have a comfortable mask is because you’re going to have to wear it for long periods of time. If the mask is uncomfortable, it’s always going to bother you when you play.
While it’s true that all high-end paintball masks come with good visibility, some do provide better vision than others. Masks that come with “bubble lenses” tend to have the best vision, but even masks like the E-Flex with more of a flat lens comes with good vision as well. Granted, the visibility isn’t as good as masks like the EVS and I5, but honestly, I’ve never been eliminated from a game and thought to myself “if only I had more visibility”.
Now, there is some benefit to wearing a paintball mask with an HD or HDR lens, as they both provide better color perception and reduction of UV glare. Kind of similar to how polarized lenses work.
Buying a paintball mask with a dual-pane lens is extremely important as well. With a dual-pane lens, you’re much less likely to have your lens fog compared to if you would’ve used a single-pane lens.
This is thanks to a small gap of space being between the two “dual pane” lenses. This small gap of space provides a layer of separation between the hot air on the inside of the lens (from your breath) and the cooler air on the outside of the lens (from the environment). Essentially, both the hot air from your breath and the cooler air from the environment are both coming in contact with two different lenses.
If you’re not sure if a mask has a dual-pane lens, check for the thick black line outlining the inside edge of the lens.
Protection & Fit
Protection is often overlooked when it comes to paintball masks, yet it’s extremely important. Fit is extremely important as well and goes hand in hand with protection. This is because the shape and size of the paintball mask will determine how much protection it provides and how it will fit.
Some paintball masks are large, and some are small, some are wide, and some are narrow. You have to find the right mask that fits your head and face, as well as provide you the right amount of protection. This can often be hard to determine without actually trying on a mask, which is why I believe it’s so important for players to go to their local field and try on masks if they can.
While we may not want to admit it, most players choose to buy a certain paintball mask because of the way it looks. And that’s okay.
Everyone wants to look cool on the field, but sometimes you’re going to be stuck with the decision between looks and performance. I would always choose performance, but if your main concern is looking cool then choose the mask with the appearance you like best.
Buying a paintball mask can be a hard decision, which is why I went ahead and wrote these reviews and buyer’s guide to hopefully provide you some help. However, I still believe it’s important that you go to your local field to try on paintball masks if you can before making a purchase. You never know when a mask might not fit as well as you think.
However, if you’re like me and your local field doesn’t have many masks (or you don’t have a local field at all), then you’re just going to have to do your research and hope you’re making the right decision.
If you have any other questions about buying a paintball mask then don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. I look forward to reading and answering them!