Saturday, August 13, 2022

Review: Fourth Element Navigator Mask

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Founded in 1999, Fourth Element has grown from a small diving apparel manufacturer to a vision-driven dive industry leader. Their outstanding lineup of dive essential technical clothing, use of ecologically sustainable materials and practices, and relentless commitment to quality and customer service have catapulted Fourth Element products to be a must-have for many divers.

In addition to their award-winning line of drysuits and thermal base layer systems, Fourth Element offers an extensive line of masks, fins, snorkels, and wetsuits for technical, recreational, and freedivers, as well as swimming and other water sports.

The Fourth Element Navigator Series of masks is a great example of this commitment to quality and activity-specific innovation. Offered in two lens styles, the Navigator Enhance and Navigator Clarity, these framed masks are also available in standard and wide widths to optimize fit and comfort.

Fourth Element Navigator Clarity and Enhance masks ready to dive!
Fourth Element Navigator Clarity and Enhance masks ready to dive!

Initial Impressions

Packaged in a 100% plastic-free, low-volume shell, the Navigator mask makes an immediate positive impact. The low-profile case with a soft cloth drawstring body takes up minimal room in a diver’s travel bag while offering excellent protection to the lens. The mask’s construction is superb, with a quality finish and a robust strap and adjustable buckle system. While bigger than a freediving mask, the immediate impression is that the Navigator Mask is relatively low volume while presenting a wide field of vision.

Features

Dive masks, especially Technical masks, need to possess a few specific elements to be highly effective. A wide, soft silicone skirt that makes an effective seal, along with a more narrow inner skirt that enhances the water-tightness and fit are essential.

The robust strap and buckle system makes this mask easy to adjust, even wearing gloves and over a hood. The cam action holds the mask in place once adjusted and the divided strap is stretchy enough to not feel like one’s head is being squeezed.

A wide field of vision is critical in a Technical dive mask, allowing the diver to use their peripheral vision, and allow a maximum amount of light into the mask in dark conditions. Coupled with a black silicone skirt and black frame, the diver gets a clear sight picture without distracting flares and reflections.

Rounded edges and minimal protrusions make the Navigator Mask streamlined and minimizes potential line traps or snag points.

Fourth Element Navigator Masks
Navigator Clarity (l) and Navigator Enhance (r) Masks.

The Navigator Clarity mask comes with exceptionally clear tempered-glass lenses designed to give maximum visibility to photographers, night divers, and technical divers with no loss of true color fidelity.

The Navigator Enhance mask is equipped with an ultraviolet protection coating and a High Energy Visible (HEV) radiation filter. The coatings are designed to protect a diver’s eyes from harmful radiation while enhancing true colors underwater and allowing for maximum visible light transmission.

On The Dive

After prepping the masks with a good cleaning using a non-abrasive dishwashing liquid and a thorough rinse, we headed off to the local lake for some under dock and wreck diving. Many divers still use toothpaste and/or a lighter to burn off the film left by many manufacturing processes, but not wanting to damage the coatings, we decided to stick to a thorough scrub and the use of anti-fog drops, which worked fine for our test.

Because the water temps were very warm, we wore a thin 3mm hood and gloves, but the ease of donning and adjusting the mask should continue with thicker gloves and hood. The one-hand adjustment of the buckles by simply pinching the top and bottom buttons on the side buckles made it a snap to get the mask seated comfortably.

We were immediately thankful for the wide and soft silicone seal, which managed to accomplish what most masks can’t, namely keeping leaks to a minimum when the diver has facial hair.

The relatively low volume of the mask and generous finger pockets on the nose piece allowed easy equalization and the width of the field of vision was immediately appreciated.

We have over 30 masks for various types of diving; from low-volume minimalist masks for freediving to masks with every bell and whistle imaginable…and the simple, robust, comfortable design of the Navigator Mask immediately stood out. Not expecting any major difference between these and other high-end technical diving masks, we were immediately impressed by the excellent light transmittal. The lake we were diving in was extremely silty due to recent rains, and due to cloudy conditions, the light transmission was markedly reduced as we descended.

We dived the Navigator Clarity mask first and performed a dock inspection and survey for a local marina. When 25-35 feet (7-10 meters) from the edge of the docks, with total overhead cover and decidedly dark conditions, we found the clarity of the mask and the light transmission to be superb. Two hours of diving under the marina found us having to break out our lights as the sun became low on the horizon, but the mask stayed comfortable and our vision was as good as could be expected in those conditions.

The next morning, we set out to the deepest part of the lake, diving into a sunken houseboat to check for snagged fishing gear and anchors. The conditions had improved enough that visibility was an average of 15 feet (5 meters) but since the day was overcast, the light dropped off quickly as we descended to 70 feet FFW (feet of fresh water).

Wearing the Navigator Enhance mask, we immediately noticed the change in the “tint” of everything. The slightly magenta color of the coatings translated visually to enhanced “pop” of colors, especially the browns and greens of the aquatic vegetation and it was a lot like wearing polarized sunglasses without the shade.

The edges of underwater objects were “crisper” and our lines were very visible as we prepared to penetrate a few feet into the main cabin of the boat. There was remarkably little backscatter from the lights and while it is a very subjective thing, we were certain that we were getting the best amount of light transmittal and true color rendition possible.

Post Dive Thoughts

While no piece of kit can make you a better diver, the right tools can make you a better-prepared diver. The Navigator Masks, both in the Enhanced and Clarity lenses, are excellent quality masks that improved the diving experience. They are comfortable and robust, and they have the added bonus of supporting a company with a strong ecological mission and conservation mindset.

 

Fourth Element Navigator Clarity Mask
Navigator Clarity mask. (photo by Fourth Element).

The Navigator Clarity mask is especially suited to scuba instructors…your students can see your eyes, which is a very important part of underwater communication and being able to evaluate stress and comfort levels.

Final Thoughts

Dive masks have come a long way from the old fishbowls we had back in the 1970s. Fit, material quality, safety, and function have all improved and the Navigator Masks from Fourth Element would be a great addition to any diver’s kit. They are eminently suitable for Technical and Recreational SCUBA diving and, while not specifically “low-volume”, can be comfortably worn by recreational free divers and spearos.

Features

  • A dive mask with excellent field of vision
  • Soft silicone skirt, fully recyclable
  • Molded, fully recyclable silicone mask strap
  • Tempered glass lens with two lens option
  • Available as a Classic and Wide Fit dive mask

Price

  • Navigator Clarity or Enhance – $104 USD / €89.95 EUR / £74.95 GBP

Buy Now

Navigator Mask - Enhance - Fourth Element Navigator Mask - Enhance - Fourth Element
$104 USD / €89.95 EUR / £74.95 GBP

With an excellent field of vision, the Navigator’s framed twin lens makes it perfect for any dive, with optimisation depending on your dive experience. The Navigator’s fully recyclable, super-soft silicone skirt is designed to minimizes pressure, making longer and deeper dives more comfortable. The Navigator dive mask is available in two different skirt fittings to suit the maximum range of face shapes.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Comfort
Appearance
Price
Functionality

SUMMARY

An exceptionally comfortable and functional mask suitable for all levels of Technical Diving, as well as recreational diving, freediving and spearfishing. This mask is well built, competitively priced and part of an exceptional line of dive equipment with a strong conservation and ecological responsibility ethos.
John Griffith
John Griffithhttps://www.deeperblue.com/
John Griffith is an avid SCUBA and Freediver based in Southeast Florida, with over 34 years of experience in the recreational, military and commercial dive fields. Retired from military service, John completed Bachelor Degrees in both Business Administration and Journalism, a M.Ed and PhD in Education. John is a driven conservationist and social activist...with a great passion for sharks, cigars, rum and writing. John is an Associate Editor with DeeperBlue.com.

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Review: Fourth Element Navigator MaskAn exceptionally comfortable and functional mask suitable for all levels of Technical Diving, as well as recreational diving, freediving and spearfishing. This mask is well built, competitively priced and part of an exceptional line of dive equipment with a strong conservation and ecological responsibility ethos.