Having a good paintball mask can make a world of difference for any style of paintball play. If you’ve ever used something cheap for a long time and then upgraded to a higher-end version that blows your mind, that’s roughly my experience with paintball masks. My newest mask protects my face, is a pleasure to wear, and affords me a field of view that would be unthinkable on my old goggles. A high-end mask isn’t for everyone, though. If you’re a beginner or on a budget, check out some of the lower-ranked options on this list. But for the best of the best paintball masks, keep reading to the end.
In a Hurry? Here’s My Quick Take:
- Budget Pick: Valken Paintball MI-7 Goggle/Mask
- Value Pick: Virtue VIO Ascend AF Paintball Mask
- Premium Pick: Empire EVS Paintball Thermal Mask
Best Paintball Mask- Reviews
If you’ve ever rented paintball equipment from a field, then you’ve probably worn this mask. It’s simple, safe, and effective at what it does – stopping paintballs from punching out your eyes or knocking out your teeth. There are no frills on this mask and no fancy features that would make it even the slightest bit a competitor to the top paintball masks on this list – but that’s the point.
You won’t find a more reliable mask for less than $20. The reason the MI-3 is almost an industry-standard rental mask is that, despite its price, it’s highly durable and fits virtually everyone. It feels flimsy, and the padding doesn’t work very well, but it will last through dozens or even hundreds of days out on the field without losing anything more than some of the padding in its foam. This was my first paintball mask and, if I ever need it, I still keep it as a backup, because this thing will never die.
You might notice that this mask looks an awful lot like the previous entry on this list, and that’s because they share an identical exterior frame. That means the MI-7 has the same full-face protection, durability, and fit as its cheaper cousin. The difference lies on the inside – with a tougher lens and some extra-comfy padding, the MI-7 is one of the best budget paintball masks you can buy.
With how much use I got out of the MI-3, I wish I’d paid just a few dollars more to get the extra cushioning from this mask. This model also has a double-layered lens, which is great for fog resistance and shock absorption. If you’re looking for the best cheap paintball mask you can get, the MI-7 should be one of your top choices.
The Dye Special Edition is one of the most expensive entry-level paintball masks on the market, but you get plenty of features to make up for the slightly higher asking price. To start, these goggles are well-known for their padding that provides better comfort than other full head paintball masks. But some comfy cushioning isn’t all it touts, either. A well-made ventilation system helps to keep your breath moving down and away from the lens, and some upgraded earpieces help you to stay aware when on the battlefield.
One flaw does stand out to me, however. The lenses on these goggles are very short, meaning that you probably won’t have as much vertical field of view than you might with other masks. Additionally, this mask may feel hotter and stuffier than others after extended use. But, since that usually doesn’t pose a problem during a match, I’d still recommend the Dye SE as a high-end paintball mask for beginners.
The Empire E-Flex is a paintball mask that does exactly what it’s supposed to. It fits well, doesn’t fog up, and provides protection to critical areas while staying low-profile and lightweight. Plus, with some super thick and sweat-resistant foam, it’s probably one of the best masks to take a head shot in.
The biggest drawback to the E-Flex is its price. While I recommend it as a very reliable choice, it doesn’t have many advantages over the #6 spot on this list. But, if a few dollars doesn’t matter to you in the name of finding a comfortable low profile paintball mask, then the E-Flex might be an awesome choice for any environment.
Although it only takes the #6 spot on this list of the top paintball masks at any price, the Virtue Ascend is by far the best value of any mask on this list. Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of this model before upgrading to my new mask, but when a friend brought it out to show off on the field, I was seriously impressed at its price.
When you first pull the Ascend out of its box, the first thing you’ll notice is its build quality. This is a sturdy and well-made mask. But, you’ll also find that it has excellent ventilation, a robust rear strap, and minimal effect on your voice. There’s even room to mount a small fan in the front. However, the padding on the Ascend is surprisingly thin and may not offer the same shock absorption and long-term comfort as more high-end models.
Valken dominates the mid-range paintball mask market with its time-tested line of Profit goggles. These goggles have been around for a long time and are common sights at paintball fields everywhere, and the SC model is a recent upgrade that keeps the same ultra-protective design while not impeding either your speech or your hearing.
I’ve seen these masks a lot at the fields I visit, and the people I’ve spoken to praise their long-term comfort and durability. Plus, the extra lower shielding keeps more paint away from your mouth and lips. However, I have heard some complaints that these masks can feel tight or bulky for some people, and they are certainly heavier than most other options in this price range.
If you’re into cool paintball masks with tons of color and style options, the KLR may be one of the best masks to look at. Between the frame and the lens colors, there are dozens of configurations to choose from. But, even if style isn’t your thing, there’s a lot to like when looking at the KLR.
Despite being a low-profile mask, this HK Army paintball mask offers better protection against paint splatters than many other lightweight tournament-grade competitors. Thick fabric covers the ears and sides of your face, and an extra-solid front keeps paint out of your mouth and nose. Plus, the KLR makes the jump from cheap foam to expensive memory foam to provide long-term durability on the inside of the mask. Unfortunately, the thicker materials muffle both your voice and some incoming sounds, souring what would otherwise be a strong contender for the best paintball mask overall.
The Dye i4 is, despite its relatively high price tag, one of the best values on this list. It looks great. It feels great. It’s the mask your friend and all of his teammates use. Outside of mil-sim events, I see these masks used just about everywhere. So, why are they so popular? The answer lies in size. The Dye i4 is one of the smallest low profile paintball masks in existence, offering protection to critical areas with as little extra bulk as possible, while also incorporating careful engineering to conform to natural face anatomy.
Despite its popularity, the i4 still has a few issues that hold it back. For one thing, the quality control on these is surprisingly low, with many shipped units arriving scratched or defective. While Dye gladly replaces these damaged items, it’s not something I’d like to go through. What ultimately stopped me from getting these goggles, though, is the tendency for some of the colored lenses to start peeling after use in hot weather and on sunny days. Clear and shaded lenses don’t seem to have those problems, but I’d rather not take my chances.
While both the i5 and the i4 are designed for tournament use, there are a few selling points and extra features on the i5 that make it worthy of being Dye’s flagship mask model. The first and most apparent is the wider viewing angle – at 290 degrees, this mask has a wider field of view than any other models I’ve seen. Making lenses with such broad curvature that can withstand a barrage of paintballs is no easy feat, and the i5 is consequently one of the most expensive masks on the market.
But, if you want the best of the best tournament performance possible, then lavish features such as advanced ear-covering materials, an extra-strong strap, and a rapid foam replacement system should easily make this one of the best paintball masks for you.
Some of you might be surprised to see me ranking the Empire EVS as the best paintball mask on this list, but I do that for a very good reason. If you have a larger head or want anything more than the bare minimum of protection, you might get told to go with a budget mask that lacks the comfort, precision manufacturing, and attention to detail that comes with a high-end mask. The Empire EVS addresses these problems phenomenally well, being a full paintball mask with some outstanding qualities.
Because of the way the front of the mask is designed, there is almost no voice muffling when you wear this mask. I can shout across the field and be heard by anyone. The ears get a bit muffled, but I can still hear everything around me. What I love most about the EVS is its design. Not only does it look awesome, but it also feels more comfortable than any other mask I’ve tried on thanks to its more agreeable weight and pressure distribution. Ultimately, the differences between the EVS and the Dye i5 leave the top spot up to some personal preference, but my pick as the best mask for paintball has to be the EVS.
Best Paintball Mask- Buying Guide
Unless you’ve already been playing paintball for months or years, I don’t think you should go out and buy a top-of-the-line mask right away. While the comfort and ventilation of a high-end mask can make your play far more enjoyable, you should first look at entry-level masks unless you know that you’ll get enough use out of a tournament-grade pair of goggles to justify a high price point. If you want something more comfortable than a rental mask and are just starting out, my recommendation would be either the Dye Special Edition or the Virtue Ascend. Both of these masks offer great comfort at competitive price points. Just make sure not to get anything less expensive than the Valken MI-3, since many of those cheap paintball masks fail to protect your face or last through more than a few rounds of paintball.
When you’re ready to make the jump to a better mask, you should first think about what level of play you’re at. Tournament-grade masks like the Dye i5 and the Empire EVS are best left to the pros, or players who hit the field many times per month. For the weekend player or occasional user, masks like the Virtue Ascend, Sly Profit, or Empire E-Flex may offer the right amount of comfort and durability at the right price. These mid-range masks are, in my opinion, the sweet spot for most players, and sometimes I wish I’d bought one of those masks and saved money to buy more paint.
Don’t be afraid to buy a mask based on its looks. Your mask is one of the most recognizable and customizable parts of your gear, so if you like the style of one mask over another, you should go for it. I love the way my EVS looks, but there are plenty of badass paintball masks that are worth checking out.
Pay close attention to what people say about comfort on each mask. Thicker foam does not always equate to better padding, especially if the mask has poor impact distribution. Higher-end materials, better placement of padding, and easily-swapped foam can all be important reasons to choose one paintball mask over another.
Finally, you should think about how much protection you want out of your mask before making a purchase. While masks like the Dye i4 may be popular, they offer less protection on the less-sensitive parts of your face than some of their bigger competitors do. Most low profile paintball goggles support visor attachments to increase their coverage area, but look carefully at how these masks look when worn to determine if they have enough protection to suit your needs.
I hope that these paintball mask reviews help you figure out what you want out of your mask and what options are available to fill those needs. If possible, try out a few pairs at a pro shop, since your head shape and size may make certain masks more or less comfortable for you. Whatever your budget and eventual choice, I’m sure that any of these top paintball masks will help you have a great time on your next outing.