Here is another article crossposted from the OK Company forums.
Paintball is just so much fun it's a shame to keep it to yourself. Like
many people you probably want to share it with your friends and family,
and hopefully get them hooked as well. There's no doubt an activity
that depends so much on teamwork and communication is good at
strengthening relationships off the field, but that's a whole other
This article is the first in a series about helping out those new players that you've just introduced to the sport, or if you're new to the sport and reading this, how to make it more enjoyable for yourself.
One of the first things that happens when someone catches the bug is the desire for their own gear. Sure, you may have a great setup that you're willing to loan out, but a player, for some reason develops a type of bond with their gear. Don't ask me why. It just happens. So eventually, they'll want their own, and to make sure their experience is as good as possible, you might need to guide them in the right direction.
The first piece of gear that anyone should get is a good mask. They'll probably be looking at guns, and probably want to skimp on the mask to get the gun, but don't let them. Their mask is the number one most important piece of gear they'll ever bring onto the field. A good mask can make all the difference in how good of a day they have. It can mean the difference between beating the competition or a trip to the hospital. A bad mask is going to be a distraction, a handicap, and possibly even a danger. If it doesn't fit right, it will constantly need adjustment. It might even be prone to falling off. That's never good. A well designed mask will also fog up less, which means they won't end up wandering around the field blind. We've probably all done that at one point or another, and it's not a good way to get someone new excited about the game.
So, what should they look for in a mask?
- Comfort/Fit - Think about how much time your mask spends on your face during a given day. If it pinches, digs in, or is otherwise uncomfortable they're going to have to put up with that every moment of every game. Find one with good padding that fits the shape of their face comfortably. It might not be simple to go around trying masks on. I'm not sure why this is so much of a pain in stores considering how important masks are, but it is. Reading reviews on the internet can help. If they wear glasses that is a big thing to take into consideration, and can drastically limit the types of masks that will work. Also important is coverage. Some people just have bigger heads than others, so some mask might not cover their full face. I think you get where I'm going with that. It's bad.
- Quality - I put this as #2, for one simple reason. A cheaply made mask isn't going to be comfortable. It's as simple as that. The mask is a safety item. Don't skimp on safety. Buying the right mask might set them back a couple weeks on saving up for the gun, but in the end it will be worth it, and it's not worth the risk otherwise. Don't just think about the eye protection, get a mask that protects the ears as well. A paintball can do a lot of damage, and most masks these days offer something in the range of ear protection. Find one that offers both.
- Field of View - These days a lot of companies are going out of their way to make masks as unobstructive to vision as possible, offering wide field of view. Take all that you can get. The more you can see, the better off you are.
- Ventilation - This one is pretty important, but it can be fixed. Good ventilation means you'll breathe easier, and not fog up as easily. No matter what, if they play year round, they'll probably run into conditions where the mask fogs up. Anti-fog spray or wax will do the trick. But, with a little ingenuity and some small computer fans from radio shack, that can be fixed permanently so that it NEVER fogs. I mod my masks with these right off the bat, as it really keeps me a lot cooler and brings in tons of fresh air. It's truly amazing. Some masks offer fan kits, but they're extremely loud. What can be built DIY will be far cheaper and far quieter.
- Style - Yea, it's important. By now they've probably narrowed it down to a couple choices, and they're probably all within the same price range. If they're playing woodsball, they don't want to be wearing a bright white mask. Trust me, I've done that. It's impossible to hide. You want something that reflects your personality yet serves the situation. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look cool on the field. Anyone who says they don't care is a liar.
Well, now that they're set up with a mask, they've got their most personal, and most important piece of gear taken care of. They've made their first step into joining the sport, and every little piece they acquire will bring them one step further into to the full blown addiction we all enjoy. Not to mention start building their confidence as they get more familiar with all of it.
I'm honestly not sure what the next blog in this series will be about. I would like to do something on picking the right gun, but that's such a huge topic I don't think it can even be put to words. I guess we'll just see.