With most people, a gas mask either invokes post-apocalyptic scenery of scorched earth smothered with poisonous gases, or images of war-ravaged countries with bioweapons released into the elements.
Alas, these are not fictional stories from “Fallout” or other dystopian games that take place in the far (or not-so-far) future.
It’s the world we already live in, where it isn’t safe to drink tap water or eat the food from the farmer’s market, not to mention breathing the toxic air that surrounds us. How to escape the elements we need for our very sustenance?
Aren’t we already living in an apocalyptic world? Just take a look at the latest humanitarian crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or even lower-scale events such as bushfires or terrorist attacks. How many people are now regretting not having bought a proper gas mask or a respirator?
I don’t know about you, but I like to gear up for all eventualities. A gas mask should find a place in your bug out bag or emergency kit, whether it’s premade or assembled by you.
At the very least, you should always have one in your basement, whether you’re a military professional or just a civilian who isn’t fond of sticking their head in the sand when reality strikes hard.
Do you think we’re exaggerating or fearmongering? Take a look at the government’s recommendations – a gas mask should find its place in every person’s basic disaster supplies kit.
What to Look for in a Gas Mask and Respirator – Buyer’s Guide
When choosing a reliable gas mask, your first concern should be its purpose.
Are you on the market because of pandemics? In that case, any gas mask or respirator with a P100 filter should suffice. But if you’re looking for a unit that will ensure a comprehensive chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear protection (commonly abbreviated as CBRN), you will need a more powerful – and expensive gas mask.
Note, however, that no gas mask in this world will ensure 100% protection against all disasters. The best you can hope for is reducing the possibility of contamination by 80%. Which is, of course, so much better than zero.
Whatever its purpose, a gas mask or respirator should always contain a facepiece that covers your face and allows you to breathe, and a filter or cartridge that gets rid of contaminants.
You only need one gas mask per person, but make sure to stock up on filters since each of them will only last a few hours. As for respirators, there are disposable and reusable types.
Tip #1: How to Wear It
We’re pointing at you, pogonophiles or beard-lovers!
Most gas mask come in a single size. To make sure they fit tightly, you should get a clean, smooth shave every single morning. If you’re normally wearing sideburns, forget about them.
Also, your hair should be very short. You don’t want any hair strands to get in the way of your respiratory system’s protection.
Tip #2: How to Store It
It may look simple and robust, but a gas mask is actually quite a delicate piece of equipment. Since they are typically made of rubber for the most part, you should keep them in dark places where there’s no heat from the sun or otherwise.
Make sure to also keep them in a dry compartment where there’s no dust, liquids, or moisture.
As for filters, they will always come sealed – and that’s how you should store them.
Gas Mask or Respirator – Which One Do I Need?
Just like its name says, a gas mask should protect your respiratory system and internal organs from various kinds of gases, vapors and chemical fumes.
It generally consists of a facepiece that should be flexible yet fit tightly to cover your whole face. There are also eyepieces or a visor to see through, and a valve through which you will exhale.
You might need a gas mask in case of chemical warfare, nuclear disaster, or other catastrophic events where you need to avoid facial contact with the environment.
However, if you’re only looking to protect your lungs from airborne particles or bacteria, a respirator will do. It’s a face mask that covers the mouth and nose and only contains local filters.
For better protection, you may combine it with specialized goggles. If you don’t have a pair of those, even ordinary swim goggles will do in less hazardous situations!
And now to address a common beginner prepper’s misconception.
A gas mask is not necessarily the best solution for every situation. Even though it provides more thorough protection, it’s usually bulky and weighty, and may even cause a severe case of claustrophobia with some people.
Hence the wisest course for a serious prepper would be to gear up with both items and use them in adequate situations.
Choosing the Best Gas Mask for Adults and Kids
MIRA Safety CM-6M Tactical Gas Mask for CBRN Defense
This powerful, military-grade full-face gas mask was made in accordance with NATO standards, and is used by law enforcement and military in quite a few countries in the world.
You can also use it if you work in the industrial sector, as it can protect you against a variety of toxic pollutants, pepper spray, as well as biological and even nuclear threats. The level of protection is yours to determine though, and will depend on your choice of filters.
- The visor is durable and wide, enabling nearly full view (up to 83.8%), and it won’t fog since the air you exhale doesn’t have any contact with it. Another great thing about this gas mask is that the respirator reduces the amount of CO2 (carbon-dioxide), which should reduce discomfort even if you wear it for hours on end.
- No need to take it off when you need a drink! There’s an integrated drinking system that connects to a refillable canteen.
- Will wearing this gas mask impede your talking? According to the specifications, not much. In fact, the speech diaphragm will allow for 95% clarity – almost as if you didn’t wear anything. That’s a huge pro since most other masks make speech almost totally incomprehensible.
- A frequent issue with a gas mask can be loose or uncomfortable fit, but you don’t have to worry about that with MIRA. The rubber is both comfy and CBRN-compliant. As I said above in the general tips, just make sure to shave off and remove your hair from the field, and you should be fine.
- You can attach up to two filters at a time, which allows for longer protection. Pair the gas mask with MIRA or any other compatible filters.
- Its shelf life of 20 years means you’ll only have to buy this gas mask once every few years. And that’s if you use it regularly! Afterwards, all you have to think about are filters.
- The most significant con is that the drinking canteen, as well as many other parts, are sold separately. So if you’re set to obtain a full kit, MIRA also offers a preassembled kit that includes this gas mask along with filters, hydration systems, pouches, as well as straps and buckles to keep it all together.
MIRA Safety CM-2M Child Gas Mask for CBRN Defense – the Best Gas Mask for Kids
Parents might be in for a hard time trying to find a good gas mask to protect their little ones. As we said above, most masks don’t come in sizes, and a tight seal is paramount for protection.
A simple search on Amazon may misguide you into buying a costume or Halloween gas mask that won’t be worth a dime in hazardous situations.
That’s where this MIRA gas mask comes in.
- Being very versatile, it protects kids against all kinds of contaminants, from airborne ones that urban dwellers are regularly exposed to, to poisonous and biological pollutants, to radioactive fumes and dust.
- Accommodates almost all age ranges, from toddlers to teenagers. There are two sizes, for from 1.5 to to 6 years old, and from 6 to 15 years old. They cover such age ranges due to adjustability. Just tweak the straps and your kid is good to go.
- There are two separate eyepieces with anti-fogging film, so your kid won’t experience visibility issues when there’s smoke or high moisture. They won’t be able to enjoy a full view though.
- Unlike with MIRA CM-6M for adults, you can’t attach the filters to this gas mask. Instead, they come in a pouch and connect with the mask through a hose. This complicates things a little but is better suited to children since it significantly reduces the mask’s weight. Unfortunately, you’ll have to buy the hose and the pouch separately.
- It uses the same 40mm filters as the adult mask, so you can stock up on those and use them interchangeably.
- The most significant con is that kids with insufficient lung capacity won’t be able to breathe comfortably. Sadly, there’s no cure for this.
Best Respirators (Disposable or Reusable)
3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 7502/37082 – a Great Solution for Wildfires
If you don’t need a full-blown gas mask but merely want to protect your lungs from various lighter contaminants, this half-face respirator will do the job just fine.
- Unlike disposable respirators, it uses separate filters. All you have to do is stock up on those.
- Good for people working in heavy industries, mining, construction, welding, soldering. With an appropriate filter such as the affordable 3M P100, it can protect you from exposure to unpleasant or damaging odors but also lead, cadmium, arsenic, or asbestos. In fact, it works with concentrations up to ten times the permissible exposure limit. It can’t stop viruses since they are too small. However, it can resist them when they come in droplets from coughing or sneezing.
- The exhalation valve allows for nice and easy breathing. If you’ve ever worn a heavy-duty face mask or respirator, you know how hot it can get under it. This model’s Cool Flow valve makes the respirator absolutely bearable and will prevent fogging.
- Due to the four-point harness type and use of silicone, it’s comfortable to wear for hours on end and easy to drop down when not needed. Choose from three color-coded sizes – small, medium, and large.
3M Health Care Particulate Respirator and Surgical Mask 1860 – a Good Solution for Pandemics
Sadly, it seems that this whole year will be marked by COVID-19 pandemics.
And even when (or if) we manage to beat this thing, many other unknown and dangerous viruses are creeping in on us as a consequence of our devastating impact on the environment.
That’s why most N95 respirators and surgical masks are currently out of stock on Amazon and other retailers. You may wanna check the search from time to time and see if they restocked. But in the meantime, let’s check out the most widespread protection respirator – N95.
These respirators will filter out about 95% of large and small airborne particles. While they won’t protect you completely, they are still your best bet against the COVID-19 virus.
As for this particular 3M 1860 model, it’s certified by NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). And here’s what you can expect from it.
- It’s a disposable respirator, which means you can only use it for a limited time period. That’s why it comes in cases containing 20 items.
- It doesn’t have a separate exhalation valve, and the filter is in the mask. Therefore, you’ll have to face a certain amount of heat.
- FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves it as a surgical mask. But it can also be of great use to other healthcare professionals, as well as civilians who want thorough protection from bacteria and viruses.
- Ensuring a tight seal is a must with this mask! If you fail to do that, the mask won’t be of much use. Luckily, the cushioning nose foam makes it easier to do even if you’ve never done it before. You can mold and adjust it to snuggle your nose and face exactly. The two straps are there to make sure the respirator doesn’t move. However, if it does happen for whatever reason, make sure to replace it with another respirator.
- It comes in two sizes (1860 and 1860s, which is a smaller one).
That being said, if you would like to compare different models of N95 respirators, here’s a list of all items approved by NIOSH.