A gas mask, simply put, is a compact and portable air purifying device that one can utilize for personal use. Such gas masks were invented with a primary goal in mind i.e. supplying the user with detoxified and breathable air. Interestingly, this device works on the same principles as that of a portable water filter used for cleaning the water for drinking purposes. The only difference being, you can survive without clean water for a few minutes, but not without clean air.
These survival gas masks have been in use for a long time and were made and used first by the ancient Greeks and then subsequently by two Iraqi brothers. Then a few hundred years later, a Brit named Edward Harrison came up with a refined version in the 19th century and from that point onwards, we have been witnessing more and more sophistication in these devices. Since then, these survival gas masks are widely used by people from different professions such as military men, miners, doctors, and civilians in varying and challenging circumstances to achieve a single objective: access clean air. The key development as compared to older masks was the introduction of the separate filter canister which would be connected with a hose by a filter canister and fixated on one side of the mask. This canister would be replaceable so the mask can be used for longer with only the filter requiring replacements. Another feature was the introduction of replaceable plastic lenses which greatly assisted with the clarity of view of the wearer.
Gas masks can be used in a wide variety of situations. One such scenario is during demonstrations and protests when the authorities use tear gas or CS gas to disperse protestors, and in such cases, the police and demonstrators commonly use these gas masks to protect their eyes and their lungs from inhaling these harmful gases. Apart from these functional purposes, gas masks are also used very commonly as a symbolic representation in industrial music. Another interesting example of their usage is by urban explorers who are out and about in changing environments and routinely exposed to toxic gases and hazardous materials.
A survival gas mask can look hideous and terrifying but it saves lives. This is the only reason why any survivalist would add this item as a compulsory item for all of their family members, as part of their survival kit. The best gas mask can make all the difference when you are faced with a situation of extreme air pollution, fire, natural disasters or pandemics to name a few. You will not be able to function (or breathe) with simple bandanas or surgical masks and will certainly require a disposable N95 or P100 mask to come to your rescue, either in the form of a reusable half-space respirator or full-face gas mask (discussed in more detail below).
Having said that, you must do proper research and a comparative review of different products available in the market, to suit you and your circumstances.
Best Survival Gas Masks
We present to you the best survival gas masks available in the market. The idea is to shortlist the ones that stand out from the rest of the devices, based on their features and functionality. This, in turn, helps you in your research work and saves you all the important time as well. Kindly analyze all these options carefully and then pick the one that suits your needs and budget.
You need to resist impulsive buying given the pandemic COVID-19 situation these days. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that there are numerous scammers out there who would exploit this situation and sell you a fake or compromised product (e.g. a cheap airsoft mask). The information flying around on social media is not exactly always accurate.
We strongly suggest that you only buy factory packed and sealed brand new items. There are a lot of surplus gas gears out there, which will save you some money but expose you to a possible life-threatening situation. These surplus items can either be damaged, expired or void of manufacturing or warranty seals. The cartridges may be outdated and that can result in dangerous elements being absorbed as part of your inhalation. So this can be counterintuitive.
Always rely on products that are NISH certified for CBRN or NBC. Do not give in to marketing gimmicks and always do your research before opting for one.
The litmus test is the reputation of the manufacturer. Always look them up on the internet and try and read reviews about them. This is what we have endeavored to do for you here in this guide. If you cannot find much information or it sounds too good to be true, then avoid buying their product. You need to be safe than sorry!
Choosing the right size is equally important. Generally, the majority of the reputed manufacturers will suggest that the medium size is the best fit for adults (covering 70-80% of their face) or larger sizes (8 ¼ hats or above) if that suits you better.
If you are after a military gas mask, then these are usually sold through authorized distributors and not directly to the civilians. Do not purchase these from a fraudster pretending to be a distributor or supplier authorized to sell specified military-grade gas mask equipment, particularly through online channels.
Full Face Respirator Synthesis Protection Gas Mask
It has a fully efficient activated carbon filter which is guaranteed to provide you with long term protection, given the vast amounts of activated carbon packed inside the filter.
It has an electrostatic dust filter which is made out of non-woven filter material and has dustproof qualities.
It gives you protection against 10 or more kinds of toxic gases and guarantees fresh and pure breath with every use. It also has a minimizing respiratory resistance and doesn’t give you the claustrophobic feeling by providing you with a natural and soothing inhalation experience.
VILONG M04 Airsoft Tactical Protective Mask
This airsoft protective mask is made out of strong Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) with an extremely comfortable EVA head cushioning pad. This ensures a good fit on the face and is extremely comfortable to wear. It also has a strong lens that is durable and can withstand a strong impact of up to 5 joules.
The plastic gear is also resistant to shocks and very sturdy in quality. It comes with high-density nylon straps which add to the stability of the mask whilst the user is engaged in high octane action.
The protective mask is also fog proof and makes for great visibility in misty and foggy conditions.
There are 2 canisters which require 2 AA sized batteries to operate and provide power to the outward exhaust fans. The mask doesn’t get stuffy over a while and air circulation is pretty good, allowing you to breathe easy throughout and enjoy the activity you are engaged in.
This mask is ideal for all kinds of airsoft games, movie shootings, cosplay or masquerades, counter strike (honorable person), Halloween costume or as part of zombie soldier outfit.
3M Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator 6900
It comes standard with 3M particulate filters or cartridges to give you great respiratory protection against many types of pollutants and contaminants. This respirator gas mask also provides adequate protection against airborne particulates. The 3M Cool Flow Valve is pretty cool and is meant to aid your breathing process.
All the above specifications of this gas mask collectively ensure that you get a comfortable experience and a practical product which is good value for your money.
It has multi-purpose utility including but not limited to assembly, chemical clean-up and handling, chemical splash, chiseling, cleaning, furnace operations, chipping, grinding, laboratories, machining, sawing, masonry, painting, pouring/casting, and sanding.
This respirator works great with the following 3M approved filters and accessories: 2071, 2076HF, 2078, 2091/07000, 2096, 2097/07184, 2291, 2296, 2297, 7093, 7093C/37173, 603, 5N11, 5P71/07194, 501, and 502.
It is also compatible with certain 3M Cartridges of 6000 Series, as follows: 6001, 6001i, 6002, 6003, 6004, 6005, 6006, 6009, 60921, 60921i, 60922, 60923, 60924, 60925, 60926, 60928, and 60929S.
This respirator is widely used in multiple industries such as construction, metals, general manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.
This face mask has been tested and approved by NISOH (a Federal government regulatory body) as a device that works well to reduce some of the airborne contaminants.
The Facepiece Reusable Respirator also complies with the impact requirements of ANSI Z87.1-2010 standard, which guarantees a high impact level for face and eye protection. It significantly reduces exposure to pollutants like dust, bacteria, paints, acids, ammonia, mold, fumes and certain other chemicals.
The OPARYY Respirator Full Seal Protection Double Air Filter Eye Protection Respiratory Protection (Respirator +Canister) or MF14 gas mask is newly designed to afford you effective protection against respiratory and spectacles during multiple contamination scenarios such as biological, chemical and radioactive.
These gas masks are available for use by the military or in different segments such as industries, agriculture, scientific laboratories for research purposes and warehousing.
The mask is injection molded and made out of super quality natural rubber which is soft and with a frosted surface to provide you with an overall comfortable fit. The overall feel of the mask is sturdy and safe and is a great device to protect you from particulates of organic chemical vapors or fumes, alcohol carbon dioxide, and chlorobenzene.
The elastic band is stretchy and allows for good adjustment to ensure a comfortable fit on the face which is airtight once worn. The eye lenses are large and made out of polycarbonate with treated surfaces that ensure an open field view, resistance from impact and abrasion.
This gas mask comes standard with a filter cartridge and a good-sized exhalation valve which provides effective filtration of toxic gases and vapors. This valve cap works by directing the gases exhaled by the user and reducing the moisture within the mask and hence ensuring there is no fog inside which may impact the visibility.
DISKIN Full Face Respirator Military Spec Gas Mask
This is a free size mask which can fit most of the adults, given its adjustability options. It has an anti-fog specification and provides consistently clear visibility. It also provides for complete respiratory protection and is used with a 40mm gas mask filter. The filters are sold separately from the mask so always ensure you order both collectively. DISKIN does not manufacture filters and hence you will have to purchase them from a different vendor.
Its face seal is made out of butyl rubber and the face shield is designed with polycarbonate. It provides for a compact and large field of vision. It is not an expensive item and doesn’t require heavy maintenance either.
Having said that, these masks are not ideal for those intending to use it with spectacle or optical equipment. Please do not try to use it with your glasses as that may be dangerous and cause injuries to your face (eyes in particular) or worse, leave you unprotected by breaching the seal, etc.
2Pcs Gas Proof Active Carbon Mask 6200 Paint
This active carbon mask is 7 in 1 complete suit full-face gas mask which includes 1 gas mask, 2 cotton filters, 2 filter covers, and 2 filter cartridges. Hence, this comes with a complete package of accessories so you do not have to shop individually for different components of this mask.
These dust masks are made from high-quality rubber which gives you quality assurance by preventing allergies, durability and anti-aging properties. It is very easy to clean. It has undergone multiple FDA lab tests to bring you the best in quality and safety. It complies with CE (EU) 2016/425(EU Standard). These are reassuring measures which relied upon by many users when opting for this mask.
This dust mask has a dual filtration mechanism that ensures lower respiratory resistance. You must use the cartridge correctly (depending on the environment in which you are operating) to provide you with complete safety against toxic gases. Every cartridge provides you with 45 minutes of effective protection from these harmful gases.
If at any time you feel that the breathing is getting difficult or the resistance is increasing then you must immediately exit that space where you are in and change the cartridges instantly.
The mask has very wide application and can be used in varying scenarios such as Assembly and Mechanical, Chemical Clean-up and Handling, Chemical Splash, Chipping, Chiseling, Grinding, Cleaning, Furnace Operations, Laboratories, Machining, Painting, Pouring and Casting, Sanding, Sawing, UV Protection and Welding.
The mask provides a great fit that sits tightly against your face providing airtight protection. This ensures that there is no breach of the harmful gases or particulates into the mask. It has a mesh headband which effectively protects your head and hair and provides for a comfortable wearing experience with no pressure on any part of your face.
The mask is also compatible with 3M 6006 filters if you have them from prior use or have run out of the standard ones that come with this product. When not in use, always ensure that you store in a clean and dry cover (a zip lock bag for example) for longevity and long term reliability of this product. It is reasonably priced at $39.99.
3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator 7503/37083(AAD)
This half facepiece reusable respirator gas mask (available in blue color only) is made out of advanced silicone to provide you with added comfort and long-lasting durability. It has a built-in 3M Cool Flow Valve which makes breathing easier and efficient.
It has a dual-mode Head Harness which is freely adjustable on both sides for standard or drop-down functionalities. Its exhalation valve cover channelizes exhaled breath and moisture out of the mask to reduce the effects of fogging and providing you with clear views at all times.
This mask is primarily intended for use at the US occupational workplace and should be used as per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standard (29 CFR 1910.132) guidelines. Any misuse may result in injury, sickness or in worst-case scenarios, even death.
These 3M face masks will afford protection against different types of gases and vapors and particulates only when used in conjunction with approved cartridges and filters provided by 3M. These accessories are sold separately so always ensure you order them as such. Once fitted with the authorized accessories, these reusable respirators provide effective protection up to 10 times the ‘Permissible Exposure Limit’.
PPWYY Full Face Facepiece Respirator
It has a very well balanced shape and comes with four strap head suspension which makes it super easy to don it on or off. It comes in one standard size which fits most of the adults quite nicely. This adjustable one size is complemented by a snug fit that sits against faces of any type and size. The mask is not known to cause any allergies and has a soft texture to provide the utmost comfort.
It is convenient to wear and relied upon its users for specific protection to eyes and head, thanks to its 360 degrees fully sealed design. This full-face respirator is reasonably priced at $105. It is available in black color only and has size specifications of 230x190x10mm.
Types of Gas Masks
It is important to understand the different styles of gas masks available. It is only after you understand the types and functionalities of these masks that you can decide which one is best for you. What is best for you is eventually a question of the level of protection that you want.
Gas masks in this day and age are usually manufactured with an elastic polymer in different sizes. To provide maximum flexibility and comfort, these gas masks come with several adjustable straps which can be tightened or loosened to achieve a perfect fit. Most importantly, these gas masks are linked to a filter cartridge closer to the mouth. This is either using a direct connection to the mouth or using a flexible hose, depending on the product specification. Certain models include a drinking tube flowing directly into a water bottle to give you ready access to clean water at all times when you are on the move. This ensures that you continue to keep protected without taking off your gas mask. Certain models may also include corrective lens inserts but that varies from person to person and may not be a critical requirement for everyone purchasing a gas mask.
Like any other product that goes out in the market for public use, gas masks are (and should be) tested to ensure that they are fit for purpose and provide the maximum protection corresponding to their specifications and intended use by the wearer. Once a mask is fitted, it is exposed to multiple challenge agents such as isoamyl acetate, synthetic banana flavourer as well as camphor, which are harmless for testing purposes. In the case of military personnel, teargases and stannic chloride in a chamber environment can be relied upon to test the effectiveness of the mask.
Broadly speaking, there are two options of gas masks namely (a) air-purifying respirator; and (b) full-face gas mask.
Let us look at these two types of masks closely.
Air Purifying Respirator
Air-purifying respirators provide a convenient and quick solution for accessing pure air. They cover your nose and mouth but leave your eyes completely exposed. The issue with this feature is that your eyes become very vulnerable to all sorts of biological infections and damages that can be caused by various chemicals in the air.
These devices work by creating safety pockets around of clean air around your mouth and nose area and any leakages or gaps in between your skin and the mask can lead to the contaminated air making its way inside. This is perhaps better than not wearing any protective gear at all and increasing the probability of you being exposed to harmful air inhalation.
You will need your best vision in survival scenarios (e.g. an actual chemical attack) and from that perspective, this option is not the best one. These masks are generally very affordable. Their filter bottles that are built into the mask are replaceable and can be screwed or unscrewed from the mask. These respirators rely on your lungs to circulate air through the filter. This is a good solution so long as you ensure that the mask seal is intact and safe, whilst the air pressure is being created within the mask whilst you breathe.
If the seal is compromised for any reason whatsoever, then the ‘path of least resistance’ is not routed through the filter of the mask but the breached area. This is the biggest issue with these respirator gas masks. The longer the leak prevails, the more ineffective it gets. This defeats the entire purpose of purchasing and putting on the mask.
Also, if there is a gap between the area of your chin and the covering of the mask, then the chances are that the outside air will avoid the filter and instead pass through the leaking area. This can cause all sorts of health complications and in worst-case scenarios, even death. You need to be sure about the seal of the mask and ensure that it always stays airtight.
People with a long beard may also find it difficult to put this on properly and hence compromise the seal. Hence, you should shave off your beard before you use this mask.
Respirators are not designed to protect you comprehensively from all such threats. You may be exposed to a wide range of pollutants or bacteria ranging in size from 0.2 microns to 60 microns and hence outside the scope of these gas masks. Some of the smaller flu viruses (as small as 0.1 microns) can live in the air for prolong duration whilst the water surrounding it evaporates. These flu particles can penetrate the seal of the respirator and compromise your air quality.
Respirators are manufactured to assist you in escaping a situation and from that perspective can be a valuable source and a must in your survival kit. Other than that, you cannot rely on them and expose yourself to places or situations where you can be exposed to dangerous chemicals and toxins out in the air.
Full Face Gas Mask
This full-face gas mask, as the name suggests, covers your entire face (including the eyes) and hence gives you more protection as compared to the air-purifying respirator gas masks.
These gas masks have a larger filter and are placed just under the mouth area. The visibility is not impacted as you can see through the glass or plastic plates that are embedded into the mask.
This mask is your ultimate choice if you are looking for excellent protection against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) situations. This mask needs to be used with appropriate filters and breathing devices for optimum performance. Depending on the product specifications, this can ensure complete protection against a wide range of CBRN related toxic industrial chemicals and agents, which can be in circulation in the air in the form of vapors, aerosols and different kinds of gases.
This provides you with much better comfort and fits and provides day-long protection. It is also renowned to have low breathing resistance thus ensuring full seal protection. It can be put on and taken off with considerable ease.
These gas masks are also fully compatible with optical devices as such night-vision spectacles or goggles and do not impede your corrective eyesight or clear vision, no matter what time of the day or night you intend to use it. Moreover, you can also wear your helmets and use other breathing apparatuses with it, adding to its practical features.
Again, depending on the model you chose, they come with a wide variety of protection levels and conform to NATO standards. Its special and practical design makes it easy for you to drink fluids, particularly in contaminated places and in certain models, it can also come with a pre-installed hydration system and a flask for carrying drinks.
One of its smart features includes an exhalation chamber which allows for the sweat to drain through. This is bound to happen when you are wearing a full face mask for longer durations. Finally, these masks are meant to enable routine communication (whether with assisted devices or not). This is achieved by utilizing a high-quality speech diaphragm built into the mask.
How does a Gas Mask Filter work?
Think of the gas masks as inhalers. They work in a very similar fashion. The air is filtered for safe delivery to the lungs of a person, and during such process, the dirty and dangerous air particles from gases, fumes or infected bodies are effectively removed.
Air filters can use any one or more of the following three methods to cleanse the air namely:
- Particle filtration
- Chemical absorption or adsorption; and
- Chemical reaction to neutralize a chemical
Particle filtration is by far the simplest of the options listed above. A gas mask may use a fine particulate filter to protect against a biological threat. This is very similar to a person putting a hanker chief or a cloth in front of his mouth to protect his lungs from the dust. And with all this routine filtration, these filters will get clogged and make it difficult for you to breathe. It is at this time that you will need to replace them.
Tangible particles that float in the air such as dust, smoke and combusted debris coming from the fire, asbestos from demolished buildings, bacteria, viruses and even tear gas crystals are filtered by gas masks. N95 gas masks are meant to block up to 95% of such particles which are approximately around 0.3 microns in size.
Chemical Absorption – Having said that, a chemical threat will require a different technique and hence a different gas mask. This is so because chemicals attach us in the form of mists or vapors and do not get trapped by the method of particulate filtration. A very common approach to tackling such chemical attacks is activated charcoal. Charcoal is carbon in essence and gets ‘activated’ and becomes activated charcoal once it is exposed to oxygen. Once that happens, it opens up tiny pores (ranging in millions) between the carbon atoms, which help in absorbing smelly or colored substances coming out of gases or liquids.
Chemical Adsorption – Adsorption is defined as ‘…the accumulation of molecules of a gas to form a thin film on the surface of a solid’. There is a ‘chemical attraction’ here. The massive surface area of activated charcoal provides for innumerable bonding sites. When pollutants or contaminants pass-through this carbon surface, they are trapped within that surface and hence the protection.
Activated charcoal is renowned for trapping organic chemicals such as carbon and chlorine. However, other chemicals don’t, such as sodium and nitrates. So activated charcoal is not a foolproof methodology against all pollutants. Moreover, once all these bonding sites are clogged, the filter will not work or will be less effective and will require a replacement immediately.
In certain instances, the activated charcoal will require treatment with certain other chemicals to enhance and improve its adsorption functioning vis-à-vis a particular toxin.
Chemical Reactions – are also used to afford gas mask protections. This was very frequently relied on in World War I, where militaries relied on gas masks containing chemicals that were manufactured to react with chlorine and then neutralize its effect on the person inhaling.
Some of the usual pollutants that a common person needs to be concerned about includes:
- Pollution in the air
- Fire smoke
- natural disasters such as earthquakes
- Pandemics, epidemics, and routine bacteria and virus
- Man-made agents used to control riots such as pepper spray, tear gas, CS and CN
- Chemical spills
- Accidents associated with industries, automobiles, and trains.
- Ash from volcanic eruptions
- Nuclear reactions
- Biological or chemical attacks
Some of the chemicals and contaminants that certified respirators are tested to cover and provide protection include:
- Ammonia (NH3)
- Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4)
- Chlorine Dioxide
- Chloropicrin (PS)
- Cyanogen chloride (CK)
- Hydrogen Chloride
- Hydrogen Cyanide (AC)
- Hydrogen Fluoride
- Hydrogen Sulfide
- Lewisite (L)
- Mustard (HD)
- Phosgene (CG)
- Phosphine (PH3)
- Radioactive particulates
- Sarin (GB)
- Sulfur Dioxide
Your gas mask is as good as its filter. The better the quality of the filter the longer your gas mask will be of help to you. Once your filter is blocked with all sorts of chemicals it needs to be instantly replaced. If it isn’t replaced on time, then your protection is weakened or in certain instances, non-existent.
When not in use, always ensure that the seal of the filter is appropriately protected by covering it with a cup, to prevent particulates and dust entering it. Other factors that can undermine your filter’s longevity and effectiveness are its age, exposure to natural environmental conditions (water, heat or humidity).
Moreover, when various chemicals are clogged into the filter’s inner parts, then the adverse chemical composition of the gas mask’s filter can lead to breathing problems for you. Blue asbestos is not used as part of modern gas usage as it is deemed injurious to health, impacting the lungs and hence the breathing process of the person using it.
Whenever you are shortlisting your preferred gas mask, you need to cause and ensure that its specification includes a 40mm connection, which is meant to be the safest option as per the experts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is The Best Gas Mask?
The best gas mask is the one that suits your needs and environment in which you operate. That will dictate the level of protection you will need and hence your choice.
Please refer to the top 8 gas masks that we have researched for you and should assist you with your decision making.
How Long Does A Gas Mask Last?
Most of the combined gas mask filters can go on for up to 8 hours in a nuclear biological chemical (NBC) situation. With regards to chemical-specific filters, these can work efficiently up to 20 hours, in an NBC situation.
As explained, always err on the side of caution and replace your filters immediately if you feel they are worn out or not working properly. The last thing you want is compromising your health and life in a pressure situation, at the expense of saving some money.
How Often Should I Change The Gas Mask Filter In My Mask?
As a rule of thumb, you must leave the contaminated region and get rid of the filter whenever you notice that it has been damaged or soiled. You may also notice difficulty in breathing and that is a sign that you need to change the filter instantly. Regardless of any of these signs, it is highly recommended that you take the safes approach and by way of abundant caution, dispose of your filter once it has been used for 40 hours or if it has been used for 30 days, whichever comes earlier.
When Was The Gas Mask Invented?
It wasn’t until we witnessed the First World War that the need for gas masks in bulk production was required. The reason was the extensive use of chemical weapons which required immediate protection for the soldiers on the frontline to save their lives and continue fighting.
The first gas mask in the world, that used the activated charcoal technology, was invented in the year 1915 by a Russian chemist whose name was Nikolay Zelinsky.
How Should I Clean My Respirator?
A gas mask respirator needs to be cleaned and maintained whilst in use or not in use. This ensures that your device performs in an optimum condition when required and extends its useful life so you get the best value for your money and most importantly, provide you with comprehensive respiratory protection when you need it the most.
A respirator facepiece (which doesn’t include the cartridges and filters) can be cleaned by special respirator cleaning wipes, which usually come with the respirator. Alternatively, you can clean it by immersing the respirator facepiece in a warm cleaning liquid which can be mixed with a neutral detergent if required (its temperature not exceeding 120° F) and then after some time, thoroughly scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush until it is properly clean.
Gas masks fulfill different requirements ranging from recreational and amusement purposes for games and movies to survival situations such as wars, pandemics and natural calamities.
It is a ‘must-have’ these days (COVID 19 is case in point) for almost all general civilians and survivalists and preppers in particular. We have witnessed a great surge in demand for these gas masks given the prevalent COVID 19 pandemic.
Regardless of which gas mask you opt for, they are all great devices (with higher or lower protection levels, depending on your usage), helping you to access purified air. This, in turn, protects your lungs and promotes and protects your overall health. Their functioning is very simple and effective. They are also very reasonably priced. The different techniques and functionalities are aimed at providing you with the best quality of air, without any pollutants or contaminants in the air. That is the beauty of a gas mask. Stay safe and take a well-informed decision for yourself and your family.