What Are The Best Gas Masks?
Oxygen is life. That should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, we often overlook something so simple. It’s easy to stock up on weapons, food, and water. It’s harder to remember the basics that we’ll keep you alive to use them.
Whether you’re preparing for a war or charging into one, protecting yourself from airborne toxins should be high priority. Even if you’re simply preparing for any worst case scenario, you should be ready for the same. Fires, chemical weapons, or a nuclear fallout can all affect the air quality. Unless you plan on staying in the bunker forever, you need a gas mask.
We’ve put together a buying guide to help you find the best gas mask. We’ll take you through the different types, the most reliable brands, and our list of the top rated models. It’s up to you to decide what specifications you need. If you know what scenario you’re prepping for, the provided information should make the decision simple.
Half / Full Face
Air Purifying / Supplied Air?
Types of Gas Masks
We all have all have an image that comes up when we think of gas masks. For most, it’s probably the WWI era rubber face covering with a hose and terrifying eye holes. Fortunately, gas masks have come a long way since then. They aren’t all that frightening.
They fall into two main types: air-purifying respirators and supplied-air respirators. They are also divided into half and full masks. All have their advantages and disadvantages, and we are going to guide you through. Let’s start with mask types.
Half-mask respirators are what you often see worn when dealing with chemicals like asbestos. They cover your face and nose and use a filter to purify the air. The basic and least expensive type is usually an air purifying mask. The main advantage of a half-mask is the low price and simplicity. You simply fit it to your face and breathe.
The main disadvantage is lack of eye protection. This will not work for anything that might attack the skin or eyes. In addition, it can very difficult to properly fit the mask to your face. That means bacteria and chemicals can slip through the gaps.
The main use of a half-mask is to limit intake of airborne pollutants. If you need 100% protection, cross the half-mask off your list.
As the name implies, a full-mask respirator covers the entire face. The goal is to provide a perfect seal. The aforementioned WWI style is a full-mask. Modern masks often make use of a fully transparent facial covering instead of just over the eyes.
The main advantage of a full-mask is highest protection. The only way to provide more security would be a full haz-mat suit with a built-in respirator.
The main disadvantage of a full-mask is the price. While price should not be your deciding factor, it often is. Depending on the severity of the conditions you expect, a cheaper option may be preferable. Another disadvantage is comfort. These masks are hot, heavy, and bulky. That’s why workers in asbestos contaminated buildings go with the simpler respirators.
If you expect any sort of chemical weapons or need to create a near-perfect seal with a hooded suit, full-mask is your only option. It is also advantages for entering fires or other smoke filled scenarios.
Air-purifying respirators come in both of the above options. These masks use a filter cartridge to clean the air coming into your mouth and nose. They rely on the user’s own lungs to pull the air through. The main advantage of this system is simplicity. There are no batteries or complex hose systems to worry about. Simply breathe and the are will be filtered.
The main disadvantage of this is the possibility of leaks. Especially in the half mask variety, if the mask is not fitted properly, contaminated air will get through. This can be solved by insuring a proper fit during the preparation stage, but new situations may arise. The mask could degrade or simply slip slightly in a high-energy scenario.
This variety is best when access to batteries and stored oxygen are limited. This means that it is preferred for most long-term survival scenarios.
Supplied-air respirators mean that the mask is connected to a separate, battery powered unit. Using the same filter system as air-purifying respirators, the unit forces air into the mask using a fan.
The main advantage of this system is that it creates a positive pressure within the mask. If there is a leak in the mask, purified air is forced out, as opposed to contaminated air coming in. This solves the major issues of simple air-purifying masks.
The gleaming disadvantage is that a battery powered canister will eventually run out of juice. If it runs out in the middle of a contaminated area, you risk death or contamination. In a long term survival scenario, this is impractical. Even if you limit exposure, you will eventually run out of batteries. If society has fallen, you will not be able to re-stock.
This variety is best used in short term survival scenarios. If your mission is to get in and out as quickly as possible, supplied air is an excellent choice.
While brand name is not everything, it can give you a good indication of quality. If you want the best gas mask, a brand that has established themselves in survivalist circles provides ease of mind. You know that it will not fail you in a clutch situation.
If your survival scenario is short term and frequent, you have a solid customer support team. We’ve highlighted a few of the top names to be on the look out for.
Yes, the company that makes everything makes gas masks as well. While their target audience is more industrial, the same principles apply to their products. They exclusively deal in air-purifying varieties, but they offer both half and full masks. They are mid-ranged price wise, but several of their models rank very highly.
The issue some might find with purchasing from 3m is their lack of focus. The assumption might be that a brand that makes everything probably makes everything poorly. That is not always the case. A brand with the resources of 3M would be able to put more into their products. They can make a higher quality product for less, purely due to the volume they sell.
You might prefer to buy from a survivalist centric brand. They would be likely to include more specific features. However, if price is an issue, 3M provides great products to fit many budgets.
SAS Safety is another industrial focused company. However, unlike 3M, they exclusively focus on safety. This may make some survivalists more comfortable buying their gas masks from them.
There catalogue is pretty diverse. In contrast to 3m again, they offer both air-purifying and supplied air systems. For their air-purifying options, they offer both half and full masks. They have half-mask options in several budget ranges, but only one full-mask. Fortunately, the full-mask is very high rated, and affordable when compared to other brands.
For supplied air, they have several options for each. However, supplied air systems can get very expensive.
Safety Works is another industrial product provider. They have a relatively small catalogue of air-purifying respirators, but they receive consistently high marks. They have six different models, including two full-mask respirators.
They divide their models into specific uses. They offer three “multi-purpose” models, which would likely be the best options for a survivalist. If you know you will specifically be working with toxic dust, they offer a half-mask for this use.
While the options are limited, Safety Works receives the highest rankings with the most reviews on their products. When compared to the other top brands, Safety Works comes out as the most time tested option. Their masks are affordable and durable.
Top 10 Gas Masks
Now that you have some of the top brands in mind, it’s time to find the best gas mask. We’ve laid out the top ten here. While not everyone would have used these in survival situations, a quality product is a quality product.
We have tried to selected representatives from all categories. However, due to the high price and drawbacks of supplied–air respirators, we don't write much on them. Moreover, they are primarily used by specific industries, not individuals.
Our first mask is an inexpensive and versatile half-masks. It is made by 3M, which, as you will see, applies to most on our list.
The manufacturer states that this mask is for workplace and occupational use only. That does not mean that it will not help in other situations. What it does mean is that you should not bet your life on it in dire situations.
Much of survival means putting yourself in less that optimal environments. If that environment only contains mold, asbestos, or dust, you may be able to find the proper filters for this mask. Keep in mind that your eyes will still be vulnerable.
An advantage that this has over other half-masks is the low profile. It is meant to be worn in combination with goggles or face shields. This makes it a fairly versatile mask. If your needs are more in the way of preventing health risks, this is a great respirator to add to your collection.
Right off the bat, I will say that this is not the choice for a hardened survivalist. Very few half masks are. But this one in particular is not meant to be reused. It is only good for light solvent and paint work. That means that it will not protect from chemical or biological warefare. In addition, it is meant to be disposed of after 40 hours of use.
What this is good for is the construction and labor that goes into the prepping stage. If you are building your own shelter, this is an affordable respirator. Doing damage to your lungs before the event you are prepping for is foolish. Protect yourself with an inexpensive mask so you can outlast doomsday.
This full-mask from Safety works will provide you with full protection from typical industrial contaminants.
This includes things like asbestos, mold, and especially dust of any sort. The manufacturer says it will provide limited protection from biological contaminates.
It will not eliminate exposure.
What does this mean? If you are worried about serious chemical or biological warfare, look elsewhere. If you are concerned about an epidemic outbreak, look elsewhere. If you need a basic mask to protect you from lower risk irritants, this is a solid choice. The full-mask design means it is suitable for eye irritants as well.
Our next mask is a full-mask from 3M. It has a large field of view, making this a great choice for an active survival situation.
The exhalation valve directs your breath downward, which means less fog. This is crucial if the scenario results in heavy breathing.
Running with obscured vision makes a dangerous situation even worse.
The mask is not itself certified for chemical attacks. While it may fit filters that are certified, it is not recommended in that sort of situation. This is more suited for industrial contaminants. It can be used with a supplied-air system, but is fully functional without it.
As a full-mask, it will also protect your eyes in those situations. Often eyes are the more vulnerable point in riot situations, as the purpose is temporary disability, not death.
With the right filters, also available from Honeywell, this can be suited for more dangerous contaminations. The mask itself is suitable for a wide array of irritants and contaminants.
This respirator from Safety Works adds acid gases to the equation. In a societal crash scenario, industrial fumes are likely to be your main danger. If it is not a warfare situation, a mask like this might suit you well.
This mask is also useful against certain viruses, like the hantavirus. While often self-quarantine is better for surviving disease based disasters, sometimes that is not an option. Protect yourself from a wide array of contaminants when a full hazmat suit, or even full-mask, is not an option.
This half-mask respirator by 3M is our budget option. Usually available for under $30 (less without filters), this is perfect for a last minute “just in case” purchase. This mask is more geared for industrial use. It is suitable for molds and asbestos removal, but not for chemical weapons, or any eye irritants.
If your focus is purely post-apocalyptic, this is not the clear choice. The advantage, besides the price, is that it is light weight. This will not slow you down. It is perfect for urban exploring, whether recreational or forced. It’s easy to shove into your pack, so the adventurer is ready for any situation.
Our recommendation would be to purchase it with a pair of goggles. Goggles alone will not stop all eye irritants, but it will increase protection. Do not use this model in extreme circumstances if avoidable.
A crucial feature that this offers is the ability to convert it to a supplied-air system. This is important if budget is an issue. You can purchase this fully functional mask now.
If a situation were to occur, you will be ready. Once you can afford the expensive powered unit, you can upgrade your mask. This is also useful mid-survival, as you aren’t doomed when the unit’s batteries die.
Depending on the filters used, this mask is suitable against chemical weapons. While escape is the best option, you have to survive long enough to run away. If that is the situation you are prepping for, this is our top pick.
This is not the best option for a nuclear fallout or chemical warfare. But it is a versatile piece to add to your supplies. You don’t know what your survival situation might bring, but it is highly likely the contaminants will be mild. If you are more concerned with longevity that fighting instant death, this is a fine option.
This model comes in several sizes, which is crucial. Take head measurements to find the correct size. If the mask is too loose, contaminated air will flow right in. It is a very affordable mask, so pair it with a quality pair of goggles to protect your eyes.
When choosing a gas mask, it really depends on what situations you expect to encounter. If the possibilities are endless, go with something like the Opti-Fit from SAS Safety. That will cover you in most, if not all, situations you encounter. Getting hit with a chemical attack will render any half-mask useless.
If you only expect to encounter dust, mold, or asbestos, and solid half-mask (with the right filters) will do fine. If you do choose a half mask, pick up glasses to protect your eyes.
In reality, most of it comes down to the filters you use. Find one that is compatible with the widest array of filters so that you will be covered.
How Does A Gask Mask Work?
In a survival scenario, your body is your greatest resource. Irritants and chemicals can slowly (or immediately) disable you. Make sure you are protected with a gas mask. When used properly, these masks can save your life.