Best Gas Masks and Respirators for Survival
In today’s unpredictable world, being prepared for the worst is no longer just a luxury—it’s a necessity. One of the key items to have in any survival kit is a reliable gas mask or respirator. Designed to protect against harmful airborne particles, gases, and chemicals, these devices can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. In this article, we will explore the best gas masks and respirators available, focusing on features such as comfort, protection level, and durability.
- Avon M50 Gas Mask
- 3M 6800 Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator
- MIRA Safety CM-6M Gas Mask
- Honeywell North 7700 Series Half Mask Respirator
- Best Pick for Comfort: 3M 7500 Half Facepiece Respirator
- Best Pick for Disposability: 3M 8293 P100 Disposable Particulate Respirator
- Best Pick for Protection: Mestel SGE 400/3 Gas Mask
- Best for Gas Masks: Mestel 40mm CBRN Filter
- Best for Half Masks: 3M 7093C Nuisance Gas Filter
- Basics of Emergency Respirator Masks
- Types of Respirators and Gas Masks
- Which Types of Respirators and Gas Masks Protect the Best?
- What Do N95 and P100 Respirator Mask Ratings Mean?
- How Do Gas Masks and Respirators Work?
- What Threats Do Respirators Protect Against?
- Importance of Respirator Mask Fit
- Best Disposable Respirator Masks for Emergencies
- How to Buy a Gas Mask or Full Respirator
- NBC vs. CBRN Gas Masks
- How We Picked the Best Gas Mask for Sale
- Best CBRN NBC Gas Masks When SHTF
- Best CBRN Gas Mask Filters
- Alternatives and Emergency Escape Hoods
Gas masks and respirators play a crucial role in situations involving severe air pollution, riot control, fires, natural disasters, pandemics, and nuclear attacks. However, there are common misconceptions surrounding these products, and it is important to understand their proper use. Bandanas and surgical masks are insufficient for emergencies, and it is essential to have a reliable disposable N95/P100 mask at the very least, and preferably a reusable half-face respirator or full-face gas mask. Extensive research has been conducted to guide you in making the right choice, ensuring your safety.
Respirators are highly recommended for emergency situations as they effectively protect your respiratory system from harmful substances. Bandanas, dust masks, and surgical masks do not provide the same level of protection and should not be relied upon during emergencies.
Respirators, particularly the smaller disposable ones, offer a favorable cost/weight/volume to benefit ratio and should be included in every emergency kit. Unfortunately, many preppers either overlook them or mistakenly believe that N95 masks are sufficient for all situations, while others opt for inexpensive gas masks with unrealistic expectations.
It is crucial to dispel misunderstandings about the terminology, functionality, and suitability of different types of masks for emergencies, as opposed to masks designed for painting or sawing. Masks commonly worn in daily life in Asia, for instance, primarily protect others from the wearer, rather than the wearer themselves.
When people mention “gas masks,” they are referring to respirators. This includes disposable N95/P100 masks that create a tight seal around the nose and mouth, as well as the half-face versions commonly used in industrial or construction settings.
During events like the 2017 wildfires in California, mask shortages occurred as people rushed to purchase them. Consequently, relying on finding respirator masks easily at the last minute is not advisable. It is recommended to acquire them ahead of time.
Key tips for emergency respirators:
- It is advisable to have a combination of inexpensive disposables and a half-face model in your emergency bags, and potentially a CBRN- or NBC-rated gas mask at home.
- Start with disposables and gradually upgrade your equipment. A nuclear gas mask should not be among your initial purchases, if at all.
- Remember that respirators serve as temporary solutions for escaping danger and are not meant for extended use.
- Various gas masks and respirators are available, and their capabilities differ. The choice of what you buy is crucial.
- Masks cannot offer absolute protection in all situations. It’s important to understand the limitations.
- Avoid purchasing surplus masks or imitations from low-quality sources.
- Filters may need to be replaced frequently, so it is advisable to have an ample supply.
- Pay attention to mask fit, proper storage, care, usage, and expiration dates.
- Children and individuals with facial hair may face limitations, but specific tips are available to address these challenges.
1. Avon M50 Gas Mask
The Avon M50 is a top-of-the-line gas mask used by military forces worldwide. It offers protection against a wide range of threats, including chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents. The M50 features a twin-filter system, providing a balanced and comfortable fit. Its lenses are resistant to scratches and fogging, ensuring clear visibility in all conditions. While it may be on the pricier side, the M50’s unparalleled protection and durability make it an excellent investment for those who prioritize safety.
2. 3M 6800 Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator
3M is a trusted name in the world of personal protective equipment, and their 6800 Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator does not disappoint. With a lightweight design and soft silicone face seal, this respirator provides excellent comfort for extended periods of wear. It is compatible with a wide range of 3M filters and cartridges, allowing for customization to protect against specific hazards. The 6800 is also more affordable than military-grade masks, making it an attractive option for those on a budget.
Price: 108.00 – $298.08
3. MIRA Safety CM-6M Gas Mask
The MIRA Safety CM-6M is a popular choice among preppers and survivalists for its combination of protection and affordability. Featuring a panoramic visor for excellent visibility, this mask also has a built-in speech diaphragm for clear communication. It is compatible with standard 40mm NATO filters, offering protection against a wide range of CBRN threats. The CM-6M is made from a durable bromobutyl rubber material, ensuring a long-lasting and reliable gas mask.
4. Honeywell North 7700 Series Half Mask Respirator
For those who prefer a half mask respirator, the Honeywell North 7700 Series is an excellent option. Constructed from medical-grade silicone, this respirator provides a comfortable and secure fit. The 7700 Series is compatible with Honeywell North cartridges and filters, allowing for protection against various airborne contaminants. Its low-profile design also makes it easy to wear with goggles or other protective eyewear.
5. GVS Elipse P100 Respirator
The GVS Elipse P100 is a compact half mask respirator designed for everyday use. It offers protection against dust, fumes, and solid or liquid particles with a 99.97% efficiency. The mask is made from a hypoallergenic thermoplastic elastomer, ensuring comfort and a secure fit. Its low-profile design and lightweight construction make it easy to wear for extended periods. While it may not offer the same level of protection as a full-face gas mask, the Elipse P100 is an affordable and practical option for less severe situations.
Best Pick for Comfort: 3M 7500 Half Facepiece Respirator
Professional half-face respirators are a highly recommended but often overlooked choice for preppers. Despite being slightly more expensive than disposables, they offer superior protection and comfort while occupying a similar amount of space in your supplies and bags. We particularly recommend the popular 3M 7500 masks, which have proven to be highly effective.
To achieve the highest level of particulate filtration and reliable protection against gases and vapors such as chlorine and ammonia, we suggest pairing the 3M 7500 mask with either the 3M 7093C P100 plus Nuisance Gas filter (bulk options available at Uline) or the 3M 60926 Cartridge plus P100 Filter. This combination ensures optimal filtration performance and defense against various airborne hazards.
Best Pick for Disposability: 3M 8293 P100 Disposable Particulate Respirator
For cost-effective and readily available protection in common emergency scenarios such as fires, pollution, and illness, disposable respirators are an excellent choice. We recommend the 3M 8293 P100 and Honeywell Sperian P100 Saf-T-Fit respirators due to their exceptional ability to safeguard against a wide range of threats, offering best-in-class protection. If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative that still delivers great performance, consider the 3M 8576 P95 Acid Gas respirator. It provides reliable protection while being cost-effective.
Best Pick for Protection: Mestel SGE 400/3 Gas Mask
When it comes to reliable gas masks, the options are more limited than you might anticipate. However, among the select few that we highly recommend for personal safety, the Mestel SGE 400/3 stands out as the top choice for most individuals. This gas mask is specifically designed to offer protection against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical threats. If you’re looking for even greater defense capabilities, its slightly pricier counterpart, the CBRN-rated SGE 400/3 BB, is capable of handling particularly hazardous threats like mustard gas. For a more in-depth exploration of topics such as CBRN vs. NBC, purchasing gas masks, accessories, budget options, and more, you can find further details later in this article.
Best for Gas Masks: Mestel 40mm CBRN Filter
Best for Half Masks: 3M 7093C Nuisance Gas Filter
Basics of Emergency Respirator Masks
In everyday language, terms like “masks,” “respirator masks,” and “gas masks” are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that these labels are frequently misused.
The term “mask” can be misleading since it implies a simple barrier. For instance, surgical masks are primarily designed to protect patients from potential contamination caused by a doctor’s sneeze. The confusion arises because a gas mask, which is actually a type of respirator, is significantly more effective than most other masks. However, the usage of these terms has persisted since World War I.
In reality, when people refer to emergency gear, they are typically referring to respirators. Respirators are specifically designed to safeguard your respiratory system by filtering out harmful substances from the air as you breathe.
In everyday conversations, people commonly refer to different types of masks, each serving a specific purpose:
Dust masks: These inexpensive masks are typically used in construction or woodworking settings to protect against the inhalation of dust particles.
Surgical masks (procedure masks): Designed to prevent the spread of particles from the wearer’s mouth and nose, these masks are commonly used in medical settings during surgeries or procedures. They do not provide protection for the wearer’s lungs.
Respirators: In general terms, respirators refer to masks that protect the respiratory system. This category includes disposable N95 masks and construction crew masks that create a tight seal around the mouth and nose, offering filtration of airborne particles.
Escape hoods (fume hoods, smoke hoods): These single-use hoods are designed for emergency situations, such as escaping from a burning building. They provide limited protection against immediate threats.
Gas masks: This term is often used loosely to describe various types of protective gear, even though it technically refers to respirators designed specifically to protect against gases.
CBA/RCA gas masks: These masks are specifically rated to provide protection against Riot Control Agents, such as pepper spray.
NBC gas masks: These masks are rated to provide protection against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical threats.
CBRN gas masks (riot masks): These masks offer the highest level of protection, as they combine the capabilities of an NBC mask with additional safeguards against “terrorist” threats like dirty bombs.
Types of Respirators and Gas Masks
There are four key characteristics to consider when it comes to respirators:
Passive vs. Powered: Respirators can be passive or powered. Passive respirators rely on your breathing motion to draw air in through a filter, while powered respirators use batteries and fans to facilitate easier breathing. However, we exclude powered respirators from our focus as they require continuous power supply.
Air Purifying vs. Air Supplying: Air Purifying respirators filter the outside air as you breathe, while Air Supplying respirators, such as Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), deliver air from tanks. Our focus is on Air Purifying respirators, disregarding the Air Supplying types commonly used by professional firefighters and HAZMAT teams.
Form factor: Respirators come in various forms, such as half-facepiece respirators that cover half of your face, full-facepiece respirators that provide complete facial coverage, and other configurations like hoods.
Threat protection: Respirators offer different levels of protection depending on the specific threats they are designed for. This can range from protection against substances like spray paint and sawdust to more severe hazards like diseases and fallout.
For our purposes, we concentrate on passive Air Purifying Respirators (APRs) with a focus on the following types:
- Filtering Facepiece Respirator (disposable N95 types)
- Half Facepiece Respirator
- Full Facepiece Respirator
We do not consider Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR) due to their reliance on continuous power supply.
Which Types of Respirators and Gas Masks Protect the Best?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) assigns a “protection factor” to different respiratory systems, representing their effectiveness in providing protection:
- Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) = 10,000 (due to the use of clean air from a tank)
- Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) = 50-100 (depending on the mask used with it)
- Full Face Air-Purifying Respirators (APRs) = 50
- Half Face Air-Purifying Respirators (APRs) = 10
- Disposable Air-Purifying Respirators (APRs) = 5
Even if disposable, half-face, and full-face masks have the same particulate filter rating (such as P100), NIOSH recognizes that their real-life protection can differ. This is because people often wear masks incorrectly, facial hair can create gaps in the seal, and full face masks provide eye protection, among other factors.
Disposable respirator masks, such as the commonly seen N95 or P100 types, offer the minimum acceptable protection in common emergencies. They effectively filter out particles like airborne debris from burnt materials, dust, and bacteria. However, they do not provide protection against gases and most vapors.
It is logical to expect that half-face respirators offer better protection than disposable masks, and that full-face respirators provide superior performance compared to half-face respirators due to their larger face seal and inclusion of eye protection.
Dust Masks, Surgical Masks, and Bandanas are Not Good Enough for Emergencies
It is crucial to emphasize that surgical or dust masks, commonly found in hospitals, pharmacies, and hardware stores, are ineffective in emergency situations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surgical masks are not designed to capture a significant percentage of small particles and cannot prevent the wearer from inhaling airborne particles, such as those present in wildland smoke. Similarly, covering the mouth with a bandana, handkerchief, or tissue, whether damp or dry, will not offer protection against airborne particles.
These masks are primarily designed to prevent the spread of larger particles visible to the naked eye, such as sawdust or to prevent the wearer from expelling respiratory droplets containing viruses during sneezing.
They are not intended for the types of emergencies you are preparing for. They allow too much unfiltered air to pass through and do not filter out gases or ultrafine particles. Relying on such masks may provide a false sense of security, leading to potentially risky behavior.
A government study revealed that both wet and dry bandanas block as little as 3% of particulate matter, demonstrating their ineffectiveness in providing adequate protection. It is clear that these masks simply do not work for the purposes of emergency preparedness.
What Do N95 and P100 Respirator Mask Ratings Mean?
In the United States, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), under the guidance of the CDC, establishes standards and certifies personal protective equipment (PPE). The certification provided by NIOSH ensures the quality and effectiveness of PPE in the US.
The letter designation in the certification indicates the level of oil resistance of the mask. This is relevant in emergency situations where substances like pepper spray can potentially clog the filters. The numerical value represents the percentage of particles that the mask filters out.
The most commonly known certification is N95, which is frequently used in healthcare settings to protect against inhaling infectious particles. On the other hand, P100 certification is utilized in manufacturing environments to safeguard against toxic dust particles like lead or asbestos.
In the European Union (EU), the terminology differs slightly. Disposable respirators are labeled with the letters FFP, while half-face and full-face respirators are designated with the letter P. Consequently, a US N95 disposable respirator is equivalent to an EU FFP2 respirator in terms of filtration capabilities.
How Do Gas Masks and Respirators Work?
In the context of respiratory protection, threats can be broadly classified into two categories: particles and gases.
Particles are physical substances suspended in the air, such as dust, smoke, debris from fires, asbestos fibers, viruses, bacteria, and even tear gas crystals. These particles can be captured by fine screens or filters that have microscopic openings, with sizes measured in microns. For example, an N95 mask is named so because it can filter out at least 95% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. To put it into perspective, the average human hair is approximately 75 microns wide.
On the other hand, gases present a different challenge as they can easily pass through fine screens. Instead of trying to block the gases directly, absorbents are used. One commonly used absorbent material is activated charcoal, which is highly porous carbon. As gases pass through the charcoal, it attracts and absorbs the chemicals present in the air.
It’s important to note that not all gases can be effectively trapped by charcoal. This is why specific threats, such as ammonia, are rated separately from broader categories like “inorganic vapors,” taking into account their unique characteristics and filtration requirements.
What Threats Do Respirators Protect Against?
Respirators hold great value and it is recommended to acquire them. However, it is important to note that they are not the ultimate solution as some may believe. Our research, conducted among reputable sources rather than unreliable prepper websites, indicates that respirators have limitations in terms of providing complete protection.
It is crucial to understand that respirators are primarily designed for escape purposes. They should not be worn carelessly while roaming in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of sustenance throughout the day.
While it would be convenient to have a simple chart stating which type of mask offers protection against specific diseases, the reality is more complex. Unfortunately, numerous websites provide false information to promote simplistic claims and product sales.
Respirators cannot offer protection against all threats or guarantee 100% effectiveness even against the hazards they are officially approved for. One reason for this is the diverse range of particle sizes, even within a specific threat. Bacteria, for instance, can vary in size from 0.2 microns to 60 microns.
For example, the influenza virus is typically transmitted through water droplets expelled from an infected person’s mouth or nose. The virus itself is usually smaller than 2.5 microns but is typically found within droplets measuring 5-10 microns. N95 masks can effectively filter out the majority of these droplets and virus particles.
However, recent research has discovered that smaller flu viruses, as tiny as 0.1 micron, can remain suspended in the air for hours as the surrounding water evaporates. These extremely small flu particles may be able to pass through the filters of respirators.
Nonetheless, respirators still serve as a valuable line of defense. A recent study by the CDC revealed that a properly fitted N95 respirator mask can block 99.6% of flu particles.
Here are the common threats that most civilians should be concerned about, listed approximately in order of likelihood:
- Fires and smoke
- After natural disasters such as earthquakes
- Pandemics and day-to-day bacteria/virus exposure
- Riot control agents like pepper spray, tear gas, CS, CN
- Chemical spills, industrial auto and train accidents, and similar incidents
- Volcanic ash
- Nuclear events
- Biological or chemical attacks
Certified respirators are typically tested against various substances, and below are some examples along with their common abbreviations:
- 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
NIOSH recognizes a total of 139 agents in their CBRN testing.
Air pollution is a serious matter, as evidenced by its contribution to 6.1 million global deaths in 2016. What’s concerning is that pollution is not only worsening in traditionally affected countries like China and India but also spreading to Western countries. The severity of the issue can be gauged by United Airlines’ decision to cancel flights in 2017 due to the toxic air quality that posed risks to their employees.
It’s important to note that Los Angeles is not the only U.S. city grappling with significant air pollution. The detrimental effects of air pollution are particularly heightened for individuals with cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as those with lung issues, the elderly, pregnant women, and children.
A recent study conducted in Beijing revealed that wearing respirators while walking in areas with average air pollution levels prevented the typical increase in blood pressure and heart rate that would occur otherwise.
We are nearing a critical point where sudden “pollution storms” could render U.S. and European cities almost uninhabitable for several days at a time. Being equipped with appropriate respirators in advance can help mitigate the disruptions caused by such events. If you’re seeking the best prepper survival gas mask respirator for pollution and smog in Los Angeles or any other affected area, it is crucial to make informed choices to ensure your safety and well-being.
Smoke and Fire
In various scenarios such as home, business, and wildfire situations, it is often the smoke, rather than the fire itself, that poses the greatest risk to people’s lives. While a respirator cannot address all the challenges associated with such events, such as heat and lack of oxygen, it can significantly increase your chances of survival.
The importance of respirators became evident to Californians in 2017 when wildfires ravaged the state. Even when the fires were miles away, wearing a respirator allowed individuals to continue with their daily activities while minimizing the potential health impacts.
During fires, a combination of natural and manmade substances, including particulate matter (tiny burnt particles) and chemicals like chlorine, are released into the air. Some of these hazards can be seen with the naked eye, while others are microscopic. The extremely fine particles present in common smoke have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs, posing a serious threat to respiratory health.
Natural and Man-Made Disasters
Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, as well as human-caused events like train derailments, can lead to the release of various harmful substances into the air. These events can cause buildings to collapse, create toxic leaks from industrial facilities, and generate hazardous conditions.
A notable example illustrating the consequences of such events is the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, which resulted in what is now known as Ground Zero Respiratory Illness. In the aftermath of the attacks, debris from the buildings, furniture, and organic materials became airborne, dispersing throughout the surrounding area for a period of five months.
Tragically, over 200 first responders have already lost their lives due to exposure to toxic dust at the World Trade Center site. Additionally, approximately 10,000 individuals have experienced some form of illness as a result of their involvement in the rescue and recovery efforts. These devastating consequences highlight the long-term health risks associated with exposure to harmful substances in the aftermath of such destructive events.
Pandemics and Common Illnesses
There is a theory among emergency management personnel regarding the government’s recommendation for people to wear surgical masks during outbreaks, despite knowing that these masks primarily protect others from the wearer, not the other way around.
The theory suggests that this approach utilizes reverse psychology. By encouraging people to wear masks and allowing them to believe that it protects themselves, governments aim to trigger individuals to take action in self-protection. The underlying intention is to prevent unknowing individuals from infecting others. Even if a portion, such as 30% of the population, can be influenced to wear masks and reduce transmission, it can significantly impact the course of a pandemic.
While respirators are not universally effective, they can make a significant difference in various situations. They have proven beneficial in addressing common illnesses like the severe flu season in 2018, as well as in major pandemics such as the devastating 1918 Spanish Flu that claimed the lives of millions.
Preppers often express concerns about diseases like smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis, diphtheria, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika. However, it is important to note that respirators may not be the solution for all diseases, as some, like Zika, are transmitted through mosquitoes.
Numerous reputable medical experts believe that we may face severe pandemics in the coming decades. One unexpected factor contributing to this concern is climate change, which is causing the thawing of previously frozen areas that have preserved bacteria and viruses for millions of years. Consequently, our bodies and medical systems may lack the necessary knowledge to effectively combat these reemerging pathogens.
Riot Control Agents
Here’s an interesting fact: The use of tear gas is considered a war crime if employed in a military context, leading to its prohibition in the 1990s through the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, it is permissible for law enforcement agencies to use tear gas on civilians, which may seem contradictory.
This fact alone presents a compelling reason to have a respirator on hand. There are numerous scenarios where individuals may need protection against crowd control measures such as pepper spray. As situations escalate, the need for crowd control becomes more likely.
It’s important to note that tear gas consists of powder transformed into tiny aerosolized crystals, rather than being a gas itself. This means that it can be blocked by particulate filters. However, it’s crucial to remember that half or disposable masks may leave the eyes exposed.
Some of the most commonly encountered riot control agents include Chloroacetophenone (CN) Tear Gas, also known as Mace, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) Tear Gas, and Oleoresin capsicum (OC) Pepper Spray.
Surviving the initial blast of a nuclear explosion is just the beginning. The hours and days following the event are equally perilous, and this is where gas masks prove invaluable.
Nuclear detonations emit various forms of energy, including heat, blast, and radiation. When it comes to radiation, the primary concerns are alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.
In a future article, we will delve deeper into the science and risks associated with radiation. For instance, gamma radiation is extremely small and fast, requiring substantial barriers like dirt, concrete, and metal to block its penetration.
The blast also generates a substantial amount of dust and ash, which remains suspended in the air and gradually settles over the following weeks. This phenomenon is known as “fallout” since it falls from the sky over time.
At present, it’s important to understand that gas masks play a crucial role in blocking the entry of fallout dust into your body. Radiation can hitch a ride on these fallout particles, and the fallout itself can become radioactive, emitting alpha and beta particles, and sometimes gamma rays. If you inhale fallout dust, your body becomes a mini radiation source, spreading toxins from within.
This is where respirators come to the rescue. They may not directly filter out alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, but they effectively filter the dust particles carrying or generating radiation.
When combined with informed decision-making, seeking shelter, protecting your skin, and decontaminating your body, clothing, and hair, respirators become a vital component for saving lives in the aftermath of a nuclear event.
Chemical and Biological Attacks
While it is often difficult to determine if you have been exposed to an attack until it’s too late, there are situations where a respirator can provide assistance.
Threats of aggression are sometimes categorized based on their nature:
- Nerve Agents: Examples include sarin and VX.
- Blister Agents: Mustard and lewisite fall into this category.
- Choking Agents: Chlorine and phosgene are representative examples.
- Blood Agents: Hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride are included here.
- Riot Control Agents: CS, CN, and OC are commonly encountered.
- Biological Agents: Anthrax, smallpox, and ricin are notable examples.
Actual instances of chemical or biological attacks have been relatively rare since World War I, except for a few occurrences in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein used mustard gas, resulting in the deaths of at least 20,000 people.
However, experts warn that the risks associated with such attacks are increasing due to technological advancements. The emergence of bioengineering and the availability of affordable, small-scale laboratory equipment means that even a small group of extremists could potentially create harmful substances.
Importance of Respirator Mask Fit
The effectiveness of respirators relies on creating a secure barrier of filtered air around your nose and mouth. However, any leaks or gaps in the respirator can allow harmful air from the outside to enter, potentially making you less safe than wearing no filter at all. This false sense of protection may lead individuals to take more risks.
Surprisingly, many people struggle to achieve the proper fit with their respirators. A study conducted by the CDC revealed that 76% of laypeople incorrectly wore their respirators, and an alarming 22% even wore them upside down. Furthermore, the study found that even after a professional fitting and test, 10% of healthcare workers still had poor mask fit.
The impact of a proper fit is significant. The same study demonstrated that a properly sealed respirator blocked 99.6% of an infectious virus, while a poorly-fitted one only provided 66.5% protection.
Proper fit also affects comfort. Another study indicated that professionals wearing properly-fitted masks rated their discomfort after a few hours as a low 2.5 out of 10, which was deemed very tolerable. However, if the mask is not fitted properly, individuals may experience the urge to remove or adjust it constantly. The Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy highlights that during the H1N1 pandemic, healthcare workers opposed the CDC’s recommendation of using N95 respirators due to discomfort when worn for extended periods of time.
Respirator Fit Tests
For masks, even inexpensive disposable ones, it is important to have a metal strip or wire along one side. This strip can be bent around your nasal bridge to create a customized fit.
The mask should cover your entire nose, extending up to the bridge, and should also provide coverage down to just below your chin.
To test if you have a good seal, there are quick methods you can try depending on the type of mask you are using. For half or full masks, you can block the input filter(s) with your hands and then attempt to suck in air. If you feel any air coming in, it indicates that there is a leak somewhere. Additionally, you should observe the mask slightly collapsing as you create a vacuum inside.
Children and Those With Facial Hair Can’t Use Most Respirators
Maintaining a proper seal around the mask rim is crucial, and facial hair can pose a significant challenge in achieving an airtight fit. Visible hair beneath the mask can create gaps that compromise its effectiveness. While there are no specific guidelines for measurement, it is generally recommended to have a clean-shaven face or minimal stubble to ensure a good seal. Soul patches may not interfere significantly, but longer facial hair, such as fu manchus, can be problematic.
According to the official Colorado wildfire guide, it is challenging to achieve a good seal on individuals with beards, rendering the masks ineffective in providing adequate protection.
There are some do-it-yourself (DIY) suggestions available online, such as applying petroleum jelly to the hair to help create a seal. However, the effectiveness may decrease with longer hair, and it should be seen as a temporary solution rather than a foolproof method.
Children also face difficulties in achieving proper seals due to the lack of commercially available masks designed for their size. NIOSH does not certify any masks specifically for children. Some individuals may opt for small or extra small masks for children above the age of approximately eight years old, but the effectiveness of this approach lacks reliable data.
In cases involving children or individuals with facial hair, disposable and half mask respirators may not provide the desired level of protection. Alternative protective systems that do not rely on creating an airtight seal around the face should be explored as a solution.
Best Disposable Respirator Masks for Emergencies
With the wide range of mask options available, it can be confusing for everyday consumers. When selecting a mask, there are a few factors to consider.
Firstly, you might prefer masks that have some rigidity or weight to them, as they often provide a sense of durability. However, collapsible models can be more convenient for storage in smaller spaces like glove boxes or bug out bags.
Disposable masks with exhalation valves are recommended, as these valves allow your exhaled breath to leave the mask through a one-way valve. This helps prevent discomfort caused by the mask becoming hot and sticky after wearing it for a while. The valves can even lower the temperature inside the mask by around 15 degrees.
Regarding the different types of masks, N95 masks are usually the cheapest and easiest to breathe through, while P100 masks offer the highest level of protection. Other types like R99 masks may not be necessary in most cases.
Two reputable brands in the market are 3M and Honeywell. Both have a long history of providing professional protective equipment in various industries. Many consumers prefer 3M due to their clearer product information and easier purchasing process. However, some reviews suggest that Honeywell masks have a better fit, with their softer material around the edges creating a gel-like seal. It’s worth trying out one or two masks initially to determine which brand fits you better in terms of size, seal, and comfort.
Remember, if you try one brand and find it unsatisfactory in terms of fit or comfort, you can always switch to the other brand.
Best Disposable Option: 3M 8293 P100 Disposable Particulate Respirator
Cheapest Acceptable Option: 3M 8210V N95 Respirator
Based on our research, we have identified some recommended disposable particulate masks. The top choice is the 3M 8293 P100 mask, priced at $13 per piece. It features an exhalation valve, adjustable straps, and has a shelf life of five years. We prefer this model over the 8233 due to its effectiveness against oil-based aerosols and over the 8271 for stronger protection against smoke and hazardous substances like arsenic.
As an alternative, the Honeywell Sperian P100 Saf-T-Fit mask is available at $20 each. Honeywell differentiates sizes using colored nose clips, where red indicates small, green is for M/L, and blue represents XL.
For P95 models, we recommend the 3M 8576 P95 Acid Gas mask priced at $40 for a box of 10. In addition to providing standard P95 particulate protection, this mask also offers some defense against “nuisance levels” of gases such as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, and bleach. While it may not be government-approved for hazardous jobs, it can still make a difference. There is a separate model available for protection against organic vapors, but for prepping purposes, the Acid Gas version makes more sense.
If you are looking for the cheapest N95 mask that still meets acceptable standards, the 3M 8210V N95 is priced at $20 for a box of 10. It features an exhalation valve, and the “V” in the product name indicates this. For a slightly higher cost of $23 for a box of 10, you can opt for the more rigid 3M 8511 N95 mask.
If you prefer a foldable mask that is easier to store, but with a slight compromise in protection, the 3M 9211+ N95 is a good choice at $30 for a box of 10.
Best Half Face Respirators and Filter Cartridges
We agree that half masks can be a valuable option for preppers who want a balance between protection and comfort. They offer a higher level of protection and durability compared to disposable masks and can handle both particulates and gases.
One downside of half masks is the placement and design of external filters/cartridges, which can sometimes be awkward. Industrial manufacturers typically prioritize industrial use rather than prepping scenarios, resulting in bulky and flimsy filters.
While some may argue that if they are going to wear a rigid and bulky mask, they might as well go for a full mask with eye protection and better chemical protection, half masks can provide just as much protection in many emergency situations.
Common brands for half masks include 3M, Honeywell/Sperian, and MSA. However, since filters are proprietary, standardizing within the popular 3M brand can be beneficial.
Best Pick for Comfort: 3M 7500 Half Facepiece Respirator
The 3M 7500 masks are highly regarded and priced at $20 (excluding filters). Reviewers appreciate the downward exhalation valve, which prevents fogging of glasses. The soft silicone face seal offers better comfort and improved seal compared to disposable masks. The 7501 model is small, 7502 is medium, and 7503 is large.
If you want to save some money, the $18 3M 6500 is a good alternative to the $10 3M 6000. The 6500 model includes the downward valve, while the 6000 does not. Additionally, the 6500 features a quick latch, allowing you to drop the mask from your mouth without removing all the head straps.
It’s important to note that prices and availability may vary, so it’s advisable to check with retailers or trusted sources for the most up-to-date information on specific models and features.
Half Mask Filters and Cartridges
Filters are typically used for particulates (N/R/P-type), while cartridges are designed to absorb organic compounds and gases.
When purchasing masks, it is important to note that most masks do not come with filters or cartridges included. Additionally, half masks usually require two filters or cartridges, one for each cheek.
For optimal performance, we suggest the 3M 7093C P100 plus Nuisance Gas filter, which combines particulate filter and gas/vapor filter into a single, durable piece with a low-profile design. It offers P100 filter protection and safeguards against lower levels of organic vapors and acidic gases, such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen fluoride.
Ideal for bug out bags and get home bags, the 7500 mask paired with the 7093 filter provides an excellent balance of cost, weight, size, and protection level.
One notable feature we appreciate is the easy-to-use seal check mechanism, which allows you to test the mask’s proper fit by compressing the cartridge with your hand to block the intake airways.
Best Pick for a Slim Combo of Half Masks: 3M 7093C Nuisance Gas Filter
Best Pick for Half Masks: 3M 60926 Multi Gas Vapor Filter
For enhanced protection against a broader range of vapors and gases, you may need bulkier units where the filter is positioned on top of the chemical cartridge to screen out particulates before reaching the chemical component.
While pre-assembled combo units are available in a hot pink color, an alternative option is to create your own filter and cartridge combination. To do so, you can purchase two 3M 603 filter adapters and two 3M 501 filter covers, which create a housing for the filters. Then, obtain the desired quantity of 3M 5P71 P95 filters, which can be easily swapped in and out of the housing as needed. The cost for the two housings and ten filters is approximately $35.
However, it is important to remember that you will still need to purchase the cartridge component separately. We recommend the 3M 6006 cartridge, priced at $13 per pair, as it provides protection against the same gases as the 60926 cartridge mentioned earlier.
How to Buy a Gas Mask or Full Respirator
It is crucial to approach gas mask purchases with skepticism due to the prevalence of fear-mongering and misinformation in the prepping community. Unfortunately, there are numerous scammers and misleading information on platforms like Amazon and eBay, falsely labeling cheap airsoft masks as “CBRN/NBC” masks.
We strongly advise purchasing new products that are sealed in factory packaging. Surplus gear, especially surplus respirators, often carries a questionable reputation. Many preppers have reported purchasing expired or defective items with removed manufacturing stickers, sellers lying about dates, outdated designs, and even antiquated cartridges that use harmful substances for chemical absorption.
Exercise caution when considering clones from countries such as Lithuania, Russia, or China. Marketing tricks are common, with products using terms like “emergency response” or “tactical preparedness” to imply greater effectiveness than they actually possess.
It is essential to ensure that a mask is NIOSH certified for CBRN or NBC (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) protection before making a purchase. Avoid products for which you cannot find reliable information directly from the manufacturer. If a manufacturer lacks a website or sufficient information, it is advisable to avoid their products. Official spec sheet links provided by manufacturers can be helpful in evaluating products.
Determining the correct size can be challenging. Generally, medium sizes from major manufacturers cover 70-80% of adults, while large sizes are typically suitable for individuals with a hat size of 8 ¼ or above.
Availability and accurate product information can be problematic, especially since military-grade gas mask equipment is primarily sold through distributors and not directly to civilians. This makes it easier for fraudsters to create fraudulent listings on platforms like Amazon or eBay.
3M and Honeywell have an advantage in this regard as their products are more readily available in new condition due to their focus on industrial customers.
Considering the trustworthiness of the segment, we recommend purchasing from reputable distributors such as Grainger, even if it means paying a higher price. For instance, a recommended filter may cost $100 from Grainger but only $60 from an unknown small shop. However, purchasing from a reputable distributor ensures authenticity and prevents the risk of soon-to-expire products.
NBC vs. CBRN Gas Masks
There is minimal practical difference between the NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) and CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) ratings. In the majority of situations, NBC protection is sufficient, but CBRN offers technically superior capabilities. The choice between the two ratings ultimately depends on personal preference.
The NBC rating was the standard until the early 2000s. However, after the 9/11 attacks, there was a surge in fear and government action focused on terrorist threats. Concerns arose regarding “dirty bombs,” “backpack nukes,” and potential sabotage at local nuclear power plants. As a result, the NBC rating evolved into the CBRN rating, which includes protection against radiation in addition to the previous categories.
You might wonder why radiation needs separate consideration when it is already covered under the Nuclear portion of the NBC rating. The distinction becomes apparent when comparing conventional nuclear weapons to dirty bombs. Conventional nuclear weapons and their associated radiation have been well-studied for several decades. Therefore, when the NBC rating was established, the N component was designed to test against the type, intensity, and duration of radiation emitted by conventional nuclear weapons.
However, dirty bombs operate differently. They consist of a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, combined with pre-existing radioactive material. Essentially, they are like shrapnel grenades infused with radioactive waste. When a dirty bomb explodes, it disperses localized radiation.
Since the radioactive material in a dirty bomb may linger before dispersal, rather than being generated “on site” during the explosion, the isotopes used tend to have longer half-lives, making them less potent. As a result, CBRN protective equipment must withstand radiation that behaves differently from conventional fallout. This requirement necessitates the use of materials like butyl rubber, which is impermeable and can withstand prolonged exposure without degradation, as opposed to silicone used in other masks.
How We Picked the Best Gas Mask for Sale
Full-face respirators and gas masks extend beyond the usual industrial and healthcare brands and include military and emergency brands. Key companies in this field include MSA, Mestel, Honeywell/Sperian/North, 3M, Scott, Draeger, and Avon (in no particular order).
When investing in a large mask, it is crucial to ensure that it is certified to provide protection against the full spectrum of NBC threats (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical).
For compatibility and convenience, most high-quality masks use NATO-standard 40mm threaded filter mounts. This standardization makes it easier to purchase filters and potentially find compatible ones even in emergency situations.
We aimed to avoid masks with proprietary filters, although a few models like Avon and Scott have nonstandard filters. Despite this drawback, we still consider them due to their other positive qualities.
Many full masks offer multiple filter ports, and we prefer masks with three options. This flexibility allows you to position a cartridge on either cheek or directly below your chin, depending on your firearm handling side. Some masks even allow the use of multiple filters simultaneously, making breathing easier by reducing resistance and balancing the weight distribution.
Having two filters also facilitates swapping one filter while still breathing through the other. The military discovered that even with training, soldiers in high-stress situations struggled to connect a filter while holding their breath. Therefore, having two filters addresses this issue.
Vision is provided through a single large visor or two individual bugeye holes. While bugeye masks are easier to fold for storage, we believe that the superior field of view offered by masks with a single visor outweighs this advantage. Additionally, advancements in materials, such as polyurethane lenses, have made full visors almost as flexible as their bugeye counterparts.
Some masks feature a speaking diaphragm or voice emitter that amplifies your voice outside the mask. Military-style masks may offer optional accessories for electronic communication connections. Although these features are beneficial, we did not prioritize them, similar to our approach to drinking tubes, due to their lower relevance in most scenarios.
Common Gas Mask Accessories
Initially, the drinking tube feature seemed appealing. However, feedback from properly trained military and emergency responders suggests that civilians should not be lingering in contaminated areas long enough to require fluids. Since using a drinking tube introduces the risk of contaminants entering the mask, some individuals prefer to avoid them. It is acceptable if your mask has this capability, but it is essential to learn how to use it correctly before encountering an emergency situation.
Wearing normal eyeglasses inside a full face mask is not possible as the side bars disrupt the seal near the temples. Fortunately, many top masks offer eyeglass inserts with shorter side supports to accommodate eyeglass wearers.
Since sunglasses cannot be worn inside the mask either, certain masks provide outserts that clip onto the outside of the visor. These outserts come in basic polarized versions as well as various colors like blue, red, or yellow, which filter specific types of light. Alternatively, some masks offer stick-on films that function similarly to phone screen protectors.
In addition, some masks can be paired with a hood. This hood fits snugly around the edge of the face mask, resembling a poncho, and provides protection to the remaining areas of the head, neck, and shoulders against chemical and fallout radiation exposure.
Best CBRN NBC Gas Masks When SHTF
Although there appears to be a wide variety of military-grade gas masks available, only a few earn our trust when it comes to matters of life and death.
The internet is flooded with masks that are unsuitable due to being surplus, outdated, impractical, or even hazardous due to low-quality imitations. It is concerning that some preppers rely on Soviet-era technology that is over 50 years old or filters containing substances like asbestos or chromium.
Among the qualified options, there is no definitive winner or loser. The choice may ultimately depend on factors such as the fit of the mask on your face, specific accessories available, or even factors as simple as price and availability.
Best Gas Mask: Mestel SGE 400/3 Gas Mask
One important distinction that many other prepper sites often get wrong is between the popular models of Mestel SGE 400/3 and 400/3 BB. It’s crucial to understand this difference.
The SGE 400/3 base model, priced at $270 (including the filter), is NBC rated, providing protection against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical threats. On the other hand, the SGE 400/3 BB model, priced at $240, is CBRN certified. This certification is due to the use of a butyl rubber face seal, which is an impermeable material that can withstand and resist particularly harmful substances like mustard gas.
For most people and circumstances, the cheaper NBC model is perfectly suitable. However, the decision of whether the difference matters to you is a personal one. Both models feature multiple 40mm NATO filter mounts and offer a great field of view. Additionally, they provide options for eyeglass frames, protective lens stickers, a drinking tube/canteen, and an integrated PVC hood. It’s worth noting that these masks are assembled in the USA.
Avon C50 Gas Mask
The Avon C50 CBRN is priced at $450 and serves as the civilian and law enforcement version of the renowned US military M50 gas mask. It has gained excellent reviews and is a popular choice among users. With the Avon C50, you truly get what you pay for. While the military versions utilize a proprietary filter, the C50 is designed with the preferred 40mm mount on both cheeks. It features distortion-free, flexible lenses that remain clear without yellowing over time. Additionally, it offers a range of accessories, including sun-blocking visor outserts. If you’re interested in acquiring the accessories, you may want to consider the $682 First Responder Kit.
3M 7800S Full Facepiece Mask
The 3M 7800S First Responder and 7800B CBRN masks share a similar story to the Mestel models. The $580 3M 7800B is CBRN certified thanks to its butyl rubber seals, while the “civilian” $512 3M 7800S is not certified for NBC or CBRN. However, the 7800S is unique among 3M masks because it can utilize third-party 40mm filters. This means that by pairing the 7800S with any 40mm NBC filter, you would be adequately protected in almost all NBC scenarios. We included this mask specifically because some individuals prefer more commonly found industrial equipment rather than military-grade gear. Additionally, the 7800S usually comes with 3M 701 adapters that enable the use of both CBRN filters and the industrial 3M cartridges commonly used with half masks.
Bonus Accessory For Half and Full Mask Filters
3M 701 40mm Filter Adapter
Indeed, it’s a wise strategy to have both half masks and full masks for different scenarios. 3M offers an adapter that can be screwed into the 40mm filter ports of gas masks, allowing you to mount the typical industrial-style bayonet cartridges commonly found in most half masks, such as the recommended 3M 7093 and 60926 filters mentioned earlier.
This adapter is a valuable addition to your kit, regardless of the specific 40mm gas mask you use, as it provides you with versatility and redundancy. It allows you to use standard 40mm NBC/CBRN filters when needed or switch to the smaller 3M bayonet cartridges for situations like wildfire smoke or riot control agents. For instance, you can utilize NBC filters in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear incident for 2-3 days, and then switch to the bayonet cartridges once your supply of NBC filters depletes. This flexibility allows you to maximize the use of your available filter options in different circumstances.
Best Budget Gas Masks
Israeli 4A1 Civilian Gas Mask
Israeli Civilian Gas Mask (aka Shalon 4A1). The civilian version of the Israeli M15 gas mask, priced at $157 and including one NBC filter, is a basic yet reliable option. It is worth noting that Israel has distributed these masks to its citizens through their post office network, highlighting their widespread availability and use.
However, it’s important to be cautious when purchasing this mask from online platforms like Amazon or eBay, as many listings may include expired tan-colored filters without disclosing their expiration status. To ensure your safety, it is recommended to buy the mask separately and acquire a new third-party 40mm filter from a reputable source.
The Israeli M15 mask offers a one-size-fits-most design and features a small voice emitter. While it may not have the advanced features of some higher-end models, it provides a dependable level of protection and has been widely used by civilians.Price: $157
Forsheda A4 Gas Mask
Forsheda A4 NBC. Priced at $100. The civilian version of the F2 gas mask, which has been in use by the Swedish military and rescue services since 1997, offers a lightweight and relatively better vision compared to other bugeye-style masks. It features a 40mm filter mount that can only be mounted on the left cheek.
While the mask provides adequate protection, it’s worth noting that the voice emitter on this model is considered subpar. However, if voice communication is not a critical factor for your specific needs, this mask can still serve as a reliable option.
The F2 mask is designed with bugeye lenses, providing a wider field of view compared to some other masks with similar designs. Its lightweight construction makes it comfortable to wear for extended periods.
Avon FM12 (sometimes called CT12). The FM12 gas mask is widely regarded as one of the most commonly used respirators, particularly during the 2000s. It is a reliable option if you can find it in new condition. However, if you prefer to purchase surplus masks, the FM12 is often available at a more affordable price, typically under $100.
The FM12 features 40mm filter mounts, allowing you to attach filters on either cheek according to your preference. Many reviewers find the FM12 to be more comfortable than its predecessor, the S10 mask. Its design and construction prioritize wearer comfort, making it suitable for extended periods of use.
Commonly Found But Usually Not Worth It
MSA Advantage 1000 CBA/RCA: The Advantage 1000 CBA/RCA gas mask is designed to protect against threats like Riot Control agents, which are considered a lower tier of protection compared to NBC threats. While some preppers argue that pairing it with an NBC filter is sufficient, it is generally not recommended to rely on this combination. The Advantage 1000 uses proprietary filters but can be adapted to use 40mm mounts. It is priced at $324.
MSA Millennium CBRN: The Millennium CBRN gas mask was the first mask to receive official approval for the CBRN standard in the early 2000s. However, it may be considered outdated compared to newer options like the SGE or Avon masks. The Millennium CBRN is priced around $600 and has received decent reviews. It replaced the older MSA MCU-2/P mask, which is still used by some preppers but is generally not recommended. The Millennium CBRN uses 40mm mounts, although MSA’s mounting information can be confusing.
Honeywell Sperian Survivair Opti-Fit CBRN: The Survivair Opti-Fit CBRN gas mask from Honeywell Sperian is designed more for industrial use rather than emergency situations. It features an unusually large face visor that is not flexible, and some design choices may not be favorable. It is priced at $250 and uses 40mm mounts. It is made in the USA.
Scott GSR and FRR: The Scott GSR (General Service Respirator) is the current gas mask used by the British military, replacing the older Avon S10. Some soldiers prefer the older S10 and think the Avon M50 should have been chosen instead of the GSR. The GSR uses proprietary filters that can be difficult to find. On the other hand, the civilian FRR (First Responder Respirator) from Scott uses 40mm mounts, making it more convenient. It can be challenging to buy these masks online, and more information can be found on the official Scott Safety website.
Russian GP-5: The Russian GP-5 gas mask, sometimes sold as Polish masks, is generally not recommended. These masks are considered outdated and are not suitable for reliable protection. They are often associated with techno raver airsoft cosplayers rather than serious preppers.
Best CBRN Gas Mask Filters
Mestel 40mm CBRN Filter
Mestel CBRN: The Mestel CBRN gas mask, priced at $40 each, is equipped with a 40mm filter mount and utilizes a P100 filter. It provides protection against a wide range of known and practical biological and chemical agents, including chlorine, hydrogen cyanide, organic and inorganic acids, anthrax, sarin, mustard gas, and riot control agents. You can find laboratory test results for this mask, starting on page 31.
Avon CF50 CBRN Filter
Avon CBRNCF50: The Avon CBRNCF50 gas mask is available for $70 on Botach or $112 on Grainger. While Avon offers several CBRN filters, the CF50 model is the most easily accessible for civilians. The MILCF50 or CBRNF12CE filters, which offer longer shelf life and enhanced threat protection, are not available to civilians. However, you can purchase the CTCF50 filter, which has a lower profile casing that conforms to the Avon C50 mask’s cheek, but it provides protection only against standard particulates, bacteria/virus, and riot control agents. You can find laboratory test results for this mask.
3M FR-15 CBRN: The 3M FR-15 CBRN gas mask is sold as a four-pack for $255 on Envirosaftey or $510 on Grainger. It features a 40mm filter mount and utilizes a P100 filter. The FR-15 CBRN mask provides protection against all known and practical biological and chemical agents.
Understanding the specific threats and their corresponding acronyms and color codes can be quite confusing. To simplify things, it’s recommended to focus on the basic umbrella certifications that encompass a range of threats, such as CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) and NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) certifications.
Beyond these broader categories, you may come across labels for protection against specific chemicals or vapors, often denoted by acronyms like OV (Organic Vapors) and Hg (Mercury), particularly in industrial safety products.
In Europe, companies often follow the ABEK standard, which is reflected in labels for CBRN filters like A2B2E2K2P3 or ABEK2-P3 (essentially the same thing) accompanied by corresponding color codes. Each letter represents a specific threat, such as A for organic gases, and the number indicates the level of protection (e.g., A2 provides greater protection than A1). P3 is the international equivalent of a P100 filter.
Sometimes you may encounter labels like “Cap 1,” which refers to Capacity and indicates the duration of protection tested against threats. Cap 1 represents the lowest level with a testing time of 15 minutes. However, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean the filter stops working after 15 minutes in all scenarios. It simply signifies the minimum duration for the most aggressive threat, while other threats can be effectively filtered for up to 24 hours on a Cap 1 filter.
To keep it straightforward, look for filters that are CBRN or NBC rated, preferably with ABEK indicated on the cartridge to ensure comprehensive protection.
Exercise caution when it comes to sellers and be mindful of manufacturing and expiration dates. If you receive a filter that is not properly sealed in its packaging, it’s advisable to return it, as plastic caps alone covering the 40mm mount are insufficient. Full enclosure is necessary to maximize the filter’s shelf life.
While manufacturers often claim a five-year expiration period, when properly wrapped and stored, filters can remain effective for up to 10 years in practice.
The duration of protection provided by NBC filters generally lasts around eight hours, but this can vary depending on factors such as the specific exposure, duration, humidity, and other variables.
Alternatives and Emergency Escape Hoods
If you’re interested in exploring alternatives beyond the three main respirator types mentioned earlier, there are options available for children, as well as respirators with fuzzy faces or novelty designs. However, it’s important to note that we have not personally used these alternatives, and we are not providing any specific recommendations. We still advise prioritizing the proper respirators mentioned earlier for reliable protection in hazardous situations.
Child Gas Masks
Israeli Youth Gas Mask
Shalon Bardas Children’s Gas Mask Hood
It’s important to consider that normal respirators, which rely on creating a vacuum seal around the face, may not be suitable for children. In war time, countries like Russia, Israel, and Britain have developed smaller sizes of their civilian gas masks specifically designed for children aged 8-14. For example, the British S10 mask has a size 4 option, while the Russian models are labeled as small GP-5 or PDF-D in size 1 or 2. The Israeli version, known as the Shalon 10A1, is typically labeled as “for kids.”
For smaller children and infants, alternative options include hood versions that create a protective bubble by securing around their neck or entire body. Some of these systems utilize powered air to assist with breathing, as younger children may not have the lung strength to draw air in through NBC filters. In Israel, they use the Bardas hood system for kids over 2 years old, and the Shmartaf for infants over 3 months old.
Facial Hair Gas Masks / Cbrn Es
Due to the inability to create a proper seal around the face, alternative options involve sealing around the neck or head. One such solution is the use of single-use CBRN hoods, which are stored in compact containers in vehicles like police cars and fire trucks. In the event of an emergency, these hoods can be quickly deployed by throwing them over the head, ensuring a tight seal, and allowing for a swift escape.
Avon NH15 CBRN Escape Hood
Honeywell Emergency Escape CBRN Hood
Various “anti-pollution masks” are available in the market, although they are not designed for emergency situations and may not meet NIOSH standards. However, these masks can serve as a viable option for daily commutes in areas with high pollution levels.
Powzdi Dust Mask
Fire Escape Hoods
These single-use packages are designed to be conveniently stored in a drawer or closet near your frequently occupied areas. In the event of an emergency such as a fire, you can quickly open the pouch and put on the hood, ensuring a secure fit around your neck. This provides you with a limited but crucial timeframe of 15-30 minutes to safely evacuate the area.
iEvac Smoke and Fire Hood
When selecting the best gas mask or respirator for survival, it is crucial to consider the specific threats you may encounter, your budget, and personal comfort. The Avon M50 and MIRA Safety CM-6M are top choices for comprehensive protection against CBRN threats, while the 3M 6800 and Honeywell North 7700 Series offer more budget-friendly options with customizable protection levels.