Most Preppers are ready to deal with everything from medical emergencies to car breakdowns. But, they’re often not prepared to handle outbreaks of diseases or other serious airborne dangers. If there’s an epidemic or some other disaster, you need to be able to protect yourself and your family with quality survival masks.
This can be quite the tall task as there are so many different variables you need to account for in a survival situation. Lucky for us Preppers, a good particle mask can help protect you from a wide variety of airborne particles that can pose a serious risk to your health.
Scanning the internet, there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding particle masks, so it is easy to accidentally purchase the wrong ones for your emergency preparedness kit. Let’s take the time to discuss what you need to know about particle masks, how they work, and even review a few good options.
What to know know about Particle Masks
As we mentioned previously, there’s a lot of confusion going around about particle masks. Although they’re fairly simple devices, they have a few nuances that are important to understand before you go off and buy your own.
Particle masks vs surgical masks
Contrary to popular belief, particle masks and surgical masks are not the same thing. They might look similar, but they have very different purposes. While surgical masks are designed to protect the surrounding environment from the wearer (e.g. to protect a patient from a surgeon’s cold), a particle mask protects the wearer from the environment.
So, if you’re looking for something to protect you from airborne diseases, you’ll want a particle mask. Surgical particle masks exist, too, and they are generally approved by NIOSH and the FDA, but those are not the same as the standard basic surgical mask.
Particle Mask Certifications
Since particle masks are designed to protect you from some pretty dangerous stuff, they are generally certified by either the NIOSH or the European Standard. Do not buy a particle mask unless it has been approved by either of these organizations. It’s not worth the risk, especially since there are so many great affordable options already on the market.
Particle Mask Ratings
Particle masks are rated according to their ability to filter out particles. The ratings are as follows:
Particle Mask NIOSH Ratings
- N95 - Filters 95% of airborne particles, not oil-resistant
- N99 - Filters 99% of airborne particles, not oil-resistant
- N100- Filters 99.7% of airborne particles, not oil-resistant
- R95 - Filters 95% of airborne particles, somewhat oil-resistant
- P95 - Filters 95% of airborne particles, very oil-resistant
- P100 - Filters 99.7% of airborne particles, very oil-resistant
Particle Mask European Standard Ratings
- P1 EN-149 - Filters 80% of airborne particles
- P2 EN-149 - Filters 94% of airborne particles
- P3 EN-149 - Filters 99.5% of airborne particles
N95 masks are some of the most common, but others are good options for people who want more protection, however, this often comes at a higher price.
Particle Mask Fit
If the particle mask doesn’t fit well, then it doesn’t work at all. Regardless of which mask you buy, be sure that you get one that fits properly or it will be useless in protecting you from airborne particles. People with facial hair generally have to duct tape the mask to their face to be able to get a good fit - uncomfortable, but better than breathing in pathogens!
How particle masks work
Now that you understand the different kinds of particle masks available, let’s discuss how they actually work.
The majority of particle masks have a fibrous filter that captures particles as they try to flow through it when the wearer breathes. The fibers in the filter form a layered criss-cross pattern which allows the wearer to breathe while preventing particulates from entering the mask. The tighter the layers, the harder it is to breathe, but the more the filter captures.
A few masks also use ‘activated carbon’ filters which essentially traps particles in a porous layer of carbon, but this is much less common than the fibrous filter.
Since particle masks ‘trap’ the hazardous particles in the filter, it’s important to remember that the filters are single use. Thus, they should be properly disposed of after exposure to hazardous substances. So maybe buy a few extra filters in case of a real emergency!
Particle mask reviews - The 5 Best Particle Masks for Preppers 2020
1) The Best Budget N95 Mask - The 3M 8511 Cool Flow
3M 8511 - Cool Flow - This simple particle mask from 3M is rated to N95 and boasts a classic design with no frills or fluff. It has a two strap design and a welded point attachment which helps keep the mask’s seal secure to keep harmful particles away from your face.
The best part about this mask is that it features 3M’s proprietary Cool FlowValve which reduces heat build-up inside the mask. Ultimately, this reduces moisture inside the mask, preventing fogging up of protective eyewear and keeps the wearer comfortable for longer.
These masks are single-use and come in a variety of different quantities, so they’re great as part of an emergency preparedness kit for the whole family. We love how affordable these masks are and they make a great part of any casual Prepper’s kit.
2) Solid Mid Range Option - GVS SPR457 Elipse P100 Half Mask Respirator
- Range of extremely light masks (130g), that fit perfectly to the shape of the face, without hindering the user
- A unique and low profile filter, designed to fit the contours of your face to give the user the an unobstructed field of vision
- Low breathing resistance to reduce the risk of user fatigue and to add additional comfort, thanks to pleated HEPA filters
- NIOSH Approved TC-84A-6949
- Made from soft thermo-plastic elastomer that is hypo allergenic (without latex, silicone and odor free) with an easy to adjust head band
The GVS Respirator - Designed with the everyday user in mind, this reusable P100 mask from GVS is unique in its low profile design and enhanced breathability and comfort. The Ellipse is shaped to best fit the contours of the face and comes in two sizes so wearers can get the best fit possible.
The best part about this mask is certainly its low profile design which allows wearers a wide field of vision while maintaining a superior level of protection. This is great for people who want to also wear safety glasses, sanding shields, welding hoods, or other kinds of personal protective equipment as the mask does not interfere with their function.
3) Solid Mid Range Option - 3M Half Facepiece Respirator Assembly
- The lightweight 3M Half Face Respirator 6000 Series offer safety, comfort and ease of use
- Incorporate the 3M Bayonet Filter Fixing System enabling a wide range of 3M Filters
- Versatile systems suitable for many situations, providing filtering protection against particulates
- Features remarkably comfortable with soft and lightweight face piece. Primary Material-Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)
- Lid sold separately.
The 3M Respirator - This P100 respirator from 3M is designed to be lightweight and easy to use. It’s designed to be exceptionally comfortable with a soft and lightweight face piece and easily adjustable head straps.
This particle mask is unique because it allows you to use a variety of different filters with the same face piece.
You can buy just one mask and use it in whatever situations you might face. Plus, many of these filters can be disassembled, cleaned, and reused, which means you can extend the life of the filter and save some money along the way.
4) Solid Mid Range Option - GVS SPR451 Elipse P100
The GVS Elipse - Yet another great P100 respirator from GVS, this half mask design is compact, lightweight, and flexible. It’s made to perfectly contour to the wearer’s face and allow for full range of vision while providing the utmost protection from harmful particulates.
Our favorite thing about this mask is that it has a lightweight, non-slip strap that can be adjusted for a customized fit.
These specially designed straps even work in high humidity or wet conditions so the wearer can stay protected day in and day out. This respirator is reusable and its filters can easily be interchanged to maintain high performance over time.
5) The Best High End Mask - 3M Rugged Comfort Quick Latch
- Easy on and Off: Quick latch design offers an easy, 1 hand touch drop down mechanism for putting the face piece on and off while moving in and out of contaminated areas
- Comfortable: Adjustable head harness assembly promotes a comfortable fit with three size adjustable head cradle; Long lasting polyester/spandex straps
- Cool Comfort: Proprietary 3M cool flow valve is designed for easy exhalation to help keep the wearer more comfortable
- Durable: Resilient silicone faceseal provides comfort, durability, and stability with a soft but firm seal. Keeps its shape in high heat environments
- Low Profile: Half face piece design offers a wide field of view and compatibility with welding and grinding shields
3M Rugged Comfort - this durable respirator comes with a tough silicone face seal which offers a high degree of comfort without sacrificing stability and protection. The best part about this mask is 3M’s proprietary quick latch design which lets wearers lower the respirator onto their face with just one hand. This is perfect for people who frequently move in and out of contaminated areas but don’t want to deal with taking their mask, protective eyewear, and hardhats on and off every time.
The only downside to this mask is that it doesn’t come with filters. That being said, this versatile system can work with a wide range of different filters and cartridges, so it’s great for people who work in a variety of different environments but who want one respirator that can do it all.
All Preppers Should Have a Survival Mask
At the end of the day, you need to protect yourself and your family from dangerous particulates in the air. Whether you’re concerned about a disease outbreak or the harmful effects of airborne pollutants, a quality particulate mask can make a huge difference.
If you’re serious about prepping, a survival particle mask should be a part of your emergency preparedness kit or bug out bag.
Regardless of whether you want a stockpile of single-use N95 masks for emergencies or if you need a high quality and versatile mask for work, there’s a model out there to keep you protected!