Whether a terrorist attack, natural disaster or an accident at a chemical plant, a gas mask is an important piece of gear for preppers. But there are plenty of pitfalls when it comes to buying one, from an improper fit to an ineffective filter. There are also a lot of myths out there, especially in terms of lingo and what works best in the field versus lab conditions.

A basic understanding of how they work is key to finding the right mask for you. A gas mask is essentially a mask that covers the mouth and nose, but with holes at the sides for the breathing tube to go through. A hose attached to a canister of filter material connects to the mask via adjustable straps for a snug and secure fit. The mask itself is designed to protect against airborne chemicals and particulates, including toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and chlorine, along with bacteria and viruses.

Most modern masks come in two basic categories: Particulate (P) or Chemical/Biological (CB). Particle-rated masks such as the N95 are rated for their ability to screen out particulates, including dust and smoke from a fire, asbestos, viruses and bacteria, even tear gas. Chemical-rated masks such as the CBRN are able to protect against a wider range of threats, such as acidic gases like hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide, along with biological agents including virus particles and spores.

When choosing a mask, it’s best to choose the type that suits the potential threat, since the protection provided by different filters varies significantly. Similarly, the size of the mask is also important. The smallest sizes are typically used by children, while the largest sizes are sized for adults.

Filter and substrate materials will deteriorate over time, which means that a new mask is required after a certain amount of usage. The same goes for the seals, which may need to be replaced or refurbished.

In addition, the filters used in military-grade masks must undergo a rigorous battery of tests to ensure that they will hold up in real-world conditions. During those tests, the equipment is exposed to high and low temperatures, temperature swings, humidity and dust, rough handling and more. Materials that don’t pass those tests aren’t used by the military.

The bottom line is that a quality respirator can be very expensive, which is why most preppers either overlook them entirely or choose to buy the cheaper versions available on the market. But with some careful research, you can find a good mask for your bugout bag that will provide a valuable layer of protection if you ever need it.

Avoid masks that you can’t find official product information on from the manufacturer. If a manufacturer isn’t open to sharing details, there’s probably a reason. Some of the surplus models that are often found online can seem like a great deal at first, but they’re cheap because they’re dated or defective. gas masks

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