As a frequent product and apparel reviewer, I test out a fair amount of gear in any given year. During the steaming catastrophe that is the year 2020, much of that gear has been non-medical face masks. I’ve now tried out close to a dozen different reusable cloth face masks, and in my non-medical opinion, most of them suck.
From ear loops so snug they seem designed for a marmoset, to cloth that bunches up and slips off the nose, to masks with gaps so large at their sides a murder hornet could pass through, not to mention virus-laden aerosol droplets spewed from a nearby nose. Most of the face masks I have tried out this year have one or more flaws that are critical enough to not even consider a second use, often opting instead for the ubiquitous baby blue disposable surgical masks.
Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask
There are three main reasons that the Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask is a cut well above other cloth face masks I’ve tried out. Let’s start with the ear loops, a literal sore spot with so many face masks. Not only are the loops made from a smooth material with enough stretch to hold the mask firmly in place without pulling hard against your ears, but they are also adjustable thanks to a sliding toggle. Thus, this mask can be fitted properly onto any adult-sized head.
Second, the shape of the mask itself matches the contours of a human’s face better than any other option I’ve tried yet. That’s simply because it features a raised center to offer more coverage of the nose and a sloped bottom that fits under your chin – it’s one of those head-slap “duh” moments when you compare the face-shaped OR mask to a rectangular patch of cloth from another brand.
Third, the mask comes with removable filters – more of which can be ordered cheap – and when mask and filter are paired, you achieve a 95% filtration rate against viruses and bacteria, not to mention pollen, pet dander, and other unpleasant particles.
Not sold yet? How about Outdoor Research throws in HeiQ V-Block, “an innovative Swiss technology [that] makes fabrics resistant to harmful microbes” and will remain effective for up to 30 wash cycles? Sound better? Good, because they did indeed add that treatment to the mix.
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