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.
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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