The iconic gas mask.
The one piece of survival gear we always associate with chaos, war, terror, and mass destruction.
Its image conjures up thoughts and feelings of spine-chilling events.
Disasters where the very air we breathe is not safe.
Where the air is poison.
And that’s exactly why you need one. The world today is not on a peaceful trajectory.
But that’s not all gas masks are for…
They are also necessary for many DIY projects. The can protect from paint fumes, chemical vapors, demolition debris, etc.
These are all things you should avoid breathing, which is another great reason to keep a gas mask handy.
But gas masks are expensive.
Some cost several hundred dollars just for the mask – filters sold separately!
That’s why I’ve made it my mission to find the most affordable high-quality gas masks on the market today.
Proven gas masks that won’t break the bank.
So today we’ll be focusing on how to find a high-quality affordable gas mask:
- Why Everyone Should Own A Gas Mask
- How Gas Masks Work
- 2 Types Of Gas Masks – Pros & Cons
- Important Full Face Gas Mask Options
- How A Gas Mask Filter Works
- 7 Best Affordable Gas Masks
Note: If you just want our recommendations without the technical information, feel free to jump ahead.
Why Everyone Should Own A Gas Mask
In my opinion, too many survival articles begin by pointing out that water is the number one survival priority but it’s not.
I’m NOT saying that clean water isn’t essential for survival (it is), but it’s secondary to air.
Access to clean, abundant, breathable air trumps water every single time.
Why? Because while it’s a well-established fact you can only survive 3 days without water (less time in intense heat), you can only survive a few MINUTES without oxygen (and you’ll go unconscious well before that).
Most of us take clean breathable air for granted…which can be a deadly mistake.
But you might argue “air won’t just vanish” and you’d be right. Our entire atmosphere won’t instantly vanish.
However, just because air is breathable doesn’t mean it’s not deadly.
It’s possible to breathe highly toxic chemically infused air. The sort of air where even a few small gulps and you’re headed for an early grave.
Of course, this all depends upon the actual toxin involved and its intensity, but for the worst case scenarios, your ultimate fate will be set in stone.
What really sucks in this situation is knowingly being forced to breathe the toxins in. Because you can only hold your breath for so long.
But at the same time, each breath brings you closer to your premature demise.
In other words “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.
So if the thought of this horrible scenario frightens you (it does for me), you should be highly motivated to invest in a high-quality gas mask.
There are reasons why the military, police departments, and firefighters all have gas masks.
They prepare and practice rushing headlong into the worst disasters to assist their communities; even if it’s a chemical or nuclear attack. They’re equipped to survive even if the air is deadly breath.
So if you’re like me, and you’re serious about preparing, then you must invest in a quality gas mask for survival.
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How Gas Masks Work
A gas mask is simply, a small, portable, personal air purifying device.
It’s an invention with one exceptionally important task – providing detoxified “clean” air.
Similar in concept to a portable water filter that cleans water prior to drinking. The key difference being you can avoid drinking water for longer than 3 minutes!
And the gas mask has been around a lot longer than you realize.
The first known gas masks were made by the ancient Greeks. They were crude versions using sponges.
A few centuries later, a pair of Iraqi brothers produced a rough prototype of a 19th-century version of the gas mask. Ever since they’ve been used by soldiers, miners, doctors, and civilians under wildly different circumstances, but always to achieve the same end goal: clean air.
But these were very primitive. They didn’t work very well, at least not well enough to ensure survival. But to be fair, chemical and nuclear warfare were still yet to be invented.
The first practical gas mask, with real survival potential, was created by a Brit named Edward Harrison in 1916 shortly after the invention of chemical warfare during WWI.
Since then the gas mask has morphed into a symbol of the apocalyptic. But as menacing as they may look; they save lives.
2 Types Of Gas Masks – Pros & Cons
The first steps to making an informed gas mask purchase are to determine which style gas mask is right for you. And you do this by deciding what level of protection you desire.
Let’s start with style first; you have 2 options:
1 – Air Purifying Respirator
If you want a down-n-dirty, quick-n-easy, cheap solution you could buy an air-purifying respirator. But take note, these respirators only cover your nose and your mouth.
While they do technically purify the air, it leaves your eyes totally exposed.
And yes, eyeballs are extremely vulnerable to chemical damage and biological infection. And to be blunt, you need your eyesight if you want any chance to survive a real chemical attack.
Stumbling around in the dark during an attack is a recipe for failure.
2 – Full Face Gas Mask
The second option is a full face gas mask. As you probably already guessed, this version includes eye protection.
These gas masks are the ones you normally think of when someone utters the word, “gas mask”.
They include a large filter attached below the mouth area and they cover the entire face. Your eyes are inside this mask and you can see out of glass or plastic plates.
My advice? You really only have one option.
Here’s a video showing you these different levels of respiratory protection :
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Important Full Face Gas Mask Options
The next most important decision to make is what type of respirator do you want with your full face gas mask.
Here we have 2 basic options to choose from:
1 – Air Purifying Respirator
The first option called an “air-purifying respirator”.
These are the most affordable and simple full-face gas masks. The filter canisters on these units are replaceable and they screw directly into the mask.
It uses the power of your lungs to pull and push air through the filter.
This setup works fairly well as long as you get can get and keep a good seal. You see, air pressure always takes the path of least resistance. As you pull air in and push air out with your lungs YOU are creating this air pressure.
Now if you have a good seal around the outside of the gas mask, then the path of least resistance is the filter itself. Which is what you want.
However, if the seal breaks or fails for any reason, the path of least resistance is no longer through the filter; it’s through the breach.
The breach route will have less resistance than the filtered route (hence the term “path of least resistance).
And that’s the one big disadvantage to this type of gas mask: any prolonged leak makes it 100% ineffective.
If there is a gap between your chin and the mask, outside air will bypass the filter and enter through the leak. And you may die.
So just make sure that seal is absolutely airtight and you’ll be just fine.
Two notes of caution here:
1) If you have a beard, you’re going to have to shave it off because facial hair makes these masks difficult to seal.
Or, you can try what this guy in the video below did with his beard. He uses Vaseline to create a seal without saving off his beard.
2) Also, be careful what tasks you are performing while in the mask. You don’t want to accidentally run into anything that could break the air seal.
So try not to be clumsy or perform any unnecessary acrobatics if you can help it.
The bottom line is even if you initially establish a good seal, you still need to be diligent enough to KEEP a good seal.
2 – SCBA Masks
The second variety of mask is by far the most effective, and the heaviest. It is the type of mask that firefighters use to breathe in smoke-filled rooms. It is called the “self-contained breathing apparatus system” (or SCBA).
These masks require you to carry around a tank full of air (usually strapped to your back). But they provide the highest level of protection and security of any respirators on the market.
The tanks contain air and it keeps pumping it into the mask at a constant rate. This design keeps a positive pressure in the mask at all times, which essentially eliminates the need for a perfect seal.
Why? Because of physics. Air moves in one direction only. From high pressure to low pressure.
One simple way to understand this concept is by thinking about a flat tire. An inflated tire contains pressurized air. Or another way to explain it; it has more pressure in the tire than the surrounding atmosphere.
Hence, when you get a flat tire, the air moves from its higher-pressure environment (in the tire) to the lower pressure atmosphere (out of the tire); never the other way around.
So a gas mask filled with pressurized air will leak out, never in. As long as the gas mask maintains a relatively higher air pressure than the surrounding atmosphere leaks are not dangerous.
Ok, enough science for one day…
But the SCBA setup is not without its trade-offs: for one, it’s bulky, heavy and unwieldy in all circumstances. SCBA equipment is also a challenge to store in small spaces.
It takes up serious square footage in a regular sized closet. Also, most tanks only contain about 30-60 minutes of fresh oxygen anyway and you can only refill them using special equipment.
So as you can see, there are upsides and downsides to each of your options. It is totally up to you to determine what kind of chemical or biological threat you plan to face, how much you are willing to spend, and how protected you want to be.
Bottomline: Not all gas masks setups are equal. Some are glorified surgical masks while others are only used by serious professionals in the most dangerous circumstances.
Now at this point, I could cop out leave it at “just do your own research” but that’s why you’re here; looking for advice. So here’s my advice.
Invest in a full-face air purifying respirator and practice putting it on and getting a good seal.
And if you have a large and gnarly beard and refuse to part ways with it, good luck with that…
Here’s a short video covering the basics of using a full faced gas mask.
How A Gas Mask Filter Works
The common full-face air purifying respirator gas mask uses filter canisters to keep the air you breathe, poison and disease-free.
There are three general types of filter designs:
- Particle Filtration
- Chemical absorption
- Chemical reaction to neutralize other chemicals
Particle filtration is the most common and the simplest of these three options (and it’s also the oldest). Just like the ancient Greeks who held sponges up to their faces, particle filters act to block foreign substances from entering your lungs.
Recall a time when you’ve pulled your shirt over your nose in an attempt to block the smell of a particularly repulsive fart. You were employing a crude version of particle filtration.
Very fine particulate filters are helpful against biological threats, like anthrax. However, these filters have a limited life.
They can only hold so much particulate matter before they clog, so you have to replace them after every 20-24 hours of use (always verify these numbers on any gas mask filter you intend to purchase).
If you are trying to prepare for a chemical threat, then you will have to take a different approach. While particle filtration is an effective system, it does little to purify the air of chemical agents.
For that, you will need to use an activated charcoal system for chemical absorption.
Most deadly chemical warfare agents come in the form of gaseous vapors (not particulates) and will slip straight through your particle filtration filter system and kill you.
Your best bet, whether you are trying not to breathe household chemicals or a neurotoxin, is activated charcoal.
Charcoal is a highly porous form of carbon. So porous, in fact, that it chemically attracts gaseous or liquid substances strongly enough to trap the harmful chemical vapors. But it doesn’t catch everything.
Certain chemical agents aren’t chemically attracted to carbon and will pass straight through (such as sodium and nitrates just to name a couple).
This is to say that the activated charcoal will absorb some chemical agents while totally ignoring others. Chemicals that could be as equally dangerous.
The final type of filter option uses chemical reactions to neutralize. This is a very effective way of defending against one specific chemical agent or another, but you have to know exactly what you are up against so that the respirator is loaded with the right counteractive chemical.
For instance, in WWI during chlorine attacks, soldiers would be fitted with masks containing sodium thiosulfate, which would react with, and neutralize the chlorine in the air.
When you buy these filters they are color coded to indicate which type of gas or acid they work to diffuse.
Unfortunately, for most people, this type of mask is ineffective, because it’s impossible to predict what kind of chemical will be present in any given attack.
No matter what type of filter you end up choosing, you will have to invest regular time and money in keeping them maintained. No filter lasts forever – in fact, most only last about 20-24 hours of use.
So every time you use your mask, you will probably have to replace the filter afterward. Filters usually run for between $40-$60 a pop, and it is highly advised that you keep several on hand for each gas mask at all times.
They also have a limited shelf life, so you will have to check up on them every so often and replace them once they expire (even if you did not get the chance to use them yet).
A final note of caution: Don’t use any filters that were made during WWII or early. Back then, asbestos was considered the ideal filter medium. Now we all know that breathing asbestos is highly dangerous and will lead to asbestosis and lung cancer. You’ve been warned.
7 Best Affordable Gas Masks On The Market Today
We have two competing terms to deal with; best and affordable.
Often times in life, you get what you pay for. But sometimes, you overpay for what you get.
Our mission is to show you the best and most affordable gas masks. Some will trend more toward the best and others more towards the affordable.
We cover a range of gas mask options but have thrown out the insanely expensive ones.
The key is:
To decide on your budget, your goals, and to take action today.
1 – SGE 1 Gas Mask/Respirator 400/3
The SGE 400 is an excellent high-end (yet still affordable) gas mask.
It has the following high-quality features:
- Military NBC 40mm Gas Mask made in the USA with NATO specifications
- Full Face NBC Protection Gas Mask Respirator
- 40mm Filter Compatible with 3 Filter Ports
- Full Visibility Face Protection and Heat Resistant up to 800 Degrees Celsius
It’s one of the best gas masks on the market today.
2 – Israeli Rubber Respirator Mask NBC Protection
Here’s a basic and affordable gas mask for protection.
If you’re not a gas mask enthusiast and just want to get something simple and cost-effective; this one’s for you.
It’s a simple proven design.
There are replacement filters are readily available, and it’s at a very reasonable price point.
I can’t say it’s the absolute best gas mask you can buy. But I do think it’s one of the best from a cost per dollar standpoint.
Allowing you to get a couple.
There’s a debate on whether it’s a “real gas mask” or a just a toy. Here’s one question and answer:
Answer:It is. Doesn’t come with filters or the attachable canteen though but has the drinking straw inside.
3 – CDR 4500 Elite Gas Mask
This gas mask will prepare you for any nuclear, chemical or biological attack.
This mask is 40mm filter compatible, which is the most versatile filter sizing option. Giving you the ability to shop for the right filter from different vendors.
Unlike cheap gas masks, this mask features a 180° vision. So you won’t have to compromise your visibility when wearing it.
It includes a built-in speech diaphragm making communication easier and more efficient!
Plus, it’s a universal size fits adults, and kids as young as 12.
Finally, this mask company claims 110% protection or your money back.
That’s an iron-clad, no questions asked satisfaction guarantee!
4 – M15 Rubber Respirator Mask NBC Protection
The M15 Rubber Respirator is a full face NBC gas mask.
It’s designed to fit any standard 40mm Natio Filter Canister.
The goggles are polycarbonate lenses making them scratch resistant.
Includes a voice meter for verbal communication. This feature is a must for emergencies when communication can save lives.
Finally, this gas mask won’t break the bank.
You can get this one and have money left over for extra filters or more survival gear.
5 – MIRA NBC Full Face Emergency Gas Mask
With a MIRA Safety survival gas mask, you protect your eyes, face and breathing organs against:
- Radiological agents
This mask also includes a drinking system with a free canister.
Unlike other gas masks made of regular Butyl, this emergency mask is crafted from high-quality Bromobutyl rubber.
Making it suitable to use in the temperature range from -30°C to 70°C.
This premium MIRA mask is ergonomically designed and has a wide 180° wide view visor.
It also includes a sweat drainage system and a built-in speech diaphragm.
You can even use the drinking apparatus while wearing your glasses or even a helmet.
This is affordable gas mask includes high-end features. Ones you’d normally have to pay over $400 at half the price.
Making this one of the best affordable gas masks; period.
6 – Full Face Silicone Respirator Mask NBC Protection
This mask offers full face protection from nuclear, biological and chemical threats.
It includes the standard 40mm filter threads. And the face shield is made with a polycarbonate scratch resistant material.
This face mask also has enough room between the eyes and shield to accommodate eyeglasses.
You can buy with confidence with a 100% money back guarantee. Making this super affordable gas mask a “zero risk” purchase.
7 – Holulo Full Face Respirator Respiratory Gas Mask
This gas mask uses high-quality silicone – which s both flexible and durable.
It also has an extra wide anti-fog face shield. So you know you’ll be able to see what the heck is going on.
It’s also lightweight at only 1.5 lbs, which means you can comfortably wear it for extended periods of time.
It’s a solid gas mask at a fair price.
Final Words Of Advice
Here’s the rub: when it comes to any gas mask, a little late can be too late.
Even the most expensive, advanced, top-of-the-line gas masks can save you if you can’t deploy it fast.
If you put your mask on after you realize there’s a life-threatening chemical in the air, you’re probably already dead.
Real life doesn’t happen like the movies.
Every second of respiratory exposure, be it biological or chemical, is a second closer to death.
It’s also impossible to tell when or where you’ll need your gas mask.
Sure, soldiers and police often get a heads up.
That way they can deploy their masks quickly.
Civilians don’t get such a notice.
We are at work, or in our cars, or hanging out with friends most of the time.
And should word of a chemical/biological attack reach you while you’re away from home, you’re going to wish you’d taken it with you.
The best way to avoid this is to buy several gas masks. Then store them in various places where you often spend time.
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If there is a place you spend a lot of time, stash a gas mask nearby.
Not only does this provide peace of mind, but it also increases your chances of surviving a nuclear or chemical attack by tenfold.
Finally, gas masks are not a foolproof solution.
They are actually a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves.
You can’t live your entire life in a gas mask. You can’t hang out in a room full of noxious chemicals forever just because you are wearing one.
Eventually, you will need to eat and drink. Eventually, the filter is going to go bad and you are going to have to replace it.
So gas masks are a defensive measure, a temporary solution to a hopefully temporary problem.
So don’t put too much faith in any gas mask getting you through a long-term emergency/disaster/attack.
Gas masks are a survival tool, meant to buy you time in a toxic situation. It may just be enough time to escape and keep your life.
That is the hope, at least…
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