Best Gas Masks and Respirators for Survival

Gas masks and respirators can make a big difference in cases of severe air pollution, riots, fires, natural catastrophes, pandemics, or nuclear attacks. These products are often misunderstood by most people. Bandanas or surgical masks don't work — you will need a disposable mask and a reusable full-face gas mask.

Our research took us 43 hours to find the right product so that you don't end up with the wrong thing. Respirators are the best emergency masks because they keep the bad stuff out of your respiratory system. Bandanas and surgical masks do not count as respirators, so they should not be relied upon in an emergency.

COVID editor's Note January 24, 2020: It’s basically impossible for a consumer to find a proper respirator after the initial panic buying and severe lack of government/hospital preparation. You can make a difference in protecting yourself and others by using simple face masks.

Below are some DIY mask instructions and tips for safely putting on and removing your mask. You can also follow COVID analysis and updates here. You should protect your eyes and use mask exhalation valves to prevent spreading the virus.

Most important tips for emergency respirators:

  • Most people should have a mix of cheap disposables and a half-face model in their emergency bags, and possibly a CBRN- or NBC-rated gas mask at home.
  • Start with the disposables and work your way up. A nuclear gas mask should not be one of your first purchases if you ever buy one at all.
  • Respirators are temporary solutions to help you escape danger. You will not be spending days traveling the wastelands wearing just a gas mask.
  • There is a wide range of gas masks and respirators. They are not equal. What you buy matters.

When people refer to “gas masks”, those are respirators. So are the disposable N95/P100 ones that form a tight seal around your nose and mouth, or the half-face versions commonly used in industrial or construction settings.