Review: This Is the Best All-Around Face Mask We’ve Worn
Outdoor Research's mask looks ordinary, but it's packed with features
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Face masks have become a part of everyday life, and they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Finding a good one is crucial. After seven months of consistently wearing masks, my favorite is actually the first mask I ever bought — the Outdoor Research Face Mask Kit.
Why Does it Matter?
Outdoor Research may seem like an unlikely winner of the mask showdown, but the Seattle-based brand has been designing high-quality outdoor apparel since 1981. If you hike, climb, or ski, you’ve certainly seen the OR logo adorning jackets, backpacks and hats. I’m a huge fan of their ski kits, and their Helium rain jacket is the go-to for weight-conscious backpackers. They’ve consistently led innovation in outdoor apparel, including a few years ago when they were the first brand to incorporate AeroGel—a NASA developed insulation material traditionally used in space suits—into their winter jackets and gloves.
All that is to say, Outdoor Research has a history of making top-notch products that keep people safe and comfortable. It’s clear they applied their same thoughtful design process to their mask. The result is a soft, comfortable mask that has a lot more bells and whistles than any other cloth mask on the market.
Design and Materials
The OR mask has a traditional shape, but it’s easily the biggest mask I own. It covers my entire face, tucking under my chin and going right under my eyes. A small metal band on the nose bridge creates a loose seal that works quite well to prevent sunglasses from fogging. Although I found the mask comfortable enough right out of the box, the ear loops do have a simple slide adjustment to help dial in the fit.
The mask is made of 100% polyester, so it can be machine washed and dried without losing any shape. It also won’t stretch after weeks of wear. Unlike most other cloth masks, the material is treated with HeiQ V-Block, an anti-microbial technology, which limits the growth of bacteria.
The most unique feature is a pocket for custom-designed filters. Each mask comes with three, thin, breathable and non-irritating filters. They insert into sleeves on the inside of the mask and can easily be added or removed. They significantly reduce the risk of contaminant transmission, successfully filtering greater than 95% of viruses, bacteria, and particles in accordance with ASTM test standards. From a wearing standpoint, I hardly noticed they were there. From what I can tell, they limit breathability a little, especially when I’m running, but they’re comfortable and not bulky. OR sells extra three-packs of filters for $5.
What We Like
- The mask is incredibly comfortable. This is easily the most comfortable mask I’ve worn. It’s become my go-to mask for walking around, running, and going to the gym.
- The filter increases effectiveness. Admittedly I don’t always use the filter, especially when I’m hiking where I’m away from people and breathing heavily. But I always put it back in when going out to eat or walking in crowded areas.
- Nice design touches. It’s clear that Outdoor Research put a lot of thought into this mask. The shape, metal nose bridge, anti-bacterial treatment, and filter are all thoughtful and effective touches.
- Lots of color options. This is minor but it’s nice to have a choice of color. Seven color options are more than I’ve seen from any other brand.
What We Don’t
As I said earlier, this mask is in a category of its own, so it’s a bit unfair to compare it directly to others. It’s far more comfortable than a medical mask and more protective than a traditional cloth mask. While I think it justifies the cost, at $20, it’s pricier than any other mask I own, especially when you factor in the extra filters.
Should You Buy It?
I’m sure at this point you already own a number of masks. You probably don’t need another cheap cloth mask or neck gaiter. If you do want to add another mask to your collection, I highly recommend this one. It looks like a regular cloth mask, but it has a lot more features and will keep you more protected. After six months and countless other masks, it’s the one I use the most. I’d bet the same would be true for you.
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