8 Things to Know Before Buying a Gas Mask

8 things you need to know before you buy a gas mask

Gas masks are becoming something of a pop-culture phenomenon lately. This is partially due to the popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction, but it doesn’t end there. People are starting to realize preparation is necessary for the day those imaginary stories turn into reality. And not just “a” reality.

Our reality.

Before you rush out to grab the first gas mask you find, take the time to go through our list of 8 important things to consider beforehand.

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Surplus Supplies Aren’t Always Your Best Friend

If you’re contemplating purchasing a gas mask, you’ve probably come across at least one advertisement for military surplus. And if you’ve been a prepper for some time, one advertisement probably converts to 10,000.

After all, Army/Navy surplus stores are a prepper’s best friend. Right?

Well… not exactly. You see, the items stocked in these outlets are surplus for a reason.

The military doesn’t sell what they’re not using because they’ve bought too much of it. They keep it ready for when their personnel need replacements or they need to kit out the next batch of recruits.

Military items end up in a surplus store for one of two reasons: they’re either defective (to varying degrees) or they’ve been replaced by an upgrade. Because of this, they’ll never have a guarantee of performance attached either. In fact, you can pretty much expect the filter to be expired.

So while surplus gas masks are great for your Halloween costumes or man cave displays, keep them out of your prepper gear. Instead, save up and spend a little more money on a quality gas mask.

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Invest In An NBC Gas Mask

Honestly, if you’re going to buy anything less than an NBC gas mask, you may as well be making your own.


Because gas masks that carry the NBC rating are designed to protect you from Nuclear, Biological and Chemical exposure – hence the name. Anything less and you’ll need a mask for each scenario. And when SHTF, you better cross your fingers you have the right one with you.

Another thing to look for when shopping is the Chemical Blowing Agent and Riot Control Agent (CBA/RCA) rating. Here’s a bonus tip for you: if the mask and its filter are NBC rated, they should have the CBA/RCA rating too.

Ideally, you want to know if your mask was tested by more than just the manufacturer. Third-party testing is a sure-fire way to ensure you won’t be ripped off.

Personally, I prefer buying a mask with the best possible field of vision. If the situation warrants the use of a gas mask, you better believe you’re going to need the biggest field of view you can get. Another reason to avoid surplus gas masks: they tend to have small goggle-type eye holes.

Again, cool for Halloween, but not for survival.

Finally, try to get one with two filter connections rather than just one. This way, you can optimize your mask so the filter doesn’t get in the way of your gun stock. Just as importantly, you can properly secure a fresh filter before removing the expired one.

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Spare Filters

Speaking of replacing an expired filter, you need to stock up on those.

This can be a little tricky; not to mention expensive. Look at the ApprovedGasMasks.com article I linked to earlier (here it is again): unless you’re buying surplus (don’t), you’re going to spend over $30 a canister.

And that’s for the 40mm NATO threaded models – which, by the way, I recommend. They’re far easier to get hold of and cheaper than the alternatives. Make sure you buy a mask that accepts them.

Also keep in mind all filters have a shelf life AND a usability time limit.

Speed Is Of The Essence

Here’s a bit of bad news: if you aren’t wearing a gas mask before you technically need one, it might already be too late. Even a moment of exposure to biological or chemical compounds can be fatal.

So when you’re out shopping for a gas mask, get more than one. Store them at work (yes, you’ll probably have to sneak it into the office), at home, in your shelter, in your car… You get the picture.

That said, you can also prepare by keeping the makings of an improvised gas mask on you at all times.

The Problem With A Manly Beard…

If you have any facial hair, whether it’s a scruffy beard or barely-there 5 o’clock shadow, it will prevent a gas mask from sealing properly.

And a compromised seal renders the mask useless.

Luckily, there are 2 viable solutions: you can either get a hooded mask or follow this WeAreTheMighty.com guide detailing how to save your beard by covering it with Vaseline.

Remove the Plug

Movies make everything look way easier. And that’s fine – I’m not expecting Tom Cruise to do anything wrong in Mission Impossible. From a movie-making point of view, it’s just not practical (or all that cinematic).

Just realize it’s not that easy in real life.

Practice, practice and practice some more. Correctly deploying and strapping a gas mask on takes some deft hand action. If you do it wrong, you may as well not wear one at all. And please remember to remove the plug from the filter canister before screwing it on – or you’ll suffocate.

If you have any expired filters lying around (or you really can’t resist going to the surplus store), use those to practice with.

Location, Location, Location

In an end-of-the-world scenario, it’s probably not going to matter where you are.

But for every other kind of disaster, location is going to play a major role in your chances of survival. It’s also going to play a major role in the type of gear you ought to be spending money on.

If you’re living far from the cities, save the gas mask for when you can afford to start stocking up on luxury prepper gear.

It’s folks in and near densely populated urban and industrial areas who should have such items pretty high on their survival shopping lists. Those areas are the most likely to experience a nuclear, biological and/or chemical attack.

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Don’t Put Your Full Reliance On Your Gas Mask

You won’t need to wear a gas mask over your face forever. Besides the major expense of trying to keep that many spare filter canisters stocked, it’s just not practical.

Sure, you might be able to drink with one on, if it’s equipped with a straw. But how are you going to eat?

Let’s face it – if you haven’t got a more permanent shelter to retreat to and the NBC attacks won’t let up, your chances of survival look dismal. With or without a gas mask. These babies are meant to be temporary solutions to get you safely out of the danger zone.

So in addition to purchasing a gas mask, be sure to practice potential doomsday outcomes on a regular basis. After all, preparation is key to survival.

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***Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only. Please read our full disclaimer.***

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 26, 2019, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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