The Best Face Mask: Outdoor Research Face Mask
At the end of June, I wrote an article about casual summer cycling and I mentioned the Mandala Scrubs face mask. It’s been a good mask and I don’t regret that review. Things are changing fast though and I’ve continued to test different mask options. My new favorite option is the Outdoor Research Face Mask.
Before I get into the meat of the review let’s talk about the way I use a mask. I ride 80-150 miles outdoors and for most of that time I don’t wear a mask. I plan my routes so that I get out of the city as quickly as possible. Then I spend my time alone in the country. It’s easy to spend the majority of my 5-8-hour rides completely alone. There are times though when I find myself around other people.
When I find myself in a place where I can’t be alone, I put a mask on. When I wear a mask I have two goals. I want one that is protecting other people but I also want one that is protecting me. Many masks, especially those designed with sports in mind, have a design meant to protect other people. Protecting other people is great but only if everyone wears one. Given the low usage of masks in the US when I wear a mask, I want it to do more.
The Outdoor Research Face Mask is both breathable enough to exercise with and designed to protect both the wearer and others.
The Outdoor Research face mask starts with a double layer polyester fabric put together with minimal seams. The only seam in the main part of the mask runs vertically down the center of the mask. By creating a break in the fabric at the center it actually fits better against the face. There is a moldable piece of metal across the nose of the bridge and at each edge you’ll find ear loops formed from a piece of elastic with adjusters. On the inside of the mask the filter fits into a small pocket on each edge.
As with all non-medical masks the filter used lacks official certification. Outdoor Research does note though that it “Filters greater than 95% of virus, bacteria, and particles in accordance with ASTM test standards.” Use your own judgment but I’d say this is about good as you are going to find for non-medical mask options. Outdoor Research also uses an anti-microbial treatment on the fabric but keep in mind that COVID is a virus. That means that the HEIQ V-BLOCK® NPJ03 fabric treatment won’ be effective against COVID but it should help keep the mask clean.
With a filter designed to be effective against COVID and two layers of fabric the Outdoor Research mask helps me feel safer when riding around unmasked strangers. I also appreciate that the fit is good enough to keep from moving when I talk as well as an effective seal that keeps glasses free of fog.