SHTF Gas Mask Face Mask

Choosing The Right SHTF Gas Mask, Face Mask

When starting out as a prepper I found hunting for a SHTF gas mask, face mask or respirator quite confusing. With so many different types and uses it’s difficult to know what type you need to add to your emergency preparedness kits. The SHTF gas mask, face mask or respirator you choose will certainly depend on the scenario you are preparing for. These masks are not always cheap so in an attempt to help fellow preppers navigate their way through the mask maze. I decided to create and share this SHTF Gas Mask, Face Mask, Respirator – Drill Down.

Gas Masks (air-purifying respirators)

Often referred to as air purifying respirators, Gas Masks come in various forms and filter or clean chemical gases out of the air as you breathe. These masks consist of a face mask and filter or cartridge and are secured to the head by straps. Gas mask filter types can differ because they are designed for uses in certain situations. Unlike conventional face masks, gas masks are reusable.

Gas mask filter cartridges can serve different purposes. They can remove bacterial Particles, such as those used in biological weapons. They sometimes contain charcoal designed to remove certain chemicals. Choosing the correct filter for your gas mask can be a complicated process. Cartridges are available to protect against more than one hazard, but there is no all-in-one filter that protects against all substances. You, therefore, need to know what SHTF scenarios you are planning for in order to be certain you are choosing the right filters.

An important factor to remember about gas mask filters is that they have a finite shelf life. You need to check the expiration dates because they won’t last forever sitting on a shelf. There can also be compatibility issues as not all filters fit all masks. (thanks to Steve B for pointing this out in the comments section below)

Half-Mask Gas Mask

As indicated by the name half-mask air-purifying respirators do not cover the whole of the face. They only cover the mouth and nose. Depending on the scenario you are preparing for, half masks may not be sufficient protection. For example, if you are preparing for biological warfare a half mask would not protect your eyes and would easily allow any chemical or bacteria to enter the body through the eyes. Half-mask gas mask respirators are not designed for Chemical, biological, or nuclear protection. Half mask gas masks are more ideally suited to nontoxic industrial type applications and will not fully protect you in a SHTF scenario.

Here are some examples of Half Face Gas Masks:

Full Face Gas Mask

A full face gas mask respirator covers the whole face including the eyes. This is In order to gain maximum possible protection against Nuclear, biological and Chemical (NBC) agents. These agents can be harmful when vapors, powders, and liquids come in contact with the eyes and skin. Full face gas mask respirators are the type of mask that are issued to military personnel when facing NBC scenarios.

Here are some examples of Full Face Gas Masks:

Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

Powered air purifying respirators incorporate a fan which blows air through the filter to the user. These gas masks are easier to breathe through, but they need a fully charged battery to work properly. They use the same filters as gas masks, so you need to know what SHTF scenario you are preparing for.

Here are some examples of Powered Air Purifying Respirators:

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is the type of respirator mask that firefighters commonly use. These respirators have their own air tank that supply’s clean air. The advantage of this is they don’t need filters. They also protect against higher concentrations of dangerous chemicals. The disadvantage of these is that they are heavy and require special training to use and to maintain. The air tanks typically only last an hour or less depending upon their rating and how hard you are breathing.

Here is an example of Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus:


Conventional Face Masks

Conventional face Masks are loose-fitting, disposable masks that create a physical barrier between the mouth and nose. These face masks are made up out of layers of flat or folded paper or cotton fabric and are attached to your head via ear loops. If worn properly they can help to block out large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays or splatter. However, by design, they do not block or filter very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures.

Comfort Masks

Comfort masks are best described as basic dust masks, often used in a D.I.Y situation. They are not designed to protect your lungs from airborne hazards. This is because they do not fit tightly to the face and as a result of this there will be gaps around the edges. These masks will not help you in a SHTF scenario.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks are worn by medical personnel in order to help prevent the transmission of airborne organisms during surgery. There made from fabric or materials like polypropylene. They are disposable and designed for signal use only. A surgical mask is normally made of at least a three layers which include an inner hydrophilic layer that absorbs moisture, a middle filter layer and an outer hydrophobic layer that repels water. Surgical masks should have a minimum of 80% bacteria filtration efficiency. Basic surgical masks are not designed to protect your lungs from airborne hazards instead they help to prevent large particles expelled by the wearer, such as spit or mucous, from entering the environment. If the wearer coughs or sneezes, the surgical mask will help collect the larger particles expelled.

Respirator Face Masks

A respirator face mask has higher filtering efficiency than a conventional face mask. It is designed to reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne contaminants. These are sometimes referred to as Surgical Respirators or Particulate Respirators and are designed to filter particles from the air reducing the number of particles or germs the wearer breathes in. These masks are secured tightly to the face, usually with 2 head straps and an adjustable clip over the nose to allow for a more custom fit. An example of such a mask would be an N95 respirator. (see below)

N95 Respirators

N95 respirators are respiratory protective devices designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. A genuine N95 respirator is certified by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of conventional face masks.

Please be aware that even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death. You should also be aware that N95 respirators are not designed for children or people with facial hair. This is because a proper fit cannot be achieved on children or people with facial hair.

Whilst the N95 masks won’t protect you from NBC agents, they would have some benefits in a pandemic situation. I would still prefer an NBC gas mask though.

Here’s an example of some N95 approved respirator masks:


Using The Right Tool For The Job

OK so we’ve talked about the types of gas masks, face masks and respirators available, there’s a lot right. Now we need to drill down into what type of mask is best for the main SHTF scenarios. Ideally, you should aim to get yourself and your family NBC gas masks. These provide protection for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical exposures. They will also provide protection in pandemic scenarios.

The main SHTF scenarios preppers plan for are as follows:


An NBC Gas Mask can help protect you against the effects of radiation resulting from a nuclear attack or nuclear leak.


These Gas Masks also help protect you from pandemics and disease. For example a virus, anthrax, Ebola, flu.


Chemical warfare is a major concern for preppers. NBC Gas Masks can shield you from the effects of sarin gas, mustard gas, anthrax and nerve agents that are released into the atmosphere.

Gas Mask Tips

  • Gas masks are not to be worn permanently. They are to be used in specific scenarios and environments
  • Remember to remove the plastic plug from the filter cartridge.
  • A gas mask will only help you if you put it on before you enter the contaminated area.
  • Learn how your gas mask works.
  • Practice using your gas mask.
  • Gas masks to don’t work on facial hair
  • If you’re prepping for your family make sure each of them has a SHTF gas mask.
  • Store spare filter cartridges.
  • If you have children make sure you regularly re assess their gas mask fitting as they grow.


SHTF Gas Mask, Face Mask, Respirator – Drill Down (Summary)

Whilst I’m not an expert on gas masks and respirators. The research I have carried out has helped me decide on the type of SHTF gas mask I want to use for my emergency preparedness scenarios. It’s also helped me understand the differences between the different types of masks available. I hope my drill down helps you to further your own research in this area. If you have already stocked up on your SHTF gas mask and filters and would like to share what you have done in this area and why. Drop me and prepper bits blog readers a line in the comments section below.

Research Credits & Recommended Reading

The task of researching and deciding on the best SHTF gas mask, face masks, and respirators is certainly an in-depth one. It’s important to research this area fully before making your own decision on the best SHTF gas mask for you. If you would like to further your own research, the links below will go into more detail on this subject.

How Does a Gas Mask Protect Against Chemical Warfare?

How Gas Masks Work

Key Differences Between Respirators and Masks

Respirator Fact Sheet

Masks and N95 Respirators

Prepper Bits Prepper Resources Section

6 thoughts on “SHTF Gas Mask Face Mask – Drill Down”

    1. Steve.. there are a few distributors out there.. MSA is one of them. Also there is a really good source catalogue you can reference
      for prices and types…I can’t think of the name at the moment but will post it when I come across it!!

  1. One more thing to keep in mind, all of those “specialty” filters have finite shelf life. they won’t last forever sitting on a shelf, there are compatibility issues as well…not all filters fit all masks.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for commenting and pointing this out. I have added this to the article. Thanks again.

  2. “Nuclear

    An NBC Gas Mask can help protect you against the effects of radiation resulting from a nuclear attack or nuclear leak.”

    With nuclear, the alpha and beta emitters are stopped by plain tyvek (or even clothes) and an N95 will stop the particles. The problem with alpha and beta emitters is from ingestion or inhalation.

    A ‘gas mask’ is overkill.

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