The Best Gas Mask for Tear Gas, Viruses, and Nuclear Fallout

Air is one of those things you simply can’t live without for very long. It’s an often overlooked part of prepping even though it is one of our biggest vulnerabilities. Filters and masks have become an integral part of protecting the air we breathe. Gas masks protect us from some of the nastiest threats including nuclear fallout, viruses, and chemical weapons. The best gas mask protects us from even more without getting in our way.

There are only a handful of brands and types to choose from when it comes to respiratory protection that will hold up for a wide range of events. Even still, you need to know what you can rely on when you need it most. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best gas masks, tested each of them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need a gas mask that will keep you going in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will help keep you hustling through the worst of it.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


Mira Safety CM-6M Gas Mask

The Best Gas Mask

MIRA CM-6M

Lightweight, Comfortable, and Effective

Brand new military-grade bromobutyl rubber construction at a respectable price with proven durability.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

MIRA Safety has been on a tear in the international market, becoming the mask of choice for many countries simply due to its cost-effectiveness. The masks they make are durable and proven, and the CM-6M hits the sweet spot of features at a reasonable cost. With a bromobutyl rubber construction and dual canister filters, this mask feels very similar to the well-known M50.

There are plenty of accessories that you can get for the mask as it is a refreshingly simple platform. Grab the MIRA CM-6M and some filters for your kit and don’t look back.


3M 6800 Full Face Respirator

Budget Gas Mask

3M 6800

Industrial, Versatile, and Inexpensive

An industrial option that will keep you protected when paired with the right filters.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

You may encounter some people that say this respirator technically isn’t technically a ‘gas mask’, and they aren’t wrong. This respirator from 3M uses a silicon face mask, so it’s not going to help you that much if you encounter a blister agent like mustard gas. But it will help you for pretty much anything else when you fit it with organic vapor canisters.

At half the cost of our top pick and easily found in any industrial supply store, this mask still earns its spot as our budget pick. Make sure you pick up the P100 filters with the (pink casing with the brown label) to use this mask to the best of its abilities in survival situations.

The 3M 6800 is a solid selection for your CBRN specialized kit.


Avon M50 Gas Mask

Upgrade Gas Mask

Avon M50

Proven, Rugged, and Dependable

The preferred choice for the US Military, longer protection, and a comfortable seal make this the mask to beat.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The M50 continues to be the mask of choice for operators worldwide, including the US military. It is quite a bit more expensive than other masks on the market and in our suggestion set, but you can often find used masks in excellent condition that do not have problems that other used military masks have had with longevity (looking at you, MCU-2P). You can see our older review of the M50 here, which goes into even more detail on what we like and don’t like about this mask.

Avon Protection is a British company that has been specializing in respiratory protection for years and worked collaboratively with all of the US military branches (a feat of its own) to develop the Joint Services General Purpose Mask (JSGPM) designated ‘M50’. If you are looking to get the best of the best for your kit, finding yourself an Avon M50 is the way to go.


Everything We Recommend

MIRA Safety Gas Mask

MIRA CM-6M

Brand new military-grade bromobutyl rubber construction at a respectable price with proven durability.

Where to Buy

$239* at MIRA Safety

$239* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

3M 6800 Gas Mask

3M 6800

An industrial option that will keep you protected when paired with the right filters.

Where to Buy

$121* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Avon M50 Gas Mask

Avon M50

The preferred choice for the US Military, longer protection, and a comfortable seal make this the mask to beat.

Where to Buy

$349* at eBay

*at time of reviewing


The Masks We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several gas mask brands and types that we tested: 3M, Avon, Dräger, Honeywell, MIRA, MSA, older masks (M-45, M-40, MCU-2P, Israeli, GP-5, MP5, etc), and more. (We had A LOT of gas masks already on hand.)

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the what to look for section, with an explanation for each.

We did not consider any powered or supplied air options, although some of our selections allow those modifications. We’ll leave PAPR and SCBA for another round since they definitely have their place for preparedness considerations in oxygen-deficient environments.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a gas mask you swear by let us know down in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually, so we can always get it in the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best gas masks have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Durability
  4. Comfort
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find reliable gas masks that will keep you protected through a CBRN emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for truly dependable masks that you can trust with your life:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like gas masks shouldn’t blow out your budget. Having one is better than having none, but the same applies to other tools and gear you may need for an emergency. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you definitely don’t want to go the cheap route on a mask. If you are buying used- be skeptical of a mask’s seal and inspect it thoroughly before planning to use it in your kit. If you’re buying something brand new that is cheaper than our options- good luck trusting it with your life!

Still, you never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like masks. It’s better to diversify your tools and preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Effectiveness

A gas mask’s effectiveness is a combination of many factors, including the rubber material and thickness, lens material and thickness, canister type, airflow design, and even how well it fits.

Bromobutyl rubber is one of the best materials as it is resistant to blister agent chemical weapons, whereas many other types of rubbers are not (including silicone).

Polycarbonate lenses are pretty standard, and protective inserts can increase longevity and prevent scratching on these. Larger lenses can also increase your field of view, which is why industrial masks (6800) and aircrew masks (MCU-2P) opt for the large single lens.

The canister for a gas mask is one thing that varies and directly affects how effective your mask can be. 45mm NATO canisters are commonly found, and NIOSH filters for 3M masks are also very common. Both come with multiple options depending on which type of material you are trying to filter. Typically, you will want the maximum level of protection out of your canister to maximize the effectiveness of your mask.

While all masks offer some level of protection against viruses and radioactive particles when they are correctly worn, their effectiveness against chemical weapons can vary. (Learn more about the chemical weapon threat profile here.)

None of the masks we have selected will help you breathe in an oxygen-depleted environment, like an ammonia cloud, smoke, confined space, underwater, etc. Your mask will need further modifications with a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) or Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) to handle those scenarios.

Durability

Oils from our faces and hands, dust, hot and cold temperatures, and masks getting mashed up in the case all take a hard toll on a gas mask. The quality and construction of a mask can help it handle all of these, with the materials and thickness mattering most.

How you treat your mask also affects its durability. Don’t expose any mask to alcohol (cleaning wipes) or other harsh chemicals. Wash it with warm soapy water when you need to.

Comfort

Comfort is an under-rated aspect of a gas mask because people always seem to underestimate how long they will need to wear the mask. Some gas masks come in various sizes, and that can improve how comfortable a mask is (and make it fit properly!) Some even have the ability to swap out components, like nose cups.

The airflow capabilities of the canister can have a big effect on how comfortable you are in a mask. Restrictive canisters can make the mask hot and laborious to breathe through unless there are multiple canisters.

Versatility

All of our picks have accessories that you can get to add versatility to the mask, including (but not limited to):

  • extra canisters and/or different application canisters
  • carrying cases
  • lens protection (and covers for various applications)
  • voice emitters
  • mics for radios
  • glasses inserts
  • drinking straws w/ canteen conversions
  • hoods for overpressure
  • sized parts (nose cups)
  • replacement parts

Having the right combination of accessories with your mask will give you some added versatility and/or make the mask much more effective for your specific situation.


How to Use a Gas Mask

Using a gas mask properly is the most important consideration. Since the first World War, it has been understood that improper use, training, and discipline with gas masks are an issue. We’ve seen this with other masks as well, as recently as COVID-19. People assume masks are easy to wear and end up wearing them improperly with their noses hanging out. If you don’t wear a gas mask properly, the consequences can be deadly.

For starters- you will want a good seal. This means you will probably need to get rid of your beard, tighten the harness straps properly, and do a negative pressure fit check by covering the inlet valves and sharply inhaling inside the mask until it deforms.

We have a ton of information about gas masks, how to use them, and tips and tricks in our Ultimate Gas Mask Guide for anyone looking to do a deep dive or to find more information on a specific mask.


Who Needs a Gas Mask?

Whether or not you need a mask depends on the risk level you are willing to accept. You can find more about generalized risk in our TrueRisk Guide, which lays out the standard risks for most people in the United States. This is based on data, and generally accepted best practices for risk analysis.

If you aren’t looking to dive in too deep, gas masks are usually essential for people that fall into any of these categories:

  • proximity to a nuclear facility
  • proximity to a military facility

They are highly suggested for people that:

  • live in densely populated urban areas
  • live downwind (according to prevalent wind charts) to nuclear and military facilities

For everyone else- a gas mask is simply an upgrade from a standard filter mask given that your chances of encountering a CBRN threat or rapid viral spread are lower. However, most people fall into a category listed above.

Of course, you can always use masks for things beyond the threats above too- like concealing your face/identity or as a dust mask. Gas masks are more versatile than you may realize and warrant consideration for any prepper that can afford one.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best gas mask is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Faith, T. (2014). Behind the Gas Mask: The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in War and Peace. University of Illinois Press. (Source)

Fridlund, M. (2002). Keep Calm and Carry One: The Civilian Gas Mask Case and its Containment of British Emotions. Mattering Press. Pages 425-440. (Source)

Waitt, A. (1942). The Gas Mask: The Great Problem in Protection Is Training, Discipline, and Organization. The American Journal of Nursing. Volume 42, Issue 7, Pages 748-753. (Source)


The Final Word

Air is essential to survival, so you’ll need several ways to protect the air you breathe in a wide range of situations. Whether you are staying put to bug in or hitting the road to bug out- a gas mask should be a consideration for your survival kit. Certain situations, like proximity to a military base or nuclear facility, increase your need for a mask.

To go along with a solid gas mask, you should also consider a few other CBRN survival items:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the MIRA CM-6M gas mask is the best option given the value, effectiveness, durability, comfort, and versatility. If you pick up one of our suggested masks- make sure you try it out and get to know how to use it before an emergency. Don’t let your gear sit in your kit without becoming familiar with it.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Gas Mask for Prepping and Survival

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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