Gas Masks: Everything You Need To Know To Survive

gas mask guide

When it comes to SHTF, a gas mask is an essential preppers list item. Many people believe that gas masks are overkill in terms of prioritizing survival items. There is no doubt that food, water, and ammo are the most essential items. But the ability to provide gas masks for your family during a major disaster (think Yellowstone blowing, a nuclear meltdown, or contaminated air events) is incredibly beneficial and could save lives.

This gas masks guide will teach you everything you need to know about gas mask history, benefits, usage, and purchasing.

History to Purchasing Appropriate Gas Masks for your Entire Family

In the 21st century, we are preparing for a multitude of potential issues including: civil war, an attack from the middle east or Russia, and are consistently dealing with earthquakes and hurricane season is causing serious damage—not just coastal areas, but far inland too! Many wildfires are also damaging west coast US areas.

Whether you believe in prepping for disasters or not, having some understanding of breathing tools is essential. That way when you’re ready, you will have a bit of knowledge to go on when purchasing. If a chemical blast or other debris fills United States air, you may require a gas mask just to continue breathing safely.

There are a variety of different styles out there, some are of course better than others. There are those that are cheaply priced and therefor, cheaply made. In the event of a crisis, it is always best to pay that little bit extra for higher quality product. Some are as cheap as 25.00 (usually not for preppers) and some over well over $350s, usually the best of the best. But, many are still good ones to stock up on and start at $50 to 60 or more.

But, first, a history lesson on gas masks and what they were used for in the past.

The Development of Breathing Apparatuses and Gas Masks

The invention of the gas mask has been a positive tool for a variety of occupations. People work in manufacturing, painting, military, cleaning, and other industries that breathing in fumes, smoke, chemicals or other toxic air particles that can cause harm have used them for protection purposes for decades.

Masks Developed Initially For Preventing:

  • Smoke
  • Water
  • Gases
  • Coal debris
  • Chlorine Gas/Chemical warfare
  • Dust

From 1800s to Present Day: Breathing Mask Creation and Use

The Deane brothers John and Charles, in 1823, made a specialized mask for firefighter. Later on, they used their model and made some changes for workers in the underwater and diving profession. During that time, another inventor Augustus Siebe developed a suit with a specialized helmet, also intended for divers.

  • Early 1820s diving masks and gear started to develop

Respirators were also being developed so the air quality would be even better for people in a variety of fields to assist with better breathing during tough situations. Siebe started his own company called Siebe Gorman and Co. and put defense respirators on the market and later there were more and more competitors such as Lewis Haslett’s 1849 invention of the Inhaler/Lung protector which purified the air even better to filter out the dust from the air.

Early gas mask filters and devices were very simple:

  • Early air filters include simple devices were a soaked handkerchief held over the nose and mouth.
  • The devices evolved when hoods were worn over the head; soaked with protective chemicals
  • Later on, goggles were used to protect eyes
  • Later filters drums were added and made better
  • Mid 1800s, Scotsman inventor, John Stenhouse makes mask filtration device
  • 1860 French inventors, Rouquayrol and Denayrouze create mask for miners
  • 1871 British inventor, John Tyndall, makes apparatus for firemen and gas fumes
  • 1874 Sam Barton makes mask for toxins, smoke and other elements
  • 1914, American, Garrett Morgan invents Morgan Safety Hood smoke protector and gas mask
  • As time went, many other developments and modifications were made and the gear became better for breathing
  • Specialized carbon monoxide respirator were developed
  • The smoke helmet was made by Cluny Macpherson; used for gas and smoke
  • The British designed the small box respirator; used for gas and chemicals

Whether you think you need a gas mask or not if something happens where you cannot breathe, you’ll need a proper gas or other kind of mask apparatus over your face to breathe better air—and not just for a chemical attack. Initial use for was for war, jobs involving smoke, fumes, and under water divers. Now, we are experiencing more natural disasters and might need them for nuclear attacks. The world is a scary place and prepping lists are growing.

If you are still intrigued and maybe should add gas masks to your list, more detailed information on some of the best quality gas masks for your money continues below.

What is a Gas Mask and How Can They Save You

All gas masks are designed to help filter oxygen from harmful substances such as dust, debris, and chemicals. They are tools that can help but they aren’t a complete cure. You may still be exposed to some extent of the harmful elements in the air. Unless you are wearing an astronaut space suit you simply cannot be contained from everything, but you do want a full head, face gas mask.

There are variety of full head face masks on the market right now and due to the increase of preppers around the globe it can be hard to narrow down which are best.

Reasons For Wearing a Prepper Gas Mask:

  • Nuclear meltdown, or attack
  • Biological
  • Radiological agents
  • Chemicals
  • General debris in the air
  • Dirt; Dust
  • Paint Fumes
  • Mold toxins

All Gas Masks Aren’t the Same; Check Specifics Before Buying

When you’re ready to buy a gas mask for each family member make sure you select the most beneficial ones that will work when the time is needed to use them. This may sound simple and ridiculous, but so many are on the market and there are items to check, or look for to make sure it’s really a legitimate gas mask.

  • It should be rated for chemical use and riot control agents
  • Should be designated by the CBA/RCA and have a rating
  • NBC is for chemical, nuclear or biological agents
  • Call manufacturer to better understand specifics of any models
  • Check for third party testing information
  • NIOSH rating usually doesn’t mean anything other than it’s approved for certain work environments, preppers shouldn’t buy this kind, it’s not a real gas mask

Gas masks that are cheap are usually because they might not be a full-mask on only be a half mask. Some stores sell surplus, and they could contain old filters. Most real full headed gas masks do use charcoal filters. These can be expensive to replace.

There are two basic types of Gas Masks

There are air purifying respirators, but these only cover your nose and mouth. This kind leaves your eyes exposed. So, during some sort of attack, you probably want more protection than this. A full face mask with an air filtration feature is much more ideal.

Some are rubber helmets, some aluminum, etc. You need to read on which ones are good for chemicals in the air. Some are upgraded doctor’s masks or just for doing pesticides. Some of these chemical fume ones are just fine for disaster situations and chemicals or nuclear blasts.

There are Two Types of Gas Masks:

  • Air purifying respirator (usually only for breathing – preppers need full head masks)
  • Full face gas mask with full vision area and one or two filters

Filter on Gas Masks need to do the following:

  • Particle Filtration
  • Chemical absorption
  • Chemical reaction to neutralize other chemicals

Activated Charcoal for a Chemical or Nuclear Attack

Charcoal is a porous substance that chemically attracts any harmful gases or liquid vapors but, it won’t grab everything. The activated charcoal will absorb some chemical agents that you shouldn’t breathe in; the dangerous ones.

A good filter uses chemical reactions to neutralize when you breathe in. This is a very effective way of defending against one specific chemical agent. You must make sure the respirator has the correct counteractive chemical.

Potential Issues and things to be aware of with sight, filters needed, and surplus deals

  • Make sure you can see clearly
  • Make sure filters in ones you purchase aren’t expired
  • Always buy new, and extra filters, replace when needed
  • Make sure they are still rated for different treats
  • Filters can be expensive 40-50 dollars for replacements, depends on brands and quality
  • Make sure if someone wears glasses, you accommodate this, not all do!

Selected Gas Masks for Preppers and Pet and Baby Specialized Enclosures

The Drager 6300 X –plore Tactical Gas Mask

This brand is outstanding and has several models and equipment for preppers. The mask is a tactical gas mask. It has great vision and is hypo allergenic material and is non-fog. It has a 5 point harness system. The rd 40 thread is for use for many different kinds of filters.

Price: $99.00

Company Site:

Purchase Link

The Holulo Safety Respirator

This mask is great for people who live in areas of the west coast and Hawaii, hence the name of the company. These masks can prevent volcanic ash and prevent some people living in the area from being harmed by toxic gases from volcanic ash. It features a safety respirator, safety protective suit, welding helmet, safety goggles, safety locks, magnifier, hand tools and so on.

Also, protection from organic gases and vapors, chlorine benzene, acetone, alcohols, anilines, carbon dioxide, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, methyl bromide, methyl chloride, chloropicrin;

Price: $66.99


Purchase Link

3M FR-7800B Rubber Respirator Gas Mask

This is a top tier model gas mask and respirator. It features a unique double flange face sealing surface that enhances fit and protection and contains a speaking diaphragm that improves voice amplification and clarity. This is one for those who can spend anything on the best of the best.

It comes in three sizes to accommodate just about any adult. It is usually used for law enforcement, fire, emergency response and medical environments. It is CBRN approved and designed for durability and protection Silicone face piece. This is one everyone should have, but everyone cannot afford.

Price: Between $319.25 – $498.59

Purchase Link

The Israeli Rubber Respirator Mask

This is what most of us think about due to video games and moves. This gas mask has a Rubber Respirator Mask. It is NBC approved and provides the protection with a premium Aluminum Mask and a 40mm FILTER Canister for Industrial use.

It is for chemical handling Painting, Welding, Prepping, and Emergency Preparedness. There is also a hydration port for drinking. This is a separate feature you need to purchase any attachments, like with any filters for all masks. It includes one extra filter, premium Kyng aluminum filter.

Price: $28.87

Purchase Link

PD-100 Full Face Organic Vapor Respirator

This gas mask comes with a full manufacturer warranty and is ASTM Certified. They require two filters and is a double N95 Activated Charcoal Air filter. They provide great eye protection and is an industrial grade quality. It cannot however be worn with glasses. If you have contacts on this would be best, but if glasses are absolutely needed, this would not be good for those individuals.

This is a multipurpose mask. It is a perfect mask for working with chemicals and other toxic substances. It can help protect against pesticides, other chemicals, pandemic, and environment issues.

Price: $59.97

Purchase Link

M15 Rubber Respirator Mask

This gas mask and respirator is good for NBC Protection. They can be used for industrial Use, Chemical Handling, Painting, Welding, and for prepping too. They have NBC Protection and are a good one to be prepared for an emergency. It is a full head Gas Mask.

It can fit any standard 40mm Nato Filter (40rd) gas canister. It also is good for most head sizes and you can adjust the straps to fit all sizes. The visibility is good and the goggles are made from scratch-resistant polycarbonate lens. It can prevent you from inhaling fumes from paint, sand, dust, cleaning, smoke, tear gas and grinding fume protection.

Price: $49.90

Purchase Link

Canine/Pet and Baby Gas Respirator Enclosures; Instead of Masks

During both world wars, the military used gas masks for military dogs. However, it is proving to be difficult to find a company who specifically makes them for dogs. If you take a look at military pictures with German Shepard’s wearing the devices, they are longer to accommodate their snout. This gas mask looks like it could very well fit a canine, but again it depends on size.

Purchase Link

Enclosures for dog crates to filter air during an attack:


The website above also has enclosures with filters for babies lying in a carrier. These enclosures for dogs and babies are probably the best idea, as it might be bad to strap a mask on a child. Also, dogs have issues and go insane with cones on their head. I feel like this kind of enclosure is probably best for most dogs, cats, or other pets you have living with you.

DIY Gas Masks: How to Make An Emergency Friendly One

You can also do your own filtration breathing device or a DIY gas mask for emergencies. You cannot do this in 5 minutes, and will need to make sure you have some items to put it together to get any benefit. Here are the items you would need. Wiki How shows a good demonstration, Step by Step. How much you need of everything below all depends how many DIY masks you’re going to make.

Wiki How link

Items Needed for DIY Mask:

  • Cleaned out soda bottles (2 needed per mask)
  • Activated charcoal (usually comes in can or large jug from store)
  • Clean socks
  • Cotton balls
  • Regular mouth covers/masks (like for painting, check a large pack)
  • Flexible tubing
  • Duck take roll or two
  • Clean, new box cutter

Why Everyone Should Own A Gas Mask

In a time of crisis when the air is filled with debris, and many times you might not know what exactly is in the air after an attack or natural disaster, you will want a special breathing device for everyone in your family.

During this kind of problem, the atmosphere won’t vanish and not all the time would the air be completely non-breathable. Non-breathable air depends on the toxins involved and the intensity of the concentration. But, you may not have time to make all this determination. So, getting the best possible mask for any condition, or having another option for a less heavy duty, and expensive filter system on your mask would be best.

With that being said, if the air is highly concentrated and toxic a few breathes could kill you. You can only hold your breath so long if the air is filled with debris and toxic air.

Important Information: Using Gas Masks in Event of Emergencies

No gas mask is the same. Some companies are better than others. Always make sure it properly fits; easier to find for adult gas masks. Be sure if you have children, they have theirs on right or they could suffocate.

Get the proper training to place them correctly on yourself or family members, so during an emergency you don’t panic and put them on wrong. Seems silly to have to say this, but it can happen. You don’t need it to fail on you or your child during a real threat situation.

Also, make sure more than one adult knows how to place them on everyone. Make sure they aren’t expired-the filters. Make sure they are real gas masks. Make sure they aren’t going to fog up and be useless, you need to see correctly out of them too, not just breath cleaner air.

You should also do training exercises with family, especially if someone is claustrophobic. This way, your child or another adult family member doesn’t remove the gas mask too early or do something stupid.

Understand placement on head, fogging issues, and more:

  • Proper fitting of gas mask on face, especially if you have kids
  • Train on how to place, and use
  • Fogging issues with eye area on gas mask
  • Make sure you have a certified gas mask for various kinds of chemical disasters
  • Claustrophobic issues in your family?
  • Improper use can be fatal; know placement and adjustments for each family member

Jump Suits Might Be Needed As Well

Remember, gas and other toxins in the air affect breathing clean air, but they also can affect the skin. Yes, we need masks, but many times a special jumpsuit may be in order. Also, look into these in addition to understanding issues with masks and potential hazards that may come with using them for children or adults who might be afraid. Doing family or neighborhood drills might be a good idea, especially is everyone is prepper-friendly.

Are Chemicals Really In The Air?

Buy a chemical detection kit, just in case could be a good idea before putting a mask on and using up filters unnecessarily. If you get two different grades of gas masks you probably wont need this but it can help. If you have the money, it would be wise to get a chemical detection kits. This way you can know for sure what mask you should put on in an attack or natural threat to the air. You want to know what you’re heading into and having one could help save supplies and lives. Again there are prices in a range as well.

Gas Masks do have expiration dates, just like canned Food Goods

It would be nice if gas masks worked like freeze dried foods but they unfortunately don’t. They do expire and have a shelf life, including the liters you purchase for them. Much like the charcoal filters used for water filtration systems and containers you keep cold in your refrigerator. Also, be sure to have seals on masks that come with filters and make sure you know how long they last. You may need to replace filters every so often.Drinking Water during Disasters with Gas Mask On

Some masks don’t allow for drinking. I have included one that does. There are different brands that offer this, but the one I have included is the Israeli Respirator Gas Mask.


There are a number of reasons to have gas masks but the ultimate one is to stay alive and have clear lungs so you can live. Breathing is essential. Shows on TV indicate some families living near nuclear plants and other chemical waste facilities around the US have gas masks already because of their proximity of their home to these locations. Others have them just in case the US gets hit with missiles, gases, biological weapons or they just generally are grabbing some for any prepping purpose.

You may not need the most expensive one, and not necessarily the 300-400 dollar one I recommended, but don’t cheap out either.

Be sure to understand the best filters for your price range, and how often they need to be changed. Filters can get expensive. Make sure appropriate gas masks or you have decent filtration devices. To make sure you buy the right gas mask for survival and do your homework.

Remember, do some investigation on quality of the devices:

  • Always call the manufacturer
  • Ask about third party testing: was it done?
  • Customer reviews can help, but never rely on these alone
  • Ask other preppers in communities online Facebook or people in surplus or camping/outdoor survival stores

Whether you’re a prepper or just looking for reliable protection, investing in a specialized gas mask could save your life.

Author: Meredith Iager

Meredith has 13 years of writing experience online and in newspapers and studied journalism at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. Over the years, she has contributed entertainment articles and reviews to various sites including and

Since 2010, she has focused on AMA and integrative health and wellness content for,, and a variety of private clients. She is an avid supporter of being prepared when SHTF and growing your own food, and is pro federal legalization of marijuana.

In addition to writing, she does transcription, researches on health constantly, and is an avid oil and acrylic painter. You can check out her paintings and older articles here: Meredith_A_Iager on HubPages | Follow Meredith on Instagram

Please visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date COVID-19 information.

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