Because of the global pandemic, the CDC in the US is now suggesting that people wear a mask or face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19. When the CDC put out its recommendations, I took it as an opportunity to shop small. I looked to the cottage hiking brands I love to find a mask, and was thrilled to find many options.
Here is a breakdown of the masks I have tried out over the last few months. I tested out these coverings while doing everyday activities, like going to the grocery story and walking around the neighborhood, and also while (responsibly socially distanced) section-hiking the Colorado Trail.
The Eco Option: Recap Masks
If you are looking for an eco-conscious mask, Recaps' masks are about as eco-friendly and grassroots as it gets. These masks are made from reclaimed materials, with retired lines from paragliders for the cinch cords.
Fit: Recycled paraglider lines are not elastic and the mask does not include an adjustable nose piece. The upper strap is adjustable with a moveable knot and the bottom straps are meant to be tied. These masks take a little fussing with to get the fit just right.
Things to note: Since these masks are one of a kind, there is a limited supply of each color. When the material is gone, it’s gone!
Most Adjustable (and stylish): High Tail Designs Masks
The High Tail Designs Masks have attractive pattern options and their logo is a rabbit wearing a mask.
I repeat: a RABBIT wearing a mask. Buy one — end of review.
Just kidding, but really, these masks win major points for being stylish. I get compliments every time I wear one and mask compliments are the height of 2020.
Fit: The straps on the High Tail Designs mask are meant to be tied at the top and bottom and have the perfect account of stretch. This gives you a ton of flexibility when it comes to fit and comfort. There is also an adjustable nose piece. If you have to wear a mask for hours on end, this is the one I would choose.
Things to note: Since the straps need to be tied, they can come untied just like a shoelace.
Beard Friendly: Hyperlite Masks
Do you have a beard? Then there is a really good chance you are going to like these Hyperlite masks. Two words: chin room.
In addition to the extra chin room, the masks are affordable, simple, and quick to put on with ear loops. If you are already tired of ties, you’ll appreciate the ease of ear loops. They come in packs of five and are perfect for stashing around so you won’t ever forget your mask (or at least forget it less...maybe...sometimes).
Fit: For someone who recently discovered they apparently have no chin (me) and no beard (also me), these masks run on the large size. But if you have a beard, or probably just an average size face, you are good to go. Even though the masks run large, the ear loops can be twisted to have a snugger fit. These masks also include an adjustable nose piece.
Things to note: The only color options are black and white and the minimum quantity that can be purchased is five. Bulk shoppers assemble!
Most Comfortable: Borealis Wool Mask
The Borealis mask is made with natural materials, most notably merino wool. This makes the mask feel thin (while still being double layered) and comfortable to wear against your skin all day. If you have ever tried merino wool undies, you already know how comfortable and breathable this material can be. It is also naturally sweat-wicking and good for hot days.
Fit: The mask fits my small face comfortably, has the perfect amount of stretch, and does not slip or fall down. The ear loops are not adjustable and it does not include an adjustable nose piece.
Things to note: This is the only mask on the list that uses an animal product (wool).
Bonus: Spend over $50 at Garage Grown Gear and get a Borealis mask FREE! Just add a mask to your cart and use the code FREEMASK at checkout. Limit one free mask per purchase. Note: the total cart amount must be more than $50 after the free mask code is entered.
The Active Choice: Give’r Infinity Neck Gait’r
The Give’r Neck Gait’r is my go-to covering for anything active. I love that the neck gaiter is multipurpose and is an item I already carry on my long hikes. Adding this to my walks, runs and day hikes was an easy change to make. Plus, it keeps the sun off my neck and the wind off my face.
Fit: Neck Gaiters do not have ear loops which means they can slide down or need more adjusting while wearing. But remember not to touch your face (you want to touch your face now don’t you? You’re welcome).
Things to note: There was recently an article released discussing the effectiveness of neck gaiters vs traditional masks. As things change day to day and new studies are released, I encourage you to do your own research and choose a face covering that works best for you.
Clear Shield/Extra Protection: Flowfold Shield
Not everyone can wear a traditional facemask – if you find yourself in this category but still would like to wear a face covering, the Flowfold shield is for you. The clear plastic shield and soft padded headband allow your mouth to be visible and uncovered while still providing a layer of protection.
This shield is also useful if you are looking to double your protection. It can be worn in conjunction with a facemask to provide a higher level of safety.
Fit: The headband is soft and adjustable and feels like wearing a hat.
Things to note: The CDC does not recommend wearing a face shield in lieu of a mask unless necessary. These shields are not allowed to be worn independent of a cloth covering on airplanes.
DIY: No Sew Bandana Mask
If you are looking for a way to make your own mask but do not have a sewing machine, you still can! Most hikers I know have access to a bandana and two hair ties – if you have these items you can make a no-cost facemask. I have included an instructional video on how to DIY your own mask.
Fit: The fit is adjustable (to some degree) based on the size of your bandana and the folds you make. However, since it is not sewn, the mask does tend to slide or fall down more than a mask with sewn-in ear loops.
Things to note: The multiple folds means this DIY mask is very thick and large. This means it is effective at reducing the transfer of droplets (is this really how we talk now?), but less comfortable for long-term use.
Get more than one face covering. I rarely tell people to get multiples of things because I believe in minimalism, but this is an exception. These coverings serve different purposes: I would suggest a cloth covering like the Boriellis, Hyperlite, or Hightail Designs mask for day-to-day use and a neck gaiter for outdoor activities. If you are in a high-risk group or in contact with high-risk individuals, the addition of the Flowfold shield would be a great option.
Overall, if you are choosing to put on one of these coverings, you have already made a good choice. Stay safe—you’re doing great!
Rachael DeLano aka “Rabbit” is a long-distance hiker and outdoor enthusiast residing in Colorado. She left behind a career in corporate America to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2016, and this journey ignited her passion for backpacking. After completing the Appalachian Trail she went on to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017 and the Continental Divide trail in 2018 completing the triple crown of hiking. Then in 2019, she went on to section hike portions of the AT, PCT, and CDT and pursued hiking abroad in England completing the Hadrian’s Wall walk.
Rabbit’s other passions include yoga, bike-packing, and caring for the two most adorable bunnies in the world. She is a certified yoga instructor and finds joy in teaching and practicing yoga. You can find out more about her adventures on Instagram @rabbithikes and on her website www.rabbithikes.com.