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Review: the GORUCK face mask

Here in Texas, we’re still having a hard time getting reusable cloth masks of decent quality. My wife ordered some fancy-looking masks from Canada over a month ago, and they’ve yet to ship. I recently waited three weeks for some overpriced masks that fell apart on first use.

Luckily, more clothing makers and brands are introducing their own mask lines. GORUCK is the latest to throw its hat into the ring, with a new line of masks that are actually (as of this writing) in stock.

I’ve spent a week with these masks, using them with both myself and my family, and here’s the bottom line:

  • The GORUCK masks are comfortable to wear for long periods.
  • The build quality is very high, and they definitely stand out next to other reusable masks.
  • They won’t filter nearly as thoroughly as a properly fitted N95, but they cover your mouth and nose so closely that they work for most situations.
  • If I’m outside around a crowd, or in a larger space with better ventilation, then I wear the GORUCK masks.
  • If I’m going to spend time in a small, packed space, I still want an N95.
  • My kids love the masks because they make them look like little ninjas.
  • At $45 for a three-pack, these are cheaper than many inferior masks you might get online.
Our Pick
Face Mask with Filter Pocket

Face Mask with Filter Pocket

These masks come in a three pack, and for every purchase, Goruck donates N95s to people in need. We like them for hot days, but the gaps around the nose make us think N95s are still best for crowded, indoors areas.

Note: GORUCK provided a three-pack of masks for review. As always, our Prepared Promise means that the source of the product doesn’t impact our evaluation of it. Also, I ended up buying two more packs of these masks for myself with my own money.

Features and use

These masks look really slick. Because they’re not oversized or puffy—and they fit the face snugly—you don’t look like a giant dork in one. This may seem kind of frivolous, but it does matter if you’re asking people to wear this on their face every time they go out in public.

Big-time “ninja police” vibes. Not sure how I feel about that right now.

My kids love the “ninja” vibe these give off, and that makes it easier for me to get them into one when it’s time to head out.

My wife is a little more resistant, because she refuses to wear a mask that you have to tie behind your head. People with long hair seem to find it gets tangled in the behind-the-head ties. So I’m going to pick up some of these cord locks so that I can convert the behind-the-head ties to behind-the-ears loops.

Add-on
DYZD Plastic Cord Locks

DYZD Plastic Cord Locks

Available in multiple colors, these little spring-loaded cord locks are good for everything from paracord lashings to making your face mask easier to put on and take off.

I actually prefer the way the mask ties behind my head, because when I don’t need it I can untie the top ties and just let the mask hang down on my chest — it’s still held on by the bottom two ties.

I promise I was not going for a “License and registration, please” thing.

The mask design is dual-layered, with a slick outer material and a softer inner material. These nylon/polyester/spandex blend layers are sewn together to make the entire mask a giant pocket.

Outer material (right) vs. inner material (left)

You can fill that pocket with a filter medium of your choice, like the ubiquitous PM2.5 filters that everyone is selling now. Of course, the standard-issue PM2.5 inserts don’t actually fill the entire pocket, which is probably not ideal.

Luckily, GORUCK offers a printable template that you can use for cutting your own filter insert from a suitable material. (Learn more about the effectiveness of different DIY mask materials here.) I’m going to experiment with different inserts made from cotton sheeting and see what I come up with.

One possible mitigating factor of the filters not filling the entire mask is that the mask fits snugly across your face. So you’re very much breathing through the filter insert, because that insert is directly covering your nose and mouth. Still, I’d feel a little more comfortable if the filter insert covered more area.

The entire mask, including the ties, has some stretch to it. You can tighten it and it stays on your face pretty well.

The material is moisture wicking and fast drying, which makes the masks a lot more comfortable than the standard N95. I find that N95 masks start feeling stuffy and dank soon after you put them on, but the GORUCK mask stays comfortable.

The seams on the outside are double stitched, and in general the build quality of these made-in-the-USA masks is dramatically higher than any of the other masks I’ve seen. This looks and feels like a premium piece of workout gear.

The one problem I have with this mask is with the little bit of wire that’s inside the part that covers your nose. This wire can be shaped to fit the bridge of your nose, but in practice it’s not stiff enough to really hold that shape if you tie the mask tight enough. So there is no way to avoid air gaps along the side of your nose.

If I exhale into the mask and I can feel some of the air venting out each side of my nose, then I know there’s air coming in through that same hole. That one issue gives me a bit of pause, and is the main reason why I’m still sticking with a properly fitted N95 if I’m going to be inside a crowded space for any length of time.

My (possibly worthless) solution for the gap issue is that if I want to be sure I’m breathing in directly through the filter and not taking in any air through the top of the mask, I pucker my lips and breath through my mouth. The mask is close enough on my fact that puckering my lips makes a kind of o-ring seal where I’m inhaling directly through the filter medium.

This technique of sucking air directly through the filter is a bit annoying for long periods, and it may not even be working as well as it feels like it is. But it’s how I’m dealing with this issue until I figure out something better.

Conclusion

I liked the GORUCK masks so much that I ended up ordering two more three-packs of them on my own dime. I can definitely see using these long-term, and will start experimenting with different types of filter media for them.

Some of the masks I’ve ordered will go in my family’s bug-out bags, and I’m also giving one to each to my parents.

I’m fortunate enough to have a robust stash of N95s that I can wear in high-risk situations, like where I’m stuck indoors in a crowd for some amount of time. But if I’m outdoors, especially in the Texas heat, these masks really shine. They’re cool and comfortable, and the moisture-wicking material keeps my face from sweating and feeling stuffy.


  • 5 Comments

    • Trace

      Good review. I like the GORUCK company, and I think they make quality products.

      Questions:

      • How would it be with a medium length beard? (I know that a beard makes any seal more difficult.)
      • Do they tend to fog up glasses when you breath? (You commented the wire isn’t strong enough to shape to your nose.)
      • Would it be easy to replace the nose wire with something stronger?
      2 |
      • Jon StokesStaff Trace

        Hard to say on the beard issue. They fit pretty tight over the face, so you may actually be ok with one. I’m not certain, though.

        Yeah, you can get some fogging up action going on the glasses, depending on your face shape and how you have the mask set up. The wire doesn’t hold the shape enough around your nose to guarantee that this won’t be an issue.

        I don’t think it would be easy to replace the nose wire internally. But I have considered sewing another one on top of the current one. The fabric is high quality, and I think the sewing would work.

        However, I’m going to keep wearing them for a bit and see how I feel. I actually think that this thing may pull tight enough across the face holes that it’s just directly covering them enough to not make the gaps an issue. But still, I’d feel better with a stronger wire.

        3 |
      • Trace Trace

        Thanks. I probably pick some up.

        2 |
    • Cia

      I ordered a pack and will make inserts from 3M Filtrete room air purifier filters, cutting a sheet to the right size. It offers advanced filtration for bacteria, viruses, and allergens.

      3 |
      • Trace Cia

        That sounds like a good idea. Give us feed back when you do. Does it make it harder to breath through, odd smells, or any other issues?

        3 |