The world is slowly starting to re-opening to tourism, and many travel lovers are itching to get those passports stamped.
Whether that is a wise choice is open to interpretation, but one thing is for sure…
You won’t want to leave home without a mask.
It doesn’t matter if you believe they’re effective or not (FYI: they are), you’re pretty much guaranteed to find yourself in a situation where masks are mandatory.
So that begs the question…
What’s the best travel mask for coronavirus?
Well, after spending days combing the internet—learning more about masks than I ever wanted to know—I’ve concluded that an antimicrobial face mask for travel is the way to go.
In this article, we’re going to look at…
- What an antimicrobial mask is
- Why they’re better than ordinary masks
- The best antimicrobial travel masks for your next trip
Let’s get started.
What is an Antimicrobial Face Mask?
You might be wondering—why can’t I just use a regular mask.
Well, you can.
But here’s why an antimicrobial travel mask might be better…
Benefits of using an antimicrobial face mask for travel
▶ They are self-sanitizing (i.e. they help block bacteria and viruses)
▶ The fabric generally lasts longer (so you won’t have to replace it as much)
▶ They don’t smell as bad (meaning you’re more likely to wear it)
▶ They’re around the same price
Basically, the whole point of a mask is to be a barrier against “bad stuff”. Instead of the bad getting in (or out), it lands on the mask.
But if the bad stuff is on the mask and you adjust the mask with your hands, now it’s on your hands. From there, it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way into your body.
An antimicrobial mask helps solve this problem.
How Do Antimicrobial Face Masks Work?
There are two main types of antimicrobial face masks:
- Masks that use fabrics whose fibers have antimicrobial properties
- Masks that have an antimicrobial coating added to the surface
There are various types of antimicrobial face mask material and coatings, and each of them works in different ways.
But to keep things simple, let’s look at what “antimicrobial” actually means:
“Destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms and especially pathogenic microorganisms.”
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for bacteria or viruses to hang out on an antimicrobial fabric.
It just means the fabric is designed to make living conditions difficult and shorter-lived.
That said, all antimicrobial masks aren’t created equal. Different masks use different antimicrobial technologies (fabrics, treatments, etc.), and most antimicrobial agents only hinder bacteria growth. Not all antimicrobial agents will help block COVID-19, which is a virus.
That said, it’s safe to say that a mask with some kind of antimicrobial properties is better at eliminating “bad stuff” than one with zero antimicrobial properties.
And if they cost about the same, why not choose the option with less bad stuff?
WARNING: If you let your antimicrobial mask lull you into a false sense of security (e.g. assuming it’s automatically clean), it’ll do more harm than good. No matter which type of mask you choose, it will NEVER be a substitute for frequent hand washing and social distancing.
How to Choose the Best Antimicrobial Travel Mask
As I mentioned, antimicrobial masks are not created equal—especially when it comes to traveling.
Here are some things to consider when shopping for your travel face mask:
Comfort: You’ll likely wear your mask for extended periods while traveling. Make sure it’s super comfy. Look for adjustable ear loops, material that is easy to breathe through, and moisture-wicking fabric that isn’t too hot.
Protective material: Your mask should have multiple layers of tightly wound fabric. If you hold it up to the sun, little to no light should shine through.
Antimicrobial properties: Research the effectiveness and safety of the antimicrobial agents used in your mask (e.g. Triclosan is one you’ll probably want to avoid). Most target bacteria, but new fabric technology using zinc, copper oxides, and silver ions can destroy viruses as well (although their virus-killing application in masks remains up for debate).
Style: You definitely don’t want an ugly mask ruining all your epic travel photos. Think about your packing list and the colors you’re going to wear.
Filter pocket (optional): The ability to add an insertable carbon filter may increase the effectiveness of the mask, but your mask’s fit is more important. If your mask isn’t completely sealed, filters are pointless.
As you’ll soon see, you usually get what you pay for.
There are plenty of cheap antimicrobial masks to choose from. But if you want to tick all of the boxes above, it’ll cost a bit more.
Let’s look at some of your best options.
Best Antimicrobial Masks for Travelers
Breathe Healthy Masks
All Breathe Healthy masks are built with a three-layer system to filter out the allergens, dust, many types of bacteria, mold, dander, and sneeze droplets.
The inner layer is a comfortable polyester-nylon blend designed to wick moisture and regulate temperature (although with three layers, it’s not the most lightweight mask ever).
Each mask is treated with Aegis Microbe Shield, an antimicrobial coating described as a layer of swords that poke holes into the membranes of microorganisms that contact the mask surface.
There are many colors and designs available, and you can choose either adjustable ear loops or head straps.
This one meets all our criteria for a great antimicrobial travel mask.
The “Made in USA” Mask from Amazon
With one-day delivery, this is for those who want their antimicrobial mask for travel STAT.
It has a three-layer design: cotton on the inside, and two layers of moisture-wicking antimicrobial poly fabric on the outside.
In a way, this mask also offers built-in social distancing. With “Made in USA” printed in large letters, people are bound to keep their distance from you wherever you travel (kind of kidding, but kind of not).
The downside is It doesn’t offer adjustable ear loops. So if you have a big face, it won’t be as comfortable.
That said, with over 1000 4-star reviews on Amazon, they’re definitely doing something right.
Lastly, for every three you buy, they will donate one to US first responders.
Aerosilver AIR Antibacterial Face Mask
The Aerosilver AIR from Etsy is a super affordable antimicrobial mask with many color options.
The quick-drying outer layer of the Aerosilver contains (you guessed it) actual silver (Ag) components, which fights against bacteria and germs.
Nothing is mentioned about virus protection, but at least it’ll help keep your mask bacteria and odor-free.
And what more can you ask for from a mask this cheap?
You have to buy six to qualify for free shipping, which means you’ll have plenty of extras to share with fellow travelers in need.
(DISCOUNT: As if it weren’t affordable enough already, you’ll get an extra 10% off by entering PROJECTUNTETHERED at checkout).
CopperSAFE 2.0 Neck Gaitor
This antimicrobial neck gaitor is a great option for those who don’t like traditional masks.
It’s infused with copper, whose properties have been proven to fight against viruses.
From personal experience, I feel like neck gaiters are super handy to cover up when quickly popping in and out of public places. Since it’s on your neck, you don’t have to worry about carrying it around when you’re not wearing it.
However, I don’t know if I’d like them for flights or extended use. If they’re not tight enough, they start to slide down your face, forcing you to adjust them all the time.
It’s definitely worth having in your travel mask toolbox though.
Copper Compression Face Mask
One of the arguments against the effectiveness of using copper in masks is that in order for it to work, you can’t just sprinkle in a pinch of copper here and there.
This stylish copper-infused mask is made of 85% copper-infused nylon—one of the most copper-rich masks on the market.
Apart from the antimicrobial outter layer, it also has dual filter middle layers and a soft cotton inner layer.
And with adjustble ear loops and nose bridge, it’s super comfortable.
Luminora Face Mask
After trying on loads of different masks, the Luminora mask is by far the most lightweight. You can barely feel you have it on.
This is because it only has one layer of fabric. However, this one layer is woven so tightly that it is even water repellent (you can pour a little water inside, and it won’t leak through).
It’s also made with Luminology Technology fabric, which according to their website, has achieved 46% viral filtration efficiency in lab tests.
This mask would be a good option for extended use, because you almost forget you have it on.
Jaanuu “Scrubs” Face Mask
Jaanuu is a brand that normally makes antimicrobial scrubs for hospital workers, so they know a thing or two about fighting germs.
They’re masks aren’t the fanciest masks on this list, but they are the cheapest.
They come with soft 6-inch ear loops and in a variety of different colors.
Each mask is treated with Silvadur antimicrobial technology, the same technology used in their scrubs to help fight bacteria, mold, bad smells, and discoloration.
They’ve sold over a million masks (and donated a million more), so they must be doing something right.
Trew Antimicrobial Mask
TrewGear offers a stylish antimicrobial mask designed by experts in outdoor technical apparel in Oregon.
They’re designed to be light and stretchy—with a breathable polyester outer layer and an antimicrobial-treated cotton inner layer. No details are given about the type of antimicrobial treatment, though.
These energetic masks definitely aren’t low-key, so they’re best for those looking for bright colors.
TrewGear donates 50% of profits to the Oregon Community Recovery Fund.
Due to high demand, TrewGear masks take a few weeks to ship. But as the saying goes—good things come to those who wait!
Respokare Niosh N95 Respirator Mask
The Respokare is probably the BEST antimicrobial travel mask for those who want serious protection.
We’re talking on par with the N95 masks doctors use to treat patients (the ones us normal folk aren’t allowed to buy).
There are only three problems…
#1.) They’re less comfortable than the rest of this list
#2.) They’re more expensive
#3.) They’re not reusable
That means, as a traveler, the main reason you’d want to consider picking up a pack of these is if you want the absolute best protection possible on your flights.
After all, nobody wants to travel across the world, only to test positive on arrival.
Once you arrive safely to your destination, you can switch to a more comfortable mask.
Activated Carbon Face Mask Inserts
If you choose a mask with slots to add in extra filters, this 10-pack seems to be the most popular on Amazon (by far).
As the “bad stuff” builds up on the filters, it is recommended to change filters regularly—ideally every time you wash your mask (see washing tips in the FAQs).
Frequently Asked Questions
Antimicrobial masks should be washed with the same frequency as normal masks (don’t assume it’s impossible for germs to get on them). This depends on how frequently you use it, but washing it every night is a safe bet. Washing instructions depend on the fabric and antimicrobial treatment. While many can be machine washed, certain materials need to be hand-washed with non-allergenic laundry detergent.
Most antimicrobial materials are safe, although Triclosan is one you’ll want to avoid. In terms of protection, antimicrobial properties help keep the mask clean, but the most important safety factors are the tightness of the fabric and having a completely sealed fit.
Antimicrobial masks have properties built into them that fight against bacteria, germs, and mold. That means “bad stuff” doesn’t live as long on the fabric, the fabric lasts longer, and the fabric smells better. Some antimicrobial properties have also been shown to attack viruses.
Whether you use an antimicrobial mask or a normal mask—the most important factors are a no-space fit and tightly woven fabrics. Assuming those two conditions are met, antimicrobial masks are better than normal masks at killing bacteria, mold, and other germs that land on the surface of the mask.
Some antimicrobial agents such as zinc, copper oxides, and silver ions have been shown to kill viruses. But it’s still unknown how effect these agents work when used in masks.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).