What Makes a Face Mask More or Less Effective? (Ep.112)


  • Alex & Kat’s backgrounds (3:34)
  • History of Outdoor Research (6:41)
  • Current state of PPE? (10:06)
  • Differences in protective coverings (11:50)
  • When to wear masks? (35:36)
  • The future of masks(41:34)
  • Predictions on this coming ski season (50:59)
  • What We’re Celebrating This Week (56:37)

Not all bikes or skis are equally good at all things — and the same goes for protective face masks. So we talked with Alex Lauver and Kat Schoewe of Outdoor Research about what type of masks are the most and least effective; how Outdoor Research’s work on medical-grade PPE has influenced their commercially available Essential Face Mask; we make some predictions about the upcoming ski season; and more.

Outdoor Research Essential Facemask
The Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask
What Makes a Face Mask More or Less Effective? (Ep.112), BLISTER
Jonathan Ellsworth on a flight, wearing the Outdoor Research Essential Facemask

7 comments on “What Makes a Face Mask More or Less Effective? (Ep.112)”

  1. Nice job! Absolutely loved your explanation of how your mask protects others and how those not wearing masks protect neither themselves or others. Question: approximately how many washings can your mask go through before the anti microbial finish is worn off? Are the paper filters intended to be changed daily? How much do the filters cost? How much is an OR mask? Have you considered dual elastic or tie straps instead of ear loops to ensure a better/closer fit?

    • Jody/3M – all this info is available from OR’s website…

      – 30 washings at 140F before the anti-microbial is ineffective
      – not intended for daily filter replacement, but depends on your usage an environment. OR projects every 5-7 days of use.
      – Mask is $20 with 3 filters and filters are $5 per 3 pack
      – I think the adjustable ear straps have provided a better fit and more comfortable and retained hold on my head, compared to other options.

      I’ve had the OR mask for about a month and really like it; it’s the best-fitting cloth mask I’ve tried. As most reviews state: the mask is pretty awesome except for how the filters move around and come out of the wings too easily. Sounds like some people have used velcro to keep the filters in place, but OR should redesign a better means.

      Jonathan – this was a great listen and really cool to hear about the R&D behind the scenes and application of technology. The .3 vs .1 micron filtering was crazy.

  2. Interesting talk but it should be noted that Buff has been making and selling a similar mask with a similar paper filter for some time now. Also, the Buff mask has straps around the head rather than around the ears which I much prefer.

  3. “The reports of the demise of the neck gaiter have been greatly exaggerated.”

    I still wear a buff outside while running. I never come in close contact with anyone, but I mainly wear it as a social contract to others also outside. If they are proven ineffective then I’ll wear a better mask. Anytime I walk into a place of business, I wear a more robust mask to protect myself and others.

  4. I enjoyed the podcast. Was motivated to buy a OR mask and went to the website. I was impressed with the mask, but want to understand how the filter is held in the mask. I hope it doesn’t just sit there as it will fall out easily when taking it off, unless you are really careful. The website has no info on putting the filter into or out of the mask. Can someone respond and/or update the website with this info please. Will be buying some if there is a method of holding the filter in place. If no method, please explain why it is not needed?

    • Hey, Scott – as I noted in the podcast, this has been my everyday mask for about two months now, and I can assure you, the filter does not fall out. It just slides in / slots in via inserts on the left and right side.

      It’s all very intuitive and simple. I would say that I probably re-adjust (slightly) the filter maybe once every couple of weeks, but I also stuff it into my pocket quite a bit, and am hardly careful with it.

      Long and short, the reason this didn’t come up is because it truly is a non-issue. You should have zero reservations about it.

  5. I realize this discussion is about the OR mask and I trust OR completely, I love their gear, but ultimately I don’t trust any mask that’s not certified/tested by FDA, NIH, or an international health org equivalency for flow rates, filtration, etc. If it’s a helmet, rain jacket, etc sure if it fails or doesn’t perform correctly than I only harm myself. Tbh the only mask I wear now are Soomlab-Korea Airqueen (bought directly from Korea). Korea has taken this pandemic far seriously and systematically than almost any other nation. They’re about $2.50, can be reused up to 10 days when treated with 70%alc., ergonomic so the bottom 1/3 chin portion hinges somewhat independently from the rest of the mask, and most importantly, FDA approved medical patent for use in US surgical settings. The filtration is slightly less than that of a N95. From what I understand any masks with behind the ear loop design will prevent it from meeting or exceeding N95 equivalency. Again, it’s not that I don’t trust OR. Their masks serve certain purposes, but to wear them in higher exposure areas (public areas, work, etc.) is simply taking a risk. By no means am I an expert on masks, but proffesionaly I’ve used SCBA in low oxygen environments, various PPEs, HEPA n-100s and and most importantly ski masks when its nuking pow. I try to explain to people that wearing masks post covid is like owning different shoes and boots for different scenarios, its not practical to wear slippers when walking the AT…

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