What is the Best Face Mask for Hikers?

One positive thing that has come from this pandemic is that more and more people are venturing outdoors for exercise and mental wellbeing. I’m hopeful that this creates a new wave of outdoor adventurers! But, as more people head out into nature, you may find the trails a little crowded these days, making it difficult to social distance and truly enjoy the great outdoors.

Whether or not you wear a mask while hiking is completely your choice (unless there’s a local mandate requiring them). I am not trying to convince you one way or the other. For those that prefer to wear one, these are the best face masks for hikers!

Text: Best Face Masks for Hikers! Stay safe & healthy on crowded trails.
Image: A hand is on the left side of the frame, holding a white face mask by the ear loop. the background is blurred but green and a hint of sunshine from the top right corner.

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Why Do I Wear a Mask While Hiking?

While hiking recently in the Badlands and here in Minnesota, I’ve found myself on some crowded and narrow trails. I was surprised by how few people were wearing masks in these situations, but also know that everyone has to make their own choices. For my own safety, I can only control my own actions, so I choose to have a mask with me when I go hiking.

In some cases, I’ve turned around in search of a less crowded trail so that I can more comfortably social distance and enjoy the solitude of nature. In other cases, I’ve continued on with my hike as planned and was thankful to have a mask with me.

Do I wear my mask the entire time I’m hiking? No. In uncrowded sections of a trail where social distancing is possible, I remove my mask or pull it down so I can breathe freely. 

Whether you’re new to hiking or an experienced hiker, learn more about hiking etiquette and kindness on the trail!

Two face masks rest on top of each on wooden planks. The masks have pink, green and gray floral design and black ear straps. The best face mask for hikers has 3 layers of fabric but is still breathable and comfortable.
Face masks come in handy while passing others on the trail or in crowded sections of the trail.

Best Face Mask for Hikers: What To Look For

It seems like practically everyone is selling face masks right now, making it nearly impossible to decide which to buy. For hiking, there are three main things to look for in a face mask: breathability of the material, effectiveness of design, and ease of taking it off/ on.

Remember, a face mask is not a replacement for social distancing.

1 | Breathability of material

Let’s be real, hiking is a workout and being able to breathe as freely as possible is important. Aside from common sense (those cute pleather and sequined designs are not breathable), I primarily rely on the reviews of other athletes and hikers when determining whether a specific mask might be breathable.

2 | Ease of taking it off and on

Most of the time while hiking, a face mask won’t be necessary so being able to easily take it off and on is helpful. Face masks that rest around your neck, instead of around your ears, are great for hikers because you can keep your hands free.

3 | Effectiveness of design

In a study comparing multiple different types of fabrics and designs, high thread count cotton performed the best at filtering droplets and particles that could transmit coronavirus (Forbes). However, layered combinations of different materials were even more effective. Look for layers of materials such as cotton/ silk, cotton/ chiffon, and cotton/ flannel for the greatest effectiveness.

According to the World Health Organization, ideally face masks should have three layers of material to increase effectiveness (Verywell Health). 

Pro Tip: Considering buying a mask with a valve on it? You may want to reconsider! A number of cities are banning these masks because the valves allow air and droplets in your breath to escape. They do not reduce the spread of COVID19. 

Find the Best Face Mask for Hikers

Diop | Website

This Black-owned, Detroit-based company has beautifully made products inspired by the owners experiences as first-generation American. With each face mask purchase, they donate a portion of their proceeds to support restaurants, emergency and healthcare workers and the most vulnerable communities in Detroit. 

Diop’s two strap design goes around the head instead of the ears, making them comfortable and snug. All of their masks have three layers of woven cloth. 

Cost: $15/ mask

Athleta | Website

Athleta has two different mask designs but only one that I recommend for hikers.

Recommended! The Everyday Non-Medical Masks come in a 5-pack and have three layers of fabric, including polyester/spandex and a cotton liner. They come with a bendable metal nose strip and adjustable ear straps. 

Cost: $30 (for 5) 

Not recommended! Unfortunately, the Made to Move Masks don’t live up to their intent. I really like the design of the interchangeable head strap and adjustable straps. However, the seam down the center of the mask, the fit and the breathability just don’t work well for hikers. With only two layers of fabric and a higher cost compared to the Everyday Masks, I would give these a pass. 

Cost: $25 (for 3) 

Blue Disposable Masks | Purchase

In all of my research and personal experience with different masks, blue disposable masks are by the most recommended by athletes and hikers for breathability. The biggest drawback is the environmental impact of them being disposable and not reusable.

With a three layer design made with a combination of fabrics, these meet the CDC recommendations for being effective while also being lightweight and functional. Look for those with a bendable nose strip to ensure a great fit.

Cost: Varies, around $17/ 100 masks

Carbon 38 | Website

With three layers made of Nylon/ Elastane, polyester and cotton, Carbon 38 has an effective design with comfortable features. The ear straps and nosepiece are adjustable, so you can customize the fit. Also, the materials are antibacterial and fast-drying. These are offered as a two-pack with a bonus laundry bag for each machine-washing. 

Pro Tip: There are small and large sizes available so pay attention when purchasing.

Cost: $29 (for 2)

Skida | Website

Skida offers one of the best face masks for hikers. They’ve consulted with doctors and other professionals to make sure their two layer poly-Lycra material and tie design is both breathable and effective at reducing the spread of coronavirus . Instead of ear loops, Skida face masks tie behind your head so you can easily custom fit them!

Pro Tip: Skida also offers the “tour” which is similar to a buff or headband. While the designs are beautiful, they appear to be a single layer of fabric and not intended to reduce the risk of coronavirus. 

Cost: $22/ mask

Masqd | Website

The Ultimate Sports Mask offered by Masqd includes three layers of protection plus a filter pocket. The materials are super breathable, including cotton and Lycra. With an adjustable nose clip and ear loops, hikers can customize the fit!

Pro Tip: Masqd has loads of cute designs for masks but not all of them have three layers of fabric. The Ultimate Sports Mask is specifically designed for more heavy activity.

Cost: $28/ mask

Blackstrap | Website

The Civil Mask by Blackstrap has two breathable layers of up-cycled fabric, including a tightly woven outer shell and a breathable mesh liner. These are a one-size-fits-most design with non-adjustable ear straps, so these won’t work for everyone. 

For each mask purchased, Blackstrap donates one to those in need through their mask donation program. Since April 1st, they’ve donated over 50,000 masks. If you know of an individual or organization in need of masks, they even have a donation request form. They also have a cool Park Crew Project where they partner with Park Crews around North America to support their efforts and refine their designs.

Cost: $16/ mask

Vida | Website

The Protective Mask by Vida has two layers of 100% cotton, space for an optional filter, adjustable ear straps and an embedded nosepiece so you can customize the fit. Every mask comes with a multi-layer filter that can be used for a full week. Additional filters are available to purchase on their website.

Cost: $10/ mask (bundles available for reduced price)

Under Armour | Website – On Backorder

The UA SPORTSMASK has consistently been on backorder since it’s launch. The actual reviews, though, are pretty mixed. This mask is made of three-layers, including polyester, polyurethane, and nylon/ spandex. A few unique features of this mask are the structured design to keep it away from your mouth as you inhale and exhale, plus a water-resistant outer shell. 

The most common complaints are that they run large and the ear loops stretch, causing the mask to no longer fit. These come in a number of sizes, so pay special attention to the size chart and, if in doubt, choose a smaller size.

Cost: $30/ mask

Popular, But Less Effective Face Masks for Hikers

Some of the most commonly recommended masks for hikers actually may not be particularly effective as it relates to COVID-19. They certainly offer more protection than nothing, but most of these have a single layer of stretchy fabric which can easily let particles and droplets through.

Wildly Goods Gaiter | Website

Wildly Good Coolmax Neck Gaiters: 2 for $30 with promo code WILDLYGAITER. Coupon Code: WILDLYGAITER

While these are the most commonly recommended among hikers, most buffs are just a single layer of fabric which does little to reduce the risk of transmission. That being said, buffs are long enough that you could easily double one over to make two layers. Buffs or gaiters are super convenient as they rest around your neck so you can easily pull it up and down as needed on the trail.

Wildly Goods offers moisture-wicking, breathable lightweight gaiters that are long enough to fold over for extra protection.

Copper Fit Guardwell Face Protector | Purchase

This was frequently recommended among hikers I spoke to primarily because it does not block their airways when breathing. Some also commented that it stayed in place without being too tight. The copper-infused fabric has anti-microbial properties and reduces odors. 

Again, though, this is a single layer of stretchy fabric that has minimal effectiveness on reducing airborne viral transmission. 

Which is the Best Face Mask for Hikers?

It really comes down to personal preference. For the greatest protection, look for three layers of fabric and a snug fit. If you want some protection but more comfort and ease of use, a buff or gaiter may be best. The good news is that there are lots of options so there’s truly something that will work for everyone.

Do you have a mask you love to hike in that didn’t make my list? Send me a note and let me know!

Related content to read next:

Day Hike Packing List: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

Car Camping 101

How Not to Get Eaten Alive by Mosquitoes and Ticks (for Hikers!)

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Text: Best Face Masks to Stay Safe on Crowded Trails for Hikers and Adventurers!
Image: Woman is hiking in turquoise shorts and a neon yellow top with a backpack, face mask and hiking poles. She's hiking a rocky mountain with mountains and blue sky in the distance behind her.
Text: Best Face Masks for Hikers! Stay safe & healthy on crowded trails.
Image: A hand is on the left side of the frame, holding a white face mask by the ear loop. the background is blurred but green and a hint of sunshine from the top right corner.

9 thoughts on “What is the Best Face Mask for Hikers?

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    That sounds so refreshing, Anne! I do something similar with a handkerchief tied to my wrist – will have to try this with a gaiter this summer. We have so many lakes here in Minnesota that there’s always a cold body of water nearby 🙂

  2. Anne Betts says:

    Thank you for so many useful recommendations. On the subject of neck gaiters, in pre-pandemic days, I was to discover that a neck gaiter was an indispensable item. We were a small group on a cycling trip in Cambodia and these were used for sun and dust protection. There was an ice box in our support van for canned and bottled drinks and on breaks, we’d dip them in the icy water and use them to cool off. Sheer pleasure!!

  3. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks, Karen! Glad you’re seeing more mask wearing on hiking trails, particularly if they’re crowded. I agree – breathability is important! So far, the Athleta and disposable ones have been the most breathable for me on the trail. It makes a huge different when they’re designed to help you breathe!

  4. This Big Wild World says:

    Yeah, I understand! These masks are much more breathable than the ones I was using before so they aren’t uncomfortable to hike in. But, glad to hear you’ve got trails nearby where you can avoid other people 🙂

  5. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks, Tara! Glad you are enjoying your Skida mask and that it seems to be working for you on the trail!

  6. Karen says:

    This is a very relevant, comprehensive review of the facemask options. I do see more people wearing them on hikes these days so that’s good. I wish I could find one that wasn’t so hot as well as breathable.

  7. Tranquil Trekker says:

    This is helpful info to be sure! I can’t imagine hiking with a mask on, I struggle with the heat enough as it is. Fortunately there are plenty of trails in the Black Hills and Wyoming where you can avoid other people. 🙂

  8. Tara says:

    Awesome post. I have the Skida mask. Love it! They are made in Vermont. The trails aren’t too bad here, although I don’t hike on the weekends, which makes a huge difference. I keep my mask in my pocket and put it on if I can’t step far enough off the trail.

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