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As travel restrictions begin to ease up, you may be antsy to start booking some plane tickets or hopping on a train. But for all the travel essentials you’ll need to throw in your bag when you get back out there, one thing’s for sure—face masks are still a must-have.
If you’re fully vaccinated, then the CDC has given you the green light to travel safely within the U.S., but you’ll still need to mask up before you step on a flight. In fact, face masks are still required for everyone traveling “on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations,” according to the CDC.
Even while you’re indoors (like at an airport, or bus terminal), the CDC has recently updated their guidance, saying that to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, you should be wearing a mask indoors in public if you’re in an area of substantial or high transmission (yes, even if you’re all vaccinated up).
Got a long-haul flight, hours-long bus ride, or train to another state ahead of you? You don’t want a mask that will be uncomfortably sweaty while you’re in a tight space, or one that won’t protect you and others sitting near you (even if the risk of transmission is lowered on airplane cabins that circulate fresh air through HEPA filters).
From super-comfortable reusable face coverings, to protective N95 and KN95 masks, here are the best breathable masks for travel so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
What Kind of Face Mask is Best for Airplanes and Travel?
The best face masks for travel should keep you safe and secure, while being comfortable enough to wear for every leg of your journey, from check-in to baggage claim. They should be breathable too, so you won’t feel like you’re suffocated by the middle of your flight, when you can’t take off your protective mask.
Keep in mind most attractions and stores will require you to wear a mask too, so even if you’ve already landed and are playing tourist, you’ll still need to keep a good travel mask on hand. Here are a few important things to look for when shopping for the best travel mask for you.
Reusable vs. Disposable: Throughout your journey, your face mask is going to build up with sweat, dirt, and other particles you’ve been breathing in. Consider what’s going to be more convenient—if you’re going for disposable face masks, make sure you buy them in bulk a few weeks before your flight or train, and swap them out once you disembark. Reusable masks should be changed out daily, and washed after a particularly long leg of your journey.
Breathability: We’ve chosen masks made from ultra-breathable materials for this list, so you won’t feel suffocated, even on your longest cross-country flight. That being said, you should still always look for masks with a tight seal over the nose and mouth, especially if you’re buying disposable ones like blue medical masks.
Material: The most protective masks will have two or more layers of good-quality fabric like 100% cotton, or have professional-grade filtration. Be aware that certain kinds of masks are prohibited on some airlines, including masks with valves and vents (which protect you, but not those around you from your exhaled particles). The TSA has also stated that face shields and goggles are not replacements for an acceptable mask.
What Are the Best Face Masks for Travel?
Before you book your next trip, make sure you pick up one of these top-rated travel face masks, to keep you and others safe—even if you’re all vaccinated up.
1. BlueBear ProSport Nanotec Mask
This reusable face mask from Blue Bear was made with both breathability and comfort in mind. The ProSport Nanotec mask is lightweight, and made of hypoallergenic material that’s gentle on the skin, so you won’t feel stuffy in even the stalest plane cabin air. You’ll breathe a little easier too knowing their replaceable Nanotec Filters come with three layers of protection that lasts up to 12 hours at a time. Our first pick doesn’t sacrifice comfort for security either, and its contoured design and adjustable ear-loops will sit security until you get to your next destination.
2. VIDA KN95 Masks
VIDA’s KN95 Masks are FDA-registered and filter up to 95 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns or larger. While there are masks with superior filtration on this list, if you’re making a short trip, and care about environmental impact, than these KN95 masks are the way to go. Every time you order masks from VIDA, you’ll receive a prepaid return label so you can send back your used masks for recycling sustainability. These are also protective masks that don’t look so industrial, and come in a variety of colors. Right now, you can also get 30% off their selection of masks before your next trip with the promo code ROLLINGSTONE30.
3. är Big Logo Grey Self-Cleaning Face Mask
We’ve tested this mask before, and it’s one of our favorite reusable face masks for travel, thanks to the silky-smooth, lightweight inner texture you won’t feel like ripping off. The mask also remains breathable under the replaceable nanofilter, which offers three layers of protection. We like that you can safely keep it on for long stretches of time, since the nanofilter lasts for up to 40 hours of continuous wear before needing to be replaced, and a “ViralOff” coating reduces the time in between machine-washes. If sweating is your biggest concern while navigating airport crowds and packed-in buses, the mask also has “Eco Acqua Zero” technology that wicks excess moisture away.
4. KN95 Face Mask Protective Respirator
Standard N95 masks can get pricey fast, but these CDC-tested KN95 face masks are a great alternative if you’re going to be traveling amongst large crowds and want a similar level of protection. These five-layer KN95 face masks capture at least 95 perfect of airborne particles, and come with a secure nose wire you can adjust for a more accurate fit. The disposable masks come in a 25-pack, so you’ll never be caught without one in your bag.
5. Cremöly Face Mask
Don’t have time to wash your reusable mask in between every layover? Cremöly’s masks can be reused up to 60 times, and feature a skin-friendly cotton layer that makes it feel super light and breathable even after hours of wear. The adjustable straps also create a nice seal without feeling too suffocating. Coming in a variety of colorful prints and designs, you can customize these durable masks to fit your personal style.
6. Optrel P.AIR N95
Looking for something more heavy-duty, knowing you’re going to be stuck waiting in a terminal for a while? PurDefense offers a ton of medical-grade N95 and KN95 face mask options currently offered on its online shop. Along with head straps and nose clip for security, this N95 mask has a strong filter, but a more comfortable fit than some of the other non-reusable, hard-shell N95s on the market. Currently, they come in a pack of 40, but larger bulk orders are available.
7. Public Goods KN95 Face Mask
We like this protective KN95 face mask from Public Goods because they stay breathable while being well-fitted (especially if you’re a glasses-wearer). With their 10-pack, you’ll get enough masks to switch out on each leg of your journey, with each mask offering 95 percent filtration along with five layers of defense. Don’t spend your entire flight adjusting your mask and touching your face—these masks have a clip to make sure there’s no slipping and sliding down your nose.
8. Brave New Look Protective Face Mask (with PM2.5 Filter)
Sometimes you don’t want to root through your bag for another disposable mask, only to find that you’re all out—Brave New Look has you covered. Their CDC-approved non-medical masks, are not only reusable, but also come with a set of four PM2.5 filters, which can filter out particles and airborne contaminants. The mask itself is made of a lightweight cotton and spandex blend, which feels natural to breathe through, even with a filter slipped in to the pouch. You can also use the filter for up to one week, and the mask itself has enough comfort and stretch that you’ll want to wear it every day.
9. The Better Mask
Whether you’re just commuting, or traveling a long distance, the Better Mask was made for daily wear. The mask itself has three layers, including a built-in nanofiber filter that blocks airborne contaminants, and moisture wicking fabric that will keep you comfortable and protected when you travel. It’s secure without being restrictive when you’re on the go, with adjustable toggles that you can use to adjust how tight the mask fits over your ears and face. It also comes in various sizes, from kids to large, so anyone on your trip can wear them.
10. Outdoor Voices Adjustable Face Mask
Even though these masks come from activewear brand Outdoor Voices, doesn’t mean they’re just made for running or working out—anyone who has ever booked it to catch a flight will appreciate these double-layered, breathable face masks with adjustable straps, so you’ll never have to worry about a flimsy fit. Made from an 86% Polyester and 14% Spandex blend, not only are they comfortable, but they can hold up to hot, humid weather, or just a lot of sweat in general. This comes in a five-pack — enough to last you through a week of travel with minimal need to wash or reuse a mask.