Quality/Ease of Use: 19/20
At this stage in the game, I've gone through my share of masks, from flimsy cloth ones to real-deal respirators. And while I've settled on a washable go-to mask for walking around outside or coming and going from my building, I hadn't landed on a mask that I felt really truly safe wearing in riskier situations (indoors, flying, elevators, etc.) and comfortable. Now, by comfortable I don't mean when you first put it on and wear it for three minutes to grab your delivery. I mean it's comfortable for hours. It doesn't hurt your ears, fog your glasses, suction into your mouth when you inhale, blow off your face when you exhale or slide down your head when you do anything else. That is, until I ordered these bad boy duck masks from Amazon.
Now, are they attractive? Absolutely not. Are they good-hair-day friendly? Nope. Are they cool? What do you think? No, these Kimtech N95 Pouch Respirators are the nerds of the tech gear world. While other masks might be varsity football players, these are the presidents of the chess club. They're not cool, but they're smart as hell. Of course, they're on the NIOSH-approved list (TC No. 84A-9042) because they're over-achievers like that. But best of all, they're available on Amazon Prime.
Here's why I love these masks: Again, they're NIOSH-approved N95s, and considering the latest CDC recommendations on masks and Omicron, I'd rather play it safe (and ugly) then sick (and chic). (Reminder: Per the health organization, “When worn consistently and properly," N95 respirators approved by NIOSH, “provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19.”) And they're seriously comfortable. The duck bill design might not be aesthetically compelling, but it geometrically increases the mask's functionality. The straps are thicker and wrap around the back of your head instead of pinching your ears. While masks that wrap around your head aren't necessarily the most convenient for slipping on and off—or for looking relatively normal—I have flown cross-country wearing one of these and the straps help the mask stay firmly intact no matter what you're doing.
I like to put my hair in a ponytail or bun and run the straps under my hair, so I can adjust it without taking off the mask entirely.
When I ordered a set of 50 from Amazon, the price was $42. However, as of publication date, it appears the price jumped to $56, which is unfortunate, and why I docked a few points from my value score. Still, at about $1.13 a mask, it feels worth it.
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