I had planned on getting something “better” than the iconic GP-5 Russian gas mask, until I started thinking a bit… What is a gas mask and what is it supposed to do?
The key element of a gas mask is the filter. It traps aerosols and gasses to make the air you breathe safe. You could put the filter in your mouth, pinch your nose and breathe in clean air without a mask. The mask protects your eyes, nose, mouth, and holds the filter. It needs to make a good seal with your face. A good $20 mask will do this as well as a $200 mask. It’s the fit that matters; get the wrong size and you might as well not wear one. I did pay $20 for my GP-5, shipping included, with a carry bag and a filter.
What a more expensive mask will get you is maybe a drinking tube, better field of view and a voice box. A $100 British S10 might be more modern than the GP-5 and offer more features, but it won’t be any safer. I get a very good seal with my GP-5 even with my short beard. I will just include a safety razor in the bag in case I have time to shave…
The GP-5 might not be the easiest mask to put on, especially if you have long hair, but once fitted properly it is very comfortable. The lenses do not fog up easily. The field of view isn’t great but if you need the mask on, you have other things to worry about right then… There is no drinking tube or voice box. You would have a hard time to be heard talking at a distance. The mask with a good filter will keep you alive. What other $20 item can make such a claim? Keep in mind that with modern nerve gasses you will need a full suit to be protected. I plan on getting a British CBRN suit in case the “S” really “HTF.” They sell for about $30 on Ebay plus shipping.
You may have heard about the asbestos issue with the GP-5K Russian filters… They ALL contain asbestos, especially those made in 1972 and earlier. If you get a filter dated prior to 1973, dispose of it safely and buy a modern NATO 40mm NBC filter. My filter was made in 1974 and supposedly contains a very small amount of asbestos. Still, any amount of that substance is too much. The post-72 filters should be somewhat safe if the asbestos doesn’t get dislodged, but are you willing to risk it? I decided to keep mine but only to be used in a life-or-death emergency, after running out of modern safe filters. The jury is still out on the GP-7K filters…
So instead of spending $100 on a more modern mask, I decided to get two or three GP-5 masks. This way I can stash them where I might need them and not worry about carrying one with me, though I think there is enough room in my get-home-bag for one, given its small size folded.
In this day and age, I don’t have to tell you how a gas mask could save your life… Get a couple, along with a few new filters and keep them in good shape. That means having at least one stored full of talcum powder for long term storage. Practice putting it on. Have one in your car and your home, in your luggage when you travel. Remember, we can go a month without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without air, probably less before passing out! Best thing about the GP-5, you can also use it on Halloween!