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Need a face mask? We’re making them.

Author: Outdoor Research

June 15, 2020

This spring, we rapidly changed gears at our manufacturing facilities to begin producing personal protective equipment—or PPE—for the medical community. Now we’re proud to offer protective face masks to consumers, too.

Our new washable, reusable Essential Face Mask Kits work on their own as a basic face covering, and can also pair with the included filter cartridges (replacement Essential Face Mask Filter 3-Packs sold separately), which are made in the U.S. and filter greater than 95% of virus, bacteria, and particles in accordance with ASTM test standards. The Essential Face Mask is treated with HeiQ NPJ03. Learn More about the treatment here.

Though not for medical use, when used with the included filter, the Essential Face Mask exceeds the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for everyday use, reducing the risk of contaminant transmission by utilizing very high filtration efficiency.

A person wears an Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask.

The Essential Face Mask Kit features adjustable ear loops and a nose wire, which means you’ll get a customizable fit for maximum protection. The face masks are designed with minimal seams for comfort and packability. They fold flat and come with a protective storage pouch.

Our masks are made of polyester fiber, which absorbs less moisture than cotton, so it wicks and dries much faster. Plus, our polyester fabric is more durable than jersey cotton in a 10,000+ cycle abrasion test.

Since they’re breathable, durable and water- and stain-repellent, the Essential Face Mask Kits are designed for both indoor and outdoor use. The mask itself is polyester so it can be laundered repeatedly and reused, as opposed to other disposable, single-use styles.

Each face mask kit comes with a three-pack of filter cartridges made of disposable polypropylene nonwoven material and a protective storage pouch. They offer increased protection compared to a simple fabric mask. We also offer refill packs of filter cartridges.

The Outdoor Research Essential Face Mask Kit.

How often do you need to replace the filters? That depends on how much you wear the mask, and in what kinds of conditions. Heat and humidity, even that produced by your breath, can speed up wear on the filter. But with light, general use—like occasional grocery store trips or errands—the filters can last around five to seven days. If you live in a hot climate, or wear a mask 8+ hours a day to work, you may want to replace your filter more frequently. It’s difficult to generalize, so consumers must use their own judgment when replacing filters.

To wash the Face Mask, simply remove and dispose of the filter, wash the mask gently with soapy water and hang to dry. Machine washing on the gentle cycle is also OK for the Essential Face Mask, but hand washing will extend the life of the mask. Masks are water and stain repellent and microbe resistant, and can be laundered up to 30 times with 100% effectiveness.

A person skateboards down a city street while wearinig an OR Essential Face Mask.

When should you wear the Essential Face Mask? According to CDC, protective face masks should be worn in any public place where social distancing efforts might be difficult or impossible, like the grocery store or busy trailheads. The Essential Face Mask Kit is designed to be durable and fit comfortably, so it can even be worn for increased protection while in motion outdoors.



Is there a layer of material between my face and the filter? If so, what is that material between them?

There is no layer between the filter and your face. The inside of the face mask has slots on the left and right sides, so the sides of the filter nest in the slots and there is nothing between your mouth/nose and the filter. The filter has a center seam that helps lift it off of your face so it won’t sit directly on top of your mouth and make it hard to breathe. You can see the filter slot in the photo below.

Closeup of the Essential Face Mask with filter slots visible.

While breathing while wearing my own cotton mask, moisture collects on the fabric. Will the moisture collect on the fabric as well as the filter upon first and second use?

The nose wire allows you to contour the mask to your face, while the center seams of the mask and filter lift it off your mouth and nose. This helps reduce moisture buildup and it feels comfortable to wear. This is also one reason we chose polyester over cotton. "I wear my mask eight hours a day at the office/factory as has many of our team in the factory," says Alex Lauver, director of commercial innovation. "We have superior results with this compared to cotton masks. It also is noticeable with glasses (regular or safety), as ours fog dramatically less than cotton. I have a basic mask (not OR made) at home for groceries, etc and it fogs every time."

How do I insert my filter into my face mask?

Begin by holding your filter so the curved side is on top, and straight side is on bottom. Peel it open on the short end, and match your filter to your face mask so that they sit seam-to-seam. Now, tuck in the wings of your filter one at a time into the pockets on both sides of your face mask. Put the face mask on and adjust the nose wire for a perfect fit.

For more information about how protective face masks work or how and when to wear a face mask, check out our Face Mask FAQ. We expect the masks to be availeble to ship in the U.S. in June, and in Canada a bit later in the summer. Learn more and be notified once available.



Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research® is dedicated to inspiring the journey ahead with award-winning technical apparel and accessories. Based in Seattle since 1981, we are committed to improving our customer’s experience through innovative materials, purpose-driven features, and versatile products that are backed by our Infinite Guarantee®. We rely on the real-world testing of our athlete ambassadors, mountain guides, and local adventurers involved in our core sports: alpinism, rock and ice climbing, hiking, backpacking, paddling, trail running, and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. We’re here for the fun, adventure, excitement, and For the Journey Ahead™. Get to know us at or follow along on the journey via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.