How to Make Your Own Gas Mask for Survival
Having a gas mask in your emergency supplies and go-bag is a must for survival. Many seem to forget, but air contamination—whether by gas or smoke—is frighteningly common in SHTF scenarios.
A few examples:
- A wildfire breaks out during a hiking or camping trip
- A chemical attack occurs in a public area
- Tear gas is used during an episode of civil unrest, whether you are a target or not
This is why it’s important to know how to improvise and make your own gas mask. By the end of this article, you should have the confidence to protect yourself when your lungs are on the line.
Step One: Assess Your Needs
The examples provided above all require different levels of protection.
The basic differences boil down to the substance you need protection from: either particulate or gaseous matter.
In a wildfire, you need protection from smoke and ash, which are small particles that irritate and block airways.
Tear gas is also a particulate matter, despite being called a gas.
Chemical agents like mustard gas are “gasses” in the literal sense and as such are hard to protect against without specialized equipment. Similarly, biological agents, which are carried on air droplets, are considered gaseous.
To put it simply, particulate matter is easier to protect against via multiple layers of filtration, while weaponized chemicals or biological agents will require both multiple filtration and chemical neutralization, if possible.
Step Two: Gather Materials for Filtration
Your situation will dictate which materials you use for masking and filtration.
If stuck in smoke or tear gas, a t-shirt pressed against the mouth and nose is better than nothing. It provides coverage for your airways at the very least…
Even better is added protection for eyes and ears. Goggles, safety glasses, and even plastic kitchen wrap could work.
One popular method in survivalist circles that uses very few materials is what we call the “Jug Mask.”
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Improvised Jug Mask
- Clear plastic jug or 2-liter bottle with cap
- N-95 or similar mask with bands
- Bandana or several layers of cloth
- Duct tape or rubber foam
- Cordage, if mask above is not used as filter
For an additional filter add:
- An additional bottle or jug
- Activated carbon in powder form
- Pillow or stuffed-animal stuffing
- Down from a jacket or sleeping bag
- Shredded cloth or tissue/toilet paper
- Vacuum cleaner hose
- Corrugated plumbing tubing (ensure it’s clean and sanitized)
- Any tube, like a toilet paper tube or short length of pvc pipe
For initial mask:
- Mark your masking jug for cutting. You’ll want to cut off the bottom, so draw a circle just around the base. Then make two parallel lines lengthwise down the bottle, stopping a few inches before the neck begins. Connect these two parallel lines with a U-shaped line.
- Cut the bottom off first, then the long U-shaped hole.
- Test for fit. Adjust by making a larger U-shaped hole, if necessary.
- Cover the cut edges with rubber foam or duct tape for comfort and to form a better seal.
- Poke several holes in the cap. Replace the bottle.
- Place filter material inside the neck of the jug. Attach in place with duct tape or glue.
- If you used an N95 or similar mask in the previous step, you can use these as straps to attach the mask at forehead level and at mouth/nose level. If not, use cordage. Make small holes to tie cordage or staple cordage to mask.
To make an additional filter:
- Pour activated charcoal into an additional bottle.
- Add additional filtration stuffing material on top.
- Remove cap from face mask created above.
- Attach additional filter to face mask with tubing and duct tape.
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Finally, Get to Safety ASAP
The purpose of any improvised gas mask or respirator is to help buy you time to get to safety, without harm.
The key to escaping any disaster where your respiratory system is vulnerable is to know the easiest, quickest, and safest routes to safety or rescue.
However, keep in mind, any improvised mask is more likely to fail than something that’s been built and tested for the purpose.
Therefore, it is imperative that you avoid any movements that might damage the mask or cause it to become dislodged. Move smoothly and with purpose. Remember the military sniper maxim: “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
It is also important to try and stay calm, which will prevent you from hyperventilating and wanting to remove your mask in a panic.
We hope this primer on DIY gas masks helps you if you ever need it. Make sure to keep these materials on hand and practice these critical survival skills!