The 12 Best Lightweight Breathable Face Masks

Sep 10, 2020

Category: Gear

It is an indisputable fact that COVID-19 has altered the world as we know it, as well as the way we interact with our own surroundings and one another. Whether you agree with the mandates or not, plenty of governments have put rules in place to try and curb the spread of disease — ranging from limiting the number of people allowed at gatherings to requiring facial coverings in public spaces like parks, grocery stores, etc. As such, most of us have found that reusable face masks are now a part of our daily kit of everyday carry gear.

In fact, there has been a pretty massive explosion of available options in the apparel and gear industries. Most of them, however, are pretty basic — little more than a sheet or two of fabric with a print on the front and some ear loops. However, there are other brands out there that are a bit more interested in innovation and figuring out ways to improve face masks to make them more comfortable, more user-friendly, and better-performing — which is especially important for those who want to partake in athletic activities but need to keep themselves and the people around them protected. It’s with that in mind that we’ve collected a dozen of the best lightweight and breathable face masks available to purchase.

Who Are These Masks For?

Heavy Breathers

As mentioned, it seems like there are suddenly as many options for masks as there are drops of water in the oceans. But the vast majority of the available options are little more than a square of t-shirt cloth with some ear loops sewn to them. And we don’t know if you’ve ever tried to breathe through a t-shirt, but it can get pretty warm pretty quickly. That can make things very uncomfortable, even if you’re not partaking in any kind of strenuous activity, and might even make you feel like you’re trapped in a sauna or that you can’t get enough air into your lungs (which is a psychological issue, but an issue no less). If you find “traditional” cotton masks too confining and warm, these masks are for you. However, they actually have an even more appropriate kind of user.

Most gyms, at least in the United States, are dealing with all sorts of new restrictions regarding how many people can attend, how close people can be to one another, and a whole slew of more hardcore sanitation processes and practices — at least for those that are fortunate enough to be open. One of the more common requirements actually falls on gym-goers themselves: members must wear face masks at all times. As mentioned, standard cotton cloth isn’t great when it comes to cooling, weight, and breathability — especially in a workout scenario. As such, plenty of brands have been crafting innovative, lightweight, breathable, fitness-focused face coverings to suit strenuous forms of exercise. These reusable masks are often made from technical fabrics, boast well-engineered designs focused on breathability not found elsewhere, and still offer the appropriate amount of protection in a world struck by a global pandemic. Whichever of the two above categories you fall into, these masks are for you.

Hanes Signature Stretch-to-Fit Mask

While Hanes is definitely a household name — at least amongst those that wear undergarments — they might not be a brand you’d expect to be at the forefront of lightweight breathable masks. As it turns out, however, their Signature Stretch-to-Fit Masks are actually pretty impressive for the price. For $14, you’ll get a pack of six that are stretchy, lightweight, breathable, soft, moisture-wicking, and machine-washable. They’re even made in the USA. We’re not sure how they’ve managed this sorcery, but we’re also not interested in complaining about it.

Purchase: $14

Uniqlo AIRism Face Mask

It was actually kind of a surprise that Uniqlo didn’t immediately come out with a mask, as they’re typically pretty on-point when it comes to trends in fashion — even if they’re the result of a global pandemic. As it turns out, however, they were actually working on masks that exceeded our expectations. Rather than just going the quick and easy route, the brand took their time to craft masks that are lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, comfortable for all-day wear, and even block out UV light. best of all, they’re washable and reusable — so a pack of 3 will go pretty far.

Purchase: $15

Mystery Ranch Street Mask

It might seem a bit odd that a brand specializing in bags would come out with a face mask for our post-pandemic society. However, when you consider the technical fabrics that Mystery Ranch deals with on a daily basis, it actually makes perfect sense not only that they’d offer masks, but that they’d offer some of the best lightweight and breathable face masks around. Aptly named the Street Mask, these face coverings are built from DRI-LEX STARLIGHT 1033 fabric — which is abrasion-resistant, moisture-wicking, and lightweight — and feature a soft DRI-LEX DRI-BRELLE fabric liner. They also boast a 3D bendable nose piece, stretchy and comfortable TPU bands, and they’re made in the USA. Available in four tactical-inspired colorways, this is going to be the end-all-be-all of face masks for some folks.

Purchase: $16

Birdwell Birdie Reversible Mask

It should come as no surprise that Birdwell, a heritage-level surf and beach brand, has made some fantastic masks. But what might be surprising is just how good their face coverings actually are. For starters, they’re reversible — giving them an edge in the style department and potentially even extending their useful life and longevity. However, that’s not even the biggest highlight. That distinction is owed to its construction. The Birdwell Birdie Reversible Mask is made from two layers of the brand’s proprietary SurfStretch fabric, which offers 4-way stretch, water-resistance, and plenty of durability. Furthermore, the drawstrings make customizing your fit a much simpler affair. And they’re completely machine-washable.

Purchase: $20

Adidas Face Covers

For some folks reading this guide, this is the first brand name you’re probably going to recognize that doesn’t seem at least a tad odd. After all, Adidas has been making athletic apparel and gear for as long as they’ve been a company, so, of course, they offer great lightweight, breathable, athletically-focused masks. It’s about as simple as they come regarding the styling — marked only by a small brand logo on the side — but this particular offering is more about the fabric than the style. Crafted from a combination of polyester and elastane, these masks are stretchy, comfortable, breathable, and — of course — lightweight. And like all the masks on this list, they’re washable and reusable.

Purchase: $20

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Face Masks

HMG maybe isn’t a brand that would have come to mind during your pandemic search for face masks, but that would be poor research on your part, if so. You see, this brand has built its reputation on crafting some of the toughest, lightest outdoor-focused gear in the world. That doesn’t suddenly change when they start making face masks. Case in point: these masks are crafted from an interlock micro polyester with a skin-friendly DWR coating. For those keeping score, that means they’re light, water-resistant, easy to clean, and very comfortable even when worn all day long — even if that day is marked by ascending a mountain. Best of all, the $20 entry fee gets you five masks for your wearing pleasure and safety.

Purchase: $20

SMRTFT Sports Mask S-1

One of the bigger struggles when it comes to wearing a mask during athletic activities is that they tend to bounce around and, if not secure enough, could fall off while you’re working out. Even if they don’t fall off, they do require frequent readjusting. And that’s what makes the SMRTFT Sports Mask S-1 so great. You see, this mask is actually a gaiter — meaning it goes all the way over your head and down around your neck, making it more secure than something with just a couple of little ear flaps. To ensure it doesn’t ride down or rotate while you exercise, it still has ear loops to keep it securely in place whether you’re doing wind sprints or powerlifting. It’s also stretchy, lightweight, breathable, and effective even after 100 washes.

Purchase: $25

Athleta Made to Move Mask

When a brand is bold enough to put the suggestion of exercise in the name of their face mask, it probably means they’re confident in its usefulness in that regard — or at least that they’re willing to put their reputation on the line in that particular regard. Athleta, a sub-brand of Gap, has done just that with their Made to Move Mask — which comes in a 3-pack in your choice of two color collections. They feature soft, adjustable, stretchy ear loops; they have a hidden filter pocket; they boast a reflective logo for better visibility, and they’re hand-washable. It’s worth noting that Athleta is marketing these masks to women, but we’re of the mind that the colorways are subtle enough that we aren’t particularly bothered by that fact. In fact, we’re confident that these qualify as unisex.

Purchase: $25

Reebok Face Covers

Like the Adidas masks earlier, the Reebok Face Covers you see here should definitely come as no surprise, as Reebok has long been involved in all kinds of exercise-focused apparel and equipment. These masks are fairly basic, but they’ve got all the features you need — especially if you’re interested in breathability and lightweight construction. They’re crafted from a durable and comfortable combination of recycled polyester and elastane, they’re machine-washable, they boast a safe two-layer construction, and they come in a pack of three.

Purchase: $30

Buck Mason M1 All-Day Antimicrobial Face Mask

Buck Mason is, hands-down, one of the best and most interesting men’s basics brands around right now. And a part of their success is in their constant commitment to quality, style, and innovation — even if the focus is on something as simple as, say, a white t-shirt. Unsurprisingly, they put the same care and attention to detail into their M1 All-Day Antimicrobial Face Mask. Made to be lightweight, breathable, and easy on the ears — that last bit is all too uncommon amongst the mask industry — these handsome face coverings also boast a coating that helps fight off germs, which is a neat addition we’ve not seen in many other places. And while the public can buy these masks, the brand is also in the process of donating a million non-medical face masks to communities in California and the rest of the country. Thus far, they’ve already donated over 150,000.

Purchase: $30

Under Armour UA Sportsmask

Headquartered out of Baltimore, Maryland, Under Armour is synonymous with athletic apparel innovation and that’s not going to change anytime soon. As such, when the pandemic hit, they immediately got to work on developing a lightweight, breathable, athletically-inclined face-covering they’ve dubbed the UA Sportsmask. Specifically designed for top-performing athletes, these masks are as cutting-edge as they come. That includes an ergonomic and comfortable design, a water-resistant exterior, polyurethane foam that allows air through but stops moisture and sweat, and built-in UPF 50+ sun protection. At $30 each, these are a good deal more expensive than some of the other options out there, but that’s because they’re practically unrivaled in their quality and performance.

Purchase: $30

Asics Runners Face Cover

Leave it to a top-level running brand like Asics to create perhaps the best lightweight and breathable face mask around. Aptly named, the Runners Face Cover is — by a wide margin — the most expensive face covering on our list, but there is good reason for that. For starters, the durable fabric is water-repellent, quick-drying, vented for better airflow, produced with 31% recycled materials, etc. Better still, the structure was designed to give your face a bit of breathing room (pun intended), so you’re not sucking on fabric with every breath. Finally, it’s comfortable and adjustable, so you can customize it to your specific face shape and/or personal comfort levels — or even alter it depending upon the activity. If you came here for the Holy Grail of face masks, this is it.

Purchase: $47

The 15 Best Washable Face Masks

As mentioned, the above guide is only a small fraction of the available masks out there. If you’re looking for a bit more variety, we’ve got another roundup for you in the form of our list of the best washable face masks. Stay safe!

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