by Lars Hundley (This Article is Sponsored by NAROO)
Finding a mask that works well during exercise can be extremely difficult. A bad mask can require constant adjusting as it keeps falling off, or make it too hard to breathe to be realistic for hard efforts because you can’t get enough oxygen.
The good news is the breathing solution brand NAROO has been designing masks specifically for exercise use for years (since 2002) and have figured out how to solve these common problems. Known by their tagline “Free to breathe,” they’ve designed an entire line of masks that are specific to different scenarios. So instead of trying to design one mask to do everything “good enough,” they came up with designs that work extremely well for the use cases where they are meant to be worn.
Here are three great masks from NAROO for different circumstances that you should consider that will make it easy for you to ride outdoors in comfort with protection.
NAROO MASK Z5H: Best Mask for Cold Weather
A regular mask for cold weather riding or exercise can make it difficult to wear a hat to keep your ears warm, and doesn’t do anything for your neck. NAROO has solved this issue by making a mask that works like a balaclava, so that it covers your ears and the back of your head as well as your neck, keeping you nice and warm when you’re out cycling in the cold.
It also has major advantages to a traditional balaclava, because it comes with a unique plastic frame that goes inside the mask and over your mouth and holds the fabric away from your face a little bit and allows much, much easier breathing and also acts as an air-warming chamber. They call this frame the EX-BONE 3, and it really works. It clips in and out of the mask, so you can take it out when you hand wash the mask.
The air chamber made from a plastic frame helps in several different ways. Besides making it easier to breathe by making an air pocket around your nose and mouth, it also reduces how wet the fabric around your mouth tends to get from condensation in the extreme cold. That extra room also makes it a little easier for people to hear you speaking through the mask. And if you wear prescription cycling glasses like I do, you’ll be happy to know that the design also helps prevent fogging, so your glasses will be fog free.
The mask also blocks 99 percent of UV rays for situations like winter fat biking, downhill or cross-country skiing where the sun is reflecting off the snow and would otherwise burn your face.
I was worried that the plastic frame would be uncomfortable against my face or that it wouldn’t allow me to breathe well enough during hard efforts. But on a group bike ride that was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit (or -1º C), it kept my face and neck much more comfortable than a neck gaiter and it also stayed on my face perfectly and didn’t require a lot of fiddling. My neck gaiter always seems to slide off my chin and also is hard to breathe through when the riding gets faster. The NAROO Z5H was a huge improvement.
NAROO MASK F1S: Best Mask for Pollution, Pollen, Heat
The F1S mask is designed so you can wear it in warm weather without overheating. It was created for people with allergies or pollution sensitivities, and blocks 99 percent of ultra fine dust particles down to 1.7 microns — which is 40 times smaller than a human hair. Their exclusive MICRONET washable filter was tested and accredited by a third-party Japanese certification provider.
The fabric is very thin, at just 0.15mm. That means that you’ll block 99 percent of UV rays at the equivalent of approximately UPF 50+, but you’ll still be able to wear it in hot weather without overheating.
The best feature of this mask for athletes is the ear loops, which keep the mask from falling down your face. They’re comfortable and elastic and hang over the tops of your ears, preventing the mask from sliding down or coming off as you’re riding or running.
Another interesting feature of this mask is that it’s reversible. If you’re riding or running where you don’t need the high level of filtration, you can flip the mask around and use the back side that has a more porous mesh fabric that’s significantly easier to breathe through if you’re doing intervals or very hard efforts.
NAROO MASK N1: Best Mask for Hot Weather
The N1 mask is the easiest of all to breathe through, with a slightly more porous fabric over your mouth than the Z5H that makes it easier to speak through, but still keeps dust and bugs out of your mouth when you’re riding. This mask is primarily designed to protect your face from UV rays — like you protect your eyes with sunglasses. You won’t have to wear goopy sunscreen that sweats off and requires constant reapplication.
The thin 0.11 mm spandex-like and moisture-wicking fabric of the N1 gives it a cooling effect at the same time as it blocks the UV rays. In the summer heat, the N1 cooling effect could help with preventing heat illness.
Like the F1S, it also has ear loops that keep it perfectly in place during hard exercise. It is also reversible, with one side that features perforated fabric for easy breathing even during the most difficult efforts.
The N1 mask has a longer neck covering, so that it protects your neck as well as your face from the sun’s harmful UV rays. If you want something that doesn’t come so far down your neck, the Z5H is a better choice for winter and the N1S (the short-fit version of the N1) is a great option for summer.
Whether you need a mask for cold weather exercise, one with good filtration to keep out pollution or allergens, something for UV protection or simply a mask that stays firmly in place, NAROO has you covered.
You simply won’t find a better mask design for athletes than these masks from NAROO. NAROO is on the forefront of new technologies to help breathing and protecting the face, head and neck. They work well and always stay in place, requiring no fiddling. If you’ve battled with the straps or loops on other masks or constantly had them fall down off your nose, you’ll be very satisfied with a design that is so well thought out and comfortable. You can find NAROO MASKS at naroomask.com.