For those of you who hunt in dusty terrain, or get an influx of bugs when walking to your hunting setup, you know how difficult breathing can be. On a few recent hunts, I was walking behind my hunting partner and the sand from the trail was billowing into the air as he walked. I was stuck trying to breathe and wondered if there was any way to do it without choking. Then, by chance, I was on Twitter a few days later and came across some tweets about RZ Mask. These guys make a mask for dirt bikers to keep the dust from caking their nostrils and lungs. Would it work for hunters, too? I opted to try it out.
The folks over at RZ Mask recommended the camo version of the mask. The mask arrived with the stretchy 'skeleton' and three replacement filters. Attaching the filters was easy as they just snapped into place near the bridge of the nose. Then you undo the Velcro on the strap and fit it around your face. You can also adjust the bridge of the nose to get it seated properly.
From the RZ Mask website:
The lightweight Stealth Hunting Mask makes a great edition to any Hunting Enthusiasts gear. Complete Sight and Scent Concealment is the edge.....A replaceable RZ Scentless Filter the exhaled air of any scents. RZ allows you to breathe easier and perform at your very best. It’s Dual Valve Exhaust plus the Active Carbon Filters remove 99.9% of impurities from a user’s breath. Hi-Definition 3D-Camo and Comfortable Fit. Designed to be packed with ease and not take up much space, this Abrasion-Resistant Neoprene Protects against the harshest Wind and Cold Weather.
How does the mask prevent scent from escaping?
When hunting, odors coming from the body can be picked up by animals from as far as 585 yards away, this could be sweat, deodorant or anything else being emitted. One of the most overlooked sources of scent is from the mouth. The breath being exhaled is absorbed by the active carbon filter in the RZ Mask. The filter seals off the nose and mouth of its user, allowing for zero scent being emitted.
I chose to test the mask out using three different applications. Hiking into my hunting spot, hunting with the mask on, and the other while riding my mountain bike on the trails around my house. They all have merit and you will see why later on.
First, I chose to wear it on our hikes into our hunting spot. If you thought hiking up hills with 40-50 lbs. on your back was tough, try doing it with airflow being restricted. It wasn't so much as difficult as much as it was uncomfortable, but the dust particles were kept out of airflow. I was breathing clean air the entire hike. I had a hard time keeping the mark exactly where I wanted it on my face, but it wasn't worth not having it on. As we sat in our locations, I also kept the mask on for three reasons. One, to keep dust out. Two, to filter my breath from the deer smelling me. Three, to camo my face and hide it from approaching animals.
Now, as a guy who wears glasses, I did have them fog up a few times due to breathing heavy with the mask on. I had to adjust the nose piece over and over to allow extra air to escape. This sort of defeats the purpose of filtering your air in and out, so I chalked it up as a drawback due to frustration. I didn't give up though. On a separate trip, I realized that you must keep the mask fairly tight to your face to have everything work and FIT properly. I am not a fan of Velcro, but it works great on the RZ Mask. It holds everything in place and I was able to breathe comfortably without my glasses fogging up or having dust particles penetrate the mask. I was very impressed with the fit!
The next test was to wear the mask while riding my bike on the San Gabriel River Bike Path around Long Beach, CA. Why would I do this when it's paved and there is no dust? Three reasons again. First, to filter out the smells of the treatment plant and vehicles I had to pass. Second, to restrict my airflow to beef up lung strength. Third, and most important, to keep from swallowing bugs along my 20 mile ride.
The bike test proved to work well, minus the fact I think I scared the crap out of everyone I passed. I mean come on, I looked like a character reject out of Mortal Combat! The RZ Mask worked well for keeping my face warm and allowing clean air to make it to my lungs. It doesn't fit very well when wearing a bike helmet, but I didn't care. It worked well at keeping the bugs out, too. The mosquitoes and black flies that hover are awful when you suck them in while biking. The mask kept them out and I rode in peace!
In the hunting application I think the mask works very well. I have no issues with the way it functions. For biking, I would offer one suggestion to RZ Mask and that is to have the small netting holes to be of an even smaller diameter. That way, you could take the filter out while biking and still protect yourself from the bug inhalation. This would allow you to breathe a bit freer when riding the paved trails. Other than that, I found it to work very well!
Now, if you are unsatisfied with your RZ Mask, they do offer a 100% Guarantee. Personally, I don't see why you would return it. It works very well, fits comfortably, but it does have a relatively steep price tag of $34.95. The benefits are that you do get three filters with the mask. When you consider the filtering and fit you get what you pay for. Plus, you don't have to clean any oily residue from waxy paint from your face.
Overall, I think the RZ Mask has found a place in my gear bag, but I don't think I will use it all the time. On hot days it feels like it is smothering me. I am not so sure it's great for the hike in either, but it functions as a great training aid for high elevation hunts! I now try to hike off to the side of my hunt partner because I want to have a dust-free hike and need that cool air hitting my lungs. When I use the RZ Mask while hunting, I find my breathing is improved (no dusty nostrils) and I can't even smell my breath (a plus when hunting) so the deer may not be able to either. I definitely would recommend trying the mask out and I think you will see that in comparision to other masks, the RZ Mask stands out as one of the better masks on the market for all the benefits that come with it.
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