It was nice to escape the “norms” of our COVID-19 world for awhile and enjoy a week of paddling in Algonquin. No social distancing, no bathing in hand sanitizer, no masks and no stress. I was alone the entire week and only saw two other paddlers in the distance, well beyond two metres away.

It was a different story, however, when I ended the trip at the access point. People were everywhere, and most were not following any of the COVID-19 guidelines. Forget dealing with bears and bad weather out in the wilderness—the real danger now is having to dodge anti-COVID paddlers at the put-in. I was thankful for packing a spare face mask in my camp kit to keep me safe while packing up. I never thought that I’d have a mask as a regular camp item stored amongst my bug repellent and sunblock, but I was thankful I did. And I’d suggest you do the same the next time you’re heading out.

Here are my top picks for non-medical grade face masks from outdoors brands :

 photoKevin Callan

 

Fox River

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Fox River is a well-known American company that make great outdoor socks. Now they make masks as well. Their masks differ than most others. First, they use Cupron, a copper-based antimicrobial technology that is embedded in garments to give anti-odor and anti-bacterial benefits. It doesn’t wash off or rub off. The masks also strap on behind your head, not your ears, making them more comfortable to wear.

Fabric: 55% Cotton, 30% Cupron Nylon, 13% Nylon, 2% Spandex.

Cost: $10.

 

Tilley

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Tilley is a Canadian company that’s been making incredible hats for a long time. Now they’re making top-quality cotton face masks. These masks are flexible, comfortable, lightweight and easy to breathe in. The ¼” elastic with soft touch toggle makes a secure fit. There’s one layer of closely woven textiles and one mesh lining. The two layers create an inside pocket for optional filter insert (filter not included). However, just like their hats, Tilley comes with a high price tag.

Fabric: Cotton and Spandex

Inner Lining: 100% Polyester

Cost: $30.

 

KEEN

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KEEN makes one of the most comfortable masks using upcycled materials originally sourced for their shoes. Made with two layers of cotton canvas, with adjustable ear slides for extra comfort.

Cost: $20 for two masks.

  

The Original Bug Shirt Company

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This Canadian company has been making bug shirts for years. Now they're using the same material to make masks. Made with two layers: the outer layer is 100% polyester and the inner fabric is our 100% cotton. There is a pocket in-between the two if you want to insert a filter. There’s also a nose wire for shaping and adjusting for more comfort. The price is also one of the best.

Cost: $7.50.

 

Outdoor Research

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These are extremely popular masks, which means it might be tough finding them in stock. But they’re darn comfortable with adjustable ear loops and nose wire making for a tight seal. They can also be washed several times without significant wear. Made of durable polyester fabric which outperforms cotton and is faster to dry and wick moisture. The mask is treated with HEIQ V-BLOCK® NPJ03, making it extra resistant to harmful microbes.

Cost: $20 (includes three filters).

  

Jo-Anne’s Button Box

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Jo-Anne isn’t some big outdoor company. She’s just one of my Facebook friends who loves to canoe and sew. Her masks are also the best of the lot in my opinion. They’re made from premium quality 100% cotton. Includes a nose wire, disposable filter and either elastic or ties.

They’re available in Adult regular or XL and child sizes. Beard masks are available in custom sizes. She also makes custom masks—mine has canoe paddles. Awesome!

Cost: $10.

photoKevin Callan