You may recall a great hew and cry over the summer when news out of Duke University appeared to call into question the effectiveness of neck gaiters in fighting the spread of COVID-19. However, the Duke researchers were not even really researching masks versus gaiters, and a backlash quickly emerged in defense of the latter. Now a new study is backing up that position with its own tests.
Researchers out of the University of Georgia replicated some of what Duke did, but with more stringent parameters intended to more accurately evaluate the effectiveness of different face coverings. With a Class 1000 clean room and a 3D-printed box instead of a cardboard one, they more exhaustively tested four popular two-layer face masks (made of cotton and spandex), five popular single-layer gaiters (made of polyester, spandex and nylon) and three multi-layer gaiters (made of polyester and spandex).
The major findings? Single-layer gaiters provided a 77 percent average reduction in respiratory droplets versus no face covering at all. Two-layer masks just edged them out at 81 percent. However, multi-layer gaiters were the big winners with a 96 percent reduction.
The researchers' big takeaway? The number and quality of layers of material in your face covering plays a much bigger role than the shape it takes. This finding actually reflects recommendations from the CDC and WHO. The CDC endorses face coverings with two or more layers of breathable, washable fabric. The WHO, meanwhile, advises people to wear three layers of fabric protection.
It should go without saying that the best form of face protection is the one you actually wear, consistently and properly (you know, fully covering your nose and mouth). So find something you are comfortable with that meets these standards. Check out a few of our favorites below, and read more of GP's face mask coverage here.
Kitsbow Face Mask, Reusable, HEPA Type
Under Armour Sportsmask
Voormi Everyday Gaiter
The Best Technical Face Masks We're Testing Right Now
Check out the pros and cons of a bunch of interesting approaches from outdoors- and fitness-oriented brands.