Most people aren't flying right now. But as a travel journalist, I've flown several times since the pandemic started. On my most recent trip — an over 10 hour trip from Chicago to Europe — I had to wear my mask the entire flight per the airline's new rules. I didn't have a problem with that policy, but I did have a problem with my mask.
It simply wasn't comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. So, for my return flight to the U.S., I wanted to find a face mask that was made specifically for travel. It seems the most popular travel mask out there right now is NxTSTOP's $14 Bamboo Mask. I was immediately intrigued by its use of breathable bamboo fabric, so I decided to give it a shot.
When I think bamboo, I think pandas. But apparently, this plant is ideal for fabrics. NxTSTOP and other brands that sell bamboo clothing and accessories say it's incredibly breathable (perhaps because bamboo is a hollow plant), naturally antibacterial and water-resistant. This mask definitely feels lighter and more breathable than the cotton masks I've tried. I love my Everlane cotton masks much like I love my flannel sheets in the winter. However, if I'm on a plane for 10 hours (and awake for most of them), I want silk sheets. That's what this mask feels like.
Reading the fine print
Many products that are advertised as made of bamboo are actually made of rayon. (The Federal Trade Commission has had to crack down on this.) According to NxTSTOP, this mask is made of 95% real bamboo and 5% spandex, which makes it slightly stretchy.
The only downside of a bamboo mask is that you have to be more careful when cleaning it. Bamboo fabrics will last longer and resist fading when washed in cold water and air-dried, but the good news is that it dries super fast. If everything I washed dried this fast, I'd get rid of my dryer.
How it fits better
This mask's straps have "stoppers," which allow me to pull tighten or loosen the fit as necessary. My biggest complaint about most masks is that after wearing them, they eventually stretch out and slide down my nose. Fortunately, that isn't a problem with this mask.
Another feature I appreciate is the adjustable nose wire that allows for a more secure, customized fit. It's such a comfortable wire that I wish bra companies would take notice. Also, because I can shape it to fit slightly away from my skin and the bamboo is so breathable, I don't have to worry about "maskne" as much.
I like it so much I got another one
Pre-pandemic if you had told me I would one day spend $24 on a mask, I would have laughed in your unmasked face. But now, I'm the proud owner of two NxTSTOP masks, including its new Bamboo Silver Ion Face Mask. It costs $10 more than the regular bamboo mask, but it also features 4% silver ion, which NxTSTOP says "provides double the hygienic defense to keep mask surface safe and clean." I don't know if this is 100% true, but it gives me some much-needed peace of mind.
I'll be wearing it on the long-haul flight home
I'm looking forward to finally returning to Montana, though I'm dreading the long-haul flight back. However, at least I know I have a comfortable mask (or two) to wear. The ultimate coincidence is that my travel buddy on this trip is my stuffed panda — I just don't know yet if I'll let him wear my second mask. He might try to eat it.
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