I never thought my own struggles with occupational asthma or MacGyvering back-country masks for wildfire smoke on the PCT (2014) and CDT (2018) would come in handy in a global health crisis, but here we are…
Wearing my Vogmask N-95 respirator as smoke blanketed the country during my 2018 CDT thru-hike.
Wearing a ‘MakerMask: Cover’ over an N95 dust mask
I am putting to good use a decade of research and background into respiratory health, the science of particle sizes, models of particle dispersal patterns, depth of penetration into the lungs, and a very personal relationship with N95s to work with a team of volunteers on the MakerMask project.
Early in March (right after my last post), I started making and fit-testing prototypes for science-driven mask designs. On March 17th, I mailed four prototypes to @ATOR Labs in Florida for preliminary lab validation. Today, MakerMask has two patterns on our website – makermask.org — and a third design in the pipeline.
“MakerMask: Fit” and “MakerMask: Surge” prototype development using NWPP from a New England Patriots bag. After discovering most elastics for home sewers include latex and don’t withstand sterilization, more recent models use latex-free cloth ties.
Four key lessons:
- Nonwoven polypropylene (NWPP) provides better droplet protection than cotton, which is especially relevant in a droplet-transmitted pandemic. NWPP is the material of choice for commercial medical-grade masks. Water-resistant NWPP outer layers block the droplets that can carry viruses from coughs and sneezes, while allowing for vital airflow. Reusable grocery bags are an accessible source of NWPP.
- Certified N95 masks with valid fit tests are a critical resource for our front line communities, and the supply chain for those materials is stretched thin. Single layer NWPP covers can extend the lifetime of our limited stocks of commercial-grade masks.
- Latex-free designs are important, especially in clinical settings. Cloth ties or bias tape have advantages over elastic straps b/c they don’t contain latex allergens and can be sterilized without heat damage. Look for designs that can be home-sterilized by boiling before community use or be sterilized in autoclaves for larger scale use.
- This impacts all of our communities; we all can help; and I need your help. In addition to sewists, MakerMask is seeking volunteer team members to help with mask testing, communications, project management, and IT. I also need help from fellow researchers, clinicians, and friends who can use these masks and help get the word out about the importance of science-driven, clinically relevant designs. Check out https://makermask.org/contribute/ if you can offer help!
Thank you and stay safe!
The MakerMask:Surge, shown here in the snow last week was designed to provide droplet protection, to be latex-free, home sterilizable, and relatizely easy to construct.
Links with MakerMask in the News:
Commercially sourced N-95 mask
N-95 Mask with droplet cover ‘MakerMask: Cover’
Wearing my Vogmask N-95 respirator during my 2018 CDT thru-hike.
As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe (click here for the latest numbers from the WHO), there is a sudden spike in interest in the use of face masks and respirators for personal use and as personal protective equipment (PPE). Masks/respirators are specifically designed for different tasks, and like most safety gear, they are only effective if you know what to use, when to use them, and how to use them. In this post I share info about:
- Masks/respirators: COVID-19 (click here for WHO guidance (pdf): Rational use of personal protective equipment for COVID-19)
- Masks/respirators: Personal Use and Backpacking (including a review of the Vogmask N99 that I carried on my CDT thru-hike)
Black flies, ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects can turn the most peaceful outdoor paradise into a stressful tormenting nightmare. In this post I’ll discuss the bug repellent strategies and gear that have worked for me as well as those that are recommended by the CDC, and that are registered with the EPA (after being shown to be both safe and effective for human use in repelling ticks and mosquitoes).
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different backpacking toothbrushes, and I’ve hated most of them… They’re usually too small to fit comfortable in my hand, awkward to use, and/or messy! I also find the idea of spitting anything (even toothpaste, maybe especially toothpaste) into the bushes to be contrary to my leave no trace ethos… So brushing my teeth in the back-country has always seemed like a bit of an onerous chore… Unfortunately, going on a thru-hike and not brushing my teeth for 5 months wasn’t something I was willing to do, so I started experimenting with toothbrushes… After 5000 miles of backpacking, I’ve found a few that I like:
The sound of gunfire shattered the stillness of the trail. “Oh, shit!” I thought. “It’s still hunting season!” Once again I’d forgotten that the winter hiking and backpacking season was also hunting season. I paused, trying to remember where my blaze orange was… Doh!! The answer was nowhere useful. I have a blaze orange hiking T-shirt that I wear in the fall, along with a blaze orange reflective baseball cap-I love them both. I also have a blaze orange expedition parka, but I don’t have any blaze orange for the in-between-winter season. Clearly, I needed more blaze orange backpacking gear. The only problem was that I needed it right then!