Because I hunt in Northern Alberta, hunting with a mask is more of a consideration for survival and comfort than it is for camouflage or fashion. Over the years, I’ve collected several different styles of hunting masks, some for the cold, some for bow hunting in warmer months, and some that are better for duck hunting. None of these are the absolute best at everything, they all have their own unique applications. So let’s talk about hunting masks!
Mesh vs Cloth vs Neoprene
One of the primary considerations for your hunting mask should be the material it’s made from.
Mesh hunting masks are great for camouflage, are lightweight, are easy to hear through (if they cover your ears) and crunch up into a compact package. The Bunkerhead hunting mask system is a great example of a very clever mesh hunting mask.
Textile hunting masks offer more insulation than mesh hunting masks. With that extra insulation and use of these styles of hunting masks out in the cold, designers need to vent off humidity from breath to prevent the mask from freezing up on the inside. They also block more sound, so you wouldn’t want a thick patch overtop your ears or you sacrifice some hearing when hunting.
Neoprene hunting masks offer great heat retention, are waterproof, block the wind very effectively, and keep their shape. Masks like the RZ Industries Hunting Mask are excellent in rain and dry off quickly. If you get a neoprene mask, don’t buy one that covers your ears as it sacrifices too much hearing.
Duck Hunting Masks
Waterfowl have keen eyesight, so care needs to be taken in using camo appropriately. Some waterfowlers choose to use face paint. Although face paint can offer more complete coverage (even getting your eyelids) a mask is easier to use and doesn’t make a mess. A good duck hunting mask:
- Covers most of your face with good quality camo
- Dries quickly. Most waterfowling is done near slews, rivers, and lakes, so there’s a chance you’re going to get your equipment wet.
- Doesn’t block your cheek weld on your shotgun. A good mount on the shotgun is critical to get hits on moving targets, so duck hunting masks can’t interfere.
Many duck hunters like to wear a camo baseball cap while hunting and if you’re one of them, you may find that an open top mask lets your hat fit a bit more naturally.
Bow Hunting Masks
Bow hunting is up close and personal. If you’re hunting deer from a tree stand, a mask offers crucial skin coverage in case the deer looks up at you. Depending on your state/province seasons, bow hunting season may be a little bit earlier in the season, so you might be able to get away with something lighter that doesn’t protect from the cold. A good bow hunting mask:
- Absolutely can’t get in the way of your draw or string. If your bow string snags on your mask, it might hurt you or cause you to miss your shot.
- Offers excellent skin coverage
- Can be easily adjusted to give more or less vision. A mask that blocks peripheral vision or obstructs you from seeing lower will force you to move your head more to scan your environment and movement is bad at close range.
Deer Hunting Masks
Personally, I don’t feel that camo is as important for hunting deer during regular rifle season. General season usually coincides with the rut and deer move more and are less careful during the rut. You may want to consider a blaze orange facemask to increase your visibility to other hunters in the area. In my area, general hunting season is in November, so I usually use masks that offer good protection from the cold.
Balaclava Masks vs Chin & Mouth vs Open Top style
There are no hard and fast rules here, I just want to show the different styles that are out there.
Balaclava masks are pretty convenient to put on, and usually offer very good skin coverage, but they can be less flexible than the other mask types. Usually, the eye hole or holes that you get with a balaclava are fixed and non-adjustable. When the temperature really dips low, nothing beats a warm balaclava mask.
Chin and mouth masks cover a smaller area of the face, but that works fine when your other clothes, like a wool knit cap and jacket, make up for and cover those remaining areas. These masks are easily adjusted lower to let you breathe out above the mask to keep it from sweating up, and they block almost no visibility.
Open top masks are basically balaclava’s that are built to account for a cap. Rather than completing the balaclava at the top, it’s cut out so that your cap is resting directly on your head rather than sitting on more cloth. These types of masks are good for hunting in warmer weather where you might want to hunt with a baseball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Hunting Masks for Glasses
One of the biggest reasons why I got laser eye surgery was so that I didn’t get foggy glasses hunting. For everyone else who still has to tangle with glasses while hunting, hunting masks for people who wear glasses should take 3 extra things into account:
- Venting away humid air from your breath way from the glasses. Foggy glasses suck. Some masks achieve this with a semi-rigid nosepiece that vents air further away from your face, while other masks use exhaust valves to ensure breath stays far away from glasses.
- Room around the sides of the face and eyeholes is needed to clear the glasses arms.
- The mask can’t cover the bridge of the nose. No one wants their glasses resting on a fabric mask, or they shift around annoyingly.
There is a lot of variety of face masks out there, but you need to pick the one right for you. Neoprene masks may be great when it gets chilly, but they get grossly slick with sweat very quickly when you’re hunting in warmer weather. Mesh masks are awesome for lightweight coverage, but they move around a lot in the wind and don’t help when it’s cold. Take your needs into account when picking the perfect hunting mask for you!
Still want more mask talk? Check out these videos and articles:
- RZ Industries Hunting Mask Review
- BunkerHead Face Mask Review