I subscribe to about 5 different things that are like Groupon or TeamBuy [so, yes, two of those, plus three or more]. One day, one of them was proclaiming its sale of cold weather face masks. Good idea, internet! My face can not freeze maybe and I can maybe proceed to not continue wrapping very long scarves around my face in a ridiculous fashion as I have been doing since circa Winter 2008.
Except, then I realized the problem with why I don’t wear such items and instead use scarves ridiculously is because they look kind of ridiculous and water just freezes to your face and then you end up cold anyways. My bigger issue is breathing in cold weather, and the issue with these masks is that I invariably end up fogging up my glasses or something and then can’t see, and can’t really get home or indoors or anywhere to be able to see without removing the scarf and then that does not solve my “cold air is among my worst asthma triggers” problem, right?
“If you can’t breathe, you can’t play.”
Okay yeah, that’s a hell of a slogan there, especially for this Canuck, right?
Then I read about the science behind the mask. Because, let’s be honest here… the black version of the mask looks kind of Darth-vader-esque, and as a 23-year-old-girl who frequently wears pink and purple outerwear, I’m not sure that Darth Vader is the look I’m going for.
Except I’m not into sounding like Vader, either, and we’ve already got enough Darth Vader asthma memes, right?
And so on.
Anyways, I reached out to the cool people at Cold Avenger, told them a bit of my story and offered to review on my blog, and they offered to send me out a media package to try out the Cold Avenger myself. Phil was awesome to deal with, friendly and personable, and—get this—I e-mailed my request in, and had a response within ten minutes. So, clearly their customer care isn’t lacking! Phil and I discussed what I intended to use the mask for, and he decided that the Cold Avenger Pro half mask was the better bet for me, “Just in case you start jumping out of planes with your new ability to breathe in cold weather.”
That’s what I’m talking about!
Except it was still October then so clearly I did not yet need the mask […fortunately. I do live in Winnipeg, after all].
So I tried it out a few times last week once the hardcore chill hit, and damn, I am okay looking the part of a super hero/villain/whatever I am not up on my superheroes really for the way this thing works.
The science (more technical version here
): Breathe in cold air to the mask. Cold air enters through vented part up front (which is adjustable—so if you need a higher level of ventilation to accommodate for increased respiratory rates due to activity, you can rock that, but if it’s super windy and too much air is being pushed in, you can make the gaps smaller/fewer and thus allow less
air to be forced into the mask.) The very (flexible material) that protrudes out over the nose and mouth also catches the moisture/warmth of the air that gets exhaled, so that the next time air is inhaled, it mixes with some warm particles and… viola, no more breathing in crazy cold air!
A bit of a user-end primer on how the valve system works: if I’m doing something of low intensity, like walking to the bus except straight into a north wind, I’ve got the internal bit adjusted to let less air in at me because my respiratory rate isn’t that high and because more air is already being pushed into the mask. [Science, I tell you. Diffusion is where it’s at.] Keeps the air going into the body warmer and thus, the Cold Avenger team argues that it keeps you warmer by doing so—pretty cool, right?
So… Does it work?
(Note: I’ve since found it is much better to run my earphones UNDER the mask. Also, on this 10 minute walk to the bus, ice crystals formed on my earphone wires just because of how it was hanging by the mask. Easily rectified by running the wires along the side of my face—and, proof of how cold it actually was outside?)
First thing’s first, you’ll see the gap where my earphone wire goes in on the right side—rectified, as stated above, but this was the culprit for the glasses fogging I experienced. The Cold Avenger, for ski goggle wearers and glasses wearers alike, comes with a nose wire so that it can be adjusted to seal more completely around the face. This picture is from day 1 of Cold Avenger use. By day 2, I had the kinks worked out with the earphones and my hair and everything (the toque’s real use this day was actually because my hair kept sliding around outside the mask, and into my eyes/face and whatnot, so the toque’s sole purpose was actually keeping my hair back ;).
My asthma is really triggered by cold air (yes, I know, Canadian problems much?). Within five minutes of being outside in weather like it was on day 1 of using the Cold Avenger (-10*C, or -18*C with the windchill)—or even milder sometimes—I’m usually at the very least coughing, or feeling some degree of breathing discomfort. WITH the Cold Avenger? I didn’t cough at all until I got to the bus stop (8 minutes into being outside, walking fairly briskly). In fact, while the Cold Avenger people say [and I won’t dispute them, just an observation!] you’ll be warmer in the mask, I actually think I felt colder simply because I wasn’t hyperfocused on my breathing being crappy! So, hey, if I’m going to feel a bit colder because I can breathe!? I can deal with that, guys.
I’ve had a few friends ask (unprovoked even!) about the mask, and I’ve had nothing but good things to say—I mean, of course with the occasional joke included about being a superhero, how could I not?! I can’t wait to find some ice and try it out while skating or playing hockey outdoors with my friends, because if it can make those things more enjoyable, then I will be excited—and, as Phil discussed, if I find some planes to go winter skydiving out of, then hey, I’m ready for that, too! While I used to sometimes have to pre-medicate with Ventolin before even going outside briefly, I hope the Cold Avenger brings me back to a place where I can simply pre-medicate for exercise outdoors like normal instead of for simply going outdoors!
While I got this thing for free to review, now that I’ve tried it and experienced how it works with my asthma, I definitely think it would be worth shelling out the $60 for if you live in a place like I do where it’s cold for up to half the year and have cold induced asthma, or simply do a lot of activities outside and are looking for a solution that doesn’t restrict your ability to breathe or cause ice to form on your face like many alternatives (the crazy scarf wrap, for example) do. Plus, as you can see, I highly recommend upping your badass quotient and rocking some coordinating sunglasses with the Cold Avenger, too.
…Because I’d say that goes with the badassery of avenging, no?
Disclosure: I reached out to Phil at Cold Avenger who agreed to send out a mask and a kit containing information and stickers (!!!) for free for me to review. I offered to do the review in my initial message, but was under no obligation to provide a favourable review (but, they know their product, so clearly they knew they’d win me over :]).
edit 5:34 pm 11/24/14: Kat pointed out that I meant diffusion and not osmosis up there. She is correct.