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Best PAPR | Powered Air Purifying Respirator

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After teaching classes on them for years and wearing them through countless exercises and lethal environments, I know a thing or two about respirators. Most often, you’ll hear me talking about traditional face mask respirators or ‘gas masks’- but the not-to-distant cousin is a powerful alternative. The powered air purifying respirator (or PAPR, for short) can add both functionality and versatility to your loadout. Still, there are many models on the market with a huge range of prices.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best PAPRs, put them to the test, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and a rugged face shield option. If you want to be able to breathe when it really matters, one of our picks will give you your second wind.

The Best PAPR

MIRA MB-90

Versatile, Inexpensive, and Effective

An extremely versatile hose attachment PAPR perfect for almost every situation.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

MIRA Safety has been growing as one of the newer CBRN-focused suppliers that provide solid value. Across the globe militaries and law enforcement have been switching over to their top-rated gas masks, which have proven themselves as versatile and effective options where quality is critical.

This PAPR is an attachment for their mask, but it doesn’t use proprietary connections, which is excellent because you can hook it to a huge range of masks. It also uses extremely common batteries and filters, making the consumables very easy to find and stockpile.

Here is how it measures up:

  • Airflow: 90 L/min
  • 40mm NATO threaded attachment hose
  • Two 40mm filters
  • 12-hour runtime (8x AA batteries)
  • 28.9 ounces

With a great price, good quality, and unmatched versatility- it’s easy to see why the MIRA MB-90 PAPR is the best.

Budget PAPR

Honeywell North PR500

Effective, Full Kit, and Inexpensive

An inexpensive mask-mounted purifier with included protective mask and filter.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Our top pick requires a not-included protective mask, but if you’re just starting out you can get the all-in-one PAPR from Honeywell. Their North brand puts out effective respirators for a wide range of situations (including just a mouthpiece option!).

The PR500 is one of the cheapest PAPR options that you can use right out of the box, and it is surprisingly effective for its cost. The included RU6500 mask is versatile as well, as you can easily convert it to a traditional non-powered respirator.

Here is how the respirator measures up:

  • Airflow: 115 L/min
  • Included RU65001L full-face respirator, 108000-H5 HEPA filter, attached pump, and belt-mounted 540060 battery pack.
  • 8-hour runtime (Rechargeable NiCad battery)
  • 4.4 pounds

If you are looking for an inexpensive solution that will get you going from the ground up, the Honeywell North PR500 PAPR is what you need.

Face Shield PAPR

3M Versaflo TR-800-HIK

Comfortable, Intrinsically Safe, with Lab-Grade Quality

A durable helmet-type powered respirator that works in a massive range of environments.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

It may look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the 3M Versaflo pumps so much air through the system that the positive pressure alone will effectively prevent any contamination. The included filters work with vapors, organic gases, and particulates- but it also accepts the wide range of 3M filters letting you address specific threats not typical to CBRN, like Ammonia and Methylamine (TR6360N filter).

This filter versatility, plus the intrinsically safe and very powerful blower make this the end-all-be-all of powered air-purifying respirators. It is also a full kit, meaning you can take it out of the box and use it right away without any additional equipment.

Here are the full details:

  • Airflow: 220 L/min (High flow setting)
  • Included M-307 full helmet respirator, TR-6530N OV/AG/HE cartridge filter, two prefilters, air tube, flow indicator, and belt-mounted intrinsically safe battery pack/blower.
  • 8-hour runtime (Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery)

If you are looking for the best of the best, get the 3M Versaflo TR-800-HIK PAPR.

Everything We Recommend

The Powered Respirators We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several types and brands and types of respirators that we compared: 3M, MIRA, Honeywell, Dräger, Optrel, MSA, RPB, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of respirators and attachments. Prices can vary widely even on the same models, so we did some shopping around to make sure we were comparing the best models from the best suppliers. Some industrial suppliers, like Grainger, Fisher, and Gallaway are not offering very competitive prices on most models, so the hunt paid off.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have a PAPR that you swear by, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.

What is a PAPR?

PAPR stands for “Powered Air Purifying Respirator”. It is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects the wearer from inhaling harmful airborne particles such as dust, smoke, pathogens like viruses and bacteria, and depending on the filters used- CBRN threats like chemical warfare agents and radiological particles.

PAPRs are made up of a battery-powered blower unit that draws in ambient air through a filter or series of filters that remove contaminants. The purified air is then fed into a mask or hood, through a hose or direct attachment. They are commonly used in healthcare settings, laboratories, and military environments where wearers may be exposed to airborne hazards.

PAPRs are considered to be more protective than standard respirators because they provide a constant flow of filtered air to the wearer and do not rely on a tight seal around the face. The downside is that they can be heavier and bulkier than other types of respirators, and they require regular maintenance and battery charging to function properly. Depending on the blower noise and the velocity of the air being delivered, it can be hard to hear and communicate as well.

What to Look For

The best PAPRs have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Airflow
  3. Power
  4. Versatility
  5. Durability

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a powered respirator that you can rely on for chemical, biological, radiological, and conventional events. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the respirators that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a PAPR shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There are some great but high-priced PAPRs out there that may not be a great choice if you aren’t using them often. Follow your budget and get what makes the most sense for you.

You never want to spend too much money on one thing when it comes to gear. It’s better to diversify your PPE gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Airflow

At rest, the average person breathes in 6 liters per minute. Any sort of blown or supplied air will certainly need to beat that since that is at rest.

There is a wide range of airflow for powered respirators. Our picks range between 90 liters and 220 liters per minute- so they’ll easily outpace you even if you are hyperventilating.

It’s not just about keeping up with your breathing (and making breathing through a mask easier), but it’s also about positive overpressure. The extra air pumped into your mask makes it so that if there are any breaches in the face seal, contaminants won’t get in but instead air will get out.

Hooded models don’t ever worry that much about face seals because they pump so much air. When your life depends on it, having both a face seal and positive pressure from inside the mask is the best option.

Power

In order to support pumping hundreds of liters of air every minute for an entire 8-hour shift (minimum), our picks have high-efficiency blowers and a lot of battery capacity to power them.

While our starter and upgrade pick use rechargeable technology, our top pick leverages the easy-to-find trusty AA battery to power it. This lets you swap on the fly and keep on moving, never needing downtime to recharge. While the batteries provide power, the common battery type provides versatility.

Versatility

When it comes to PAPRs, versatility refers to how adaptable the equipment is, including:

  • compatible filters
  • compatible masks/hoods
  • battery type (common, rechargeable?)
  • position of battery
  • position of blower

Other considerations include whether the PAPR can be stepped down to a non-powered respirator if needed. Also, intrinsically safe blowers and batteries offer more versatility since they can be much safer in dangerously flammable environments.

Durability

There are many hood-type PAPRs available, but they are meant to be single-use. This is not ideal for cost, effectiveness, or durability if you are in a strenuous environment.

This is why they didn’t make the cut despite their lower cost. We always consider durability and investment in protective equipment because like you- we don’t have an unlimited government budget to drop on our equipment when it breaks or when its single use is up!

Who Needs a PAPR?

Powered air-purifying respirators are a type of specialty equipment usually associated with safety and military applications. Not many people will invest in a PAPR outside of work environments, but they are the pinnacle of respiratory protection.

For this reason, we consider them a versatile upgrade for standard protective gas masks (which are in turn an upgrade for particulate filter masks).

PAPRs are a suggested respirator mask upgrade for your:

Additionally, guys with beards will find difficulty creating a seal with any mask that isn’t powered or supplied with air. The positive pressure of a PAPR fixes this problem and provides all the dudes with beards with one of the best solutions.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best PAPR is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Burgess, W., et al. (1968). Supply Rates for Powered Air-Purifying Respirators. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal. Volume 30. Issue 1. Pages 1-6. (Source)

Johnson, A., et al. (2007). Exercise Performance While Wearing a Tight-Fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirator with Limited Flow. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Volume 2. Issue 7. Pages 368-373. (Source)

Licina, A., et al. (2020). Use of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) by healthcare workers for preventing highly infectious viral diseases—a systematic review of evidence. Systematic Reviews. Volume 9. Issue 173. (Source)

The Final Word

Powered air-purifying respirators are the peak of respiratory protection in a practical sense. Supplied air systems are cumbersome and do not allow for enough operating time in all but specialized scenarios where it is absolutely necessary, like firefighting or underwater exploration. A solid PAPR setup will cover enough bases for you to tackle a massive range of situations.

Here are a few other reads our subscribers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the MIRA Safety MB-90 to be the best option given its value, airflow, power, versatility, and durability.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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