Air Travel CBRN Safety Go Bag

Air Travel CBRN Safety Go Bag

by Matt Collins

Do you need a go bag for air travel?

Not just for the possibility of a terrorist attack or a major malfunction.

But also for the unique threat posed by … a sneeze.

This year's holiday season was marred by rampant illness for some, as the triple threat of COVID-19, rhinovirus, and influenza wreaked havoc across America. Millions arrived home for the holidays with a new infection.

All it took was a sneeze and a cough. Some virus was ejected into the cramped cabin, infecting many people around its carrier.

In sporadic cases, these kinds of infections can have serious consequences.

But the vast majority of the time, they're merely an inconvenience.

Behind the inconvenience, though, is the implication—that a new pandemic could potentially catch and spread rapidly through air travel. If a CBRN threat were ever released inside an airplane's cabin, deliberately or by accident, it could lead to disaster.

What can the average passenger do to prepare for that kind of contingency?

Can you wear a gas mask on a commercial flight? Should you?

What's even allowed in terms of carry-on and checked baggage?

We will answer all these questions in today's special article on building your CBRN go bag for air travel.

Let's get started …


  • 01

    What is a Go Bag?

  • 02

    Health Effects of Flying

  • 03

    About Wearing a Gas Mask on an Airplane

  • 04

    Recommended Go-Bag Gear for Air Travel

  • 05

    6 Precautions to Avoid Getting Sick on the Plane

  • 06

    Traveling Safe is Still Easy and Fun

What is a Go Bag?

MIRA Safety defines a go-bag as a mission-specific, easy-to-transport bag containing essential tools to accomplish your objectives.

Go bags are generally smaller and less generalized than a bug-out bag, usually meant to last at least 72 hours while you navigate your way to safety. Instead, a go bag might be specifically designed to help you survive car accidents and fires … or to help you evacuate your workplace in the event of an attack.

(Image courtesy of NYC Emergency Management)

When it comes to the size, purpose, and contents of your go bag—that's ultimately up to you. There's no fixed list, and it all comes down to personal preferences. We'll show you our top 3 pieces of CBRN protective gear and a long list of possible inclusions, but it's ultimately on you to decide what you'll bring along.

Today, we're looking at how to build a go bag that can meet the specific needs of the air traveler. We will examine which CBRN gear is acceptable and up to TSA/airline standards while making the most sense for the modern passenger.

But before we can get into how to build your air travel go bag, let's look at the specific challenges inherent in taking to the sky.

Health Effects of Flying

We all know that feeling. The plane takes off … you pop your ears … and maybe enjoy a cocktail while fighting over the armrest with the man beside you.

For most of us, flying has become so routine that we don't realize the profound physiological effects it can have on our bodies. The air inside your plane's cabin is literally drier than the Sahara desert—with a relative humidity of about 12% (vs. 25% for the Sahara!).

Your digestive system is also likely to struggle with the impact of pressure changes and altitude. Meanwhile, jet lag can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and reduced circulation can impact your white blood cell count.

Add all that up, and you're 100 times more likely to get sick on a plane than in everyday life, according to the research.

Worse still—you'll know who you have to thank for it.

Because according to another story, people who get on the plane while sick have an 80% chance of infecting those sitting in their immediate proximity!

Those aren't the odds you want to hear about before your big vacation.

But the facts are plain. Air travel suppresses your immune system and can put you in extremely close proximity to people carrying the flu, the common cold, or even worse. And if cloth masks aren't ideal protection … then what's the alternative?

About Wearing a Gas Mask on an Airplane

It was the last thing folks expected to see on the brief flight from Dallas to Houston in February 2020.

But there he was—a man wearing a surplus gas mask with a shemagh scarf tucked around his collar. It was the very beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. People weren't even wearing cloth masks yet. And after he refused to take off his gas mask, he was escorted from the flight… and his story made national headlines:

(Image courtesy of ABC News)

For decades, the media has portrayed gas masks as something that should frighten viewers. We see them in heist movies and post-apocalyptic science fiction. Then when we see them in real life, it's not uncommon for people to worry.

Gas masks are functionally superior to a typical cloth face mask. But unfortunately, they're not quite socially acceptable for air travel.

The above story is proof of that, on some level. Now that we're on the other side of a global health crisis, flight attendants would likely be more considerate about passengers wishing to wear as much protection as possible. And as long as you comply with the crew—removing your mask if and when it's requested—there's not technically anything wrong with it.

Gas masks and half-face respirators can be carried in carry-on luggage (unless otherwise prohibited by your air carrier). Security will likely want to remove and inspect them when they reach the x-ray machine, but there's no reason you can't have some CBRN protection while you travel.

Unless, of course, your gas mask has been adorned with fake machine gun bullets like this one found by the TSA:

(Image courtesy of TSA, Miami Airport)

Seriously though, as long as you're practical–as long as you check the rules ahead of time and follow them to the letter… you should have no problem carrying PPE onto an airplane.

Recommended Go-Bag Gear for Air Travel

So how can you stay safe during commercial air travel—especially if it's not really possible to wear a gas mask?

Although cloth masks aren't perfect, they are a step in the right direction. They can prevent you from inhaling aerosolized viruses and bacteria that you may otherwise be exposed to in an enclosed plane cabin.

And if you wear any cloth mask, it should be our Silverplus® MIRA Safety masks.

Silver's antimicrobial properties are well established. It's used in everything from designer makeup to medical supplies, from gauze to heavy-duty worker's overalls. It's a key component for a wide variety of modern medical technologies.

Silver is so powerful because it naturally blocks enzymes that help transport oxygen, and it deactivates essential proteins in some bacteria. And it can lock cell membranes to prevent further exposure. As a result, Silverplus® masks offer an extra layer of protection from dangerous exposure.

The patented Silverplus® treatment embeds microscopic silver particles into the fabric through micro-pigmentation. The material can retain that micro pigmentation through hundreds of washings.

Next, we'd recommend including an MDG-1 Decontamination Glove.

These gloves weigh in at just 5.3 ounces. In their packaging, they can last for up to five years and tuck away easily in any bug-out bag or car glove compartment. But it can be deployed in seconds if you or someone you know is exposed to topical CBRN threats.

The MDG-1 contains an arm-length glove pre-coated with a montmorillonite-based compound that's nontoxic, noncorrosive, and extremely fine (with particles as small as 63 microns in size). The mixture has so much surface area that it can effectively adhere to threats via adsorption, allowing you to dust them away in seconds.

The MDG-1 is based on a standard military-issue decontamination glove, proven through years of deployment in the field as a rugged and simple solution that can minimize the threats of exposure to toxic chemicals and caustic hazards. It's not perfect, but it's quick, easy, and helps ensure that anyone exposed to those threats can return to receive medical attention.

The MDG-1 is ideal for a go bag. And it's also a practical precaution for anyone who works in or around laboratories, healthcare facilities, factories, or anywhere else where exposure is a fact of everyday life.

Finally, we can't recommend the Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator (TAPR) enough for this purpose.

The TAPR is the only half-face respirator we offer, and with good reason. Engineered to meet the needs of military special forces, it's just as robust as any of our full-face gas masks—with plenty of flexible deployment options.

The TAPR has a compact P3 filter that protects users from biological threats like common viruses and bacteria. It also comes with a harness, a hard-shell case, and even a compact go bag that's ready immediately. I'd recommend adding a compact NBC-17 SOF filter to your order as well since it can help protect you from an even more comprehensive range of threats.

It's notably not a full-face gas mask, however. That means it will leave your eyes exposed while you're using it. This is less of a consideration when facing chemical threats often associated with air travel disasters or even illness outbreaks on planes. In this case, the added flexibility of the smaller mask (and the fact that it can tuck easily into your fully-loaded carry-on) make it a practical choice.

With these three items, you've got a good foundation for your air travel go bag. Here's a quick checklist of some additional things you might want to include in your personal go bag:

  • Spare medicine

  • Vitamin C and Electrolytes (for pre-flight)

  • Photocopied documentation

  • Emergency contact list

  • Cash

  • Compact battery charger

  • Spare charging cable

  • Potassium Iodide tablets

  • Emergency Radio

Most or even all of these extras can be easily tucked away into even a small go bag … giving you a practical solution for various challenges that may come up while you're traveling.

In addition to stocking up with the right gear for your go bag, there are a few simple proactive steps you can take in preparation that cost practically nothing and will help ensure you arrive at your destination healthy:

6 Precautions to Avoid Getting Sick on the Plane

1.Take a Window Seat. Research shows you're less likely to get sick or be exposed to germs if you take the window instead of the aisle or middle seat. This may cost a few extra bucks on some flights, but you can't beat the view.

2.This is a crucial factor. You'll want to get plenty of sleep before heading to the airport. Ensure you're hydrated, and grab an extra bottle of water to bring on the plane. If possible, bring a vitamin C supplement and take some electrolytes to help your immune system once you reach altitude.

3.Stow Above, not Below. Stash your carry-on bag in the overhead bin. It's less convenient than it would be beneath the seat in front of you, but the foot traffic in that area can leave it rife with germs.

4.Careful What You Touch. Bring your own blanket and pillow if you want to use them. Bring your headphones and a few sanitizing wipes/bottles of hand sanitizer. Most commercial airliners are cleaned once a day, rarely as profoundly as they should be.

5.Stay Masked Up. It's not always comfortable or convenient, but a cloth mask can sometimes be better than nothing. So stay masked up for the duration of the flight—especially when you're up and moving around. This can help protect you from some of the most common airborne pathogens.

6.Wash Your Hands. Proper hand-washing can eradicate 30% of diarrhea-related ailments and one-fifth of all respiratory diseases. It's a simple precaution to save you from hours, if not days, of severe illness. So wash your hands. Carry a hand sanitizing solution if necessary, but stay clean!

Traveling Safe is Still Easy and Fun

Being proactive and thinking about these things can free you from the stress that might come later in your travels.

Because a few basic precautions now can save you from a world of worry later if you end up in any number of challenging situations overseas or worse—while you're still at cruising altitude.

Ideally, your go bag should be small enough to tuck into your carry-on luggage and designed to clear it for easy carry-on travel. That way, even the most frequent fliers can bring it along without a second thought.

And that's ultimately the goal with your go bag. You want it to be easy and convenient enough to grab it on the way out without thinking twice. If not, if it's too cumbersome or so heavy that you just don't like bringing it, then you won't. At that point, it becomes useless.

So focus on building a go bag that you'll actually bring along, however low-profile that means it needs to be.

Aside from that, we've got some of the most frequently asked go-bag questions answered for you below, so take a look if you'd like to know more. If we missed out on something, let us know with a comment!

Air Travel Go Bag: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a go bag and a bug-out bag?
What is a go bag?
How long should a go bag last?
What Should be in an Emergency Go Bag?
What can go in a carry-on bag?
What can’t go in a checked bag?