The PAPR: The Ultimate CBRN Gas Mask Upgrade

The PAPR: The Ultimate CBRN Gas Mask Upgrade

by Matt Collins

How fast can you run a mile?

Most Americans would struggle to run a mile at all.But if you’re healthy and in decent shape, you might get one in under ten minutes. If you’re a natural runner, you might come in far faster.

Now, what if you ran that same mile wearing a gas mask? It would slow you down by at least a few minutes. But what if you run another mile? What if you also strapped on a hazmat suit, gloves, and boots? What if you’ve exerted yourself for several hours without rest—and taking off the gas mask isn’t an option?

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (or PAPRs for short) have been one of the most essential innovations in CBRN protection over the last half-century. They’re a direct upgrade to the traditional gas mask, with few downsides and massive benefits for anyone who needs to wear a respirator.While traditional CBRN gear can keep you alive during a major disaster, a PAPR can improve your awareness, ability to function, and endurance through one of the worst days of your life.

So today, we look deeper at this absolute marvel of modern personal protective equipment (PPE) and explore why every gas mask owner should have a PAPR in their kit.

Let’s get started.


  • 01

    How a PAPR Works

  • 02

    Using A PAPR is as Easy as 1-2-3

  • 03

    Why Everyone Needs a PAPR

  • 04

    The Universal Choice: MB-90 PAPR

  • 05

    The Professionals’ Choice: MIRA Safety Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator

  • 06

    The Kid’s Choice: CM-3M Child Escape Respirator

  • 07

    Filter Selection

  • 08

    When Every Second Counts

  • 09


How a PAPR Works

As the name implies, a PAPR combines a traditional protective respirator with a contained power source that can increase airflow. PAPRs usually take the form of battery-powered blowers, often designed to be incorporated into existing respirator systems.

So, for example, you would typically screw your gas mask filters directly into your gas mask. But with a PAPR, you’ll screw the filters into the PAPR instead, then connect the PAPR to the gas mask’s inhalation port.

The MIRA Safety MB-90 PAPR features dual 40mm filter ports for intake and a 40mm hose adapter for outflow. With the flick of a switch, 90 liters per minute is drawn in across the two filters and blown up into the facepiece of your respirator mask. As a result, the breathing resistance experienced while wearing a standard gas mask (60 Pa or more) is reduced to zero, along with breathing fatigue and exertion while standing idle.

The PAPR provides other benefits as well. Since the PAPR is pumping fresh air into your facepiece, it can create positive pressure inside your gas mask. This positive pressure is an additional barrier to protect you from the outside environment. The mask won’t necessarily compress around your face as you inhale.

In some cases, the positive pressure generated by the PAPR’s airflow is crucial to a respirator’s functioning. Our CM-3M Children’s Gas Mask, for example, uses a PAPR that helps to inflate the NBC hood and provide fresh air for the user. The positive pressure inside the mask is a crucial added protection barrier and a critical component that makes the mask work. Similar protocols are used in high-end, self-contained respirator systems by government agencies.

Note that the term “PAPR” can be used to refer to the entire integrated respirator system or just the powered blower unit (especially in the case of a universal PAPR like the MB-90, which is cross-compatible with all 40-mm NATO standard gas masks).

A PAPR requires a functioning power source to provide any benefit. That means that battery life is an essential consideration for respirator use, but in many cases, the batteries will last as long as (if not longer than) your gas mask filter. In some cases (as with the MB-90), battery packs may even be replaceable on the fly.

As for the blower’s internals and the fan itself, these units are generally built for maximum reliability. It helps that the blower operates within a closed circuit where dust and particulates are extremely unlikely to appear. But regular operational tests should be undertaken (especially before use) to ensure the PAPR unit is functioning correctly.

Using A PAPR is as Easy as 1-2-3

In practice, using a PAPR is easier than it might sound. The first step is to inspect the PAPR unit and its connectors …

Much like inspecting your gas mask before use, you’ll want to check the hoses and junctions on your PAPR for a snug fit. We recommend NOT storing your PAPR with batteries because they could leak and damage the unit’s internals. Instead, visually inspect the battery compartment for wear or damage, then load a fresh battery pack each time (battery packs can be pre-loaded for easy deployment). Filters should also be selected and installed at this point.

Once the unit is ready, don your gas mask and protective equipment. To negative pressure test your mask, cover the ports on both gas mask filters on your PAPR. If your PAPR is mounted to your side or back with MOLLE webbing, you’ll need help for this step. Once both filters are covered, inhale deeply. You should feel an increase in pressure and suction, meaning the mask has a good seal around your face.

Once the system passes a negative pressure test and you’re ready to go, the third step is to flip the power switch and engage the blower. Power should remain on for the entire time you’re using the PAPR.

In the unlikely event of a power failure, while using a PAPR, the system will continue to provide the protection offered by the attached filters, but you’ll notice a sharp increase in breathing resistance. It’s recommended you seek shelter and take a moment to inspect the unit and possibly replace your battery pack.

And that’s it. Take an extra moment to inspect the PAPR while you’re checking your gas mask, perform a negative pressure test after donning, flip the switch, and you’re ready to go. The unit is built to run with extreme reliability for as long as needed. It can take moderate levels of punishment from stumbles, bumps, and falls without losing a beat.

Once you’ve incorporated the PAPR into your routine, you’ll realize …

Why Everyone Needs a PAPR

If you’re familiar with gas masks, you’ve probably heard of the ”balloon test.”

It’s a rule of thumb that determines whether a traditional gas mask can save someone’s life or whether they lack the lung power to operate it.

If you can’t blow up a balloon on your own, you won’t be able to use a traditional gas mask because of the respiratory effort required. That sounds simple because it is that simple. While blowing up a balloon shows whether someone has the minimum pulmonary power needed to inflate a balloon, it can’t tell whether they can handle a hike on a hot afternoon in full PPE. It also can’t tell you whether (as mentioned above) they can sprint a quarter-mile while wearing a gas mask.

The simple fact is that if you own a gas mask and not a PAPR, you haven’t trained with your gas mask enough. “Elevation masks” may still be in fashion with the CrossFit crowd, but you don’t want unnecessary fatigue if you’re in a potentially life-threatening situation.

If and when you need a gas mask, god forbid, you’ll want as few distractions as humanly possible. Taping yourself into a full-body hazmat suit, gas mask, gloves, and boots will be distraction enough. Especially if you’re wearing an impermeable hazmat suit, you may find yourself fatiguing faster than expected—all while covered in gear from head to toe.

But with a PAPR, you can remove the weight of the filter from your face. You can run a dual-filter setup and incorporate the respirator into your existing MOLLE setup. Some PAPRs (like our MB-90) even run off the same AA batteries you can find at every gas station in America. For those who fail the infamous balloon test, PAPRs are a literal lifesaver. For everyone else? They’re still a lifesaver.

Because if you’re even slightly out of shape or just a few steps behind, wearing a gas mask and PPE will only worsen it. If you can hike a few miles on a good day in a t-shirt and jeans, you might make it less than a mile in full MOPP gear. With a PAPR, you’ll be better able to push through that extra mile.

And that’s the key advantage here. With a PAPR, you’ll have more physical resources on tap, which means more options when needed. You never know what a situation might hold—especially in the case of a significant disaster—so having extra resources could make all the difference. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup PAPR for anyone in your party who might need it.

Even for those who rely on a respirator at work (and not just in disaster situations), a PAPR can make a massive difference. After several hours of working in an area with poor ventilation or temperature control, a PAPR can keep you from going home absolutely exhausted.

For emergency workers like firefighters, PAPRs mean the difference between life and death. In addition to the heavy, back-mounted oxygen bottles they’re known for, most fire departments have begun using respirators with integrated PAPRs. The upgrade makes perfect sense, considering the job’s extreme exertion, heat, and danger.

The same goes for lab workers who handle contagious diseases and rely on compressed air systems to pipe in breathable air and provide crucial positive pressure inside their lightweight, protective equipment.

But what if you’re not fighting wildfires or experimenting with ebola?

Can everyday civilians get the same powered protection that the military, police, and emergency workers trust with their lives?

Thankfully, there are a few choices.

The Universal Choice: MB-90 PAPR

So far, we’ve mentioned the MB-90 PAPR a few times for one good reason: it’s the most easily accessible, consumer-friendly PAPR on the market today.

Enhancing an original Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) design for their special operators, the MB-90 weighs just 1.8 pounds and straps to your belt with the included harness. It uses dual 40-mm filters and a 40-mm hose that easily connects to your gas mask’s inhalation port. The MB-90 uses eight (8) AA batteries held in a small battery pack to provide 90 liters per minute of constant airflow for up to 12 hours—which is about how long the average gas mask filter will last. These battery packs can be a massive cost-saver when using and training with your PAPR since most alternatives use expensive NiMH and LiSO2 batteries.

The best thing about the MB-90 is that it just works. The original design has been deployed with special forces for years and has worked well. Our MIRA Safety version is even more rugged, with the improved interface and battery packs mentioned above. Another outstanding feature of the MB-90 is the selection of optional accessories to incorporate the MB-90 into your existing kit.

The PAPR MOLLE pouch, for example, is custom-fit for the MB-90 and designed to weave into the MOLLE webbing on your plate carrier or pack. The optional 90-degree hose is ideal for over-the-shoulder mounting, which can keep the PAPR out of the way while maneuvering through tight spaces. And the optional battery packs can keep you running for 24 hours straight (or even longer).

So what are the downsides?

The biggest downside is that the MB-90 runs like a Swiss watch, and it’s rugged enough to take severe punishment but reliable enough to trust with your life. And that kind of uncompromising quality always comes at a price. But once you’ve covered the initial cost, you’re mostly home free. The MB-90 has a 10-year shelf life, and aside from the negligible cost of AA batteries, you won’t be shelling out any extra cash for maintenance.

The only other downside is its dual-filter configuration. The MB-90 requires two 40-mm filters simultaneously during operation to provide such massive airflow, which means you’ll expend filters slightly faster. But more importantly, it means you need to stockpile filters in multiples of two.

You should NOT mix and match different filters with a PAPR, as you will only get the lowest level of protection. This is true of any dual-filter configuration, but it’s crucial to consider the MB-90 PAPR.

The Professionals’ Choice: MIRA Safety Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator

We’re cheating a little here since this isn’t precisely a PAPR … instead, it’s a TAPR. The MIRA Safety Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator was designed with police, SWAT, riot control agencies, and military special forces in mind. It’s an ultra-lightweight, half-face respirator compatible with popular helmet mounting systems, and it uses compact gas mask filters to provide the protection officers need on duty.

That’s why it’s the perfect mask to pair with a PAPR.

Because whether you’re storming buildings or keeping the peace, the work can get exhausting. And most professionals are out to get every single advantage they can. With a powered TAPR, you get practical, rifle-friendly protection with zero breathing resistance. It’s a crucial, performance-enhancing upgrade that could make all the difference in the line of fire. That’s the kind of situation the PAPR was built for.

Note that half-face masks like the TAPR don’t provide the same level of protection as a full-face gas mask. But it’s as close as you can get to “wearing nothing” while retaining functional protection against CS gas and other nasty threats.

You may be surprised that this mask is popular with civilians for portable, everyday protection. Since it comes with two filters and a hardshell case (all for less than a single gas mask), it’s a great deal and easy to store in your trunk or closet. A PAPR adds relatively negligible bulk and weight to your compact CBRN protection kit, even for civilians.

The Kid’s Choice: CM-3M Child Escape Respirator

Gas masks for children are often the last thing any parent wants to consider. But after having his own kids, our founder Roman realized there weren’t any suitable PPE options on the market for toddlers and young children. Not long after, MIRA Safety launched the CM-3M Child Escape Respirator.

This fully-integrated PAPR system combines a transparent protective NBC hood with a powered respirator that provides 45 liters per minute of airflow and a strong enough positive pressure barrier to provide up to 15 hours of continuous protection. That’s more than enough to make your way to safety.

The transparent hood comprises a heavy-duty, 4-layer PVC/nylon/nylon/PVC material for maximum resistance to tearing and penetration. It provides up to 240 minutes of protection from the harshest chemical warfare agents on earth. All in a bright, kid-friendly package. This high-flow PAPR also has must-have features like a hydration system.

This fully reusable protective respirator fits toddlers as young as two and kids up to small teenagers. It even uses 40-mm standard gas mask filters, so you won’t have to add a specialty filter to your stockpile. Better still, the PAPR is removable and can be used with other 40-mm standard gas masks (as long as you don’t mind the colorful, kid-friendly design). Since small kids grow up so fast and won’t pass the balloon test, traditional gas masks don’t make sense. This respirator is the perfect alternative. And unlike so many single-use escape hoods, you can train and familiarize your child with it before they need to use it.


Well, size is a limiting factor. Once your child reaches a specific size, this respirator will be too small for them. That’s less of an issue for families with multiple children, as this makes a perfect CBRN hand-me-down. Plus, even if your youngest ages out of it, the PAPR unit is still handy.

Like the MB-90, there’s a cost factor here as well. But in both cases, there’s no competition for comparison.

Filter Selection

As mentioned, PAPRs like the MB-90 and our CM-3M use the same 40-mm NATO standard filters as your existing MIRA Safety gas masks.

Our most popular and most recommended filter is the NBC-77 SOF Gas Mask Filter. This unit offers some of the highest levels of protection against the broadest range of potential CBRN threats, making it one of the most flexible gas mask filters. Additionally, it has a 20-year shelf life (nearly three times that of the competition), so it’s an excellent choice for long-term protection.

Another popular filter choice for PAPRs is the P3 particle filter, which is ideal for protection from biological threats or everyday exposure to things like paint fumes or asbestos. These filters come in a pack of six and make great practice filters. Once again, if you’re using a dual-filter PAPR like the MB-90, remember that the filters must match. Additionally, you should ensure your filters are the correct fit for your PAPR system, with matching threading and size.

The system draws air through both filters simultaneously and won’t draw sufficient airflow if one of the intakes is covered. Thus, you’ll only get the lowest level of protection for the two types of filters. If the filters share no protective qualities, they will offer no protection. In that event, you’re better off using a single-filter gas mask configuration.

Filters should last roughly as long if installed directly into your gas mask facepiece. The increased airflow may slightly reduce their longevity, so be mindful of any airflow reduction while using the system. If less air is flowing through the mask, but the motor is still running fine, you may need to change your filters.

We do not recommend storing your PAPR with filters installed. It’s best to keep the original caps on your filters until you need to use them.

When Every Second Counts

As you can see, it’s not a matter of if you need a PAPR but when you’re finally getting one.

Even if it’s not an absolute necessity, the benefits of having one on hand are just too serious to ignore.

Here at MIRA Safety, we always advocate practicing with your gear. So if you’ve got a rifle-ready gas mask, take it to the range and see how you shoot with it.

Run a firearms course with it. Or even sit around the house wearing your HAZ-SUIT to get familiar with the feel. It may sound silly, but it helps. And the more familiar one becomes with their PPE, the more they realize how necessary it is to power up their respirator. As simple as it may sound, reduced breathing resistance significantly impacts fatigue and performance over time.

And at a time when every mile, every yard, and every second count, that’s a crucial advantage.


What do I get in the box with the MB-90?
How do I mount it to my MOLLE plate rig/gear?
Can I get this with rechargeable batteries?
Can I have an MB-90 PAPR shipped to my country?