I wanted to jot down a couple face mask options for squash players. I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but since the pandemic is dragging on and we have different COVID variants popping up all the time, better late than never.
The first face mask option I tried on the squash court was your basic cloth mask like these from Athleta:
The problem I found with most cloth masks is if you’re breathing really heavily, the mask will push away from your mouth as you exhale, but then as you inhale it will pull in and suddenly cover your mouth. It feels quite suffocating and I found it really difficult to play under those conditions.
My favorite alternative to the cloth masks is this one from Under Armour, called the Under Armour Sports Mask. The mask fits securely around your nose and chin, but the benefit is it’s more structurally sound and it stays off your mouth even as you inhale/exhale. I found the performance was pretty good even after a few games, though sometimes by the fifth game the mask would be pretty sweaty and didn’t hold up quite as well. It was still much better than your standard face mask though. One downside of this mask is the price: $25, or about 5 times as much as those Athleta masks. I also didn’t love the ear loops on this mask. They were not adjustable. I ended up tying little loops in them to get the sizing right.
Another option I tried was a neck gaiter. This is only a single layer of cloth, so I’m not sure how much protection it offers, but it was compliant with the mask mandates that were in place in Philadelphia at the time. (To be honest I’m not sure how much protection ANY mask really offers on a squash court over an extended period of time.)
The nice thing about the gaiter is it’s made of stretchy material that sticks closely to your mouth at all times. The benefit of this was you didn’t get that experience of the mask going on and off your mouth as you breathe in and out. It just stays put on your mouth the whole time. I found this much more manageable than the cloth masks. I happen to own a Buff brand gaiter, but generic versions of these are available on Amazon and in lots of other places as well.
One problem with all face masks, even the Under Armour one, was that my squash goggles would fog up. I usually ended up playing without goggles, even though I always prefer to play with eye protection.
The best workaround I found to this was using the iMask shield. This has great anti-fogging properties, in part because it stays further off your face than standard goggles. I used this whenever I really needed to wear goggles (typically when playing doubles, where eye protection is essential).