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The AirPop Active is a high-performance mask that's ideal for cycling in the city. It claims to filter a wide variety of harmful pollutants, and it's comfortable without making you sweat the moment you start pedalling. You do still get a bit clammy around the 360-degree seal, but it's only an issue if you're really pushing it, or it's very hot and humid.
Do you regularly ride in the city? If so, like me, you probably worry about the levels of traffic pollution. Some days it's bad enough to almost make me want to take the bus... almost.
I've considered using an anti-pollution mask before, but didn't want to compromise on breathability – most of my riding was high-tempo then. Nowadays it's mostly urban, though, whether that's taking my children to nursery, riding to the shops, or just getting out and about.
The AirPop Active is perfectly suited to this kind of riding. If you tend to ride hard and fast, this mask won't cut it. Yes, it's breathable, but it's not breathable enough for that sort of intensity. So hillclimbs are a no-go.
For low-intensity city riding, where you're chugging on fumes at peak times, it's brilliant – you can ride confident that you're inhaling relatively clean air.
The AirPop's outer 'Airknit' shell is a rigid dome that sits away from your face, leaving a significant amount of room between your mouth and it. This is essentially breathing space, and allows moisture to evaporate more effectively.
It also prevents the discomfort of a mask pressed against your face, which is only worse when it gets sweaty, and means you can have a conversation without sounding like Bane. Which is always good.
The meshed design flows plenty of air, and it's also very tough – AirPop says it's 'humidity, water and abrasion-resistant'. To ensure a good fit the earloops are adjustable, and they work well. It's easy enough to do on the move, too, if you need to.
It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of putting the mask on. AirPop recommends holding the bottom seal in place and then attaching the top section, though I found it worked better the other way around, adjusting the tightness of the earloops to ensure a snug fit.
The shell is washable, but even after several hundred miles of riding this one still looks and smells clean – I do always make sure to hang it up to air properly after each use, though.
Inside the shell lives a removable filter, held in place by tabs, and the edges have a medical-grade 360° double membrane seal. Indeed, you can feel you're breathing through the filter, rather than around the sides. This bonus is that your glasses don't steam up, either.
You can flip the top layer of the membrane up and the bottom layer down to adjust the seal – for my face, this created the perfect seal. It feels like it should adjust to all kinds of face shapes.
AirPop says the 'electrostatically-charged double TorayMicron nano-filter core layer' is effective against biological threats (such as viruses), naturally occurring instances (such as allergens or dust) and human-made pollutants (like carbon combustion and particulate pollution).
The Active mask has been tested for biological and particulate filtration – to internationally-recognised standards for medical masks – by SGS Laboratories. SGS describes itself as "the world's leading testing, inspection and certification company," and AirPop supplies full reports on its site.
Briefly, the results are a filtration efficiency of 99.3% for particles and 99.9% for bacteria. It's even 98.6% efficient against the most penetrating size of particle – 0.3 micrometres. It also meets the standard of CWA 17553:2020, which means it's okay in Tesco as well.
One filter offers about 40 hours of use, and you get four filters included. A pack of four new ones is £24.99.
Although the Active mask worked pretty much flawlessly for most of the test period – I used it pretty much every day for about two months – it had one or two hiccups. One of these was on a warm day with a couple of big hills on my route. It got around the seal I had to stop and soak it up.
Then, on one particularly wet and humid day, the seal became so wet and greasy it refused to even stay on my face. Even when I managed to get it back on, the filter was so saturated I couldn't actually breathe through it.
AirPop tells me it's currently developing a head harness for additional tension in more extreme situations.
So, the mask works totally fine on cooler, dry days, but on hot and humid ones (and if you're climbing a few hills), you might find it doesn't seal properly. Naturally oily skin doesn't help this, and neither do beards, so beware.
The Active mask comes with a handy carry sack, which is light and water resistant, though most of the time I found myself just stuffing the mask in a pocket in a rush. It's also available in a variety of colours, including grey/white and yellow/black (if you really want to be noticed).
We haven't reviewed many masks, though we did test the Respro Techno Anti Pollution mask about five years back, and found it offers decent protection. Respro says it filters out 'A broad spectrum of pollutants including PM2.5 and sub-micron particulates and unburnt fuel,' but doesn't give any specific data on exactly how small these particulates are. It's still available at a barely-increased price of £35.99.
The Admiral PRO from Cambridge Mask Co is £24.99, claims to filter 'almost 100%' of harmful substances and is £24.95. Alternatively, a pack of 10 disposable KN95 masks is £49.99, though widely discounted to £25 online.
AirPop is currently offering 10% off if you sign up for the newsletter, which makes it a slightly more reasonable £62.99, but it still seems relatively expensive. Fresh disposable filters for the inside will also be an ongoing expense.
The AirPop Active is well made, effective for low-intensity cycling and comfortable to wear. You can even talk in it easily. It struggles with hot days, intense efforts or greasy/hairy faces, but for the majority of city riding it's great – assuming you're happy with the price.
Effective against a variety of pollutants, but best suited to cool, dry and low-intensity rides
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Airpop Active mask
Size tested: One Size
Tell us what the product is for
AirPop says, "Designed to move with you. Engineered Airknit delivers advanced comfort, superior breathability and lightweight protection. The most advanced technical textile ever developed for a mask. Specific zones of high airflow are made possible through a combination of engineered knitting and compression forming. The result is our lightest weight, most breathable mask ever. Includes 4 replaceable filters."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Patented Innovative Design
FIT | With its patented 360 degrees sealing, medical-grade soft touch membrane, and super light construction the Active mask filters adaptively seal to the contours of your face. The design maintains its shape and fit when snapped into the Airknit pre-formed shell. Paired with adjustable earloops to create the ideal fit for every face.
FILTRATION | Respiratory and barrier protection in one mask! 99.3% particle filtration (PFE) and 99.9% bacterial filtration (BFE) plus fluid resistance. Exceeds Community face coverings CWA 17553:2020 guidelines.
FUNCTION | Our unique 3D structure creates a canopy of air that keeps the mask off the face for effortless breathability. Paired with low resistance materials, the Active Mask delivers unrestricted airflow for easy breathing.
Durable Airknit soft shell
Replaceable filter insert
360° SOFT TOUCH SEAL
Materials: jacquard knit, polyester, PP and TPE
Filtration Efficacy: 99.3% particles and 99.9% of bacteria.
Lifespan: Filter media effective for up to 40 hours cumulative use
Very nicely made – feels like a premium face mask.
Very effective in the right conditions, but the seal didn't work when there was too much perspiration inside the mask – usually on hot or humid rides. Whatever the weather, this is definitely for more casual, low-tempo use.
Holding up very well. I've not even needed to wash it once, though I have kept the seal clean and free of dirt and grease.
Plenty of adjustability.
It feels like it's designed to fit a wide variety of size heads/faces. I have quite a long and slim face, and it worked well when the seal was adjusted.
It's very light – you hardly notice it. It does take up a bit of space in your pocket, though.
I wouldn't exactly call it comfortable, but it's a lot more comfortable than regular face coverings, especially when you get a bit warm.
Very expensive when compared to other masks.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You can put it in the wash, though I didn't need to – I simply made sure to regularly clean the seal with warm soapy water and let both the outer shell and inner filter air after each use.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In the right conditions, the mask works flawlessly - you can really feel it's sealed properly, and AirPop's data says it's highly effective at filtering out a wide variety of pollutants. The caveat here is that if you get too hot, or it's a really warm or humid day, sweat can stop it sealing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's very comfortable and easy to breathe with.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The seal wouldn't stay in place when my face got very sweaty/oily – this did only happen once or twice, to be fair.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The only other mask we've tested is the Respro Techno Anti-Pollution mask. It's £32.99, but Respro doesn't really say much about what it can actually filter. It doesn't seem anywhere near as breathable for cycling, either.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The AirPop Active mask is light, breathable and very comfortable. It's also very effective at filtering out harmful pollutants. Though it's expensive, it's arguably a good investment if you ride a lot in the city. I no longer leave the house for local rides without taking it with me.
About the tester
I usually ride: Steel audax bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives,