Digital Decorating:

Grow Your Gaiter Knowledge

By Christopher Bernat, Contributing Writer

August 13, 2020

Gaiters have been the subject of a lot of speculation lately as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and find safe ways to protect citizens against it.

Researchers at Duke University tested 14 different face coverings, including N95 face masks, surgical masks, bandanas and gaiters, to see how effective each was in keeping droplets from escaping. In the study, gaiters performed poorly, leading many consumers and decorators to question the protective qualities of the product category at large.

Study Details
While media reports referred to the gaiter as a “neck fleece,” Martin Fischer, an associate research professor at Duke who helped perform the study, says it was made of polyester mixed with a little spandex, not cotton fleece.

“You can see the material was pretty thin,” Fischer said in an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer. “So if you stretch it out over your mouth, it gets even thinner.”

Fischer says the researchers tested only one type of neck gaiter. In fact, he said, the study was never meant to be a comprehensive test of all masks and mask materials.

“The focus of the study was to develop a simple technique for mask testing that people could duplicate and set up themselves,” he said. “This is, as far as we know, by far the simplest and easiest way to do this. We set this up on a weekend with stuff that we had lying around in the lab.”

Where Do You Go from Here?
Here are some things to consider when evaluating the gaiter product category:

Select a gaiter made of thicker fabric. Many promotional gaiters are thin and lightweight (80-110 GSM). This weight is not ideal for PPE. Find a gaiter with 130 GSM or higher.

Length matters. Some gaiters are longer so they can be doubled and layered when worn. This provides double the protection and acts as a two-layer product.

Knit construction is important. Different knits impact the fabric’s ability to act as personal protective equipment (PPE) Fabrics that include mechanical stretch can be lighter in weight but behave like a heavier fabric.

Quality Counts
There are so many different types of gaiters on the market. Many are too thin to be effectively used as PPE. However, there are other products on the market that weigh about 130-140 GSM, and that has a real impact on effectiveness.

Christopher Bernat is chief revenue officer and co-founder of Vapor Apparel. He speaks on sublimation and apparel topics for Impressions Expo, PRINTING United Alliance , FESPA and other events, and serves on the executive board of directors for PRINTING United Alliance. For more information or to comment on this article, email Chris at