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V4: Stuck in the Middle

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    V4: Stuck in the Middle

    I have owned and used the V1 mask since it first debuted - I literally bought mine from the first production run. It is, to date, my favorite face mask and easily the most comfortable one I have tried. As an employee of an essential business, I have spent the entire pandemic working and wearing a face mask has become part of my daily life.

    I was lucky enough to win a set of the new V4 masks from the raffle being held on the forums.

    Awesome!

    I wound up liking my V1 mask more than the V4.

    Not so awesome!

    Keep reading to learn more about why I prefer the original and what improvements might be made to correct my issues with the V4.

    V1 (Dark Navy, Small/Medium)
    65% Poly, 35% Cotton.
    Removable nose bridge.
    Does not have a neck lanyard.


    V1, Front/Side View

    V1, Front View

    V1, Side View

    V4 (Navy, Small/Medium)
    100% Cotton Flannel.
    Built in nose bridge and neck lanyard.


    V4 (S/M), Mask Removed, Worn Around Neck

    V4 (S/M), Front/Side View, with Eyeglasses

    V4 (S/M), Side View, with Eyeglasses

    V4 (S/M), Side View, without Eyeglasses

    V4 (S/M), Side View, Mouth Fully Outstretched

    V4 (Black, Medium/Large)
    100% Cotton Flannel.
    Built in nose bridge and neck lanyard.


    V4 (M/L), Mask Removed, Worn Around Neck

    V4 (M/L), Front/Side View, with Eyeglasses

    V4 (M/L), Side View, with Eyeglasses

    V4 (M/L), Side View, without Eyeglasses

    V4 (M/L), Side View, Mouth Fully Outstretched

    As an employee of an essential business, it was very important for me to find a comfortable face mask very early on during the pandemic. I purchased my first set from Tom Bihn just as soon as they started making them.

    The version I have owned and worn exclusively since spring is what is now known as their V1 face mask.

    What have I grown to like about the V1 mask?

    1.) It fits my face well, without gaps.
    2.) The ear loops are stretchy and soft enough to minimize discomfort.
    3.) The nose bridge was essentially a removable twist tie, that, if misplaced, could be replaced with the household equivalent.
    4.) The fabric not only was fairly wrinkle-free, but breathable, and had enough structure of its own that it didn’t collapse inward on my face, or get sucked in by my breathing.

    Things I like about the V4:

    1.) The integrated neck lanyard. I think all masks should include lanyards. Not only does it eliminate the risk of loss (as careful as I am, I lost one of my V1 masks!) but it’s enormously more hygienic. For two reasons. Once removed, without a lanyard, you either have to a.) fold the mask and place it into a pocket, or b.) set it down on a potentially unclean surface. While the latter scenario is obviously problematic, the former means the wearer will have the readjust the nose bridge after unfolding the mask to put it back on again. It would require touching one’s face to reform the nose bridge.

    2.) Sewn-in adjustable nose bridge. I never had issues with the removable “twist tie” included with the V1 mask. Much the same, I don’t mind that the nose bridge in this version is permanently sewn into the mask. I wash my V1 face masks without removing the nose bridge and never once has it been removed by the wash cycle.

    Things I don’t like about the V4:

    1.) Sizing. My face is too long for a SM/MD but not large enough to fit a MD/LG. If I open my mouth wide, the SM/MD gets pulled under my nose. The MD/LG is just plan too large for my face, and therefore, loose. Both are unsafe for me to wear when in proximity to other people. Unless these masks were to be made in a middle size, I could not in good conscience wear them.

    2.) Small ear loops. Regardless of size, both V4 masks have smaller ear loops than my V1 mask and take more time to put on my face. They increase in size, proportionally, to the mask, but while the ear loops on the larger mask fit my face most comfortably, that mask is also the loosest around my face because the mask itself is too big a cut. The loops on the SM/MD should be larger. The loops on the MD/LG are likely fine, but again, are smaller than the V1 and take more time to put on and off. More time spent on adjustment means a greater likelihood of touching one’s face. My V1 mask is VERY easy to snap on by pulling the ear loops further back than my ears, and letting it snap into place without further adjustment.

    3.) Compatibility with eyeglasses/sunglasses. Even doing my best to bend the nose bridge exactly to the contours of my face, and even resting the glasses on top of the mask (instead of behind or under it), I still experience fogging. To be honest, I haven’t yet tried any mask which doesn’t fog. Out of curiosity, I asked my dentist during my last checkup (since he has to wear one every single day for the entirety of his shift) and he confided that the best solution was a piece of medical tape to seal the top edge of the mask against the face, forcing hot air out to the sides and not up the top. I cannot fault Tom Bihn since this is a fairly universal problem I have encountered, and is not unique to their mask design.

    4.) The fabric. Cotton flannel, compared to the Cotton/Poly blend, isn’t as firm a fabric (keeping it off and away from the mouth) and more easily absorbs condensation. I might like it during the cooler months while I’m walking outside, but inside a business, it feels warm. The lack of rigidity in this fabric, combined with the oversized cut (when compared to the V1) doesn’t make for a flattering look. If you’ve ever seen Jim Henson’s prototype of Kermit the Frog - a little more rumpled in the mouth than the finished puppet - you’ve seen what my face feels like in this V4 mask.

    So, as of right now, the cons outweigh the pros, and I will continue wearing my V1 mask.

    My ideal mask would be a V1 (double layer) mask, in a Small/Medium size, with an integrated neck lanyard.

    I would like to wrap up this review with a huge THANK YOU to Tom Bihn. It’s obvious to recognize their generosity. They gave me the chance to review a product, free of charge, ahead of its release date in exchange for feedback. What do I want to thank them more, and most for? They listen. Tom Bihn is a company who literally pulls suggestions from their message forums and, on a fairly regular basis, turns them into either upgrades to existing items, or reasons to make completely new items.

    This review is not overwhelmingly positive, and - if anything - a case for why one should purchase the V1 instead of the V4. Did I love these two new mask designs? I didn’t. Does it impact my trust or love in the company overall? Not one bit.

    Here’s the thing. People are so enthusiastic and so opinionated about Tom Bihn bags because they make products people use ALL THE TIME and EVERY SINGLE DAY. They become interconnected with your daily life, your work commute, and even your summer vacations. Items either work really well, or they don’t. By now, I’ve bought and either kept or returned most the items they make. The most important thing I have learned is that the bags I like best adapted to my lifestyle, and not the other way around. If you have to change your organizational habits to make a bag work, well, it probably won’t work.

    I hope that, one day, when the pandemic is no longer a problem, and flights are easier to take, I can thank and high-five Tom (and the rest of his company!) personally for how much better his products have made my own life.

    For now, I’d like to thank them for the opportunity to review their new product and for the trust they place in their customers to return their favor with an honest opinion - even if it’s not entirely a positive one.

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Chicagoan; 09-24-2020, 08:10 PM.
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    @wright_in_the_midwest

    #2
    Let me be the first to point out that the v2 is supposed to exactly like the v1, but with the lanyard setup of the v3 and v4. Should fit fine, but will still not have the snap on and tight feel of the v1.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by ayazgood View Post
      Let me be the first to point out that the v2 is supposed to exactly like the v1, but with the lanyard setup of the v3 and v4. Should fit fine, but will still not have the snap on and tight feel of the v1.
      I actually don’t mind the fitment on the V1 and the double ply construction.

      If they simply added a neck lanyard to that model, I think I would be content.

      Appreciate the comparison ayazgood!

      I wanted to include my other mask as a point for comparison but go no further than the products I had experience using.


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      @outside_chicago

      @wright_in_the_midwest

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        #4
        Thanks Chicagoan for the review as I am potentially interested in V4 when it becomes available.

        As ayazgood says, the lanyard version if the V1 is essentially the V2. I also find the V1 a good fit and comfortable to wear, but now mostly wear the V2 for the agreed practicality of having the neck lanyard and find it to be an equally good fit. For me, the adjustment of the neck lanyard and ear loops is simple with a bit of practice to ensure a good fit. Under latest French rules, I am mask wearing almost the full working day due to being in shared offices.

        Comment


          #5
          V4: Stuck in the Middle

          Originally posted by BigBadD View Post
          Thanks Chicagoan for the review as I am potentially interested in V4 when it becomes available.

          As ayazgood says, the lanyard version if the V1 is essentially the V2. I also find the V1 a good fit and comfortable to wear, but now mostly wear the V2 for the agreed practicality of having the neck lanyard and find it to be an equally good fit. For me, the adjustment of the neck lanyard and ear loops is simple with a bit of practice to ensure a good fit. Under latest French rules, I am mask wearing almost the full working day due to being in shared offices.
          BigBadD

          I think I’ll appreciate the fabric of this mask more come wintertime. If it does wind up being more of a seasonal material, I will likely update this review after I’ve been able to gain experience using it during cooler weather.

          Mostly my issues are with the fit. The M/L is much too big for my face, and the S/M is too small - hence, the title of the review. My ideal size would be between the two.

          What I really love about V1 is the poly blend. It looks clean, lays flat, and has enough rigidity to keep out and away from my mouth.

          I love the neck lanyard.

          I am indifferent about integrating the nose bridge into the mask permanently.

          But the fabric’s breathability (or lack thereof) and sizing issues (overall sizing as well as the size of the ear loops) are both deal breakers for me, much as it pains me to say.


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          @outside_chicago

          @wright_in_the_midwest

          Comment


            #6
            I am supposed to receive a V4 today and will share my thoughts after I get to try them out.

            I've been wearing the V3 masks for awhile now, and have come to prefer them for their comfort in all-day wear.
            Chicagoan, have you tried adjusting the ear loops? If the V4 is built like the V3, then they do in fact adjust in sizing.

            Comment


              #7
              I don’t think I’m disagreeing with what you are saying Chicagoan. But try the V2? It is not the same in terms of shape or material as the V4, it is closer to the V1.
              Last edited by BigBadD; 09-25-2020, 10:00 AM.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by carrot View Post
                I am supposed to receive a V4 today and will share my thoughts after I get to try them out.

                I've been wearing the V3 masks for awhile now, and have come to prefer them for their comfort in all-day wear.
                Chicagoan, have you tried adjusting the ear loops? If the V4 is built like the V3, then they do in fact adjust in sizing.
                carrot

                My biggest problem is with the overall coverage area of the mask - either too small or too large.

                I’ll try adjusting the loops at home tonight to see if that helps the mask to work better around my ears.

                Thanks!


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                @wright_in_the_midwest

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by BigBadD View Post
                  I don’t think I’m disagreeing with what you are saying Chicagoan. But try the V2? It is not the same in terms of shape or material as the V4, it is closer to the V1.
                  BigBadD

                  A.) Thank you for the recommendation, and B.) apologies if my tone didn’t come across the way I intended!

                  Maybe the next time I kick an order in I’ll include a V2 mask so I can try one on and see how it performs comparatively.

                  I never lose things, but without the neck lanyard I did manage to lose one of my V1 masks (when the S/M was still made in black) and was upset when I couldn’t order a replacement in that same color anymore.


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                  Comment


                    #10
                    No problem at all, just wanted to be sure suggestion was helpful and clear.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I have the V1, V2, and V3.

                      I don't understand the comment about the earloops being too small on the V4. They're completely adjustable. Just slide the lanyard part through the tight loop on the mask to make the earloop bigger.

                      I love the V2 because of the lanyard. Hubby has a small face, but a beard, so he likes the V3, but would prefer it without the 3rd layer of fabric.

                      I like that I can remove the metal on all 3 versions should I need to replace it.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        V4: Stuck in the Middle

                        Originally posted by BWeaves View Post
                        I have the V1, V2, and V3.

                        I don't understand the comment about the earloops being too small on the V4. They're completely adjustable. Just slide the lanyard part through the tight loop on the mask to make the earloop bigger.

                        I love the V2 because of the lanyard. Hubby has a small face, but a beard, so he likes the V3, but would prefer it without the 3rd layer of fabric.

                        I like that I can remove the metal on all 3 versions should I need to replace it.
                        BWeaves

                        So the ear loops and neck lanyard are an interconnected length? Lengthening the ear loops comes at the expense of shortening the neck lanyard? I can confirm when I’m back home again tonight how this works for me. I guess I have grown used to the fixed length of the ear loops on the V1 and because of this, the V4 loops felt small comparatively and it’s more adjustment than I’m used to if the ear loops have to be adjusted each time the mask is put back over one’s face.

                        I will also admit this much: the two sizes of V4 masks were shipped to me in an envelope with no other directions (I do remember a paper insert coming included with my V1 masks). Honestly, and had someone not told me, I would not have figured out the adjustability of the ear loops so soon. I know TB is trying to cut back on the waste created by packing slips and stickers, but maybe they could make a stamp with simple directions (or a web address) to mark the inside of boxes with (like they sometimes use to stamp the logo on paper envelopes)? The paper slip was something I did appreciate when my V1 masks came in (especially in regard to washing instructions).


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                        Comment


                          #13
                          Re: glasses fogging - I assume you are breathing mostly through your nose? I bring it up only because it was apparently a novel thought for my husband. [emoji4] But, everyone has their own way of doing things, and the mask has to fit *you*. I will be interested to hear if the tape route works for you!

                          As for the lanyard - while I like the security, I too dislike having to adjust the loops each time. I wonder if TB would consider making the ear loops independent from the neck lanyard.


                          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by haraya View Post
                            Re: glasses fogging - I assume you are breathing mostly through your nose? I bring it up only because it was apparently a novel thought for my husband. [emoji4] But, everyone has their own way of doing things, and the mask has to fit *you*. I will be interested to hear if the tape route works for you!

                            As for the lanyard - while I like the security, I too dislike having to adjust the loops each time. I wonder if TB would consider making the ear loops independent from the neck lanyard.


                            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                            haraya

                            You hit the nail on the head.

                            The V4 makes me realize I like and prefer fixed length ear loops and that the V1 loops are the ideal length for my head.

                            I played with the masks again after coming home from work and realized it is very difficult to keep the ear loops adjusted to a set length because they are connected to the neck lanyard, which has to be stretched to fit over one’s head.

                            Like haraya said, I wish they operated independently of another.

                            I hope everyone reading this thread understands that I am reviewing these masks in terms of my own experiences and opinions. What I may think or say isn’t necessarily a universal (or popular, even!) opinion.

                            Is the V4 a bad mask? No. I am more than sure others will like it, and some will even prefer it to other models and brands.

                            Is it the best mask for me? It is not.

                            I still own, use and stand by the V1.


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                            @wright_in_the_midwest

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                              #15
                              +1 for separating the lanyard. love it, and the current system works, but is harder to put on and feels less secure. I don't see the need for "adjustability" of the ear loops, and the lanyard is too short.

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