Nomad Travellers test Totobobo Mask

Davide and Oti reminds me of Herves and Goska. Both team were of Nomad Travellers

While in Singapore we were lucky enough to be accepted by Mr Francis Chu to visit Totobobo mask’s headquarters in Singapore and get to test live some samples of his invention. We were able to understand a little bit better the working mechanism of their product, how to properly wear the masks and how they perform compared to some of their direct competitors: Respro mask and 3M N95 disposable mask (1860s).

Arriving at Totobobo mask’s headquarters and getting to know Mr Francis Chu

After wandering around Totobobo’s neighborhood lost in between big commercial blocks, we eventually manage to decipher the coded Singaporean address we were provided, and to access the clean and professional looking headquarter of Totobobo.
We introduced ourself to the creator of Totobobo Mask, Mr Francis Chu (I forgot to ask him where Totobobo’s name is coming from) and we soon felt a good connection with him: ahumble, positive and friendly person.

What is Totobobo mask?

Totobobo mask is a reusable mask made of a non allergic elastomer, that uses replaceable filters and unique technologies. It is sold at the moment for 33 USD.

The frost surface turn transparent when wetThe frost surface turn transparent when wet
The peculiar characteristics of this mask are that it can be modeled using heat to fit perfectly everybody’s face, and the “Watermark Seal Check“, a technology that helps understanding when there are no gaps between mask and skin, by turning the frost internal surface of the material into transparent.

Oti wetting her face to check the fitOti wetting her face to check the fit
When there is a continuous transparent line in the contact interface face-mask, then a perfect fit is obtained.

A gap is visible on the top left next to the nose: tha mask needs to be reshapedA gap is visible on the top left next to the nose: tha mask needs to be reshaped

A continuos line on Oti's maskA continuos line on Oti’s mask
The filters available come in 3 different grades: N96, N94, N92. The number basically indicate the percentage of particles over pm 2.5 that are blocked by the filter.
The most effective filter of the line, the N96, would block at least 96% of the contaminants. While it is more performant, it can make more difficult the breathing operation and it’s more expensive than the others, so that while some customers might prefer the most effective option, others might find more convenient the N92 filters.
Totobobo mask comes in different sizes, and can even be trimmed to fit smaller faces.

Using Totobobo mask

Mr. Francis started our educational visit by showing us how to use his product.
The main operations that can be performed are:
– modifying the shape to perfectly fit the contour of the face;
– correctly wearing and adjusting the mask;
– replacing the filters.
There are plenty of tutorial and videos on their website on how to do that. That’s where I suggest you to go for a more detailed explanation.
Heat is needed to reshape the mask, and it can be provided by an hair dryer or hot water. Thesuggested mixture to obtain the perfect temperature is 3/4 of boiling water and 1/4 of room temperature water.
After warming up the masks for a few seconds by immersing them, the elastomer becomes softer and it can be reshaped until it gets cold (a matter of a few seconds) and “freeze” in the new shape.

Immersing Totobobo mask in warm waterImmersing Totobobo mask in warm water
It is actually easier said than done, and the whole process needs to be repeated several times after verifying the watermark until a perfect fit is found.
The first time it can get frustrating, and it might take as long as one hour of trial and error until a satisfying solution is found, but don’t give up! A perfect fit is ESSENTIAL for the efficiency of the mask!

TIP: You better exaggerate the deformation you want to impress, since after releasing the mask, it will partially go back to the previous shape.
You can also help yourself with tools, like a pen to wrap the mask around for the top tight curve of the nose, or a flat desk to flatten an angle.

Reshaping Totobobo maskReshaping Totobobo mask

It’s possible to adjust the length of the elastic straps, by wrapping them around the plastic holders.
Reposition of the mask should be better done by pulling it in front and placing it back on the face, rather than pushing it to fill the gaps. If repositioning doesn’t work, it means that it needs more reshaping.

Changing the filters is extremely easy, it’s just about releasing two elastic bands, removing the used filter and placing the new one into place.

Changing the filters of Totobobo maskChanging the filters of Totobobo mask

Testing Totobobo mask and its competitors

While at the Headquarter we had the chance to do a lab test analyzing the efficiency of Totobobo’s mask and 2 of its competitors.

Oti testing N95 maskOti testing N95 mask

Davide testing Respro maskDavide testing Respro mask
Totobobo was the winner with a reduction of 200+ times, 3M N95 reduced the pollutants around 30 times, and surprisingly Respro mask only 3 times!
We have written a separate article with the detail of the test and photos of the result: Comparison of 3 anti-pollution mask models.

This test was so educational for us. We understood how important is to find a perfect fit of the mask (Not only Totobobo, but any mask!) and that we were basically wasting time in Indonesia when wearing our simple Surgical masks.

Totobobo’s packaging and enviormental approach

The packaging of Totobobo mask is really minimalistic and completely recyclable.
Fancier, more sellable packaging have been discarded to reduce at minimum the waste created by the product: Mr Francis preferred to stick to his environmental beliefs, rather than selling a few more masks.
The plastic bag of the case is actually a zip-lock bag, that can be easily reused.
Also the filters packaging uses a similar zip-lock bag, and contains a single simple paper presentation with an image to be used as a reference to understand at what moment to replace the filters, e.g. when they reach a 50% gray color (but no later than after 2 weeks).

Totobobo mask packagingTotobobo mask packaging

Totobobo and cyclists

Totobobo mask is s cyclist friendly product, not only because cyclists are one of the major supporters, but also because Mr Francis is a cyclist himself and the only extra bit of paper in the packaging is a nice heart shaped recyclable note addressed to car drivers, asking them to respect cyclists since they are making the air less polluted also for them.
By the way drivers! Some studies shows how pollution inside the car can get even higherthan the one outside, since somehow it gets stuck in the cabin: so car drivers shouldn’t thing that masks are something only for cyclist or pedestrian and that they are immune to the pollution that they are creating!

Cons and possible improvements of Totobobo mask

While the mask works amazingly when perfectly set up, the learning curve to understand how to reshape the mask is quite steep, and we are scared that some people might get frustrated and misuse the mask or just give up.

While wearing the mask in warm and humid tropical climate, there is condensation inside the mask, that can feel annoying at the beginning.

That’s a common problem to several masks, and to solve it Totobobo propose the possibility to trim the mask to the “SuperCool” design covering only the mouth, so that exhalation can be done through the nose with no condensation. This design is particularly suggested for cyclists that wants to inhale more air using the mouth instead of the nose.

As a secondary cons, we realized that the look of the mask is so unique, that many people were staring at us. Some people might feel uncomfortable and stop wearing the mask. A suggestion is to propose a customization pack with a thin personalized cover to put on top of Totobobo mask, or if you feel uncomfortable just wear a cheap standard mask on top of Totobobo’s.
In any case we of course prioritize our health over our look.

As a suggestion for the future we would also like to see a “family pack” with maybe 50 filters at a discounted price, to decrease the operational cost (already quite low compared to other brands at around 2-5$ per month) for people permanently living in polluted places and to also reduce transportation costs-emissions and packaging.

Davide and Oti with Totobobo masks in front of the Petronas towersDavide and Oti with Totobobo masks in front of the Petronas towers

Our final conclusion

We have started using our Totobobo masks, and changed the filters for the first time after 7 days of usage in Malaysia, plagued by the haze coming from Indonesia. So far we are satisfied, it works well and the filters are getting gray as expected!

One week usage in Malaysia: on top Oti's filters, used less constantly, on the bottom Davide's filters ready to be replacedOne week usage in Malaysia: on top Oti’s filters, used less constantly, on the bottom Davide’s filters ready to be replaced

We are so grateful to have met Mr. Francis Chu and directly experience the lab tests on the masks! Now we understand much better what are the important parameters to choose an effective pollution mask, and how to correctly wear it.
At the end of our visit to Totobobo’s headquarters, we were happy to support their productsnot only because they are effective, but also because we believe in Mr Francis mission and we liked a lot his approach of doing business, not putting money and success as the main priority if it’s colliding with higher purposes.

Quoting Totobobo website:

“However, face mask is not a sustainable solution, reduce consumption is.”

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and we received free sample masks to write this article, but what we wrote represent our honest opinion, including not only pros but also cons.This text first appeared on “Nomad Travellers”. Read more on:

Dr. Hewitson’s advise on air pollution for Taiwanese

Possibly due to air pollution, healthy non-smokers in Taiwan are much more likely to get lung cancer than smokers in the USA.

A recent purchase from Taiwan triggered my curiosity. I ask the customer, Dr. Hewitson, why he choose Totobobo mask. His answer surprised me. I didn’t realise the fact that healthy non-smokers in Taiwan are much more likely to get lung cancer than smokers in the USA!

“As I’m in a research institute here in Taiwan, some of my colleagues have done studies on the effects of air pollution on both the lungs and the brain of mice.
As it stands, people in Taiwan who do not smoke are three times more likely to get lung cancer than smokers in the United States. Many Taiwanese are not aware of this. I am constantly educating my students on the dangers of air pollution and actually I recommend your company to them all the time whether or not they purchase, is another question but I have faith in what you guys are doing.”

By Dr. Justin Hewitson

The study:
Higher than Usual Lung Cancer Incidence in Taiwanese Non-smokers

An ongoing study suggests environmental factors in Taiwan are contributing to a rising number of cases in otherwise healthy non-smokers.

After four doctors at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) had suddenly collapsed on the job during the previous two years – with one of them failing to recover – the hospital in the second half of 2013 ordered all staff physicians 45 years of age and older to take a physical examination.

The comprehensive health checks included low-radiation computerized topography
(CT) scans of the lungs. The results were chilling. Of 300 physicians tested, 12 (4%) were found to have a small lung nodule (less than 1 centimeter), which subsequent testing confirmed as lung carcinoma.

The study on lung cancer in non-smokers is groundbreaking because it highlights the risk that the disease poses to the wider population. For decades, lung cancer has been associated almost exclusively with cigarette smoking. 

In Taiwan, non-smokers may be at a much higher risk of developing lung cancer than in the United States. The ongoing eight-year study has found that non-smokers here are twice as likely to develop the disease than are heavy smokers in the United States and Europe.

Scott and his SuperCool mask in Chiangmai

Scott’s Supercool mask for MTB in Chiangmai high AQI >400

Thanks to Scott sharing his Supercool mask experience for MTB in Chiangmai high AQI >400

Scott wearing his SuperCool mask in Chiang Mai
Scott wearing his SuperCool mask in Chiang Mai

When did you start using the Supercool mask?  

I’m going to say 2-3 years.  I pay attention to the AQI and use the mask when it’s above 100.  

Was the customization process difficult for you?

No, very straight forward.  I initially bought 2 masks just in case I made a mistake, the template is easy and accurate to use.

Have you tried other masks before?

Just the N95 paper masks.  No comparison really both in fit and comfort. Well done.

What are the differences between the previous mask and the Supercool? Pros and cons?

Like the name says it’s very cool.  I do find that I breath almost always, if not entirely, through my mouth when I’m riding hard.  Being able to wash out the mask after a ride is a plus also.  Finally, a new user should allow several rides to adjust to having a mask on, but after initial period it’s hardly noticeable.

Filter turns dark after ONE 30 km ride in Chiang Mai (AQI-424)
Filter turns dark after ONE 30 km ride in Chiang Mai (AQI-424)

Dear Totobobo,

I love your products.  I ride MTBs both in Hong Kong and Chiangmai, TH.  I use the SuperCool modification and it works great.  In HK I began using the PRO filters and now I want to buy some for Chiangmai.  (As well as few normal masks.)
A few pix from Chiangmai.  Note the filters after ONE 30 Km ride while the AQI was > 400 recently !!

Thanks, Scott (Strava)

More Totobobo SuperCool mask testimonials

Buy Totobobo mask and PRO filters

Air Pollution- from Crisis to Solution (Bangkok)

If you are in Bangkok this weekend, come visit us at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC).
We will be sharing the story of Totobobo mask (Air pollution: From Crisis to Solution).
We will also take the opportunity to demonstrate the Reshaping and fit-testing, using the TSI Portacount PRO 8038 fit-tester.
The event is sponsored by Thai Health Promotion Foundation
Following this link to get your free ticket:

Totobobo for riding a scooter in Taiwan

Using Totobobo mask in KaoShiung city for cycling and scooting.

This nice comment is from Stephanie H. from Kaoshiung, Taiwan. She has been using our mask since last year and recently purchased some filter refills.

“My husband and I have been really happy with our Totobobo masks. Often, we recommend them to our coworkers and friends who would like some protection on days when the air quality isn’t so good in the city. My husband and I use ours when cycling in the city or on a scooter. We’ve been using them for it seems like over a year now and we are still quite happy with them! It’s really nice to have an alternative to the disposable masks.”

Thank you Stephanie!

Totobobo for little Chows and family

The little Chows love their customised Totobobo masks

Chow’s family and Totobobo mask

renowned photographer Steven Chow and his wife, Lin Hui Yi (Economist) are long-time users of Totobobo mask since they moved to Beijing. Under the title “Chow and Lin”, they produced many interesting and meaningful works, including the exhibition “Poverty line”, a collection of photos showing “What Eating At The Poverty Line Is Like Around The World.
Living in Beijing, Mrs Chow often goes about her daily life and brings her kids around on a bicycle. For protection from air-pollution, she loves the practicality of Totobobo mask and has been using it since 2011. However, she could not find a mask that can fit her kids properly. After hearing her concern, I offer to customise two Totobobo masks for the “little Chows”. I follow Steven’s facebook and was delighted to to know the little Chows like their customised Totobobo mask! Thanks to Stefen for the permission to republish his post here:

Stefen Chow
12 May at 12:07 · Beijing, China ·
Beijing Air is crappy at 270 today, but screw this. We are still going out to play.

We do feel protected – Totobobo Mask sent us specially customized masks for our toddlers. Thank you Uncle Francis!

Thank you Uncle Francis Chu from Totobobo Mask for customizing face masks for our Little Chows!

Stefen Chow
12 May at 10:42 · Beijing, China ·
It has been a slightly dreadful day where the air quality is about 270.

Not ideal, and seem crazy to some of our friends, but at least we are properly protected.

Source: Facebook

If you are curious about Chow and Lin’s work please visit this link:

Totobobo mask for air traveller

every 1 out of 5 Passengers complains of falling sick after flights! the most significant cause is the weakening of our Immune System due to extremely dry air

Hi! Ever wondered why it’s easy to fall sick after a long Flight? Crowded cabin, enclosed spaces and airborne virus or bacteria are some of the causes, however, the most significant cause is the weakening of our Immune System due to extremely dry air!
At Low Humidity, your Mucus dries up, creating a favourable environment for Germs and Viruses to grow in!
Scientific study shows every 1 out of 5 Passengers complains of falling sick after flights! If you are one of them, you should carry along our Totobobo Mask with you for your future Flights. Our Masks does not only protect you from the Viruses around you but also provides your respiratory system with a healthy level of Humidity!

Advise for air travel by Smartertravel.

Why I stick with Totobobo mask?

I have been using totobobo since 2014! Here in Qatar the weather can be extremely hot, so a lot of other masks are useless.

Why Totobobo mask

“I have been using totobobo for years now. I think I first purchased it in 2014! Here in Qatar the weather can be extremely hot, so a lot of other masks are useless.

Generally, the difference what makes totobobo better than other is the silicone material. It doesn’t get soaking wet with sweat and ambient humidity. I can just clear the excess water from inside by wiping it clean at red lights. Also, the seal around a freshly shaved face is exceptional.
I used neoprene mask with activated charcoal filter and different FFP2 and 3 masks from 3M but Totobobo turned out to be the most convenient.”
– Tamas Bodri, from Qatar

Totobobo for air travel

Have you ever wondered why colds and flu seems more prevalent after flying than usual? Totobobo Mask can help!

Frequent flyers, have you ever wondered why it seems easier to catch a cold or flu after flying? Totobobo Mask can help!

Little personal Air space in a fully booked flight.

What is Airplane Cold?

Have you ever wondered why colds and flu seem more prevalent after flying than usual?

A well-designed survey (*1) discovered that 1 out of 5 airline passengers have reported that they were developing symptoms of cold or flu within 5-7 days after the flight. This is 5-113 times more than the typical transmission rate at ground level! (depending on how it is measured)

The Journal Of Environmental Health Research Study (*2) examines potential causes of transmission within the cabin, for example, Enclosed spaces, Concentrated levels of pathogens, Proximity between passengers, etc. But none of these factors is as significant as the weakening of the immune system due to extremely low cabin humidity.

During my earlier career, I used to travel a lot for work. There were times when I was sick for 1-2 days after flying… headache, weakness, fatigue, nausea and other symptoms of a cold. It turns out that this is not unusual. It is a well-known phenomenon call Airplane Cold or post-flight sickness.

“The natural human defence system against colds is known as the Mucocilliary Clearance System, which consists of a layer of thin mucus that is kept in motion by beating cilia. This protective system traps viruses and bacteria and moves them from the nose and throat to destruction by acids in the stomach. However, when the air is dry, the mucus becomes too thick to be effectively moved by the cilia. This leaves more viruses and bacteria to cause upper respiratory tract infections. The typical relative humidity in aircraft cabins for flights over an hour is below 10% for most of the journey, often dropping to less than 5% on longer flights. It has been shown experimentally, using saccharin, that under these conditions the Mucociliary Clearance System either slows dramatically or stops. This would suggest that it is the low relative humidity in aircraft cabins that increases susceptibility to colds rather than a higher viral load in the air.”

Most commercial airlines fly in an elevation range of 30,000 to 35,000 feet, where humidity typically runs at 10 percent or lower. At very low levels of humidity, the “natural defence system” of mucus in our noses and throats dries up and is crippled, creating a much more favourable environment for bacteria and germs to infect us.

From dry winter to the dry cabin

The dry air problem reminds me of my experience with the Totobobo mask during a dry winter in Beijing several years ago. The air was so dry and cold that I have to keep the mask on for most of the time, not only for air pollution but mostly to regulate the moisture level in my breathing. That experience inspired me to try wearing the mask on my flight back, it was a pleasant surprise. I no longer needed to drink a lot of water (and lesser toilet visits), I felt a lot more comfortable during the flight and no longer have that familiar throat irritation after sleep. No more flu-like symptoms afterwards!

Since then Totobobo mask becomes part of my flying kit and I also recommended to my friends.

Other useful tips

Apart from keeping the mask on, try not to use your hand to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. The tray, armrest and the back pocket are hotbeds for bacteria and viruses. Drink more water to keep your body hydrated. Avoid alcohol and coffee too. If you have nasal congestion, you can take sips of water, chewing gum, forcing yourself to yawn to relieve ear pressure. For long haul flights, get up and stretch your body every few hours. Rest well and get some sleep.


*1 Zitter J (2002) Upper Respiratory Tract Infections Among Airline Passengers. Journal of the American Medical Association 288 (23), 2972-2973.
*2 Common cold transmission in commercial aircraft: Industry and passenger implications

What Causes Airplane Colds: Low Cabin Humidity

disruption to a person’s circadian rhythm can compromise their immune system

Victor flying with Totobobo mask

Totobobo mask may be part of my standard equipment when I travel in those dry environment. It is less about bacteria but more about regulating the moisture.

Testing Totobobo mask on flight. Victor Law, Head of Finance, CFP Finance LTD, Foshan, PRC.

Victor is my good friend for more than 30 years. He is currently the Head of Finance from a PRC Finance Company and frequently flying within and outside of China. During a recent visit I introduced Totobobo mask for air travellers to him. Below is what he said after trying it during his trip from Singapore back to China, including flying and a coach ride.
“I enjoy breathing with moisture and feel isolated from the dirt in the coach compartment.
The mask fits my face very well and I can breath without any difficulty. I never liked to wear a mask before, because it was either suffocating or useless. Now I know there is an exception.
I feel the Totobobo mask can be part of my standard equipment when I travel, especially in dry environment. It is not just for keeping out hygienic bacteria but also for regulating the moisture, breathing warm air with suitable humidity. It protects my lips as well.”

Another Totobobo on plane example

Get the mask before the next trip!.