As preppers, we get ready for all the many curveballs, emergencies and disasters that can befall us on this journey we call ‘life’.
Naturally, disasters of the natural variety are right near the top of this list of concerns. Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, landslides, blizzards, you name it: When Mother Nature is having a bad day, we will feel the brunt of it.
But there are other disasters that we might forget to prepare for in our quest to guard ourselves against the shaking of mountains and the roaring of the sea. Man-made disasters, mishaps and accidents can be just as dangerous as and far more insidious than any weather event.
From nuclear power plant meltdowns to calamitous explosions at chemical refineries and the accidental spilling or leakage of hazardous materials, modern preppers must be ready to face deadly threats that you cannot see or hear coming.
Chemical, biological and radiological threats can prove absolutely deadly if you are not prepared with the right equipment and training to counter them.
Protecting yourself and your loved ones against these threats is not just a matter of having enough food and enough water. Keeping these substances away from you, off your skin and outside your body is imperative for survival.
To do that, you’ll need a hazmat suit, and there is a lot to learn about this vital piece of personal protective equipment. Keep reading to get a primer on them and our recommendations for the best protection suits for nuclear radiation…
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What is a Hazmat Suit, Exactly?
So what is a hazmat suit exactly? What qualifies a genuine hazmat suit against a protective garment of another kind? The answer is “it depends”.
Broadly defined, a hazmat suit is simply a body covering garment that is dawned to protect the wearer against a variety of hazardous materials. What kind of hazardous materials? Anything that needs protecting against! The hazard could be biological or chemical in nature, radioactive or even a source of intense heat. More on that in a minute.
Accordingly, the nature of a hazmat suit is highly variable depending on the context in which it is used and the threat that must be protected against.
In certain settings, a full body set of surgical scrubs could qualify as a hazmat suit, but in other settings only fully sealed, pressurized specially made suits complete with built-in oxygen supplies would qualify as such.
Choosing the right hazmat suit depends on the job and the setting, and as you might imagine this has led to an extreme variety of hazmat suits capable of handling any conceivable situation. For our purposes, any hazmat suit we choose should be intended to protect against a specific, plausible threat and its accompanying hazards.
We will learn what these hazards are in the next section.
Any given hazmat suit will protect the wearer from one or more hazard categories, and is expected to provide total protection continuously, or total protection for a specified amount of time against exposure depending on the hazard.
Understand that even top of the line hazmat suits for the most dangerous environment may not provide complete protection against every hazard at once; many are specialized to protect the wearer against extremely dangerous instances of only one or two hazards.
There are four specific hazard categories:
There are countless chemicals that can prove extremely harmful to human health, or even lethal, and industrial centers, refineries and other processing installations handle, manipulate and manufacture these chemicals by the millions of gallons yearly.
Chemical threats are also present in the form of insidious military-grade chemical weapons, some of the deadliest substances on Earth.
Hazmat suits intended to provide protection from chemicals do so by way of an impermeable barrier material, with Tyvek, PVC, rubber and Teflon leading the way.
Microorganisms, toxins and other biological substances can pose severe risks to human health, and again cause death with some certainty depending on the agent in question.
These are among the direst threats that anyone could face, since it is entirely possible to inhale, ingest, or otherwise allow these threats into the body where they will take time to perform their gruesome work.
Hazmat suits intended to protect against biological threats feature impermeable outer skins and are also typically fully sealed and pressurized to prevent intrusion or any contact with the wearer.
Few are the people who need educating concerning the risks posed by radioactive materials.
Be it fallout from a nuclear warhead, irradiated debris spread by a dirty bomb or the mass ejection of aerosolized nuclear fuel from a nasty power plant meltdown, radioactive threats will only increase in likelihood and frequency as humanity begins to turn more and more to the power of the atom to solve our problems.
Hazmat suits that protect against radioactive threats do so by preventing direct contact with radioactive material and also by stopping the inhalation of tiny, radioactive particulates.
The hazard posed by fire and other sources of extreme heat might not be as “glamorous” or as exotic as the other hazards on this list but it is no less deadly.
Hazmat suits effective against high temperature hazards do so by utilizing highly reflective materials that will block and redirect infrared radiation, insulating the wearer against said temperatures or a combination of the two.
Types of Hazmat Suits
Before we zero in on the type of hazmat suit that is right for our needs, it is helpful to understand the two broad categories of suit that you will encounter on your shopping trip.
A splash protective hazmat suit is what might be charitably classified as the most basic type. All around they provide a lesser level of protection because they do not protect against airborne dust, gas and vapor, only liquids or wet solids that may come into contact with the wearer.
While these suits might be fully encapsulating complete with built-in visor, they are not truly sealed against airborne hazards.
The lower level suits might still provide entirely adequate protection if properly worn with a thorough understanding of what they will and will not protect the wearer from.
Gas- and vapor-tight hazmat suits are what most people popularly imagine when thinking of a hazmat suit.
These garments are typically completely encapsulated and sealed, and are most often worn with a portable air supply, or SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus).
These suits are often made with multiple layers of protective material, are often bulky and difficult to move in, and will completely protect the wearer from airborne hazards.
Quality suits of this type are often very expensive, without even factoring the cost of the breathing gear and other necessary equipment.
To the uninitiated, a gas or vapor type suit might seem like the only option but it is important to remember that such a level of protection might be overkill depending on what threat you are anticipating.
Always keep in mind that it is your objective which dictates your equipment choices. Be sure to read the next section regarding classification of hazmat suits to better understand what level of suit you will need.
Understanding Classification and Rating
The overall protectiveness of a hazmat suit is indicated by its level, with Level A suits affording the most comprehensive and longest lasting protection, where Level D offers the least.
Note that any given classification might still afford the wearer entirely adequate protection so long as it is worn with a thorough understanding of what threat is present and the level of defense that is necessary for safety.
Level D classification indicates that a given hazmat suit will not protect the wearer from any chemical exposure.
Arguably, this categorization means that the suit isn’t really hazmat capable at all unless it is worn in a setting where there is literally zero possibility of contact with any harmful substance.
Common firefighter bunker gear and other heat resistant options fit into this category. Coveralls, jumpers, fatigues and other common workwear fits into this category so long as it is mated with chemically resistant boots or shoes with crush resistant toes.
Level C protection indicates a garment that will protect the wearer against splashes from dangerous chemicals and also includes respiratory protection other than a self-contained breathing apparatus.
Full or half face respirators are common options and users are cautioned to not rely on this level of protection unless the exact chemical threat is known and its properties completely understood.
Chemically resistant gloves and boots are worn that are specific to the chemical threat encountered. This level of protection will not protect the user from incidental contact with the skin or chemicals that may become hazardous in a high enough concentration.
Level B protection is the same as Level C, designed to protect the wearer from splashes of hazardous chemical agents, but it also features a self-contained breathing apparatus that may be worn on the outside of the garment.
Suits in this category may or may not be fully encapsulating, but if they are they will be worn in such a way as to prevent the SCBA from becoming contaminated by a given hazard.
Notably, all openings and closures on the suit must be secured to prevent intrusion of liquids. Chemically resistant gloves and boots with steel toes and shanks must also be worn to qualify for this level of protection
Level A categorization is the highest and most comprehensive level of protection for a hazmat suit.
Most notably, Level A suits protect against airborne particulates, mists, vapors and gases and must also include intrinsically safe two-way radio communication. These suits are always fully encapsulating and completely enclosed with integrated full face SCBA.
As with Level B suits, chemically resistant gloves and boots with steel toes and shanks must be worn on the outside of the suit. Both are to be specifically selected for protection against the designated threat.
With these protection levels in mind, it is time to get on to our list of hazmat suit recommendations for preppers.
The Best Hazmat Suits for Preppers
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Mira Safety Haz-Suit
Mira Safety’s Haz-Suit is one of the most popular, durable and longest storing suits on the market.
Capable of providing C or B level protection and withstanding a variety of chemical, biological and radiological hazards, this composite fabric suit is considered disposable but is renowned for its durability and most importantly for our purposes its extremely long shelf life.
If kept in a cool place out of direct sunlight the suit will maintain full protective capability and duration ratings for over a decade.
Even better, this is the only commercially available suit on the market that can be had in sizes to fit children as well as adults, and furthermore is available in all kinds of plus-sizes able to fit any physique.
The Mira Safety Haz-Suit will provide full barrier protection against over 125 known chemical hazards including common chemical warfare agents and the most toxic industrial chemicals in regular usage.
Puncture resistant and compatible with a wide variety of respirators, gas masks and other protective apparel, this suit often forms the core measure in many agencies and individuals hazardous materials response planning.
DuPont ProShield 60 Coverall w/ Booties
DuPont has long been a big name in the fabrics, coatings and chemical industry and one of the most affordable and dependable options on the market for Level C protection is their ProShield 60 coverall.
Made from bonded polypropylene substrate with a laminated microporous film outer coating, this coverall provides protection from light liquid splashes, aerosols and non-hazardous particles.
These disposable coveralls are still packed with features that you would expect on more expensive suits, including a hood designed to fit around respirators with neck and chin covering, extra long zippers that run the full length of the garment all the way to the wearers chin, storm flaps covering all fasteners and attachments and elastic openings at both wrist and ankle.
This is the perfect hazmat suit for preppers who are only anticipating dealing with the assorted nastiness brought on by disaster, including common automotive chemical spills, asbestos and building material hazards, liquid and solid waste handling and more.
DuPont Tychem 2000 Chemical Protection
DuPont’s Tychem 2000 Chemical Protection coverall is another excellent option that is affordable on most budgets.
Tyvek fabric and a polyethylene coating make this a sturdy, flexible and highly protective suit, capable of protecting the wearer and a variety of light splash environments, including industrial settings, petroleum refining, chemical processing and more.
The ultra-high-vis yellow color increases safety by making the wear visible among the widest variety of possible backgrounds.
Notably, DuPont’s special fabric provides comprehensive protection against more than 80 chemicals and has been extensively lab tested against all rated threats, so you know you can count on this suit where other, lesser suits in its category might fail.
The suit features an attached hood, integrated booties, and multi-redundant interlocking threads sewn around all edges of the garment material seams and elastic openings at the wrist for a better fit.
Baoheng Anti-Thermal Radiation Suit
Sometimes you just need protection against fire and extreme heat, and the capability to resist high temperatures could make the difference between a successful intervention and a lost cause, either for your property or for a loved one.
Baoheng’s anti-thermal radiation suit features fireproof, high-temperature resistant and fully heat insulated materials, consisting of an aluminum fireproof outer coating, an insulating cotton liner and aramid high temperature resistant flame retardant thread.
This suit will allow its wearers to resist temperatures in excess of 1,000° F and as much as 1,200° F for a short time.
Included in the set is a full coverall, gloves and shoe covers along with a cap with an integrated face shield. You’ll look like you just walked off the set of some old school, sci-fi B-movie, but this is one garment that will definitely help you beat the heat.
Note that this suit is not rated to provide any protection from chemical or biological threats, and is therefore a Level D suit, at best.
Lakeland Interceptor Plus Level A Protective Suit
Lakeland’s top of the line Level A protective suit, the Interceptor Plus is a fully encapsulating protective garment that will keep the wearer safe from all gases, vapors, liquids, aerosols and other harmful particulates.
The suit has been tested against more than 4,000 known hazards on the molecular level and against more than 90% of them there was no observed penetration of the suit fabric after more than 8 hours of constant contact in exhaustive lab tests.
Made from nonwoven, non-halogenated films on both sides of the polyester diffusion fabric, this suit will even stand up to the most corrosive gases and aerosols.
The edge of the wide view visor is also permanently bonded to the suit material by way of a proprietary process so there is zero chance of any liquid penetrating the suit from the edge of the visor.
As with all such suits, you must provide your own integrated breathing apparatus and air supply, and be prepared to properly seal the rear entrance to the suit.
Also, the very best protection available means you’ll be spending a pretty penny on these suits, so make sure you understand how to use them and exactly what you are trying to protect against before you invest in one.
DuPont Tychem TK Commander EX
DuPont’s Tychem TK Commander EX suit, formerly the Tychem 10000, is a fully encapsulating, Level A hazmat suit featuring an integrated extra wide face shield and two exhaust valves for pressure modulation.
Constructed from a composite fabric sandwich featuring Teflon between two layers of PVC, the suit includes a completely gas tight zipper closure, double storm flap and generously sized back that can fit any SCBA apparatus.
Integrated dual glove system consists of an outer butyl rubber glove over an inner barrier glove, and, naturally, sock style booties are also attached, made from the same fabric as the rest of the suit.
Especially impressive is DuPont’s proprietary thermal bonded seams, and the suit provides superb all around protection against corrosive gases, toxic liquids and all kinds of hazardous solid chemicals.
This latest iteration of the 10000 series suit has been tested against more than 260 chemical hazards, including such WMD chemical hazards as Mustard, Tabun, Sarin and VX.
Suit is offered in a high visibility yellow color for enhanced safety, and as with all such suits worth owning it is quite expensive.
Considerations for Hazmat Suit Selection
For any conditions except the most mundane and comparatively safe, choosing a hazmat suit must be done with care and also with a keen eye towards your own circumstances, needs and special requirements.
For instance, are you a solo prepper or prepping as part of a family or group? Hazmat suits are not one size fits all, and cramming someone into a suit that is too small or too large is a great way to compromise its protection or increase the suit’s vulnerability to damage. Children especially will have slim pickings when it comes to suits sized to fit them appropriately.
Also consider fitment of a suit’s hood around an existing mask, respirator or enclosed breathing apparatus. One should not assume that an elastic opening will fit properly or even stay in place if you have not tested it.
Speaking of testing, do you have anyone to help you get in and out of a suit, and have you practiced decontamination protocols with a partner?
Your suit might stop hazardous agents from harming you, but what happens when the time comes to take the suit off and those same dangerous chemicals are waiting for you on the outside?
Communications is another big part of proper suit usage. Will you be using radios or some other communications device? Will it be inside the suit or on the outside?
Can you safely activate the radio or even manipulate its controls while inside? How will you deal with communications failures?
Lastly, consider cost. Almost anyone can afford hazmat suits that will provide Level C or Level B protection when worn appropriately, but any encapsulated suit that will provide true Level A protection is on another plane when it comes to the cost and complexity.
Preppers especially will naturally gravitate towards the “best” of anything when it comes to gear, but you might frankly have no need (or next to no need) for a suit offering that level of protection and will instead be throwing good money after bad to fully outfit yourself or members of your family with all the gear needed to properly utilize it.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.