Granular activated carbon (GAC) is currently the standard adsorbent in respirators against several gases and vapors because of its efficiency, low cost, and available technology. However, a drawback of GAC due to its granular form is its need for containment, adding weight and bulkiness to respirators. This makes respirators uncomfortable to wear, resulting in poor compliance in their use. Activated carbon fibers (ACF) are considered viable alternative adsorbent materials for developing thinner, light-weight, and efficient respirators because of their larger surface area, lighter weight, and fabric form. This study aims to determine the critical bed depth and adsorption capacity of different types of commercially available ACFs for toluene to understand how thin a respirator can be and the service life of the adsorbents, respectively. ACF in cloth (ACFC) and felt (ACFF) forms with three different surface areas per form were tested. Each ACF type was challenged with six concentrations of toluene (50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 ppm) at constant air temperature (23°C), relative humidity (50%), and airflow (16 LPM) at different adsorbent weights and bed depths. Breakthrough data were obtained for each adsorbent using gas chromatography with flame ionization detector. The ACFs surface areas were measured by an automatic physisorption analyzer. The results showed that ACFC has a lower critical bed depth and higher adsorption capacity compared to ACFF with similar surface area for each toluene concentration. Among the ACF types, ACFC2000 (cloth with the highest measured surface area of 1614 ± 5 m2/g) has one of the lowest critical bed depths (ranging from 0.11-0.22 cm) and has the highest adsorption capacity (ranging from 595-878 mg/g). Based on these studied adsorption characteristics, it is concluded that ACF has great potential for application in respiratory protection against toluene, particularly the ACFC2000, which is the best candidate for developing thinner and efficient respirators. © 2014 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.