If you spend more than a few minutes outdoors in cold windy weather or sub zero temps – ripping and grinding down the slopes, subverting governments, or ice road truckin’ – it’s critical to get your hands on a high-quality balaclava. That’s Bah-La-Clav-Ah, not to be mistaken with the Turkish delight, Baclava (recipe link if you’re now hungry😋 ).
Balaclavas not only keeps your face protected from wind and cold, but it can also help to protect you from harsh UV rays that can be damaging.
🙋♂️But what, exactly, is a balaclava? Check out our favorites below, and keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about this essential face protector!
Intro to Balaclavas
A balaclava is similar to a face mask, but it’s a fitted cloth that offers the protection of a neck scarf or gaiter 🐊with the warmth of a beanie.
There’s no doubt that a balaclava is a vital item to wear if you’re going to be cruising in the snow. If you’re looking to purchase one, you might wonder which one you should choose.
Here’s our best balaclava for skiing or snowboarding in 2021, along with four alternative products so you can choose the one that keeps you as warm and safe as possible.
As you can see from the above table, balaclavas come in a variety of materials and most are breathable. This is an important feature because it will either increase your comfort.
Many balaclavas on the market also come in universal, one-size-fits-all designs. This does make it easier to purchase them because you don’t have to worry about choosing a specific size.
However, there are other important features that you should look for in a quality balaclava. So, let’s check out the five best balaclavas on the market in greater detail.
Best Balaclava – Reviews & 2021 Buying Guide
Best Overall: AstroAI Balaclava
You want to be protected when you’re taking part in snow sports, and that’s why this AstroAI balaclava is worth purchasing. Here’s what to know about it.
- Superfine polar fleece
- Non-irritating material
- Insulated mesh
- This balaclava protects you against a variety of harsh conditions, such as sleet, UV rays, wind, dust, as well as cold temperatures. This makes it ideal for use in a variety of situations, whether you’re parallel skiing on the mountain or working outside.
- You can wear this balaclava in a variety of ways depending on how much protection you want from it. For example, you can wear it as a half ski mask or a full-face mask, and you can also comfortably wear it underneath goggles, glasses, and a helmet.
- It’s made out of superfine polar fleece so that it feels comfortable against your skin. Polar fleece also boosts your warmth, so it’s ideal to have on hand when the temperature takes a dive.
- The material is non-irritating, lightweight, and stretchy, while being breathable for the utmost comfort.
- Speaking of breathability, this balaclava contains an insulated mesh fabric that doesn’t let your glasses or goggles become foggy. As you know, foggy eyewear is really frustrating and reduces your visibility in a big way – that’s the last thing you need when you’re carving down a hill!
- It offers a flexible fit, thanks to a refined sewing process that makes it strong.
- When you want to cover your entire face, this balaclava has an extra-long neck section to protect you against the elements. This also makes it versatile for other activities, such as riding a motorbike or mountain climbing.
- It’s suitable for men and women with a head circumference of 25 inches maximum.
- Some people who have purchased this balaclava have reported that the manufacturer should have better size specifications to make it easier to purchase.
- Others have reported that the mesh fabric feels rough on their skin.
- This balaclava comes in a variety of colors, such as green, yellow, and black, so you’re sure to find one that matches your outfit. You can also choose a bright and bold color to keep you more visible during bad weather.
This balaclava’s got loads of features that will keep your face protected when you’re taking part in sports in extreme temperatures, such as how it maintains your visibility, which makes it the best balaclava for snowboarding.
Runner Up: TRAILSIDE SUPPLY CO. Windproof Ski Mask
If you want a balaclava that’s a little more budget-friendly than the previous one we featured, and one that has a longer neck design, this one by Trailside Supply is worth considering.
- Pull-on design
- Premium polyester
- Longer neck
- This is a great mask for a variety of purposes, such as if you need to wear it when hiking, cycling, running, or skiing.
- It has an easy pull-on design so you don’t have to fuss with it.
- It’s made out of premium polyester, so it’s breathable, it wicks moisture, and it’s comfortable to wear.
- You can wear it in a variety of ways, such as full face, open, half ski, neck gaiter, and more. You can also wear it comfortably underneath a helmet.
- It comes in two options: autumn and winter. The autumn version is sweat-absorbent and keeps you cool, while the winter version protects your face from the wind and extreme temperatures.
- It has a longer neck design to give you even more protection.
- Some people have reported that this balaclava doesn’t give them a snug enough fit. This can make you feel uncomfortable while allowing the cold air to seep in.
- Others have said that it collects moisture. Not only is this frustrating, but it means that you’ll end up feeling cold on your skin.
- It comes in a variety of colors, such as green, black, maroon, and others.
- Some people who purchased this balaclava have reported that it’s easy to breathe through.
- It’s a one-size-fits-all design, like many other balaclavas on the market.
This balaclava is not hard on your budget while offering lots of features you want when hitting the slopes, such as a mask that allows you greater breathability.
It’s a solid product to purchase, as long as you don’t intend on using it intensely, due to its moisture collection. It’s perfect for the casual skier or snowboarder.
Alternative: ROCK BROS Cold Weather Balaclava
This RockBros balaclava is ideal for those freezing days when you don’t want to cancel your ski trip. Here’s why it’s the best ski balaclava.
- Thermal fleece
- This balaclava contains thermal fleece so keep you warm. This also ensures that it feels comfortable and soft.
- It’s also windproof, so it’s perfect for keeping you protected against the harsh, windy days.
- It will protect your face from a variety of elements, such as UV rays, dust, cold, and wind.
- It comes with elastic so that it will fit you properly, even though it comes in one size. With many balaclavas on the market having sizing issues for the people who have purchased them, this elasticated balaclava is a game-changer.
- It’s not recommended to wear this balaclava when the weather’s hot as people who have purchased it have reported that it can feel too warm. Keep this one for when the temperature takes a serious dive!
- It can be worn underneath motorbike helmets, ski helmets, and even safety helmets without making you feel uncomfortable.
- This balaclava can be used for a variety of activities, from snowboarding and skiing to hunting, construction, and running.
- People who have purchased this balaclava have reported that it’s easy to breathe when wearing it.
This balaclava’s versatility is one of its best features!
Best Balaclava For Extreme Cold: Ergodyne Balaclava with Detachable Heat Exchanger
This balaclava is a bit more expensive than others we’ve already featured in these reviews, but it’s got lots going for it. Here’s why it’s the best balaclava for extreme cold.
- Adjustable nose clips
- Removable section
- Reflective accents
- This balaclava offers warm air inhalation so it’s ideal for wearing it during extremely freezing conditions.
- To give you the best fit, this face mask has adjustable nose clips. This keeps the cold air out and ensures that you don’t end up with your eyewear fogging up.
- You can adjust how you wear it depending on the conditions, thanks to how it contains a removable face mask. This makes you feel like you have two masks in one.
- It comes with a full thermal head and neck coverage. The neck section can easily be tucked into your jacket for a more comfortable fit.
- This balaclava will keep you safe during times of poor visibility, thanks to its reflective accents. This is a fantastic feature to have on a balaclava when you’re out in the snow in a remote location.
- People have reported that the mask’s stitching and Velcro is of a low quality.
- Others have reported that their eyewear fogged up when they wore this balaclava.
- The mask is semi-hard which ensures that it is kept away from your mouth. This means you don’t have to endure feeling cold fabric against your lips.
- People who have purchased this balaclava have reported that it does make the air you breathe warm enough so that it doesn’t hurt your lungs.
- They have also said that you can engage in physical activities that increase your breathing rate with this mask.
This balaclava will protect you against extremely cold temperatures. Although it’s a bit costly, it goes the extra mile to ensure you stay warm and can breathe in icy air without a problem.
Best Snowmobile Balaclava: Sireck Cold Weather Balaclava
This balaclava is resistant to water and wind, which makes it an ideal face mask to wear when you use a snowmobile. Let’s see what else it has to offer and why it’s one of the best balaclavas on the market.
- Breathable mesh
- Full-face design
- This mask is made from thermal fleece to keep you warm.
- It’s a full-face balaclava that contains a breathable mesh design on the mouth and nose.
- It has a stretchy design so that it offers a universal fit for men and women.
- As with other balaclavas we’ve reviewed in this guide, this one can be used in a variety of ways, such as a neck warmer, a full-face mask and a neck bandana.
- It’s said to be lightweight, so you won’t feel like it’s too heavy to wear, especially if you’re wearing other headgear at the same time.
- It only comes in black, which might be problematic if you wanted brighter, bolder colors.
- While it’s resistant to water, it’s not completely waterproof.
- People who have purchased this balaclava have reported that it’s really useful for preventing eyewear from fogging up.
- Others have reported that it’s easy to put on your face and it stays put no matter what activities you’re doing.
- If you need to wear a hat on top, such as if you’re going hunting in the outdoors, this best balaclava for snowmobiling won’t get in the way of that because it’s thin.
This balaclava by Sireck is versatile enough to use in a variety of ways. You’ll love it so much you’ll want to use it even when it’s not snowing to protect your face from the cold or wind.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the best balaclavas on the market, let’s answer some common questions surrounding balaclavas.
How do you wear a balaclava?
Obviously, one of the best balaclavas to purchase is one that has an easy pull-on design, such as the Trailside Supply Co. balaclava mask that we featured in our guide.
Generally, though, putting on a balaclava isn’t difficult. Here are the steps to follow.
- To put on a balaclava, you’ll have to put the balaclava on your head and make sure that its opening is placed in the front.
- Then, gently roll it down until it goes over your head.
- Roll the rest of the balaclava down to your neck. Some balaclavas are quite long, so you’ll have to push it into your jacket or t-shirt to make it more comfortable to wear. It also helps to pull the opening part further down so that you’ll have enough room to breathe when wearing the balaclava.
- Pull down the underside part while you straighten the openings for your eyes. This can be done in an easier way if your balaclava is very flexible.
- You’ll find that some balaclavas have larger openings in their upper section and this can make it easier to see through as well as put on.
- You can wear a balaclava in a variety of ways, such as around your neck or lower down your face, as we’ve seen in our reviews of the best balaclava for winter. Some, like the Ergodyne balaclava with detachable heat exchanger that we featured in our buying guide, even come with a removable section to make them even more comfortable and practical.
Why are balaclavas called balaclavas?
A balaclava has this name because of its origins. Back in the 19th century, these face coverings were worn by soldiers serving in the Crimean War. So, this face mask got its name by being named after the port of Balaclava in Crimea (via Lexico).
To provide a bit more detail: the Crimean War of 1854 is an important milestone in history – and it brought the balaclava to life.
During this war, which began as a result of Britain declaring war on Russia, British troops wore knitted headgear to stay warm. These handmade balaclavas helped to protect them against the icy temperatures.
The name “balaclava helmet” then started being used a few decades later, in 1881. It became a popular term during the Boer war when British soldiers found themselves battling cold weather all over again! It’s clear to see that balaclavas really helped them not to freeze.
As time went on, the balaclava became much more versatile. These days, there are various uses for it.
You’ll find balaclavas worn by riot police, those in special forces, snowboarders, skiers, and even people who just want to stay warm when out in public. The balaclava not only has a colorful history but a colorful present because of its many uses and functions!
What is the difference between a balaclava and a ski mask?
You might think that a balaclava is the same thing as a ski mask, and sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably, but there are some important differences between them. Here’s what you should know.
What is a ski mask?
A ski mask is essentially a cloth headgear that’s used by people who ride snowmobiles in extremely cold weather.
A ski mask covers your entire face, so that only your mouth, nose, and eyes are exposed.
What is a balaclava?
By comparison, a balaclava comes in different designs and shapes. Some only expose your eyes, while others also have a window for your mouth. Some can be worn completely off the face and around the neck.
Balaclavas can be made out of different materials, such as thermal fleece or polyester, depending on what you need to wear the balaclava for.
For example, if you need to wear a balaclava to give you greater protection against cold weather you’ll choose one that offers more insulation.
Are balaclavas legal?
While you might think that it’s possibly illegal to wear a balaclava in public, this is not the case. However, it’s important to note that you should never wear a balaclava to attempt to hide your face or to disguise your identity.
If you are requested to remove it, such as by a police officer, you have to remove it. Otherwise, this can raise suspicion and be problematic.
Sometimes, there are bans put in place for people not to wear masks, such as during riots, and a balaclava would also be considered a banned item in such a case.
Legal issues aside, there are also some social situations in which it’s probably best not to wear a balaclava in public, like if you’re stepping into your local bank!
Balaclavas are often used by bank robbers to conceal their identities (thanks, Hollywood) so it’s important to be mindful of their potentially negative associations so that you don’t draw unwanted attention to yourself or make people wonder about your intentions.
If the above-mentioned bans are not in place, then it’s totally legal and safe to wear a balaclava, so go ahead and purchase one from our reviews of the best balaclava for skiing and other activities.
If you’re looking to increase your protection against the elements, like if you’re taking up snowboarding, you’ll likely want to invest in a balaclava. In this article, we’ve outlined five of the best balaclavas on the market.
We’ve also featured some of the most important questions you might have about balaclavas, such as how, exactly, to wear them and if they’re legal to wear in public.
After reading this buying guide, it’s clear to see that if you’re going to be in harsh temperatures, a balaclava is a must. Don’t forget to pack it for your upcoming ski trip.