Written By Tijana Sredanovic
Published Feb. 7, 2021

When you’re outside in cold weather, it can be a painful, uncomfortable experience. Whether you’re climbing onto your motorcycle, hitting the slopes on skis or a snowboard, hunting, or even just spending some time outside in freezing temperatures, you need extra layers for increased warmth. And one of the best ways to keep warm up is by wearing a balaclava. This close-fitting hood offers critical warmth for your head, neck, and face, preventing heat loss and offering increased comfort. Even better, balaclavas are highly versatile and worn under hoods, hats, helmets, and more. 

These lightweight layering pieces can keep you comfortable whether you’re facing snow and ice or crisp, cold winds. You can check out some of the best balaclavas available right here with our top picks.

The Best Balaclavas

This balaclava may be lightweight and feel thin to the touch, but it provides an impressive amount of warmth — and protection — when you step outside into frigid temperatures. Made out of 100-percent polyester, this pull-on balaclava keeps you covered, leaving nothing but your eyes exposed. It features a mesh panel over your mouth so you can breathe easily and surrounds the rest of your head and neck with high-quality thermal fleece. It’s even wind-resistant, constructed with protective panels that shield the bite from the frosty wind. Suitable for mild to extreme cold, you’ll love the long length, so you’re completely covered in any winter weather conditions. You can tuck this balaclava right into your jacket to achieve head-to-toe warmth.

One drawback of this balaclava is that it can press down on your nose a bit, resulting in frequent adjustments.

Key Features
  • 100 percent polyester
  • Pull-on design
  • Mesh material over mouth
  • Can be worn three ways
Specification
  • Brand Ergodyne
  • Model 6823
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Great for very cold temperatures

Snug, secure fit

Stretches to suit any head

CONS

Presses down on the nose

For one affordable, budget-friendly price, you’ll get two lightweight balaclavas, both of which offer excellent versatility. These pull-on style layering pieces are made with soft, highly breathable material that’s comfortable against your skin. They’re absorbent yet wick away sweat and moisture, so you feel dry all day long. The material will keep you warm and cozy when temperatures drop and protect against sunburn while absorbing sweat in hot weather. You can wear these lightweight balaclavas under your motorcycle helmet or any other helmet, alone for winter warmth, or during sports like skiing and snowboarding. You can even wear them in different ways depending on your mood and the weather, making them quite adaptable.

However, the material is somewhat thin, and there is no fleece or lining, so you may want to bring an extra layer for especially cold temperatures.

Key Features
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Soft and gentle on skin
  • Able to be worn in multiple ways
  • Suitable for all types of weather
Specification
  • Brand Ltinveck
  • Model N/A
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Comfortable and soft

Lightweight

Great for warmer weather

CONS

Material is somewhat thin

No fleece or lining

Wearing layers upon layers can be uncomfortable, but The Friendly Swede Balaclava will keep you feeling light and unburdened. A premium product that’s designed to offer the ultimate level of protection in cold weather, you’ll love how comfortable and warm this layering piece is. Made of 93 percent polyester and 7 percent spandex, this balaclava is light and thin enough to wear under a helmet yet tough enough to combat wind and freezing temperatures. It’s suitable for mild to freezing weather, able to keep you warm in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll be comfortable with the soft, adaptable fabric and easily block out the wind thanks to the three-layer windproof panel. And you can breathe easier with the breathing patch, which allows humidity to escape effortlessly.

Keep in mind that this balaclava can exert a lot of pressure on the nose, which may cause some discomfort.

Key Features
  • 93 percent polyester
  • 7 percent spandex
  • Includes windproof paneling
  • Can be worn in multiple ways
Specification
  • Brand The Friendly Swede
  • Model SPB
  • Weight 1.41 ounces
PROS

Extremely flexible

Warm even with thinner material

Highly durable

CONS

Can exert a lot of pressure on the nose, which may cause discomfort

A balaclava isn’t solely for cold weather, but the AstroAI Balaclava can protect you from all kinds of outdoor elements. This high-comfort, thin fabric balaclava can keep you warm in freezing temperatures and protect you from snow, rain, wind, and more. Whether you’re wearing it under a helmet, as a full face mask, or as a neckerchief, this layering piece will keep you comfortable. Made out of superfine polar fleece, you’ll be warm and cozy without feeling weighed down. However, this material will also fight off dampness and heat, allowing you and your skin to breathe easily. A flexible fit allows you to achieve a snug, slip-free sizing, while insulated mesh material helps prevent fogging when you’re wearing glasses or a pair of goggles.

Just keep in mind that some wearers do still experience fogging, which can be frustrating. Also, this balaclava may be a bit big on smaller heads.

Key Features
  • Superfine polar fleece material
  • Flexible and breathable
  • Protects against UV rays
  • Locks in heat in cold weather
Specification
  • Brand AstroAI
  • Model SK1P0GR
  • Weight 3.84 ounces
PROS

Very warm

Great under helmets and other headwear

Breathable

CONS

Can cause glasses to fog

May be big on smaller heads

If you need a balaclava that’s durable and comfortable enough for sports, you’ll love the Self Pro Winter Balaclava. This layering piece offers all the warmth and winter weather benefits of a traditional balaclava, but it’s also built for sports performance. And that means it can provide better breathability and increased comfort while you’re working up a sweat. This balaclava is made of 100 percent polyester, with elastic closures. It offers protection from the cold and the sun’s UV rays, and it can block out dust and other irritants. Most importantly of all, though, this polyester features innovative CoolMax Hi-Tech fibers, which offer top-tier breathability, absorbency, and wicking capabilities. You can comfortably wear this balaclava while riding your motorcycle, skiing, snowboarding, running — it’ll handle any sport with ease.

However, this balaclava is better for more mild cold weather than for freezing temperatures.

Key Features
  • 100 percent polyester
  • Made with performance fibers
  • Fits under helmets 
  • Prevents fogging
Specification
  • Brand Self Pro
  • Model BBL002
  • Weight 1.8 ounces
PROS

Very warm

Stays dry

Soft and comfortable

CONS

Better for mild cold than freezing temperatures

Wearing a balaclava can cause moisture to collect, leaving you feeling damp and uncomfortable over the course of a day — and that can become an even bigger problem when you’re sweating while wearing it. Fortunately, this 88 percent polyester and 12 percent spandex balaclava can combat dampness. It’s lightweight and protective, keeping your face safe from wind, dust, UV rays, and even bugs. But it’s also very breathable. The material will absorb moisture as it appears (or as you sweat), wicking it away and drying you off. Whether you’re trekking, hunting, running, or riding your motorcycle, this balaclava will keep you feeling good in all types of weather.

While this balaclava is a great lightweight option, its thin material also makes it rip more easily.

Key Features
  • 88 percent polyester and 12 percent spandex
  • Breathable
  • Machine-washable
  • Suitable for cold and mild weather
Specification
  • Brand Achiou
  • Model N/A
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Soft and flexible

Breathable

Lightweight

CONS

Material is so lightweight it may rip easily

Designed to withstand tactical uses and situations, this piece of layering fabric offers a snug fit as well as a high level of durability. Made out of fleece with a drawstring closure, this balaclava does have a looser fit — but it’s also thicker than most. It’s super soft against your skin but is strong enough to keep out wind, dust, and more outdoor frustrations. You can wear it as a hat, a scarf, a mask, and in other ways, depending on your needs. And this balaclava will withstand tough, sweaty activities like mountain climbing, snowmobiling, and so much more.

However, this balaclava may let wind in because of its looser fit. Also, you can’t really wear it under hats or helmets due to its thickness and design.

Key Features
  • Fleece material
  • One size fits all
  • Able to be worn in multiple ways
  • Available in five colors
Specification
  • Brand Oldelf
  • Model N/A
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Warm and cozy

Adjustable hood

Roomy with a looser fit

CONS

May let in wind because of the looser fit

Can’t wear under hats or helmets

Designed specifically for sports like skiing, this balaclava offers protection against the winter elements while allowing you to stay comfortable throughout many runs, rounds, or hours of activity. Made out of stretchy, breathable fabric, you’ll protect your face from freezing temperatures, brisk wind, dust, and UV rays. A fleece lining keeps you warm by retaining heat, and it’s thin enough that you can wear the balaclava under a helmet or hat. It includes mesh breathing panels for good airflow — a feature that helps eliminate condensation and fogging.

Keep in mind that if you plan on wearing this balaclava with ski goggles, it can be a bit of a challenge to fit both together.

Key Features
  • Four-way stretch material
  • 89 percent polyester and 11 percent spandex
  • Mesh panels for breathability
  • Fits underneath helmets
Specification
  • Brand Tough Headwear
  • Model Fba_balaclava-Black
  • Weight 2.08 ounces
PROS

Lined with fleece

Blocks wind

Ideal for sports

CONS

Can be challenge to wear with ski goggles

This layering piece is best for autumn and brisk winter weather, offering enough warmth and improved heat retention for you to feel comfortable even when there’s sharp wind. Made out of 100 percent polyester material, this balaclava is suitable to wear when you’re running, cycling, hunting, hiking, and performing other outdoor activities. It can be worn as a full or half-face mask, and it offers other versatile styling options depending on which parts of your head and neck you want to cover. Highly breathable and comfortable whether you’re wearing it alone or under other headgear, this balaclava can offer you all of the perks you’re hoping for during two critical seasons.

While this is a great overall option for outdoor protection, it may not fit larger heads or necks.

Key Features
  • 100 percent polyester
  • Breathable
  • Moisture-wicking and absorptive
  • Versatile styling options
Specification
  • Brand Trailside Supply Co.
  • Model 0-24-Ski mask-Parent
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Provides warmth even in wind

Breathable

Comfortable fit

CONS

May not fit larger heads or necks

If you’re facing freezing temperatures, give the Rock Bros Cold Weather Balaclava a try. This extra-warm, extra protective piece of clothing is great for sports, but it shines when it comes to keeping you warm in very cold weather. It’s a fantastic winter accessory, made with material that’s 92 percent polyester, 8 percent spandex with elastic for a snug fit. This balaclava’s innermost layer is lined with thermal fleece, which blocks out brisk wind and cold. It’ll protect you in extremely bad weather, whether you’re facing snow, strong winds, rain, dust, or even UV rays. Soft to the touch and very breathable, you’ll be comfortable no matter how or where you’re donning this balaclava. A 100 percent satisfaction guarantee even backs it so that you can trust its reliability.

However, this balaclava may be large for smaller heads, so you might want a different option if this is you.

Key Features
  • Polyester and spandex material
  • Lined with thermal fleece
  • Highly elastic
  • Can be worn under helmets
Specification
  • Brand Rock Bros
  • Model 0.63 ounces
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Snug, non-moving fit

Stretches

Comfortable to wear

CONS

May be large for smaller heads

Best Balaclavas Buying Guide & FAQ

If you aren’t an expert in balaclavas, all of these products can appear to be the same thing. Yet every balaclava is different, from its material to its warmth to its performance when you’re riding, cycling, hunting, and participating in other activities. Some are better for certain climates, while others are ideal for sports and highly active lifestyles.

Which balaclava is the best of the best for you? Well, it depends. Fortunately, there are a lot of different options to choose from. Follow the advice of our buying guide to discover the best balaclavas for your unique needs. 

The Benefits of Owning a Balaclava

Anyone can benefit from having — or wearing — a balaclava. These simple pieces of fabric offer an extra layer of warmth when it’s cold out. They also provide critical protection for exposed areas of your head. And they’re convenient if you frequently wear helmets, keeping you comfortable and appropriately warm underneath your protective headgear. 

Wearing a balaclava can protect your face from many outdoor elements, including UV rays, dust, dirt, and more.

No matter what kind of climate you live in, a balaclava can be a worthwhile investment. They’re handy accessories and layering pieces for any outdoors person, motorcycle owner, or active individual. Don one, and you’ll discover that balaclavas can come with many benefits, including the following.

  • Balaclavas can keep you warm in freezing winter temperatures, preventing heat loss and improving heat retention.
  • Wearing a balaclava can protect your face from many outdoor elements, including UV rays, dust, dirt, and more.
  • Most balaclavas fit under helmets, allowing you to wear them with comfort when you’re riding or driving vehicles like ATVs, motorcycles, and more.
  • A balaclava can be worn in multiple ways, giving you neck coverage or whole-head coverage as well as everything in between.
  • Even when you’re warm, a balaclava can help wick away sweat and keep your head nicely breathable.

The Most Common Types of Balaclavas

Balaclavas are pretty simple and straightforward. But there is one big decision to make: which type is best for you? You can find balaclavas in a few different styles, each offering a different level of coverage for your head, face, and neck. And each type is suited for different activities, protection and warmth levels, and more unique variables. 

Convertible Balaclavas

A convertible balaclava is the most common kind you’ll come across. Convertible balaclavas can be worn in several different ways. They offer total coverage, sliding over your head, covering your nose and mouth, and stretching down to cover your neck. However, you can customize how much coverage you’d like, and most can be worn in three or more different ways.

These balaclavas are great for extra warmth in cold weather. They can provide total coverage, but you can also customize how they’re worn to achieve the right amount of warmth in the right places. 

Solid Front Balaclavas

Solid front balaclavas are a full-coverage choice. These products feature soft, flexible fabric over the head, ears, and neck. However, they have a rigid, solid front panel covering the nose, mouth, and chin. That solid panel stays firmly in place even when you talk and move. 

These balaclavas are an excellent alternative for anyone who dislikes all-cloth versions that can wind up in your mouth and cause discomfort. The solid front prevents you from feeling like you’re suffocating or struggling to breathe. These balaclavas can also prevent fogging and moisture issues better than all-cloth or convertible varieties, as they typically feature mesh panels around the solid front material.

Open-Face Balaclavas

Don’t need total coverage? Maybe you’re more worried about keeping the top of your head warm and want to breathe more freely: an open-face balaclava is a right choice. These accessories look a bit like sleek hoods — they cover your head, your ears, and your neck, leaving your face uncovered. These balaclavas can keep you warm without restricting you at all, and they also work well in mild or moderately cold climates.

An open-face balaclava is a great option if you’re wearing a helmet. You won’t have to worry about your balaclava’s fabric getting in the way, and you can stay warm easily.

What to Look for When Buying a Balaclava

Above all else, it’s essential to decide how much coverage you want from a balaclava. As we mentioned above, you can find balaclavas that offer anywhere from total head coverage to less coverage. This determines how warm a balaclava can keep you, but it also determines your range of motion while wearing it.

It’s also important to consider the fabric that a balaclava is made from. The fabric determines many different factors: warmth, breathability, sweat-wicking and moisture absorption, and even your comfort level. Look for balaclavas that are soft and comfortable yet made with fabric that can meet your needs. If you want warmth above all else, thicker balaclavas made with fleece and layers of lining are best. If you want something to wear underneath a helmet, you’ll want a thinner, more breathable material.

Balaclavas can keep you warm in freezing winter temperatures, preventing heat loss and improving heat retention.

Best Balaclavas FAQs:

If you’ve run into questions as you search for and compare different balaclavas, you aren’t alone. Whether you’re picking out your very first balaclava or need a replacement for an old favorite, there’s quite a bit to consider. We’re answering some of the most common questions about balaclavas right here.

Q: How should a balaclava fit?

A balaclava should fit snugly on your head and around your face without causing discomfort. If it’s too loose, it can slip and move around — and it can also let in cold air. If it’s too tight, it can be uncomfortable.

Q: What is the best balaclava for skiing?

We like the Ergodyne N-Ferno Balaclava, our top pick. It offers the right amount of warmth and great comfort while skiing.

Q: What is the purpose of a balaclava?

A balaclava is designed as a layering item — something to wear underneath a helmet or hat for extra warmth. So, above all else, a balaclava is meant to keep you warm.

Our Top Pick

We like the Ergodyne N-Ferno Balaclava, and it’s a well-rounded layering piece that offers warmth and other benefits for those who want to get active outdoors. Whether you’re shoveling your driveway or hitting the slopes for winter sports, this balaclava will work to keep you warm and comfortable. It can fight off some of the biggest outdoor woes, like wind and dust, all while feeling light while you’re wearing it.

Final Thoughts

The Ergodyne N-Ferno Balaclava is our choice for the best balaclava, and it’s an excellent all-around pick. However, the Ltinveck Balaclava is another great option, with an affordable price and other perks. 

Sources:

  1. Balaclava – Wikipedia

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