Most winter clothing is cozy and approachable: think fluffy fleece, pom beanies, and snugly sweaters. Balaclavas are the exception. Balaclavas, frankly, are mean. But that’s okay. While many people associate them with criminals, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear them. It just means that context is key; there’s a time and place for balaclavas. Dinner with the in-laws? Wrong time. A weekend motorcycle road trip in January? The right time.
Balaclavas are ideal for any cold-weather outdoor activity, whether that’s working on a site or summiting a mountain. In terms of ability to keep a face and head warm, it’s hard to beat balaclavas. Scarves are good, but they’re not as fitted, and they can come unraveled.
The best kind of balaclavas to get are the ones with a fitted hood and attached face covering. For one thing, they look less menacing than 3-hole ski masks. They’re also more adjustable than ski masks. You can keep the mask part over your mouth when you’re outside or under your chin once you get inside. Likewise, you can just wear the mask and put the hood down if you’re wearing a beanie.
These balaclavas have mesh around the mouth and nose to allow breathing and prevent moisture build-up, without compromising wind resistance. Tough winters require tough solutions, and these balaclavas fit the bill.
1. Self Pro Balaclava – Windproof Ski Mask
This balaclava from Self Pro is designed as a one-size-fits-most option for both men and women. The front is lined with mesh so it won’t obstruct breathing. A soft polar fleece lining keeps the face comfortable and warm without being itchy.
Pros: Breathable front, comfortable fit, wind-resistant.
Cons: Can cause glasses to fog up.
2. Ergodyne Winter Balaclava Ski Mask
This balaclava has wind-resistant mesh paneling around the nose and mouth for protection and breathability. The nose, mouth, and chin areas are segmented with pouches to prevent the mask from putting too much pressure on the bridge of the nose. Multiple colors are available, including high-vis lime green, mossy oak camo, blue, and black.
Pros: Variety of colors available, breathable but wind-resistant mesh front, can be worn under helmets.
Cons: Depending on face shape, the eye holes might not be cut deeply enough, which can result in the rim brushing against the lower eyelid.
3. Self Pro Balaclava
This balaclava is also made by Self Pro, but it has a more streamlined look compared with the other Self Pro option. Specifically, it doesn’t have the segmented stitching for the nose, mouth, and chin. The front still has a mesh panel to make it breathable and prevent moisture from clinging to the interior lining, though.
Pros: Streamlined look, stretchy fabric for a near-universal fit. Wind and moisture resistant.
Cons: Good for cold weather, but may not be ideal for extreme temperatures.