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How to Choose Balaclavas & Face Masks

Keeping your core warm during winter outdoor sports should be a priority, but just as important is making sure your face is protected from cold temperatures and harsh wind that can lead to anything from mild discomfort to frostbite.

Leaving your face exposed to the elements can lead to sunburn, windburn, frostbite, or other irritations, and when these forces join together, it could lead to serious skin irritation. On a cold, windy day, your face will quickly chap, making it even easier for sun and wind to cause more damage.

There are, however, several products available designed specifically to keep your face warm and shielded from the wind no matter what sport you're engaging in. Balaclavas, face masks, neck gaiters, and ski goggles can be used individually or together to create the optimum level of comfort and protection you'll need.

Balaclava & Face Masks

Balaclavas

These cold-weather-clothing items are ideal for covering your head, neck, and ears, shielding them from biting wind that could certainly spoil your good time. Made of lightweight fleece or sometimes neoprene, balaclavas are pulled over your head and fit snugly across your chin and forehead; they also fit nicely under ski helmets.

Face Masks

Using a face mask will keep your nose and mouth from taking a beating from the cold and wind. These masks are often made of wind- and water-resistant neoprene shells and typically feature breathing holes to allow air to pass through easily where your mouth is. Choose a face mask that’s lined with fleece to give you the utmost comfort and warmth against your skin.

Keep in mind that face masks, unlike balaclavas, don’t cover your neck or forehead. When the wind is blowing snow sideways and temperatures are extremely low, you might want to consider the best of both worlds: the balaclava and face mask combo.

Balaclava and Face Mask Combo

Some products feature both balaclava and face mask combined, giving you complete protection from cold and wind. If you prefer, you can use a separate face mask with a balaclava, allowing you to position each for maximum comfort.

Neck Gaiters

Just as you’d wear a scarf to keep heat from escaping the place your jacket meets your neck, a neck gaiter can help you retain heat while. Neck gaiters are often made of polyester fleece, which makes them quick drying and warm. Be sure to look for a gaiter that has a longer front than back, because this will provide the most coverage and still fit better around your neck and inside your jacket. Some models also offer a cinch cord to make the gaiter especially tight around the neck, keeping heat in. If you expect to be out in windy conditions, consider a neck gaiter made with wind-resistant fleece.

Ski Goggles

So the only part of your face still exposed to the wind and cold is your eyes, but don't worry, there are goggles for that. Ski goggles, which can fit over a balaclava and are usually designed to fit well with face masks, will keep you from tearing up in the cold even in the windiest conditions.

When preparing for your next winter adventure, don't forget to take face protection into account, so head out with the right cold-weather gear. .


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