The balaclava, or ski mask, is the ultimate winter accessory to protect your face and head against the elements. When combined with ski goggles, and a hoodie, or a jacket’s hood, you’re virtually immune to the cold and won’t even notice that you’re in the icy tundra. If you’re looking for a guide on the best ski goggles, the best hoodies, or the best jackets for hiking then these guides will help you out.
If you’re coming from our The Ultimate Guide to the Best Hiking Clothes for Winter and Summer then you’ll know that synthetic materials, fleece, or wool, are your best friend out in the wilderness whether it’s winter, or not. This is because they have the ability to wick away moisture, or in other words carry moisture away from your skin to be dried, without soaking up and retaining moisture like cotton does.
In this guide to the best balaclavas, or ski masks, for hiking and mountaineering in cold weather, we’re going to cover masks that are made of only the best synthetic materials, or wool, and will provide you with the ultimate protection to keep your face from freezing off.
What are some of the best balaclavas, or ski masks, for hiking in cold weather?
- Self Pro Balaclava – Windproof Polyester Ski Mask
- Self Pro Balaclava – Windproof Polar Fleece Ski Mask
- Oldelf Tactical Heavyweight Balaclava Outdoor Sports Mask
- Blackstrap Balaclava Hood
Just as a quick history lesson, the term “balaclava,” if you’ve never heard it before, is a Russian word which originated from the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War in the mid-1800s. The soldiers were ill equipped to deal with the harsh Russian winter, so people began knitting these ultra warm pieces of headgear to protect their faces from the elements.
So, if you’re wearing a balaclava you can definitely survive even the most extreme Russian winter. We’ll continue the rest of this article using ski mask, and balaclava interchangeably.
First on the list is a one size fits all ski mask made by Self Pro that is constructed with high quality polyester. Polyester is a great material for resisting water, and is breathable allowing your skin to wick away moisture keeping you dry.
This ski mask is also very easy to breathe through, so you can cover your entire face with it, and not feel suffocated by any means. As you breathe through the mask it warms the air within the mask keeping your entire face warm, and even after extremely prolonged use the mask will not get soggy like fleece ski masks can.
If you wear glasses, this mask will work wonderfully for you as well, and you can even combine this balaclava with ski goggles to completely shield yourself from the elements even more.
This ski mask is very soft, wrinkle free, very lightweight, and will keep your head and neck warm, and dry. The fabric is hypo-allergenic and can be washed in a standard washing machine. If you’re looking for an all around solid ski mask then this one is a great choice due how inexpensive it is and how high quality it is in its construction. If you went to a brick and mortar store looking for a similar ski mask, you’re going to spend at least twice as much.
Another very popular and highly rated ski mask, also made by Self Pro, is their polar fleece balaclava. As with the previous ski mask, this one is a one size fits all, that has a long neck designed to keep you extra warm without needing an additional neck gaiter. This ski mask can be worn underneath any helmet and is perfectly suited for ski goggles which will not fog up from your breath if worn in conjunction with the balaclava.
As with all balaclavas they can be folded and worn as a full face mask, a hat, a neck gaiter, or with a completely open face. This is arguably one of the greatest advantages of the balaclava because they are versatile in their potential uses.
One disadvantage however of all fleece balaclavas is eventual moisture accumulation. As you’re breathing into the ski mask the moisture from your breath will coat the inside of the mask and be wicked away for the most part, but after prolonged use, in excess for 3-4 hours, it will become a bit soggy.
If you’re going on a shorter hike, or you just need to clear the driveway of snow, then this mask will do the trick, but overall we prefer the polyester mask listed above because moisture is not trapped at all.
This is still a really great, highly popular, and highly rated ski mask though, and you won’t be disappointed with it as it will keep you nice and warm in even the most cold, single digit, conditions.
Next up we have the Joyoldelf Tactical Balaclava which is made of a fleece composite fabric. We really like the style of this mask because it’s almost like a section of a hoodie, and is perfect in conjunction with ski goggles. The fabric is super soft, windproof, and breathe-able which will keep your skin dry for hours.
As we stated before though, fleece does eventually have the issue of becoming a bit soggy over time from the moisture of your breath, but when it comes to this ski mask, since it isn’t completely snug on your face unless you tighten it, there is a bit more breathing room, and this issue won’t arise. If you’re looking for a more stylish balaclava, this highly rated and widely popular mask will do the trick.
Topping our list, and manufactured completely in the United States, is the Blackstrap Balaclava that comes in dozens of different colors and patterns, and is made from Blackstrap’s special tri-blend synthetic fabric.
The fabric feels like nylon and lycra which is a polymer, or plastic based material that is optimal for wicking away any moisture, and is extremely soft. Since the material is so soft, you can also clean your ski goggles, or eye glasses and there is no chance of scratching them up.
We have a couple of these here at Paragon Trails and really like these balaclavas because they break the wind really well, and keep our heads warm in very cold weather. We will say though that if you are going to be experiencing weather that is below zero degrees Fahrenheit we do suggest wearing a hood over top of the mask for a bit more added insulation since the cold can start to creep in after hours outside.
Also, if you’re going to be hiking in hot weather this balaclava can also serve as an excellent method of keeping the sun off your skin since the material breathes very well, and blocks 97.5% of UV rays, and is naturally anti-microbial.
We really can’t stress any more how great these balaclavas are, and really suggest you grab a couple. We prefer the white one for summer hiking, and snow issue one for winter hiking. Let us know which ones you prefer down in the comments below.
Balaclavas, or ski masks, are one of the most important articles of clothing you can have in your pack when on the trail, whether in the summer, or the winter. As you can see from our descriptions above we prefer to use synthetic masks due to their heightened ability to wick away moisture.
The best options for moisture wicking are nylon, or polyester and polyurethane, materials. Fleece is also a good option, but tends to gather moisture from the breath more over very long periods of time.
We really love balaclavas because they can be worn with sunglasses, or ski goggles, for complete winter cold or summer sun protection, and keep us comfortable in all conditions. If you’re looking for our comprehensive guide on the Best Ski Goggles Under 100 Dollars, then this guide can help you out.
If you can think of any other ski masks, or balaclavas, that you enjoy more than the ones listed above we would love to hear back from you. Please leave a comment down below and tell us what your favorites are, or what experiences you have had with these products. Thanks so much, and have a wonderful day!