Product Reviews

Top 5 Best Balaclava Ski Masks for Hiking and Backpacking in Cold and Warm Weather

The balaclava ski mask is the ultimate winter accessory in your arsenal to protect your face. If you're planning on four season hiking, check out our picks for the best balaclava ski masks.

The balaclava ski mask is the ultimate winter accessory for head protection in blistering cold winds. For heavy winter protection, you will always want to wear multiple layers, such as a base layer and an outer layer, and the ski mask is a great base layer.

Natural fibers like merino or cashmere wool, are among the best options for their winter protection due to their moisture wicking ability which moves water away to be dried. Synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, or fleece are excellent options as well which perform similarly to natural fibers, and can be up to forty percent saturated with water while still feeling dry to the touch.

The reason balaclava ski masks are such a great tool for spring or summer hiking is because they provide protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, and provide a bug barrier to block from harmful bug bites. In addition, If you choose a fabric that’s lighter in color, it’ll help reflect the light from the sun more efficiently, instead of absorbing the energy, which will help cool you off.

With this information in mind, ParagonTrails presents our curated list of the Top 5 Best Balaclava Ski Masks for Hiking and Backpacking!

What are some of the best Balaclava Ski Masks for Hiking and Backpacking in Cold Winter Weather?

Table of Contents

5. KSKG Thermal Fleece Full Face Windproof Winter Balaclava Ski Mask

  • Cost: ~$11.99 USD
  • Materials: Thermal Fleece Lining With Polyester and Cotton Spandex
  • Color Options: (5) Army Green, Black, Grey, Navy, Rose

4. Ergodyne N-Ferno Thermal Fleece Wind-Resistant Winter Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$14.99 USD
  • Materials: Thermal Fleece With Synthetic Mesh
  • Color Options: (5) Black, Camo, Grey, Navy, Lime

3.. MERIWOOL Merino Wool Ski Neck Gaiter for Women and Men

  • Cost: ~$19.99 USD
  • Materials: Exceptionally Soft All Natural Superfine 18.5-micron Merino Wool (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: Army Green, Black, Charcoal Grey, Navy, Purple

2.. BlackStrap Expedition Hood Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$29.99 – 39.99 USD
  • Materials: Tri-Blend Synthetic Quick Dry Material (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: 50+ (Outrageous Number!Navy Displayed)

1. Minus33 Merino Wool Expedition Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$39.99 USD
  • Materials: Exceptionally Soft All-Natural Superfine 18.5-Micron Heavyweight Merino Wool (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: (1) Black

Introduction and Information

The term “balaclava,” is a Russian word that originated from the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War in the mid-1800s.

In the harsh tundra of Siberia, the Russian soldiers were ill-equipped to deal with the biting cold, and as letters of correspondence were sent home, a movement was born to knit warm pieces of headgear to protect their loved ones on the battlefield from the extreme cold weather.

This short history lesson means even if you’re out traveling in the Siberian tundra, if you’re wearing a balaclava, you’ll be warm in even the most extreme conditions.

For the rest of this article we’ll be using ski mask and balaclava interchangeably. Without further ado, we hope that you enjoy this comprehensive guide on the highest quality and best balaclava ski face masks on the market today! Happy Paragon Trails!

5. KSKG Thermal Fleece Full Face Windproof Winter Balaclava Ski Mask

  • Cost: ~$12.00 USD
  • Materials: Thermal Fleece Lining With Polyester and Cotton Spandex
  • Color Options: (5) Army Green, Black, Grey, Navy, Rose

At number five is this well-constructed, and inexpensive ski mask, made by KSKG and crafted with thermal fleece. Fleece is a fantastic material for resisting water and it’s also great for wicking away moisture from the surface of the skin.

This ski mask is easy to breathe through and retains heat well, and since this style of mask covers your entire face with a vented foam mask, the warm air that you exhale will remain trapped inside the mask creating a warm and comfortable environment during your cold outdoor journey.

If you wear corrective lenses for vision this mask will work great and feel comfortable even with glasses on, and in fact, this style of mask works best when it’s combined with a pair of ski goggles to completely shield the face from the elements of nature.

This mask is very soft, wrinkle free, lightweight, and will keep your head and neck warm and dry, and with its nose cutout, your glasses won’t fog up from your breath. The fabric is also hypo-allergenic and can be washed in a standard washing machine.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive all-around solid ski mask, then this fleece balaclava by KSKG is a great choice due how inexpensive it is, while still remaining very high quality in its construction.

4. Ergodyne N-Ferno Thermal Fleece Wind-Resistant Winter Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$14.99 USD
  • Materials: Thermal Fleece With Synthetic Mesh
  • Color Options: (5) Black, Camo, Grey, Navy, Lime

Among the most popular, highly rated, and highest quality ski masks on the market, is this mask made by Ergodyne, plus it’s also very inexpensive.

As with all the previous ski mask, this balaclava is one size fits all, but also has a longer neck design than other ski masks to provide an extra warm layer, without the need of an additional neck gaiter.

This ski mask can be worn underneath any helmet and is perfectly suited for ski goggles which will not fog from your breath if worn in conjunction with the balaclava.

As with all balaclavas of this style they can be raised and worn as a full face mask, or lowered to expose the mouth and nose. This is arguably one of the greatest advantages of the balaclava because they’re versatile in how it can be used.

One disadvantage that does need to be mentioned though, and this includes all fleece balaclavas, is their eventual moisture accumulation. As you’re breathing into a ski mask the moisture from your breath will fill the inside of the mask and mostly be wicked away, but after very prolonged use, in excess of three or four hours, the mask may become a little bit soggy.

This isn’t to say that this ski mask is a poor choice by any means and in fact the cost to value on this fleece ski mask is very high and a mask like this can last you a very long time if taken care of properly. This mask is also great for a dedicated survival bag, also known as a bug out bag, like the previous mask as well due to its low cost.

Overall, the Ergodyne N-Ferno is one of the best fleece ski masks, and since it’s made of only cloth, it’s easily compressed and stored in a pack without taking up too much space. For this reason this mask is our budget selection in terms of cost per quality, and a mandatory carry for any winter hiking enthusiast.

3. MERIWOOL Merino Wool Ski Neck Gaiter for Women and Men

  • Cost: ~$19.99 USD
  • Materials: Exceptionally Soft All Natural Superfine 18.5-micron Merino Wool (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: Army Green, Black, Charcoal Grey, Navy, Purple

While technically not a balaclava ski mask, this neck gaiter’s still a fantastic product, and one you may still want to invest in if you’re picking up warm winter gear.

This neck gaiter is made by MERIWOOL, and is crafted from merino wool which is one the softest, and best outdoor fabrics to use in the winter due to its heat retention and moisture wicking ability.

In fact, merino wool can be up to 40% saturated with water and still feel dry to the touch which makes this gaiter great for summer hiking. Not only will your skin be protected from the sun, but the fabric will also provide your neck and face with a much needed layer of protection between you and the bugs flying about and keep you free from biting black flies, and pesky mosquitoes.

This merino wool neck gaiter can also be worn as a beanie, hat, or headband to tie back hair, or it can be used as a scarf, mask, or ear warmer for winter hikes.

If you’re looking to only carry super versatile items with you while you’re out on the trail, and you really want optimize your weight and gear, this is definitely one of the most versatile options to carry.

2. BlackStrap Expedition Hood Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$29.99 – 39.99 USD
  • Materials: Tri-Blend Synthetic Quick Dry Material (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: 50+ (Outrageous Number!)

Manufactured completely in the United States are the Blackstrap Balaclavas that comes in dozens of different colors and patterns, and are made from BlackStrap’s specially designed tri-blend synthetic fabric.

The fabric feels like nylon and lycra which is a polymer, or plastic based material, and it’s optimal for wicking away moisture and is super soft to the touch. Since the material is so soft, you can also clean your ski goggles, or corrective lenses without scratching them.

In addition, if you’ll be hiking in hot weather this balaclava by BlackStrap can serve as an excellent way of keeping the sun off your skin since the material breathes really well, and blocks 97.5% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Plus, it’s naturally anti-microbial.

If you think you’ll find yourself out in sub-zero degree temperatures it’s always best practice to wear a wind breaking hood over top of the mask to add a bit more insulation since the cold can start to creep into any mask after a full day outside.

These ski masks are among the best on the market and come in many fantastic colors. We’ve tried to display as many of them as possible to show you the variety of color options, but there are dozens more not displayed here.

We prefer the white one for summer hiking to reflect the sun’s rays, and the orange colored one for winter hiking for high visibility, or the snowy camouflage mask is cool too. If you do decide to pick one of these up, we hope that you enjoy this ski mask as much as we do!

1. Minus33 Merino Wool Heavyweight Expedition Balaclava Ski Face Mask

  • Cost: ~$39.99 USD
  • Materials: Exceptionally Soft All Natural Superfine 18.5-micron Merino Wool (Lens Safe)
  • Color Options: (1) Black

Last on the list, and our top pick as among the best balaclava ski masks on the market today, is this wonderful Merino Wool Ski Mask made by Minus33.

Merino wool is one of the absolute best materials on the market that you can have while hiking because of its great feeling fabric, wonderful moisture absorption, and fantastic ability to wick away sweat and moisture better than almost any other material, rivaling highly engineered synthetic materials.

In fact, as we said before in previous product reviews, merino wool can be up to 40% saturated with water, and still feel dry to the touch, which makes this balaclava fantastic for almost any outdoor conditions.

When this ski mask is pulled up and combined with ski goggles, you really can’t feel the cold at all. Even when you’ve been out all day in the snowy tundra it’s easy to forget that you’re out in biting cold winds.

As we said before, if you do believe you’ll find yourself out in sub-zero temperatures it’s still advised to wear a wind breaking jacket with a hood overtop of your ski mask to improve heat retention, but for any other conditions, a wind breaker won’t be necessary.

We really can’t stress enough how amazing this merino wool ski mask is and it’s our go to balaclava ski mask for winter hiking. If you’re willing, or able to spend the extra money to pick up a merino wool balaclava, this is a fantastic choice and among the very best on the market.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Balaclavas ski masks are one of the most important articles of clothing you can have on your face while you’re out on the trail, whether in the summer to protect yourself from insects or the sun, or during the winter to protect your skin in snowy, cold, and windy conditions.

What we really love about balaclavas is that they can be worn with sunglasses, or ski goggles for complete winter cold protection, and they’re versatile enough to be worn in many different ways for varying degrees of protection.

If you’re planning to do only three season backpacking, the best option would be a neck gaiter since it can be used in so many different ways and it’s wonderful at repelling mosquitoes or black flies.

For winter hiking however, a full head ski mask is the optimal choice and if you think you’ll be facing sub-zero temperatures make sure to bring along a wind-breaking hooded coat or hat as well.

If you can think of any other ski masks, or balaclavas, that you enjoy more than the ones listed above, we’d love to hear back from you. Please leave any of your questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, down below, and as always, Happy Paragon Trails!

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