The 10 Best Balaclavas of 2022

The Self Pro Windproof is breathable and absorbent and our top pick

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Best Balaclavas

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

TripSavvy's Picks

For an affordable, all-around option, it’s hard to beat the simple, versatile Self Pro. Under Armour’s Cold Gear provides extra warmth while retaining a reasonable price point if you need insulation. And finally, if you’re a serious winter athlete, the Outdoor Research Ninjaclava is purpose-built for staying warm while sweating it out in the cold.

A balaclava is an outdoor enthusiast's best friend, and for good reason. A balaclava (also known as a ski mask) covers most, if not all, of your face, affording unparalleled protection from the cold, wind, and sun. There are several different styles to choose from, including full face masks, open balaclavas, and ingenious models that can switch between the two.

Read on for our picks of the best balaclavas available.

The Rundown

Best Overall: Self Pro Windproof Balaclava at Amazon

"A top-rated product intended for both men and women."

Best Budget: BCOCOB Balaclava Two-Pack at Amazon

"Comes with a matching balaclava for a friend or family member."

Best for Warmth: Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Tactical Hood at Amazon

"Offers superior insulation, thanks to its innovative fabric."

Most Breathable: Zerdocean Thermal Full Face Balaclava at Amazon

"Allows you to breathe easily while keeping everything but your eyes covered."

Best for All Sports: Outdoor Research Ninjaclava at Amazon

"Suited for skiing, mountaineering, winter cycling, and more."

Best for Hunting: Turtle Fur Ninja Performance Balaclava at Amazon

"Offers UPF 50+ protection and blocks 97 percent of UV rays."

Best for Women: Burton Burke Hood Face Mask at Amazon

"Features colorways that break up the monotony of a conventional balaclava."

Most Versatile: Oldelf Tactical Heavyweight Balaclava at Amazon

"Doubles as a hat, snood, neck gaiter, or scarf as well as a standard balaclava."

Best for Men: Phunkshun Ballerclava Hinged Balaclava at Phunkshun Wear

"A hinged balaclava that makes it easy to pull down the lower half for talking."

Best for Kids: Blackstrap Industries Kids' Hood Balaclava at Amazon

"A kid-sized hinged balaclava available in tons of cool patterns."

Best Overall: Self Pro Windproof Balaclava

What We Like
  • Breathable, absorbent, and excellent for wicking moisture

  • Great value

  • Extra-long neck provides maximum skin coverage

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best for extreme cold

A simple yet high-quality mask, the Self Pro Windproof Balaclava is a top-rated product intended for both men and women. Made from CoolMax premium high-tech polyester fiber, it’s breathable, absorbent, and excellent for wicking moisture away from your skin on warmer days. Whether you wear it on its own or under a helmet, it affords protection from the cold, wind, and sun—making it the ideal companion for a full range of outdoor sports.

An extra-long neck provides maximum skin coverage, while the versatile design means you can wear the balaclava in several different ways. Opt for the traditional full-face mask, transform it into a skull cap or neck gaiter, or leave the upper part of your face uncovered with a ninja-style hoodie. Available in classic black, the balaclava mask is one-size-fits-most (even children). For added convenience, it’s machine-washable and quick to dry after a session on the slopes. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Best Budget: BCOCOB Balaclava Two-Pack

BCOCOB Balaclava Two-Pack

Courtesy of Amazon 

What We Like
  • Comes with two balaclavas in one pack

  • Fits well underneath a helmet and has an extended neck

What We Don't Like
  • Also not the best for extreme cold

This BCOCOB Balaclava Two-Pack is the perfect budget buy, especially if you’re looking for a matching balaclava for a friend or family member. Made of soft, lightweight polyester, the cut covers the forehead, chin, and cheeks but leaves your eyes and nose free for easy breathing. If you require additional ventilation, you can drop the chin or turn the balaclava into a scarf or neck gaiter.

Intended for all kinds of outdoor pursuits, from skiing to motorcycling to climbing, the balaclava mask fits nicely under a helmet and features an extended neck that tucks into your jacket. That means you don’t have to worry about snow, wind, or dust creeping under your collar. The stretchy fabric provides a snug yet comfortable fit, and when you’re finished for the day, cleaning the balaclava is as simple as throwing it in the washing machine. 

Price at time of publish: $11

Best for Warmth: Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Tactical Hood

Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Tactical Hood

 Courtesy of Backcountry

What We Like
  • Very lightweight, which boosts comfort

  • ColdGear Infrared fabric amps the insulation

  • Four-way stretch and odor-resistant material

What We Don't Like
  • The fit might not cover ears properly

The Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Tactical Hood is incredibly lightweight, making it much more comfortable than a traditional woolen balaclava. Despite its relative thinness, it also offers superior insulation, thanks to its innovative ColdGear Infrared fabric. This fabric uses a thermo-conductive inner coating to absorb and retain your body heat, while the close fit prevents drafts and protects your entire face—leaving only your eyes uncovered.

On warmer days, you can drop the chin or fold the balaclava hood into a neck gaiter for increased ventilation. The material also wicks sweat and dries quickly, making it especially effective for playing sports in sub-zero temperatures. Better yet, the balaclava’s four-way stretch fabrication offers unparalleled mobility and is odor-resistant. One size fits all, and you have a choice of two colors: black or desert sand.

Price at time of publish: $46

Most Breathable: Zerdocean Thermal Full Face Balaclava

What We Like
  • Perforated mesh vent helps breath easily with mouth and nose covered

  • Soft fleece lining is warm and comfortable

What We Don't Like
  • Customers report it fogging glasses

Dropping the chin of your balaclava or turning it into a neck gaiter when you need greater ventilation is all very well—but what happens when it’s too cold to do so? That’s where the Zerdocean Thermal Full Face Balaclava comes in. It features a perforated mesh vent that allows you to breathe easily while keeping everything but your eyes covered.

The balaclava mask’s molded nose-piece makes for an extra snug fit, while the soft fleece lining keeps you both warm and comfortable. The fabric itself is stretchy, affording a great range of movement that prevents you from feeling restricted, even when fully covered. When the sun does come out, it’s still possible to drop the balaclava’s chin and hood. Colors include black, gray, and army green. 

Price at time of publish: $15

Best for All Sports: Outdoor Research Ninjaclava

Outdoor Research Ninjaclava

Backcountry

What We Like
  • Nylon fabric is made for extremely cold conditions

  • Motion Fleece backing offers warmth and helps wick moisture

  • Machine-washable and breathable

What We Don't Like
  • Customers report glasses fogging over

Specially made for extremely cold conditions on the slopes, the Outdoor Research Ninjaclava boasts nylon fabric that fends off wind and water. What's more, its soft Motion Fleece backing offers warmth and helps wick moisture. This balaclava mask fully covers your head, nose, and face; it can also open easily if you need to take a snack break or release excess heat. Machine-washable and breathable, the Ninjaclava is suited for skiing, mountaineering, winter cycling, or other winter outdoor activities, thanks to silicone prints that keep goggles in place.

Price at time of publish: $32

Best for Hunting: Turtle Fur Ninja Performance Balaclava

  • Includes UPF 50+ protection

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Snug but not restrictive fit

  • Not super heavy weight

A good balaclava mask should do more than keep your face warm: it should also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. The Turtle Fur Ninja Performance Balaclava achieves that goal admirably, offering UPF 50+ protection. It’s also moisture-wicking, making it an especially good choice for winter sports or warmer climates.

It’s brushed on the inside for excellent softness, while the 92 percent polyester/8 percent spandex blend makes for a snug yet non-restrictive fit. Transform it from a full face mask into a neck gaiter or scarf with a quick tug of the hood. Designed to fit adults and teenagers alike, the balaclava comes in various colors. A variety of camouflage prints make it especially popular with hunters. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Best for Women: Burton Burke Hood Face Mask

What We Like
  • Cinched hood

  • One-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Some customers did not like the one-size fits all approach

Though most of the balaclavas in the market are perfectly suitable for any gender, the Burton Burke Hood Face Mask is especially popular among women. Made of soft polyester, it features a hooded design in unique colorways and prints that break up the monotony of a conventional balaclava. Additionally, the cinched hood allows you to tighten the balaclava face mask after putting it on, so you can adjust the tightness as needed and fit it over your preferred athletic hairstyle. It also offers a one-year warranty.

Price at time of publish: $30

Most Versatile: Oldelf Tactical Heavyweight Balaclava

What We Like
  • Also works as a hat, snood, neck gaiter, or scarf

  • Premium soft fleece

What We Don't Like
  • Some customers reported it being overly large

While many balaclavas can be adjusted from a full face mask to a neck gaiter, the JollyGift Windproof Hat Tactical Balaclava offers a new level of versatility. Designed to look like a standard hoodie (complete with drawstrings), its ingenious design allows it to double as a hat, snood, neck gaiter, or scarf, as well as a standard balaclava.

Premium soft fleece fabric makes it exceptionally soft and comfortable. A double layer offers added warmth and helps make the balaclava windproof, while the extra-long neck means you don’t have to worry about unexpected drafts. You can personalize your style by choosing from five colors ranging from army green to red.

Price at time of publish: $13

Best for Men: Phunkshun Ballerclava Hinged Balaclava

Phunkshun Ballerclava Hinged Balaclava
Courtesy of Phunkshun.
What We Like
  • Each piece of headwear from Phunkshun uses about six recycled water bottles

  • Hinged design makes it easier to free your mouth

What We Don't Like
  • Nothing yet

Colorado-based Phunkshun specializes in masks, neck tubes, and balaclavas for winter sports, fishing (and now, of course, pandemics). The products are not only effective, but they’re also focused on sustainability: each piece of headwear uses an average of six recycled water bottles.

The Ballerclava features a helpful hinged design that makes it easier to free your mouth by tugging the lower half under your chin. The fabric is treated for water repellency to help prevent it from collecting moisture (and then freezing). The Ballerclava also comes in different versions with additional fleece lining for warmth if desired. There’s even a Helmetclava that goes over your ski helmet for a cocoon of warmth on those extra-cold ski days.

Best for Kids: Blackstrap Industries Kids’ Hood Balaclava

What We Like
  • UPF 50 sun protection

  • Infused with properties to help stink

What We Don't Like
  • Some report too tight of a fit

Blackstrap has been making this signature balaclava since 2008. It has many features great for anyone, but especially for active kids. It offers UPF 50 sun protection and is infused with properties to stave off the inevitable stink and quick-dry-wicking technology to keep it from getting soaked and freezing. It’s also washer/dryer safe for easy refreshing.

Perhaps most importantly, it comes in a ton of cool patterns that’ll excite the little ones to wear it. It’s a universal size for most kids ages 2 to 7, and the four-way stretch fabric and hinged design make it flexible and easy to wear.

Price at time of publish: $27

What to Look for in Balaclava

Material

There are tons of different balaclavas available online. What sets the good ones apart from the cheap-but-questionable ones are materials. Because cotton absorbs moisture easily, avoid any balaclava that is primarily cotton (though some quality products use some cotton in a blend). While they might seem warmer in your hands, thick fleece neckwear pieces are more likely to capture moisture, even if they are treated.

Coatings

Because collected moisture is the bane of a functional balaclava, the best ones include a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating to help shed the moisture and prevent it from soaking into the fabric itself.

Sizing & Adjustability

Most balaclavas are a universal size for kids or adults, but how you intend to wear them will determine the type you buy. Traditional balaclavas are meant to be worn underneath a winter hat or ball cap. But there are other balaclavas intended to be worn over a hat or even over a ski helmet as an insulation layer, so just be sure what type you’re buying before purchasing.

Price

As with many products, you generally get what you pay for with balaclavas. Because of the simplicity of the design, they can be produced very cheaply, so you can find plenty of options for under $10. If you’re not too demanding and your casual and infrequent use, these cheaper options might be good enough. For regular use and winter athletes concerned with performance for longer periods of time, consider the higher tier of balaclavas that will fall in the $25 to $40 range and feature quality construction with more advanced materials and coatings.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What’s the difference between a balaclava, a neck tube, and a neck warmer?

    Balaclavas go over the head and down to the neck and usually have some kind of opening around the face. Neck tubes are just that: tubes. They can be worn loose around the neck and pulled up over the mouth and nose as needed. They’re usually a lighter, moisture-wicking fabric. Neck warmers are basically neck tubes, but they’ve been around longer and are usually fleece or some other thicker, insulating material.

  • Should I get an insulated or lined balaclava?

    This depends on how you intend to use it and the weather conditions where you will wear it. Insulated or lined balaclavas are, of course, warmer than thinner activewear fabrics, so if you’re going to be in extra-cold environments, they’re a solid choice. However, if you’re going to be sweating while wearing it, look for a balaclava built to shed moisture, insulated or not. Heavily insulated balaclavas can collect water when you’re hot and then freeze solid when you’re not. If the winter temperatures are relatively mild, consider a lighter material. It will still protect you from wind and cold but will more reliably shed moisture and stay soft.

  • Do I still need to wear a winter hat with a balaclava?

    Most balaclavas are meant to be worn underneath a beanie or winter hat. If you want an all-in-one solution, there are two-piece balaclavas available that feature extra fleece lining on the top of the head.

    Especially if you’re skiing or snowboarding, you will want a thicker hat or helmet on top of most balaclavas to protect from the fast-moving air that will quickly chill your noggin.

Why Trust TripSavvy

TripSavvy writers are travel experts, which shows in their carefully researched, objective recommendations. While writing these roundups, TripSavvy’s writers spend hours reading expert opinions and user reviews. Justin Park has been a working journalist for almost 20 years. He covers politics, environmental issues, hunting/outdoors, sports, and fitness for newspapers, magazines, and online outlets.

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