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While popular culture portrays balaclavas as the favored accessory of bank robbers the world over, they are also the best friend of outdoor sports enthusiasts. By definition, 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. Here, we take a look at some of the best balaclavas to buy right now, ranging from budget picks to masks made especially for superior warmth.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Self Pro Windproof Cold Weather Balaclava
A simple yet high-quality all-rounder, the Self Pro Windproof Cold Weather Balaclava is a top-rated Amazon’s Choice 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. Amazon reviewers especially love the balaclava’s comfortable fit.
The soft, lightweight fabric is also hypo-allergenic. An extra-long neck provides maximum skin coverage, while the versatile design means that you can wear the balaclava in a number of 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 is one-size-fits-most (even children). For added convenience, it’s machine-washable and quick to dry after a session on the slopes.
Best Budget: BCOCOB Balaclava Two-Pack
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. Amazon reviewers love the breathability of this product, although some state that it could be warmer.
Intended for all kinds of outdoor pursuits (from skiing to motorcycling and climbing), the balaclava fits well under a helmet and features an extended neck that tucks into your jacket. Consequently, 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.
Best for Warmth: Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared Tactical Hood
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 draughts and protects your entire face - leaving only your eyes uncovered.
On warmer days, you can drop the chin or fold the balaclava into a neck gaiter for increased ventilation. The material also wicks sweat and dries quickly. According to Amazon reviewers, these qualities make it especially effective for playing sports in sub-zero temperatures. Better yet, the balaclava’s four-way stretch fabrication offers unparalleled mobility, while the anti-odor technology prevents the growth of bad-smelling microbes. One size fits all, and you have a choice of two colors: black or desert sand.
Best with UPF Protection: Turtle Fur Comfort Shell Performance Balaclava
A good balaclava should do more than keep your face warm: it should also protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. The Turtle Fur Comfort Shell Performance Balaclava achieves that goal admirably, offering UPF 50+ protection and blocking 97% of UV rays. It’s also moisture-wicking and anti-microbial, making it an especially good choice for winter sports or warmer climates.
It’s brushed on the inside for superlative softness, while the 92% polyester/ 8% 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 a range of different colors, including Black and Blaze (bright orange). A variety of camouflage prints make it especially popular with hunters.
Most Versatile: JollyGift Windproof Hat Tactical Balaclava
While many balaclavas can be adapted from a full face mask to a neck gaiter, the JollyGift Windproof Hat Tactical Balaclava offers a whole 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.
It’s made from premium soft fleece fabric, making it exceptionally soft and comfortable. A double layer offers added warmth and helps to make the balaclava windproof; while the extra long neck means you don’t have to worry about unexpected drafts. You can personalize your style even further by choosing from eight different colors ranging from army green to pink-red. The balaclava is machine washable, and fits most adults and teens.
Most Breathable Full Face Mask: Zerdocean Thermal Full Face Balaclava
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 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.
Best for Women: Miracu Lightweight Balaclava
Though all of the balaclavas on this list are perfectly suitable for men and women, the Miracu Lightweight Balaclava is especially popular with fashion-conscious ladies. Made of soft fleece, it features a pretty two-tone design that breaks up the monotony of a conventional balaclava. The light gray and rose red models are especially feminine, while the black and gray option is ideal for girls who don’t like pink. Amazon reviewers especially love the fact that the cinched hood allows you to tighten the balaclava after putting it on, so that you don’t have to tug it over your carefully arranged hair and make-up. It can also double as a scarf.
Best Novelty: JIUSY 3D Animal Balaclava
Perfect for those that like to stand out in the line for the chairlift, the JIUSY 3D Animal Balaclava comes in a range of quirky animal designs. Whether you choose a cute cat or a fierce-looking dog, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get your balaclava confused with a friend’s. The 100 percent polyester fabric is soft, breathable and quick-drying. It’s also flexible enough to be pulled down over your chin or to wear around your neck as a gaiter. Ideal for everything from skiing to mountain climbing, it fits easily under a helmet and comes in a single, one-fits-all size.