Admittedly, balaclavas can look a little spooky, due to criminals in the movies wearing them during their illegal activities, but in truth, they’re awesome for keeping your noggin warm.
While balaclavas are made with a variety of fabrics, from fleece to wool to polyester microfiber, my current favorite is the Buff Microfiber Balaclava.
The balaclava is made from 100 percent polyester microfiber, which makes it breathe, wick moisture, and dry quickly. Even though it’s lightweight, it has great thermal performance—keeping your head warm when at cold temperatures. Sure, if you need a heavier fabric, you can get a balaclava made from that. The reason I like the lighter fabric is that I can layer it under a hat if I need more warmth, but when I’m out being active (skiing, hiking, climbing, running), those heavier fabrics tend to be a touch too heavy.
Aside from the polyester microfiber fabric, it also has an environmentally friendly application of Polygiene active odor control, which is beneficial if you’re say, winter camping in the Himalayas for nearly a week, and washing gear in the nearby stream makes your hands numb. I wore mine during that trip, primarily in the evenings, when the temperatures dropped. It’s also with me right now, while I’m in Svalbard—just in case summer temperatures that far north get a little chilly.
One size fits all, and the balaclava can also be worn as a neck gaitor, so no need to bring two things along. It’s always good to save room in your pack for something else.
It’s also easy to clean. Just hand or machine wash in warm water with mild soap, and let air dry. By the time you need it next, it’ll be all ready for you.
The Buff Microfiber Balaclava comes in a few color/design options: black, demon, mountaintop, and OG Buff. Prices range from $21.99 to $29.99 on the Buff site.